Traditional Korean art falls into basically two categories: folk art and Chinese-influenced art, which includes painting of landscapes, flowers, birds and animals. In dynastic Korea, practitioners of the arts were often noblemen, scholars and bureaucrats who retired from the court and moved to the countryside where the contemplation on natural beauty inspired poetry, calligraphy and painting.

Mediums for Korean art include paintings, scrolls, screens, album leaves, and cloth pojapgi (used to wrap bedding). Unique Korean art forms include folk paintings, poksu (objects dedicated to shamanist rituals) and changsung (stone statues that represent human emotions). Bronze and stone images of Buddha, stone carvings, stone pagodas, and temples were influenced by Buddhism; poetry, calligraphy and landscape paintings influenced by Confucianism and Chinese culture.

According to Cities of the World: “Korea's 5,000 years of history have produced a rich and vibrant artistic heritage. The handiwork seen, for example, in ceramics, woodworking, architecture, needlework, and calligraphy showcases the high level of craftsmanship evident here. Indeed, Korea has designated several artisans as "Living National Treasures," to honor their contributions to the arts and crafts of Korea, and to pass their skills on to the next generation. Museums and galleries located primarily in Seoul, but also scattered throughout the country, display the works of the Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla Dynasties. These displays reflect the different impacts of regional interests and conflicts-e.g., Chinese influence during the Koguryo, Buddhist influence during the Silla. Later on, the Yi Dynasty (C.E. 1392-1910) illustrated the Confucian mores. [Source: Cities of the World, The Gale Group Inc., 2002]

A Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition of Korean art in 2016-17 from the National Museum of Korea contained “objects reflecting key genres and themes of Korean art are strikingly modern-looking pots and glittering jewelry from ancient burial sites; exquisite gilded Buddhist sculpture from the seventh through the seventeenth century; sophisticated celadon and metalwork of the Koryo dynasty; porcelain with delightful and distinctively Korean designs; and paintings on diverse subjects from the Chosun and early modern periods.” [Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Exhibition October 1, 2016–September 17, 2017]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Louvre, British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum all have examples of Korean art. There are 14 national museums across Korea. Alongside the main National Museum of Korea in Seoul, the thirteen other national museums are spread across the nation. They are in Daegu, Gwangju, Chuncheon in Gangwon-do Province, Naju in Jeollanam-do Province, Jeonju and Iksan, both in Jeollabuk-do Province, Gongju and Buyeo, both in Chungcheongnam-do Province, Cheongju in Chungcheongbuk-do Province, Jinju and Gimhae in Gyeongsangnam-do Province, Gyeongju in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, and, lastly, on Jeju Island. This section introduces the masterpieces featured at each national museum. [Source: Korea.net]

Ancient Art in Korea

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “Korea's artistic tradition reaches back before recorded history to the people who inhabited northeast Asia in the New Stone Age. These people were part of a mosaic of tribal civilizations that settled in the area, and the things they made have been found in many parts of northeastern China, Siberia, and even Japan. The desire to decorate things and express an aesthetic appreciation even in prehistoric times can be seen in the simple designs cut into the clay of pottery items that lay buried for thousands of years until being discovered by archaeologists in modern times. The people who are descended from those early artisans today enjoy a vibrant artistic life.” [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

“Korean art began with the work of the prehistoric potters and matured during the Korean Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.-A.D. 668). The Three Kingdoms, together with the later kingdoms of Koryo and Chosun, balanced local styles of art with much-revered Chinese examples, creating a dual tradition that blends both into something that is uniquely Korean. It is comparable to, but different from, what is found in China and Japan. Korea's oldest surviving paintings, for example, are hunting scenes on the walls of tombs in the territory once occupied by the state of Koguryo. Koguryo men were hunters, skilled horsemen who shot deer and other wild animals from the saddle with a bow and arrow. The leaders' tombs were decorated with scenes of their hunting prowess. Elements of the paintings such as mountains and trees are just like similar elements in Chinese paintings of that time. The hunting theme, however, is something that belongs to Koguryo, along with the deer and tigers in the paintings that were not typical of China but were part of life in Manchuria and northern Korea.

“The Three Kingdoms offer many examples of the dual tradition in Korean art. The southeastern kingdom of Silla, for example, crowned its kings with headdresses of beaten gold whose shapes were reminiscent not only of antlers but also of tree branches, one of the "tools" of Korean shamans who were ancient religious leaders in the forests of Manchuria. Another feature of the Silla crowns is the small, comma-shaped magatama jewels, looking like jade teardrops, that hang from delicate gold threads all around the crown. Magatama are found throughout northeastern Asia but they are not so common in China. Along with the crowns are numerous other iron and gold objects: belt buckles, harnesses, necklaces and pendants, bowls, and figurines. These hint at combinations of Korean and Chinese ideas of nobility, of nomadic and agricultural ways of life, and of the coming of Buddhism to Korea. No Korean buildings survive as such from the Three Kingdoms period, though there are many remains. Stone pagodas still stand on former temple sites, some of them with their carvings and decorative inscriptions still readable. Many of them suggest the care and skill of the stonemasons who created them.”

Buddhist Art in Korea

Buddhism played a decisive role in the formation of Korean culture and art. It was a spiritual force in Korean society and prompted the creation of private devotional objects and works for monasteries and temples over the centuries. Buddhism was the dominant artistic influence during the later Three Kingdoms period and the Silla and Koryo dynasties. Themes and motifs that had originated in India passed to Korea through Central Asia and China. A number of bronze images of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas were made during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries. The images are not mere copies of Indian or north Chinese models, but possess a distinctly "Korean" spirit that one critic has described as "as indifference to sophistication and artificiality and a predisposition toward nature." The striking stone Buddha found in the Sokkuram Grotto, a cave temple located near Gyeongju in North Kyongsang Province, was carved during the Silla Dynasty and is considered to be the finest of Korean stone carvings. During the centuries of Buddhism's ascendancy, a large number of stone pagodas and temples were built, one of the most famous being the Bulguksa Temple near Gyeongju. [Source: Library of Congress]

According to Buddhanet.net: “The Buddha, his life and teachings, have been an inspiration to artists in many countries all through the ages. Korea is no exception. An appreciation of Korean culture is incomplete without an understanding of Buddhism's role in the development of the Korean arts. Korean Buddhist art is everywhere evident throughout the long history of the peninsula. Over half of the nation's 230 National Treasures are Buddhist: At least 37 statues, stone Buddhas and rock reliefs, 25 pagodas, 14 buildings, 15 stupas and lanterns, bells, several paintings and several copies of Sutras, including the huge set of the Tripitaka wood-blocks at Haein-sa Temple. [Source: Buddhanet.net].

“Nearly half of Korea's 848 officially designated treasures are Buddhist too. And the lists continue on through national, regional and local cultural properties; new discoveries are frequently being made. There would have been much more if it were not for the ravages of invasion and the greed of foreign collectors. Numerous works of Korean Buddhist art can be found in Japanese and in Western Collections.

History Buddhist Art in Korea

Soyoung Lee wrote for the Asia Society: Buddhism, having originated in India, spread through almost the entire continent of Asia— and in the twentieth century, to the rest of the world—profoundly affecting the lives of both the converts and non-converts. The many different ways in which it has been adapted by the various cultures and societies attest to both the religion’s flexibility, as well as to the appeal of its fundamental principles. Buddhism was first introduced to Korea from China in the fourth century of the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC–668 AD). It was subsequently adopted as the official state religion in each of the three kingdoms—Koguryo, Paekche, Silla—and remained the state religion through dynastic changes over the next seven centuries—unified Silla and Koryo—until the fifteenth century. [Source: Author: Soyoung Lee, Asia Society]

In Korea, the period between fifth and eight centuries represents a good case study of the early development and subsequent flourishing of Buddhism and Buddhist art. In particular, the development of Buddhist sculpture illuminates the changes in philosophy and taste. Early examples (from fifth and sixth centuries) of statues of the Buddha and other deities of the Buddhist pantheon evidence close iconographic and stylistic ties to their Chinese models: the elongated face, harsh facial features, sharp linear folds of the garment, stiff, central poses. This adoption of Chinese models was inevitable given both the early stage in the development of Buddhism/ Buddhist icons in Korea and also the nature of religious statuary, which dictates adherence to existing archetypes.

By the seventh and eight centuries, however, Korean Buddhist sculpture had matured both conceptually and stylistically. The famous “Paekche smile” on the small Buddha statues of the Paekche kingdom, the elegant and individualistic representations of meditating (or pensive) Buddhas from the seventh century, and the technically and stylistically unsurpassed sculptures in the eighth century cave temple of Sokkuram are some of the most striking examples of the breadth of native development of Buddhist sculpture. Sokkuram and its sculptures, in particular, exemplify Korean ingeniousness and the essence of Korean style in Buddhist art. The cave, built as a dedication to the ancestors of a prominent politician of mid-eight century, embodied complex mathematical calculations and architectural genius. The statue of the main Buddha and the wall-carvings of Buddha's attendants manifest the ideal combination of the divine and the human—one that was rarely matched in Buddhist statuary of contemporary China or Japan.

After several centuries as the state religion, Buddhism was displaced by Neo- Confucianism in the Chosun period (1392–1910). The latter was a philosophy based on the teachings of the ancient Chinese scholar Confucius, rather than a religion, but one that had wide-reaching influence in all aspects of public and private life in Chosun society. Buddhist worship, as well as the production of Buddhist icons persisted in the provinces, away from the capital. Today, Buddhism continues to gain followers, but with increasing competition from other religions, both ancient and modern, including Christianity.

Characteristics of Korean Buddhist Art

Soyoung Lee wrote for the Asia Society: It should be remembered that Buddhist art in Korea, as with religious art in many ancient societies, was more than purely aesthetic display. It also represented both the religious fervor and the political ambitions of the ruling class of the time. For the elite, Buddhism was not only a religious belief, a practical guide to life, and a means to salvation after life, but also a way of asserting political power and of subsuming the society under that power. The temples and iconic statues afforded the elite both visible public displays of its political presence and influence as well as a means of spreading and controlling the religion and the people. This is not to say that Buddhism and Buddhist art were the sole domain of the political elite. Buddhism did disseminate to virtually all levels of society, and objects of worship, such as statues, became accessible to various ranks of people (either in the form of regional or local temples with accompanying statuary or of small, personal shrines or icons in private homes). [Source: Author: Soyoung Lee, Asia Society]

According to Buddhanet.net: “Buddhist principles influencing the arts are sometimes obvious and sometimes not so obvious. Some fundamental Buddhist principles found in Korean Art are: 1) Inclusiveness - the ability of Buddhism to absorb different influences. This can be seen in the variety of cultures and philosophies absorbed into Korean Buddhist Art: Theravada, Mahayana, Tantric, Shamanism and Confucianism. 2) Interrelatedness - the combining of several arts to portray its true beauty; the Monk's Dance "Sung-mu" demonstrates a performing art which is a combination of music, dance, embroidery and costume. 3) Interdependence - the relationship of the parts to the whole and of the whole to the parts. [Source: Buddhanet.net]

“Most Buddhist arts combine such values as patience, perseverance and perfection, all absorbed during the lengthy training period. The student is encouraged to use natural products and to do everything by hand. For, he is not only learning the art or craft but he is also practicing Buddhism as he studies. Now that these traditional values are declining, however, monks and laity are reviving many ancient Buddhist arts and craft, such as paper-making, bookbinding and the traditional tea ceremonies.

“All Buddhist Art also delivers a philosophical message. The Buddhas, usually depicted in teaching or meditating pose, represent the potential human perfection within all of us. The Bodhisattvas represent, depending on the level of the follower's development, either a spiritual being to turn to in times of crisis or the latent ability in all of us to aid others in times of distress. The temple in general, represents a place of peace, tranquillity and perfection, a source of inspiration on our spiritual path.

Types of Korean Buddhist Art: Sculptures and Paintings

On the development of Buddhist sculpture in Korea, Soyoung Lee, of Department of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote: Sculpture comprised one of the principal forms of Buddhist art of the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C. - A.D. 668) Sculptures ranged from large-scale icons for public display and worship to statuettes intended for private devotion in the home. The early sculptures of the three kingdoms adapted the iconography and styles of those produced in the northern and southern regions of China. One source was the sculpture of the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534 A.D.), characterized by the frontal stance of the figures, the flaring edges of their garments, and the flamelike decoration on the halos. Korean sculptors, however, were highly selective in their interpretations of foreign models, sometimes fusing multiple styles from different regions of China and often integrating native sensibilities. The Buddhist statues of Paekje, with their gentle faces and harmonious proportions, are particularly distinctive. During the first half of the seventh century, sculptures of the pensive figure (often identified as the Buddha of the Future, or Bodhisattva Maitreya)—immediately recognizable by its seated posture, with the right leg bent over the left and the right hand touching the face—became immensely popular in all three kingdoms. [Soyoung Lee, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2002]

“Buddhist sculpture of the Unified Silla period reflected the cosmopolitanism of the society. As Silla monks traveled to Tang China (618–907), the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures, and returned with ever greater knowledge of numerous Buddhist sects, so the art of this religion embodied a convergence of multiple influences. Unified Silla statues have an undeniable sensuality, from their round faces and dreamy expressions to their fleshy and curvaceous bodies. In essence, the style of this period can be characterized as an international style cutting across much of East, Central, and South Asia.

According to Buddhanet.net: “Son Art (Son is the Korean form of Ch'an/Zen) tries to communicate visually what speech often fails to do - the true nature of reality, the experience of which is the goal of Son. This is done through spontaneity, included in the Buddhist values incorporated in the training. Mastering the brush may take years, even decades of persevering practice in order to achieve patience, and perfection. Then spontaneity is added. Son painting is completely unpredictable, except for Bodhidharma and the Oxherding Pictures. In Korea this abbreviated form of Buddhist art has drawn new interest in recent years. [Source: Buddhanet.net]

According to the Asia Society: Large-scale banner paintings were popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Buddhism was more widespread, in part because of the loosening of government prohibitions against it. The size and iconography of this painting suggest that it came from a worship hall of the highest level of sanctity, that is, one that enshrined an image of Shakyamuni Buddha.” [Source: Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org |~| ]

Statues in a Korean Buddhist Temple

According to Buddha.net: “Most statues are made of cast bronze, gilded with gold leaf and gold powder, although many ancient statues were made of cast iron or wood. The sizes, positions and gestures of statuary at any given temple depend on a number of factors. Affluence, historical period and sect all play a role in choosing a statue. The most common Buddhas to be found are: [Source: Buddhanet.net]

“Sakyamuni Buddha: 1) Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha usually depicted with a bare shoulder and hands in his lap or one touching the floor. 2) Vairocana, the cosmic Buddha, usually depicted holding his index finger. 3) Amitabha, the Buddha of light and of the Western Paradise - usually golden. 4) Maitreya, the Future Buddha, usually in a posture of reflection: the Laughing Buddha of the Chinese. 5) Bhaisagyaguru, the Medicine Buddha, always white, usually holds a bowl for medicine.

“Most Bodhisattva statues are of various forms: A) Sitting next to Amitabha: 1) Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. 2) Mahasthramprapta, the Bodhisattva of Power, usually carries a lotus. B) Sitting next to Sakyamuni: 1) Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Practice, usually carries a lotus. 2) Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, usually rides a lion when alone.

“Two Bodhisattvas, who are often housed separately, are Avalokitesvara and Ksitigarbha. A special and very popular form of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is the one with a thousand hands. Each hand has an eye so that it can see how to help all beings. Another important Bodhisattva is Ksitigarbha. He usually has green hair and waits to help all tormented people. Beside Ksitigarbha, placed along the walls of the shrine, there are the colourfully dressed judges of the Hells. According to mythology, these judges wait to determine your fate after death. Sometimes there is a shrine for the enlightened disciples of the Buddha. These look like small Buddhas and are often white.

Some pieces are quite beautiful and valuable. On record-breaking sales of Korean art at a Christie’s Auction in March 2003, Souren Melikian wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “The object that overshadowed all others this week is a small gilt-bronze statue of the Bodhisattva Maitreya datable to the seventh century. The Buddha of the future is seated on a stool hidden by his drapes. Lost in rapturous meditation, he bends slightly forward as he leans his head on his raised forefinger. This is the ultimate masterpiece of early Buddhist art in Korea. [Source: Souren Melikian, International Herald Tribune, March 29, 2003]

“Christie's remained silent on the provenance of the gilt bodhisattva, but to insiders, the owner's identity was no mystery. The late Japanese dealer Muneichi Nita, whose heirs were consigning it, had put together an important collection of Buddhist art. Sending the bronze to be auctioned was a huge gamble. Lately, Korean art has been scarce on the auction scene and its performance has been erratic, with unpredictable swings from fantastic highs to catastrophic crashes. But the gamble paid off. The unique bronze, which pitched collectors against each other, soared to US$1.57 million, paid by Eskenazi of London, acting as an agent. After the sale, Christie's Korean specialist Heakyum Kim spoke of "once-in-a-lifetime opportunities," and for once, this was no auction house overstatement.

Transmission of Early Buddhist Art From Korea and Japan

On an exhibition called "Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art From Korea and Japan" at the Japan Society Gallery in New York in 2003, Souren Melikian wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “Around 538, one of the three kingdoms of the Korean peninsula, Paekche, dispatched an embassy to the Japanese court with gifts that included Buddhist texts and an image of the Buddha. Embassies arrived again in Japan in 577 and 588. With them came monks, a nun, temple architects and a sculptor of Buddhist images. Japan — Jonathan Best writes in one of the essays that make the book accompanying the show (distributed by Harry N. Abrams) a must in any library — was won over. The military had something to do with it — in 587 the pro-Buddhist clan at the Japanese court decided to resort to force to make the good cause prevail. By the middle of the seventh century, the triumph of Buddhism was complete. What art demonstrates is how profound Korean influence was over Japan and how the intensity of a faith at times sparked an extraordinarily rapid evolution. [Source: Souren Melikian, International Herald Tribune, April 12, 2003]

“An abyss separates the Buddhist icons of Korea carved or cast in bronze in the Paekche Kingdom during the second half of the sixth century from those that may be dated to the mid-seventh. The earliest sculpture, a seated Buddha carved in soapstone, lent by the Puyo National Museum, illustrates a kind of sweet fairy-tale strain. A contented smile illuminates the chubby face, conveying a naive chirpiness. Another figure excavated on the mid-sixth-century site of the Wono-ri temple exudes a similar bonhomie. While it shares iconographic conventions with China under the Wei dynasty, the cheerful earthenware bodhisattva is far removed in spirit from the sophistication of Wei art.

“Some of that early charm lingered into the seventh century. The gilt bronze Infant Buddha from the Gyeongju National Museum has a broad smile on his rounded face that belies the solemnity of the teaching gesture. The simplicity of this phase contrasts with the art of mid-seventh-century Korea. A standing Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva, which came to light at Sonsan, belongs to an art at the apex of its first blossoming. The elongated figure seems to be swaying. The lips are closed, the eyes imperceptibly open to allow a glance not aimed at the visible world to filter through.

“Astonishing diversity was by now achieved by the Korean bronze makers. Serene elation emanates from the gilt bronze Buddha discovered in Hoengsong and lent by the National Museum in Seoul. The merest touch of gentle amusement may be read into his eyes as if aimed at the futility of human concerns. Perhaps the serenity of Buddhism occasionally triggered fits of rage among opponents from rival creeds. On a stele carved in 673, all the faces have been hammered away. Korean specialists say there is no known example of iconoclasm in the Korean history of Buddhism. Art, it would appear, thus bears witness to events that left no trace in written records.

“The Koreans migrating to Japan in large numbers transmitted the message and the art. One of the most admirable revelations in the show, displayed for the first time outside Japan, is the bodhisattva preserved in a shrine of the age-old Japanese Shinto cult at Sekiyama Jinja. How the object, which clearly suffered from a fire, came into that non-Buddhist shrine is not known. The art historian Yasuo Inamoto writes that the seventh-century bronze was made in Korea and brought to Japan, or, alternatively, made in Japan by one of the many Korean immigrants. The harmony of the body slightly tilted, the smile of blissful illumination, make it one of the great masterpieces of early Far Eastern art.

Similar questions arise several times in connection with seventh-century Buddhist figures preserved in Japan. A bodhisattva in "pensive posture" from Kanshoin is evidently the work of a Korean artist, but whether the execution took place in Korea or Japan is impossible to say.

Development of Japanese Buddhist Art From Korean Buddhist Art

Souren Melikian wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “Remarkably, the huge role played by Korean masters did not inhibit their Japanese disciples. Almost from the beginning, Japanese sculpture developed specific features even while remaining close to Korean sources. A seventh-century triad from the Yakushiji in Uchiuramachi displays characteristics — a lack of proportion, an excessive rigidity — typical of a "primitive" phase. Nevertheless, it has a precision in the rendition of the Buddha's features and a sharpness that was to remain constant in Japanese aesthetics. [Source: Souren Melikian, International Herald Tribune, April 12, 2003]

“An extraordinary Buddha Shakyamuni from a triad lent by the Horyuji temple at Nara confirms that this sharpness appeared early on. The Buddha is inscribed with a date equivalent to 628. The flames that rise rhythmically around the large halo are engraved with flawless precision. There is a rigor about the cast bronze group that is eminently Japanese.

“As Korea and Japan settled into the Buddhist way of life, something changed in the art of both nations. In Korea a new feeling became perceptible by the late seventh century. A kind of classicism within its own terms of reference is manifest in the balance, the symmetry and general harmony of the openwork triad cast and chiseled about 680. from the Gyeongju National Museum. The calm repose about the faces, the impeccable flow of the folds of the Buddha's drapes, strengthen the impression of a "classical" moment in the art. This classicism reached a climax with a seated Buddha from the National Museum in Seoul, steeped in irenic meditation, eyes closed. It is unforgettable.

“A similar point was attained a little later in Japan, with a sharper edge. The standing Buddha from the Shinnoin temple in Wakayama Prefecture illustrates the earlier stage of this classical development some time in the late seventh century, and the seated Buddha of Healing from the Nara National Museum signals its culmination in the eighth century. Formal perfection is not quite all there in the standing figure but it is consummate in the seated Buddha — too consummate perhaps. Formalism was about to take over.

“The Japanese masterpiece of the later period is not a Buddha, but the ninth-century wooden guardian of heaven, from Nara, seen in the guise of a warrior in Tang-style armor. Overwhelming in its power, it does not belong in the realm of ecstatic illumination. That unique moment in the history of Japanese and Korean Buddhism was over.”

Chinese Influence on Korean Art

Holland Cotter wrote in the New York Times: By the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910) “it was China, rather than Buddhism per se, that provided Korean artists with an aesthetic template. Sometimes cultural differences are all but impossible to discern. A magnificent picture of a falcon, long attributed to the 14th-century Chinese animal painter Xu Ze, has recently been reattributed to the 16th-century Korean painter Yi Am, partly on the basis of a seal stamped on the picture’s surface. [Source: Holland Cotter, New York Times, March 19, 2009]

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “East Asian artists traditionally studied painting by learning how to depict common components in classical paintings such as rocks, flowing water, trees, mountains, various kinds of surfaces, and people and animals. There were handbooks of examples that budding artists were supposed to copy until they had mastered the models of each thing. Chinese painters learned how to paint in this way and so did the Koreans, and the skill of the mature artist lay in his ability to combine the familiar elements and present pleasing variations on the work of the masters. Traveling to the Peach Groves in a Dream, for example, contains many elements common to Chinese landscapes of the eleventh century, most notably Early Spring, by Guo Xi, now in the Palace Museum on Taiwan. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

“In the eighteenth century, the most refined Korean artists were scholarpainters who worked in a time they considered to be one of crisis. The muchadmired Chinese civilization had been taken over by Manchu invaders and the imperial throne was occupied by emperors who were technically "barbarians." Koreans saw China groaning under a yoke of illegitimate foreign rule, its values trampled and its culture humiliated. Koreans saw themselves as guardians of the light of civilization in East Asia, custodians of the ethical and artistic traditions that the Chinese had shared with them.”

Cotter wrote : “In a set of Korean hanging scrolls titled “Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers,” the seasonal theme, the ink medium, even the landscapes are all classically Chinese. But the painter’s elevated perspective, as if seeing the world from a balcony in the clouds, is not. Drawn as it was to China, the early Chosun dynasty was also intent on defining and promoting Korean-ness. In 1443, in the reign of King Sejong, a committee of court scholars invented and made public, for the first time, a Korean phonetic alphabet and script called Hangul, ending the country’s long dependence on Chinese as a written language.

“From that point, fulfilling a neo-Confucian ideal of universal education, reading and writing became common....For practical reasons the Chosun court declared fealty to the Qing. At the same time Korean artists and scholars pondered, more intently than before, the lineaments of Korean culture — what it was, had been, could be — and turned their hands to advancing a national art.

Korean Painting

According to Korea.net: Painting has always been a major genre of Korean art since ancient times. The art of ancient Korea is represented by the tomb murals of Koguryo (37 B.C. - 668 A.D.) which contain valuable clues to the beliefs of the early Korean people about humanity and the universe as well as to their artistic sensibilities and techniques. The artists of Koryo (918-1392) were interested in capturing Buddhist icons and bequeathed some great masterpieces, while the literati elite of Chosun was more attracted to the symbolism of plants and animals, such as the Four Noble Lords (Sagunja, namely, the orchid, chrysanthemum, bamboo, and plum tree) and the Ten Creatures of Longevity (Sipjangsaeng), as well as idealized landscapes. [Source: Korea.net]

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “Throughout Korean history, the common people have produced a variety of folk paintings known as minhwa, or "people's paintings." Favorite minhwa themes include tigers, birds (especially magpie), symbols of longevity such as pine trees, and the Mountain Spirit. Minhwa are often humorous, or satirical, as in the case of the magpie chattering at the tiger, a little bird harassing the fearsome predator. This is a major motif of Korean folk art: the weaker common people getting the best of the powerful ruling class. Minhwa are illustrations of stories; such painted decorative pictures typically include paintings of ordinary people doing everyday things, and of this type, the most famous are the genre paintings of the eighteenth-century painters Kim Hongdo and Shin Yunbok. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Koguryo Tomb Paintings

The Koguryo (Goguryeo, Goryeo, 37 B.C. - A.D. 668) was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Manchuria. Yonson Ahn wrote in Japan Focus: “Mural tombs have decorative paintings inside the burial chambers. The mural paintings constitute their chief claim to glory. The murals are rich in content including the family life of noble lords, feasting, dancing, drama-playing and outings. Representative pictorial motifs of the wall paintings include the following: daily life scenes, such as farming, hunting, banquets and entertainment, wives and household retinue, stables, kitchens and storehouses. [Source: Yonson Ahn, Japan Focus, January 1, 2008]

“Among these motifs, daily life scenes are numerous. Popular decorative motifs include the spiral pattern, the “king” letter pattern, lotus-petals, clouds, intertwined dragons and honeysuckle. The contents of the mural paintings provide important information on Koguryo life, customs and beliefs; for example, the lotus-petal that appears in so many murals is indicative of the spread of Buddhism during the fifth and sixth centuries. Furthermore, these walls bear an exceptional and early witness to a culture, painting tradition and archaeology in East Asia, especially during the so-called “Northern and Southern Dynasties period” which falls between the Han and Tang periods, for which there was little information until the past decade.”

Outstanding works of art include: 1) the Hunting mural, Muyongch’ong Tomb (fifth century), Ji’an, China; 2) depiction of a kitchen, meat store and carriage shed, Anak Tomb No.3 built in 357, Hwanghae province, North Korea; 3) scenes of official duties and/or the ordering of socio-political status and military activities, thirteen government officials congratulating the tomb-owner, Jin, on his appointment to an important post, Tokhung-ri Tomb built in 408, Nampo, North Korea; 4) celestial, cosmological,or immortal ascent scenes and figures, such as the blue dragon and white tiger, the tortoise and the snakes, and the red phoenix, and scenes of filial piety and morality, the star constellations in Tokhung-ri Tomb built in 408, Nampo, North Korea;

“5) Red phoenix (one of the Four Guardian Deities, defenders of the four directions on each wall to guard the soul of the deceased against demons), Kangso Middle Tomb built between the second half of sixth century and the first half seventh century A.D., Nampo, North Korea; 6) Sun and moon deities, Ohoe Tomb No. 4 built between in the late sixth century and the early seventh century A.D., Ji’an, China; 7) Fire deity, T’onggu Sasinch’ong Tomb built in the sixth century, Ji’an, China; 8) Lotus flower and heavenly world, Ssangyongch’ong Tomb built in the late fifth century, Nampo, North Korea; 9) The first image of a Buddhist monk of the Koguryo period, Ssangyongch’ong Tomb built in the late fifth century, Nampo, North Korea; 10) Portrait of the tomb owner’s wife: Anak Tomb No.3, Hwanghae province, North Korea; 11) “Black warrior”, a combination of snake and turtle in one body, Kangso Great Tomb, Nampo, North Korea

In 1972, archaeologists discovered well-preserved murals inside the Takamatsu tomb at the Asuka archeological site near Osaka, Kyoto and Nara in Japan. Dated to the end of the seventh century, the murals contained images of tigers, dragons, and star constellations like those found in Korean and Chinese tombs. The people in some of the murals are wearing Korean-style clothes. Women, for example, depicted in murals in wore pleated skirts like those found in Korea at that time. Some historian believe this and other similar tombs provide evidence that rulers in the Asuka-period Japan (A.D. 538 to 710) were either Koreans or Chinese or strongly influenced by Korean or Chinese culture. Many Koreans believe they offer proof that Japanese Imperial family was founded by a Korean clan, something that Japanese nationalists vehemently deny is possible.

Painting in a Korean Buddhist Temple

According to Buddha.net: “In Korean, temples and palaces are painted in a particular style called "tanch'ong". Tanch'ong means "red and blue", the principal colours used in these colourful cosmic designs. Originally arriving with Buddhism when it was brought from China, the patterns of tanch'ong were modified in Korea. Tanch'ong preserves the wood from insects and the elements and adds glory and richness to the buildings. [Source: Buddhanet.net]

“The outside eaves, the inside rafters and the ceilings are covered with intricate tanch'ong patterns. On the main temple beams and among the rafters, interwoven between the patterns, you will find pictures of spirits, ancient monks, Bodhisattvas and dragons, to name a few. It is said that during the Silla period, tanch'ong was even found on commoners' home. Now it is limited to temples and palaces as well as some musical instruments.

“Buddhist paintings are not only beautiful but also full of meaning. Symbols are included in the paintings; beauty and meaning are interrelated to instruct the visitor on his spiritual quest, reminding him of the path.

“On the outside ends of big buildings, up towards the roof, you will see three circles. These represent heaven, earth and man, the three important things that Tangun, the mythological founder of Korea, is supposed to have brought with him. They have come to represent the Buddha, his teaching and the community of Buddhists.

“Lotuses, are another common symbol found in Buddhist paintings, are to be seen in many forms. The lotus grows from mud (representing ignorance) up to the clear sunlight (representing enlightenment). The symbol of the fish is often painted on the main Buddha table. It represents the effort and determination necessary for attaining enlightenment, for the fish supposedly, never closes its eyes. If you look closely, you will find swastika everywhere: on the outside of buildings, woven into patterns, even in the decorations in the subways and in roadside railings. The swastika is an ancient Buddhist symbol of peace, harmony and good luck.

Murals in a Korean Buddhist Temple

According to Buddha.net: “Behind the main statue in the main hall there is usually a large mural. These are added to give a clearer, more complete image of the Buddhist cosmic view to the visitor. Depending on the size and nature of the hall, murals are more or less complex arrangements of figures taken from a variety of specific, traditional designs. [Source: Buddhanet.net]

“If you look closely, you will find all kinds of interesting personalities peering out. Amitabha is the most frequent central figure to be found, and usually he is shown with rays of light coming from his head. In the foreground, towards the bottom left and right corners, there are usually guardians. Tongkin, protector of the DharmaBodhisattvas are often placed nearer to the feet of the principal figure and, in the middle, there are the gods and ordinary people.

“Above, often near the main Buddha's head, there are monks. Look for an old-looking one, Kasyapa, and a younger one, the Buddha Sakyamuni's attendant Ananda. Apart from the main mural behind the statue, there are numerous other protector paintings. These depict beings that are more human in appearance; they represent the human world of desire. Many earth/sky gods, derived from Indian religions as well as Taoist spirits and Confucian characters, are all included in Korean Buddhist iconography.

“Other popular Buddhist paintings in the main hall feature the Dragon King, who is easily identified by his outlandish eyebrows and mustache, and the Bodhisattva Tongjin. As protector of the Dharma and the Lotus Sutra in particular, Tongjin is often the centre of a protector painting and can be identified by his sword and rather ostentatiously feathered headgear. In separate, smaller shrines look for the delightful Mountain Spirit painting. As the resident spirit long before Buddhism arrived in Korea, the Mountain Spirit is always flanked by a friendly tiger and by an attendant. Often the painting has great charm and character, as do those of the Seven Star Spirit (Big Dipper) and the Recluse.

Landscape Painting in Korea

Soyoung Lee wrote for the Asia Society: “In Korea, landscape painting—rather than figure paintings or historical paintings as in the Western world—became the preeminent form in part because nature itself was considered sacred. Nature was seen as a living entity. It symbolized both an integral part of human life and a higher spiritual being. Such a conception of nature was shared also by China and Japan, with each culture developing its own variations of the philosophy and related rituals. Given the lofty ideals attached to it, transferring this vast and superior nature or landscape onto a two-dimensional surface posed a challenge to artists that in turn elevated the position of landscape painting. [Source: Author: Soyoung Lee, Asia Society]

“Another reason that landscape painting became the superior art form in Korea was the dominance of Confucianism and neo-Confucianism, adopted from China. This philosophy prescribed, among other things, the cultivation of the intellect and humility. Translated into art, it meant that pictures of the human figure—the physical body, the mundane activities of humans, even historical episodes that focus on human activity or achievement—were secondary. Instead, landscape painting emerged as the means for exploration and expression of the intellect and of the larger world beyond human beings. Not until the eighteenth century, with the growth of genre painting, does figural painting become important in Korean art history.

“Landscape painting did not take shape immediately. The earliest depictions of landscape in Korea, from the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC–668 AD), appear as rudimentary background elements, not as an independent genre of painting. In the tomb wall paintings of the fifth century, for example, we see isolated mountains or trees depicted around figures in action, such as hunting. The human figures and the landscape put together comprise the whole.

“It was during the Koryo period (918–1392) that landscape painting—and painting in general—blossomed rapidly as an art form in its own right. This evolution paralleled developments in Song dynasty China (960–1279). Song and Koryo shared a close relationship of frequent diplomatic and cultural exchanges. As in the paintings of Northern Song, monumental landscape painting—pictures that portrayed colossal mountains and conveyed a sense of awe in nature—became popular in Koryo. Unfortunately, relatively few examples of landscape painting from this period survive, which makes it difficult for us today to assess fully its development and achievements.”

Landscape Painting in the Chosun Dynasty

Soyoung Lee wrote for the Asia Society: “Over the five centuries of Korea’s Chosun period (1392–1910), the repertory of landscape painting expanded. There are also many more extant examples. Two schools of landscape painting were of particular importance during the Chosun period. One was led by the fifteenth century court artist An Kyon. His landscape paintings adapted and transformed stylistic and conceptual elements of the old Northern Song landscapes and perfected a unique style. He played with innovative and striking compositions that challenged conventional notions of space and time within painting. His distinctive brushstrokes were copied and adapted by his followers who continued the tradition even after his time. [Source: Author: Soyoung Lee, Asia Society]

“The other major school or style of landscape painting arose in the eighteenth century, led by the master artist Chong Son. His “True-View” landscape style revolutionized the whole concept of landscape painting in Korea. Until then, landscape painting was conceptually abstract: the landscapes depicted were usually not actual scenery or even the artists’ personal or emotional reaction to existing landscape, but rather nature as it was conceived in the artists’ mind. Chong Son’s paintings portrayed famous scenery in Korea— both previously painted sites such as the Kumgang Mountainan and other sites that had not been subjects of landscape painting—and did so in a way that presented the landscape as real, noble, and personal simultaneously. The achievement of True View landscape painting lies in its ability to evoke the essence of both native landscape scenery and native sensibilities.

Genre Painting in 18th Century Korea

Soyoung Lee wrote for the Asia Society: “Genre painting developed in two directions in the Chosun period (1392–1910). One was as visual representation of the culture and customs of Chosun society and functioned as statepatronized pictures to be given as gifts to foreign dignitaries (especially Qing Chinese). The other branch of genre painting involved portrayals of daily activities of rural communities and began to develop around the seventeenth century. Paintings of the latter group were based on actual observations and depicted such mundane activities as farmers working in the fields, potters making pots, and women sewing. [Source: Author: Soyoung Lee, Asia Society]

This line of genre painting further matured and flourished during the eighteenth century. Such giants in the art world as Kim Hong-do (1745–1806) perfected genre painting and elevated its position within the canon of art. Another major artist of genre painting is Shin Yun-bok (1758–1800s). Unlike Kim, Shin painted scenes of aristocrat-scholars engaged in leisurely activities, such as boating or listening to musical performances. See Below

“It is neither coincidental nor curious that the popularization of genre painting paralleled the rise of realistic and native-focused landscape painting (True View landscape) in the late Chosun period. Both art movements emphasized actual observations, real scenes or scenery, and focused on either the people or landscape of the native land. Eighteenth century Chosun Korea had turned its attention away from China, which had by then fallen under “barbarian” Manchu occupation, and looked to itself as the new cultural center of East Asia. This attitude allowed Koreans more freedom to examine and appreciate their native traditions. Moreover, a new, popular philosophical movement, called Sirhak or Practical Learning, pushed intellectuals and artists to explore practical aspects of life. These factors contributed to the growth of diverse trends in the arts and encouraged a greater range of artistic expression in both subject matter and style.

Famous Artists, Works of Art and Calligraphy in Korea

Three of the most famous works of Korean art are: 1) a self portrait by Yun Duso; 2) a scroll called “Twelve Thousand Peaks of Mount Kumgang” by Chong Son; and a painting called “Women on Dano Day.” The later shows a couple of men spying on some half naked women taking a bath.

One of Korea's most well know artists is Chang Sung-op, a Chosen era artist with a Gauguin-like temperament who reportedly could only paint if a "pretty woman was pouring him drinks.” He is known pest for his scroll landscapes and vivid renderings of animals. Among his most famous works are “Immortal of Spring,” “Swallows Frolicking in Spring” and “Mountain of Grace, Valley of Pear Trees”.

Calligraphy, which developed in Korea under the influence of China, is the art of handwriting in which the beauty of the lines and forms of characters and the energy contained in brush strokes and subtle shades of ink are appreciated. While calligraphy is an independent genre of art, it has been closely related with ink and wash painting since these forms use similar techniques and the tools commonly called the “four friends of the study” (i.e. paper, brush, ink stick and ink stone). Korea has produced an abundance of master calligraphers of whom Kim Jeong-hui (1786-1856) is particularly famous for developing his own style, which is known as Chusache or Chusa Style (Chusa was his pen name). His calligraphic works fascinated even the Chinese masters of his time and are still widely admired for their remarkably modern artistic beauty. [Source: Korea.net]


An Kyon was an uncompromising 15th century classical artist. Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “An Kyon is most famous for his monumental Chinese-style landscape entitled Traveling to the Teach Groves in a Dream, which was painted to illustrate the dream of Crown Prince Yangp'yong. Dao Jian, a famous Chinese writer of the third century, wrote a story about a man who found a narrow opening in some rocks and, when he passed through, found himself in a kind of paradise where everything was peaceful and the people had everything they wanted. (The story has undergone many retellings in many countries and is even known in the West as the inspiration for the legend of Shangri-la.) However, after the man went home to tell his friends about his wonderful discovery, he spent the rest of his life trying to find his way back without ever finding the opening in the rocks. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

“In his dream, Prince Yangp'yong dreamed that he was in the peach groves of Dao Jian's story, and when he woke up he summoned the court painter An Kyon to listen to his description and paint what he had seen. The result is a most beautiful landscape, full of the mystery and magic of the story. An Kyon used mists and rocks and pale colors on the trees to convey the feeling that the prince described to him. The painting is a panorama of the valley in sections that show both the peach grove and the rocks, chasms, and natural obstacles that make it so hard to find.

“An Kyon's Traveling to the Peach Groves in a Dream is still one of Korea's most accomplished works of classical East Asian landscape painting. Ironically, at one point it was acquired by a Japanese collector who took it out of Korea, and today it hangs in the Tend Central Library south of Nara, Japan.

Kim Hongdo and Shin Yunbok

Soyoung Lee wrote for the Asia Society: “Kim Hong-do (1745–1806) perfected genre painting and elevated its position within the canon of art. Kim’s works show ordinary people, male and female, young and old, engaged in everyday work or play. The figures are usually set against an empty or simplified background, so that it is the facial expressions and physical movements of the figures, along with the activity at hand—often involving the classroom, public sports or entertainment, or some type of manual labor—that become the focus of the picture. The paintings represent a moment in time, frozen, yet fully alive with all the sounds, actions, and emotions. Kim’s paintings are also often humorous—such as the scene of a boy being scolded by his teacher while his schoolmates giggle in the background—highlighting the light-hearted and playful side of life. [Source: Author: Soyoung Lee, Asia Society]

Another major artist of genre painting is Shin Yun-bok (1758–1800s). Unlike Kim, Shin painted scenes of aristocrat-scholars engaged in leisurely activities, such as boating or listening to musical performances. In addition, he is also well known for his pictures of courtesans (known as kisaeng in Korea). Many of Shin’s paintings involve a group of men on an outing with courtesans, semi-nude women bathing or laundering in the stream, or lovers’ secret rendez-vous, and are either subtly or overtly erotic. In both subject matter and erotic tone, they are clearly different from Kim’s works and are rather risque in the context of strait-laced and moralistic Chosun society. [Source: Author: Soyoung Lee, Asia Society]

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “Kim Hongdo's paintings showed boys in school, children playing, and workmen working, often in situations that were humorous. Shin Yunbok liked to paint many of the same things but his most famous scenes are of women. His paintings give us a good idea of what the fashions of the day in clothing and hair styles were like. Some of his paintings depict flirtations and courtship, or parties in which kisaeng entertainers are dancing, singing, or otherwise performing for male patrons in yangban costumes. Kim Hongdo was a more formal painter than Shin Yunbok and started out with classical themes that included plums, orchids, lotus flowers, and Chinese-style landscapes. His painting Ui-i Sailing Home is full of references to Chinese styles. The components of his painting Picnic, though less formal, are still Chinese. Spring Journey offers a typical Chinese theme—stopping to watch a swallow in a willow tree—but adapts it to Korea by showing the people in Korean clothes. The Falcon Hunt does much the same thing, including two women as part of the hunting party. But Kim also loved to paint scenes of ordinary life and injected humor into his works. Koreans appreciate Shin Yunbok and Kim Hongdo because they painted their "home culture." [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Buddhist Statues Stolen from Japan and Taken to Korea

In 2012, a group of South Korean thieves stole the Buddhist saint statue and a standing Buddha statue from a temple and a shrine, respectively, on Tsushima. The Buddha statue, a state-designated important cultural property in Japan, was returned to the country in 2015. The Japanese government is demanding the return of the other statue, which is a prefecture-designated cultural asset. In February 2013, a South Korean court ordered the return of two stolen statues to Tsushima after they were taken from a shrine and a temple on the island. [Source: Jiji Press, January 26, 2017]

In January 2017, a South Korean court upheld a local temple’s claim on the ancient statue of a seated Buddhist saint stolen from Japan in 2012 and kept at a South Korean national institute. Jiji Press reported: “Daejeon District Court ordered the South Korean government to hand over the statue to Buseoksa Temple, which insists that it is highly likely the statue was looted from the temple by pirates in the 14th century and taken to the islands of Tsushima, currently in Nagasaki Prefecture. In the ruling, the court said it is reasonable to believe that the Buddhist saint statue was transported to the Japanese temple, Kannonji, as a result of theft, looting or other illicit acts.

In November 2014, four South Korean men were taken into police custody on suspicion of stealing a Buddha statue from a temple in Tsushima. Kyodo reported: “The four men, whose ages range from 47 to 70, allegedly committed several thefts of local cultural assets as a team, the police said. Their immediate charge is the theft of a Buddha statue from a temple in the town of Mitsushima on the island, which is located in the Sea of Japan midway between the two countries. The 11-cm-tall statue is designated as the city’s cultural asset. “The theft was initially reported by a monk of the temple, the police said. Then the police spotted the four men at a nearby port and arrested them after finding the stolen statue among their belongings. [Source: Kyodo, November 25, 2014]

Auctioning Korean Art

On record-breaking sales of Korean art at a Christie’s Auction in March 2003, Souren Melikian wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “The object that overshadowed all others this week is a small gilt-bronze statue of the Bodhisattva Maitreya datable to the seventh century. The Buddha of the future is seated on a stool hidden by his drapes. Lost in rapturous meditation, he bends slightly forward as he leans his head on his raised forefinger. This is the ultimate masterpiece of early Buddhist art in Korea. [Source: Souren Melikian, International Herald Tribune, March 29, 2003]

“Christie's remained silent on the provenance of the gilt bodhisattva, but to insiders, the owner's identity was no mystery. The late Japanese dealer Muneichi Nita, whose heirs were consigning it, had put together an important collection of Buddhist art. Sending the bronze to be auctioned was a huge gamble. Lately, Korean art has been scarce on the auction scene and its performance has been erratic, with unpredictable swings from fantastic highs to catastrophic crashes. But the gamble paid off. The unique bronze, which pitched collectors against each other, soared to US$1.57 million, paid by Eskenazi of London, acting as an agent. After the sale, Christie's Korean specialist Heakyum Kim spoke of "once-in-a-lifetime opportunities," and for once, this was no auction house overstatement.

Next was a 3,500-year-old piece of stoneware. “The Punch'ong stoneware bottle with squat horizontal body and rounded extremities reproduces a model that goes back to Antiquity. It was already produced in gray earthenware by the potters of Han China around the first century B.C. The Korean piece of the 15th or 16th century B.C. owes its character to the artful roughness of the stoneware. Visible firing cracks and imperfections and the freely painted blackish-brown vine branches on the off-white ground give it an appearance of natural spontaneity immensely admired in Korea as in Japan. It shot up to US$567,500.”

Then there were “two world-record prices in an unrelated field, Korean painting of the 20th century. The work of Kim Whanki (1913-1974), an artist who straddled East and West, defies classification. Trained at the Tokyo Fine Art School on the eve of World War II, Whanki taught at two different Seoul universities after the war and lived in Paris from 1956 to 1959 before returning to Korea. He probably painted his still life of white Korean vessels set against a pale-blue backdrop around that time. The oil-painting technique is Western, the style has faint Matisse overtones, and the spirit is Far Eastern in its rejection of descriptive naturalism. The still life, estimated by Christie's to be worth US$60,000 to US$80,000, ended up at US$365,900

“A second world record for 20th-century Korean art” was nothing short of spectacular. Park Sookeun was first admired by Americans stationed in Korea. His first showing was in a hotel gallery, where his works sold for minimal prices. The artist's oeuvre was just taking off, when he died in 1965 at the age of 51. "Leisure Time," a scene of five men huddled around a chess table, is as idiosyncratic as Whanki's still life. The monochrome brownish palette, the curious grainy texture and the linear stylization of the characters handled like shadows set it apart. Pictures such as these are rare. "Leisure Time" shot up to US$1.128 million, four times Christie's highest expectations.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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