In December 2012, the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History was open with the mission of providing “a space for history and culture where we can share and relate to diverse historical experiences of Korean people who led the birth and growth of the Republic of Korea.” Marking the 10th anniversary in 2022, we are determined to continue our effort to shed new light on every aspect of Korean contemporary history, while also attempting to get closer to visitors. Our thematic exhibition will open in January 2022, following the special exhibition “Gwanghwamun: Korean Contemporary History from the Perspective of Space.” This thematic exhibition serves to explore a variety of topics in Korean contemporary history that cannot find a proper home in the existing history galleries. In 2022, we will present best-selling books and advertisements in Korean history. Other special exhibitions, such as a photo exhibition commemorating the centennial of Children’s Day, as well as exhibitions on pandemics and financial business, are scheduled to take place one after another.
1. The Photograph of the National Celebration of the Establishment of the Government of Korea (1948)
2. An 18-year-old girl’s authentic description of the people’s revolution (1959-1960)
3. Pony 1, Korea’s first originally produced automobile (1982)
4. Looking for missing family members – Placards of Separated Families (1983)
5. The beauty of Korean traditional craftsmanship represented in the Olympic torch – The Olympic Torch for the 24th Summer Olympic Games in Seoul (1988)
In honor of the 10th anniversary, we also created a promotional film featuring dancers making continuous, uninterrupted moves which represent the endless drama of Korean history, while also conveying a message that visitors can breathe with the living history at our museum. You can watch the video by clicking the link below.
The exhibition is divided into four parts. Section 1 “Gwanghwamun Restored” traces the history of how Gwanghwamun Avenue, once the symbol of Japanese colonial power in which was located the Japanese Government-General of Korea, was returned to Korean population and their history after national independence. The following Section 2 “The Development and Construction of Gwanghwamun Avenue” narrates the development of the Gwanghwamun area in the 1960s and how the neighborhood came to command a modern cityscape as a result. Section 3 “The Modern Reconstruction of Gwanghwamun Avenue” presents an overview of today’s Gwanghwamun and how the development of Gangnam region as well as the redevelopment of Gangbuk area contributed to the current modernized urban landscape around the avenue. Finally, Section 4 “Gwanghwamun Transformed” explains how the space of Gwanghwamun has been transformed with a series of social transition after the June Democracy Movement in 1987.
We hope that this special exhibition will help you rediscover Gwanghwamun Avenue as the main stage of Korea’s contemporary history, remind us of varying messages inscribed in the memory of Korean citizens, and eventually envision the future of the space of Gwanghwamun.
As the COVID-19 swept all across the world in 2020, several countries, including the U.S., Australia, France, and Thailand, imposed a temporary night-time curfew. Unfamiliar it may sound to the younger generation these days, the term “tong-geum,” a Korean shorthand for curfew (tong-hang-geum-ji), would ring a bell and remind the days of the past among the elderly. For quite some time in the past, people were punished for wandering outside at night. At 10 PM every night, announcements encouraging people to return home early came out on the radio, and people rushed to catch the last bus and taxi. At midnight, barricades were set up on the street and night patrollers came out on the beat to clamp down on people staying outside. That was a common yet dismal sight of the days when the overnight curfew was firmly in place.
The 37-year-old night-time curfew was lifted permanently on January 5, 1982, except for some regions adjacent to North Korea. Some people observed that the change was made to host international sporting events, such as the Asian Games in 1986 and the Summer Olympics in 1988 successfully and smoothly. Later in 1986 and 1989, the remaining curfew was removed, and people finally regained the joy of night out.
Bus and subway services were extended until after midnight, and some shops made an appeal with 24/7 business hours. Also, the lifting of the curfew led to enormous economic benefits, thanks to an extended time for airline service, an increase in the employment in the service sector, etc. Above all else, the curfew restricted the people’s freedom of movement between midnight and 4 AM, and its removal represented a recovery of basic rights and autonomy of Korean citizens.
In February 2022, the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History is slated to unveil “The Age of Gwanghwa” in collaboration with the Korean Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) at Gwanghwamun, a symbolic place where Korea’s past and future coexist. “The Age of Gwanghwa” is a project allowing people to experience true-to-life 5G contents around the Gwanghwamun area. As part of the project, our museum is displaying media works expressing the significance of Gwanghwamun Gate on its outer wall, along with a diverse array of interactive contents.
An architectural rendering of the outer wall of the museum with the
“Age of Gwanghwa” display panel installed on it.
National Meseum of Korean Contemporary History Newsletter 2021-6, Vol.61
198 Sejong-daero, Jongro-gu, Seoul, 03141, Republic of Korea / 82-2-3703-9200 / www.much.go.kr
Editor: PARK Sookhee, KIM Hyunjung, HONG Yeonju, KIM Hyewon / Design: plus81studios
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