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RAS Lecture: Windows to a Lost Culture

It might be a little late to post, but please, if you make it to only one RAS lecture this year, MAKE IT TONIGHT’S!

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Well, I went. Some really great old — some unique (at least to me) — pictures of old Seoul, the royals, and a few other old towns around the peninsula. A lot of info, but no real context, except the tired old “I blame Japan” meme.

  • DLBarch

    Bartholomew is awesome. I first met him in 1989 and then again a decade later. How anyone manages to live in Korea for so long without becoming completely cynical is beyond me. A very uplifting fellow!

    As I recall, he owns a hanok in one of the neighborhoods north of Chungno, and once joked that he’d be the last owner in his neighborhood with a traditional Korean home, as all of his other neighbors seemed committed to selling off their homes to make way for some modern monstrosity.

    I don’t know if he still owns that home, but I hope so. I like the irony of the last holdout against tasteless redevelopment being some eccentric foreign businessman from a bygone era. Sweeeeeet!

    DLB

  • hamel

    @Sperwer:
    yes it may be a tired old theme, but is it correct or not?

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    Still has his lovely home — just won a big lawsuit against city officials and their developer-partners. But a victory against those kinda guys is never a “final” win; he’ll probably be back in court before long… {sigh}

    I told him after he finished last night that he tried to do way too much in a one-hour presentation — had enough material for three of them, flicked thru the great slides too fast (sometimes 2 seconds — felt like i was seeing one of those 1990s MTV rock-videos!), cutting his explanations on each way too short, and hopping between subjects. He has so much deep knowledge to pass on, should slow way down and focus on coherent thesis-themes for each of his several threads.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Hamel:

    Hard to tell since Peter made more references to “Japs” – in some instances, catching himself enough to add a belated “anese” to his elocution — than to evidence. And apart from pictures of buildings that no longer exist and pictures of buildings being disassembled (often in connection with relocation or in order to obtain building materials for other projects), there was NO discussion of the rationale for particular decisions or general policy in this regard – assuming there was one – elucidation of the existence and features of which would be a real contribution.

    Basically, he claimed that upwards of 90+% of public buildings of the Joseon Dynasty were destroyed. But while acknowledging that some of this destruction was a result of the Korean War and post-Korean War initiatives undertaken by Korea itself, he never really clarified what the relative percentages were.

    Moreover, there was no context. How much of this stuff would have been demolished or drastically altered anyway as a result of modernization, regardless who had been in charge.
    perspective
    In this regard, one of the noteworthy aspects of the lecture was the number of times Peter talked about buildings, particularly minor but nevertheless elaborate, royal palaces and regional government administrative structures (which Peter repeatedly and wistfully stressed were themselves equally palatial in scale and appointments) were “gutted” — so that they could be turned into schools. Doesn’t sound like too bad a trade-off to me for a country that was still overwhelmingly illiterate at the time and desperately needed to develop the human capital capable of modernizing successfully.

    Of course, it would have been nice if such changes in architectural function had been handled with more sensitivity for architectural heritage, but I’m afraid that sounds to me a lot like projecting into a different, poorer world the conceit of another much richer one – obviously a conceit that Joseon itself did not share, witness the wanton destruction and gross neglect of the Buddhist architectural and monumental heritage of pre-Joseon Korea that Joseon itself perpetrated.

    Lots of great raw and half-masticated data, but no historiographical perspective. Antiquarianism not history.

  • DLBarch

    Dave,

    Thanks for the update. Glad to hear Peter still has his home, and is fighting the good fight in favor of individual property owners. Also not surprised to hear he tried to cram too much info into a time-limited presentation. How, er, Korean of him!

    BTW, if you don’t already know, Dan P. is in town. He’s carrying water for the International Crisis Group now. My spies inform me he’s a rising star in the Nork policy community. God help us all!

    Cheers,
    DLB

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