Last week, another great opportunity was brought to London by the Korean Cultural Centre: Royal Ancestors and Contemporary Culture, A Talk by Philip Gowman (London Korean Links). This was the most packed out a KCC lecture had ever been, and it’s easy to understand why.
The website London Korean Links (affectionately known as LKL) is the definitive guide to Korean London. It has been going since 2006 and has inspired many Londoners to get involved with Korean culture, and some to even start blogging about it 😉 The site provides an online hub for news, info, and opinions that all Koreophiles would be interested to read. Its founder and main contributor Philip Gowman was last year invited to Korea, and upon arrival was encouraged to keep a travel diary that would later form his debut book Royal Ancestors and Ancient Remedies. Last week’s KCC event was its launch, as well as an introduction and snapshot to it.
The lecture began with an account of the Jongmyo Rituals, an ancient ceremony that Philip thoroughly enjoyed in spite of most Koreans’ view of it as merely boring! Remaining on the theme of tradition and ritual was Philip’s report on a Buddhist temple-stay. This was something that I really wanted to do whilst in Korea but in the end ran out of time. It was great to hear how tranquil and refreshing the experience was, confirming its place on my Korea “to do” list.
Philip is not just concerned with tradition and history though, and went on to discuss contemporary culture including the group Wondergirls, TV drama Heo Jun, and movie Oldboy. There was definitely something for everyone within the talk, with subjects ranging from tea cultivation to the stereotypification of Korean characters within Hollywood movies. In fact, there wasn’t much that wasn’t covered during this hour-long lecture.
The informative nature of the talk, as well as Philip’s knowledge of all things Korean, was second to none throughout. What I enjoyed most, though, was the accessible and personal style and content that allowed members of the audience to relate to what was being said. For example, it was fascinating to hear the background to Philip’s interest in and involvement with Korean culture. Unlike so many others I know whose passion for Korea started after falling for Hallyu (the Korean wave), Philip was unusually first attracted to Korea through his work as a banker and interest in the Korean market.
After the lecture came a Q and A session that allowed audience members to chip in with their ideas and additions as well as questions for Philip. Authentic Korean food including kimchi, bulgogi, and tteok was then provided as we got a chance to mingle and to pick up a copy of the book itself. Like other KCC events that I have attended, there was a sense of community and shared interest here in the centre of Korean London.
Overall, the evening did not disappoint, and was as diverse and entertaining as the blog itself. I learnt a great deal, and started to ponder questions that I hadn’t considered before. A highlight of the evening was meeting Philip and getting my book signed!
I have only browsed it so far, but was pleased to notice that it follows LKL’s newsy and readable style, as well as that it includes some fabulous photographs. I can’t wait to get started, and to hopefully learn a lot from it. I will also continue to follow LKL, looking to this as my inspiration as a London Korea blogger.
- Philip Gowman also blogs for The Korea Blog (http://blog.korea.net/)
- Follow London Korean Links at http://londonkoreanlinks.net/
- Royal Ancestors and Ancient Remedies is available from the London Korean Cultural Centre, and will be on Amazon soon (details to follow)