In January, the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History (MUCH) opened its first Thematic Exhibition. The Thematic Exhibition is designed to provide an in-depth focus on the topics related to the modern and contemporary history of Korea that cannot be explored in detail in the existing History Gallery. This year, two exhibitions are scheduled to be held – one about bestsellers and the other about advertisement. Of these, “A Korean Self-Portrait Read through Bestsellers” opened in January. By spotlighting bestsellers of diverse genres in each period, the exhibition sheds light on perspectives, desires, and intellectual pursuits of the Korean people in different times. A wide collection of bestsellers are displayed along with movable transparent devices to provide an immersive reading experience.
The second Thematic Exhibition will open in March with the title “Advertising - a Confession to the World.” The use of the word “confession” (gobaek, 告白) is intentional: it was used in 1886 in Korea’s first commercial advertisement, which was featured in the Hanseong Jubo (Korea’s first Western-style newspaper published by the Joseon government from January 1886 through July 1888 along with the Hanseong Sunbo, first published in 1883). In the context, the word “gobaek” was used to refer to advertisement.
Consisting of four parts, the exhibition adopts immersive media art displays to trace the history of advertisement in the modern and contemporary period of Korea. The first section offers an overview of advertisements which represent each era from the Open Ports Period (1876-1910) until the late 1990s to explore what products Koreans consumed in each period. The next section features food product ads that show the development of Korea’s culinary culture in the modern era. It is sub-divided into five periods that collectively show how saturated the food ad market was in Korea’s recent history (e.g. influx of foreign foods, mixed grain consumption policy, promotion of restaurant dining).
The Republic of Korea was founded on August 15, 1948, based upon a democratic constitution and systems. It was not until much later, however, that the “true” democracy actually took root. One dark moment in this process was the rigged presidential/vice presidential election of March 15, 1960. The unfairly-conducted election, which notoriously involved the participation of political thugs, resulted in the enraged citizenry launching the April 19 Revolution. Let’s set the clock back to see what happened that day.
A ballot box arriving at a polling station on March 15, 1960. © Yonhap News
Citizens, enraged by the rigged election of March 15, 1960, rushing toward the Government-General Building. © National Museum of Korean Contemporary History(donated by Jeong Beom-tae)
Working in groups of three to five, the Liberal Party and its supporters engaged in actions to obstruct the election, such as forcing citizens to vote for their candidate, employing “armband units” as a scare tactic, and even dispatching mobsters (political thugs) such as Lee Jeong-jae and Yu Ji-kwang. Such mobilization of central government authority for the full-scale rigging of the March 15 election resulted in a predictable landslide win that would otherwise have been impossible. As ballot counting progressed, districts emerged where the Liberal Party accounted for 95 to 99% of total votes. Taken aback and fearful of reprisal, the Liberal Party ordered vote numbers to be lowered before being announced. The final official tally was 88.7% for Syngman Rhee and 79% for Lee Ki-poong.
Citizens marching down Taepyeongno,
a street in Seoul,
in protest of the rigged March 15 election.
© National Museum of Korean Contemporary History
Democracy in Korea went on to be tested several more times after the April 19 Revolution. However, citizens played a proactive role in overcoming every crisis thus contributing to the growth of democracy in Korean society. As can be seen in Article 1-2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea (“The sovereignty of the Republic of Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people.”), which was included in the constitution’s earliest version (1948), Koreans have long understood that they are the source of the government’s power.
An article on Baek Gwang-un, an independence
activist and a former member
of the Righteous Army (Uibyeong), with a list of accomplishments and a photo.
(Dongnip Sinmun, No. 177 (Oct. 4, 1924))
Our Museum is proud to present a photojournalism exhibition in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Korea-Vietnam diplomatic relations. Jointly hosted by Yonhap News and the Vietnam News Agency (VNA), the exhibition is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Embassy of Vietnam in Seoul. Various places inside the Museum, including the third-floor terrace, will be displaying a total of 80 to 100 news photos owned by Yonhap News and the VNA as well as non-photo visual materials (e.g. infographics) and items that symbolize both countries. To make it more accessible, the exhibition will be held in conjunction with an online version provided via a metaverse platform.
National Meseum of Korean Contemporary History Newsletter Jan - Feb 2022 (Vol. 62) / ISSN 2384-230X
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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