Yeongwol comes alive as Museum City
Experts from world converge for Yeongwol Yonsei Forum
By Nho Joon-hun
In late 20th century and early 21st century, the city of Yeongwol’s population was getting smaller and its industrial foundations were diminishing, which led it to require external support.
To overcome this disadvantage, Yeongwol chose to become a “Museum City” to promote the region and emerge as a place where history and culture coexist, local officials said.
Over the past five years, Yeongwol created specific museums befitting its title Museum City with assistance not only from city and national experts but also specialists from around the world.
Initially, the concept was simply to house as many museums as Yeongwol could accommodate.
“In the early stages, when the private sector created museums with support of the city, each museum inter-connected with those in nearby cities. This was not the initial idea but the inter-connectivity has proven to be very effective,” said one official.
As another part of the project, Yeongwol is striving to develop major issues that can be discussed and furthered on a global basis.
“The connectors through whom Yeongwol Museum City can contribute to the world are foreign Korean studies scholars or future foreign Korean studies students.
“Currently, the representative organizations for supporting Korean Studies overseas are the Korea Foundation and The Center for Information on Korean Culture,” the Yeongwol official said.
To further this cause, the Yeongwol-Yonsei World Korean Studies Information Support Center has been working closely with the two organizations, part of whose efforts is to bring on board foreigners who have worked in Korean studies.
The center’s major projects include, among others, collecting publications, theses and resources from foreign academics in Korean studies all over the world.
The collection can be exhibited, and through a cyber information center the flow of Korean studies overseas can be organized.
Creating a Museum City
All this transpired after Yeongwol was selected as a development-needy city by the Korean government in August 2004, and decided to become a “Museum City” in February 2005.
As a result, it called for new ideas for museums, and so far there are 25 including ones that are not open yet.
In 2009, Yeongwol had the privilege of playing host to one million visitors, mainly as a result of nationwide promotional campaigns. With the results so far, the city will highly likely be recognized not only domestically but internationally as a world-class Museum City.
As a result of concerted efforts by all parties involved, the number of museums has been increasing rapidly along with their diversity. Initially, there were only a couple of museums with various themes but the increase in numbers has meant more specialization.
Along with the number of museums, the area in use has been expanding as well. Originally, there were more mountainous areas than flatlands in Yeongwol where the West River (including Joochun River) and the East River end to converge into the Namhan River where most of the museums are gathered.
Fortunately, more streets have been paved in the mountainous areas, thus making it possible to turn some of the areas in the highlands into suitable locations for museums.
At the same time, the number of genres such as painting, crafts, and natural history has been growing. This has happened because it is easier to collect or buy artworks from living artists than from the past or historical artifacts.
Yeongwol Yonsei Forum
Amid the diverse efforts to attain world-recognition, the Yeongwol YonseiForum kicks off today for a four-day run with the participation of scholars and specialists from around the world, including Japan and China.
The first and second days will be dedicated to Korean language education in the world; war and peace, and the museum; the cultural turn in Korean studies: reflections on developments in the 1980s; Korean studies in China; a new perspective on traditional Korean art; and environmental history studies across the globe.
On the third and fourth days, participants will delve into such topics as designing a Museum City and its infrastructure; modern European life and medieval culture: preservation, application, and education; Korean studies in Europe; teaching about Korea: the past, present and the future; designing the young world “’Yeongwol’; and global eco-museums and tasks for Yeongwol Museum City.