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Korea's five unique museums recommended by KTO

Why did Koreans of the past draw paintings depicting tigers along with magpies? Why does the fish in the old folk paintings try to come out of the water with its head up? The answers can be found at Korea’s unique museums. It’s time to go and hit the special museums of Korea this warm spring, where families, friends, and couples will have unique experiences.

On February 26, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) recommended five unique museums which are worth visiting -- the Joseon Folk Painting Museum, the Robot Life Museum, the Icheon Pig Museum, the Jincheon Bell Museum, and the Suncheon Deep-Rooted Tree Museum.

There are unique-themed museums full of diverse experiences throughout the nation, showing off thousands of folk paintings depicting historic lifestyles of Korea, as well as giving visitors the chance to play with pink baby pigs, ring various kinds of Korean temple bells, or control high-tech robots.

The Joseon Folk Painting Museum based in Yeongwol County, Gangwon-do (Gangwon Province) has around 3,000 folk paintings on display including about 100 pieces of modern folk works and 3,000 folk paintings dating back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Among the exhibits include Sipjangsaengdo featuring the ten symbols of longevity -- pine trees, cranes, turtles, deer, etc. -- Magpie and Tiger which depicts the magpie as a messenger of the gods conveying good tidings to the smiling tiger, and Eobyeonsungryongdo portraying a fish turning into a dragon, which is interpreted as wishes for passing the civil service exam under the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties of Korea and success in life.

A folk painting known as Magpie and Tiger was painted to ward off bad spirits and pray for blessings (left); Eobyeonsungryongdo is a folk painting designed to wish for passing the civil servant exam of the Joseon and Goryeo dynasties and for a successful life (photo courtesy of the Joseon Folk Painting Museum).

A folk painting known as Magpie and Tiger was painted to ward off bad spirits and pray for blessings (left); Eobyeonsungryongdo is a folk painting designed to wish for passing the civil servant exam of the Joseon and Goryeo dynasties and for a successful life (photo courtesy of the Joseon Folk Painting Museum).


Through all those works of art, visitors can get a glimpse of what the real lives of ancient Koreans looked like and imagine the true meaning of each work.

The museum also offers various hands-on programs including one which attracts families, couples, and foreign tourists with a chance to engrave on woodblocks and print them into a piece of art.

For more information about the Joseon Folk Painting Museum, please visit the website below.
http://www.minhwa.co.kr/main/index.htm (Korean available)

For those who are into robots, the Robot Life Museum located on the first floor of the Korea Institute of Robot And Convergence in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang Province) is a good choice. This robot-themed museum introduces visitors to the house of the future equipped with state-of-the-art robots helping out with household chores.

It is a great place for visitors, especially young children, to learn about Korea’s advanced robot technology and experience it firsthand, as they will be allowed to operate and control a variety of high-end robots.

Young children play with remote-controlled robots at the Robot Life Museum based in Pohang (photo courtesy of the Robot Life Museum).

Young children play with remote-controlled robots at the Robot Life Museum based in Pohang (photo courtesy of the Robot Life Museum).


There are interesting animal-like robots waiting for visitors, as well. A robotic seal named Paro designed for psychotherapy reacts by blinking its eyes and lifting its head when stroked. Jenibo, an intelligent dog robot, recognizes its owner through a camera installed on the tip of its nose, and even wags its tail to mimic the behavior of a real dog. For more information about the museum, please click the website below.
http://www.robolife.kr/exhibition/01.php (Korean available)

The Icheon Pig Museum houses a collection of about 5,000 pig-related items from 18 countries all around the world including pig miniatures, pig-shaped pottery, and artwork depicting pigs (photo courtesy of the Icheon Pig Museum).

The Icheon Pig Museum houses a collection of about 5,000 pig-related items from 18 countries all around the world including pig miniatures, pig-shaped pottery, and artwork depicting pigs (photo courtesy of the Icheon Pig Museum).


The swine-themed Pig Museum in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi Province) is worth visiting as well. The museum exhibits a collection of nearly 5,000 pig-related items from 18 countries around the world, including pig miniatures, piggy banks, pig dolls, pig-shaped pottery, and artwork featuring pigs.

The pig museum, the first of its kind in Asia and the second worldwide after Germany, arouses interest among young kids who are captivated by the cute pink piglets. The animal has been long thought of as the symbol of wealth and good luck in the nation. That’s why pig-shaped products are always sought-after by many people who desire good luck and wealth, especially around the beginning of a new year.

The Icheon Pig Museum entertains visitors with special events in which trained piglets perform various cute tricks (photos courtesy of the Icheon Pig Museum).

The Icheon Pig Museum entertains visitors with special events in which trained piglets perform various cute tricks (photos courtesy of the Icheon Pig Museum).


The Edufarm Program, which is intended to cast away all prejudices against the animal and teach about its ecological characteristics, offers a great opportunity for visitors to watch cute pigs doing tricks, pet and feed them, and take pictures with them. The most amusing sight is seeing little piglets bowling and jumping over hurdles.

There are also other programs such as making sausages and drawing traditional folk paintings. The museum is closed every Monday. For more information, please visit the website below.
http://www.pigpark.co.kr/ (Korean available)

You can find all kinds of Korean temple bells in another special museum. Nestled in Jincheon, Chungcheongbuk-do (North Chungcheong Province), Jincheon Bell Museum is the nation’s one and only temple bell museum, which takes a chronological approach to Korea’s representative temple bells.

The museum displays old Korean temple bells dating back from Unified Silla (57 BC - AD 935) to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Among the exhibits is the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok the Great (National Treasure No. 29), the oldest ancient temple bell Sangwonsa Dongjong (National Treasure No. 36), and Taeansa Dongjong (Treasure No. 1349) from the Joseon Dynasty.

The museum also offers an educational opportunity to learn about the interesting tales, legends, and history of unique and rare bells collected from across the Korean Peninsula and even all around the world.

The Jincheon Bell Museum is the nation’s one and only temple bell museum, which takes a chronological approach to Korea’s representative temple bells dating back from Unified Silla to the Joseon Dynasty (photo courtesy of the Jincheon Bell Museum).

The Jincheon Bell Museum is the nation’s one and only temple bell museum, which takes a chronological approach to Korea’s representative temple bells dating back from Unified Silla to the Joseon Dynasty (photo courtesy of the Jincheon Bell Museum).


There are programs showing visitors the process of molten metal being poured into a cast, and even offering chances to engage in the casting process in person. For more information about the Jincheon Bell Museum, please click the website below.
http://jincheonbell.net/eng/main.do (Korean, English available)

Suncheon City, best known for its beautiful nature, is home to the Suncheon Deep-Rooted Tree Museum featuring collections of the late Han Chang-gi (1936-1997), the publisher of the famous monthly magazines Deep-Rooted Tree (Puri gipeun namu) and Water from a Deep Well (Saemi gipeun mul), both of which marked a milestone in Korea’s magazine industry. He has also been credited with bringing the Encyclopedia Britannica to the nation and dedicating his whole life to preserving Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) and traditional culture.

On display are about 6,500 cultural assets including ancient documents, brassware, earthenware, traditional roof tiles, and folk art originating from prehistoric times to the Joseon Dynasty. The museum also houses rare articles like the earthen cover attached to the end of seokkarae (rafters used in traditional Korean architecture) and star-shaped stone axes from the Bronze Age.

The museum consists of eight traditional Korean Hanok, giving a strong Korean atmosphere.

By Sohn Ji-ae
jiae5853@korea.kr  

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