Accepted Paper:

Korean Gardens outside of Korea: The (Re)Construction of National Cultural Identity?  


Maria Sobotka (Free University of Berlin/Peking University)

Paper short abstract:

My topic is the representation of Korean art and culture in the West. Based on a contemporary Korean garden in Berlin I will show the garden concept as a derivation from South Korea's cultural policy objectives and place it in the larger context of cultural identity and nation-building.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the reconstruction and representation of Neo-Confucian literati gardens of the Korean Joseon dynasty in the West by taking as its focus the 16th century Korean scholar garden Dongnakdang in Gyeongju and a contemporary Korean in Berlin, the so-called Seouler Garten. To a large extent, the Dongnakdang served as a model for the Seouler Garten, located in the Gardens of the World, a public park in Berlin. Built in 2005 it was handed over by the Seoul municipal government to Berlin in 2006 as part of their city partnership. As one of only two Korean gardens in Germany it is one of the few places where South Korea officially presents its country and culture.

I will explore the literati garden concept of the Dongnakdang and set out how this traditional concept has been transferred into a modern Western context. Based on the concept of othering I will elucidate how imagination and representation of Korean culture shape the picture of Korean gardens in the West. My findings will highlight how notions of cultural identity emerge and place the garden within South Korea's foreign cultural policy. Moreover, based on an extensive visitor survey and a detailed analysis of the Seouler Garten I will tackle the predominant image of South Korea in Germany today to investigate whether this garden in Berlin can be seen as a successful 'translation' of a Neo-Confucian literati garden into a western country, and the realisation of South Korea's cultural policy objectives.

Panel P006
Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities