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Heir of the last royal family becomes ceramic artist

Yi Jin (Photo: Yonhap News Agency)The Korean media paid keen attention to a recent exhibition of a rookie ceramic artist. The artist’s attempt to apply graffiti to Korean traditional porcelain was a new approach, but the attention was more about the artist Yi Jin, 32, who is the great-granddaughter of the nation’s last Emperor Gojong.

Her father Yi Seok, professor of history at Jeonju University in Jeollabuk-do, is a son of Prince Yi Gang, the fifth son of Gojong. Currently Yi Seok is one of two pretenders to the throne and the only one living in Korea.

During the exhibition held at a gallery in southern Seoul from May 11 to 17, Yi showed her 50 ceramic works under the theme of "Clay, Energy, Graffiti and Communication."

"New energy (graffiti) is poured into traditional porcelain," she told a local media outlet. "I want to communicate with people around the world through the messages expressed on the surface of ceramics."

While her older sister Yi Hong is an actress who appeared in several dramas and TV commercials, it was the first time Yi exposed herself to the public.

While studying art management at the Graduate School of Kyung Hee University, she was fascinated by ceramic art during her trip to Europe. Then she reentered the department of ceramic art at the university in 2004 and graduated this year.

Yi’s ceramic works (Photo: Ju Gallery)She also learned traditional porcelain techniques under the tutelage of Hobong Jang Song-mo.

Two years ago, with the popularity of the TV drama "Gung (Princess Hours)" featuring modern Korea under a constitutional monarchy, some people launched on-line campaigns to revive the nation’s royal family.

"The social system has already changed dramatically. But we can restore it in an artistic way. That’s why I’m working for the Royal Family Culture Foundation," she told a local vernacular daily newspaper.

She is working as a committee member of an art competition sponsored by the Royal Family Culture Foundation, which was established aimed at preserving the royal culture and promoting it to the world.

After her next exhibition, scheduled for the end of this year, she is planning to study in the United States to get an MBA.

Pressured by growing influences of neighboring countries, the King Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty declared the Korean Empire in 1897 and assumed the title emperor in order to assert Korea’s independence.

During the Japanese colonial rule, Emperor Gojong was poisoned to death in 1919. The death of Imperial Crown Prince Uimin in 1955 is generally considered as the end of the royal family.

By Lee Ji-yoon
KOREA, August 2008

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