Jan-Mar 2023 (vol.67)

New World, New Museum

MUCH Metaverse

The term “metaverse” is now a familiar buzzword around the world. With the recent commercialization of 5G and deployment of contactless infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic, museums have already begun to offer metaverse-based exhibitions. In December, MUCH opened a metaverse version of itself on Naver Z’s Zepeto. How will MUCH evolve through the metaverse in the months and years to come?

Simply put, a metaverse is a 3D platform built in a virtual space that interacts with the “real” world in the realms of society, economy, education, culture, and science. Unlike the online world, which is made up of (2D) letters and images, the metaverse enables economic, social, and cultural activity in a 3D space through the avatar, or virtual ego. The metaverse is expected to be used more frequently and in a broader range of ways in response to the increasing installation of contactless infrastructure since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Leaping into a new world

MUCH designed a “theme world” for Zepeto’s 200 million global users that effectively conveys its identity as a museum. The theme world’s map includes landmark buildings of the Gwanghwamun area (e.g. MUCH, Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Government Complex Seoul). Featured objects include the statues of General Yi Sun-sin and King Sejong and MUCH’s major artifacts.

Users can engage in an item search: after finding a diamond hidden inside the museum, they can insert it into the haetae (lion-like mythological animal) statue in Gwanghwamun, which will then turn into a “pet” for the user. There is also a photo event: by posing in front of the statue of General Yi Sun-sin or King Sejong in the shape of one of three Hangeul consonants or the Yeom Sang-seop statue seated on a bench, users will be compensated with clothing.

MUCH’s metaverse environment was designed to look as realistic as possible in order to give users a sense of the history of MUCH and the Gwanghwamun area. Information on major buildings and locations is provided through description panels. In addition to being edifying, an experience of MUCH’s metaverse will make users feel as if they have explored the museum and the greater Gwanghwamun area in person.

MUCH is just getting started making a place for itself in this new, limitless world. Hopes for its future are, however, already bright.

A Glimpse at Exhibitions for 2023

Permanent exhibitions and special exhibitions on finance and Hallyu

Lobby (F1): Mini-exhibition

February 23, 2023: 10th anniversary exhibition, “Remembering the Beginning of the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History”

A decennial exhibition that offers an overview of what happened from the announcement of MUCH’s establishment to its opening day.

February opening (tent.): “Bando Sinmun,” July opening (tent.): “Armistice Agreement,” August opening (tent.): “Architecture of Joseon,” October opening (tent.): “ROK-US Alliance”

Thematic Gallery (3F)

Thematic Exhibition 1, “A Korean Self-Portrait Read Through Bestsellers”: Spotlights the post-1945 zeitgeist in Korea through the bestselling literary works of the day.

Thematic Exhibition 2, “Advertising: A Confession to the World”: A glimpse of dominant social values as presented through the language and images of advertisements for products and consumption behaviors of the times.

Special Exhibition Gallery (3F): Special Exhibitions

January 31, 2023: Special exhibition, “The Pandemic - Re-Connect: Until Everyone is Safe”

An opportunity to reflect on what we must and need to do in the post-COVID-19 world.

March 3 to June 25 (tent.): “Lump-Sum Dreams” (tentative title) A special exhibition that explores the driving forces behind Korea’s economic growth—the individual and the household—from the perspective of finance.

July 21 to October 29 (tent.): “What We Had Before Hallyu” (tentative title) Spotlights active exchanges with popular foreign cultures (US, Hong Kong, Japan) as the background of Hallyu’s growth.

Interactive Gallery (4F)

An innovative space that opened in March 2021 and offers interactive experiences of Korean contemporary history, often in game format, through the latest technologies.

History Gallery (5F)

The History Gallery is the heart of MUCH in that it shows what has happened from 1894, when Koreans first became aware of their status as citizens and started thinking about how to construct a modern nation, until the recent past.

Opening on June 1, 2020, the History Gallery renovated its Korean War section in July 2022 to provide a more effective and balanced portrayal of the war’s events. In December, the “For Peace, Democracy, and Prosperity” section was restructured to emphasize the progress that was made in the early stages of the Korean government’s establishment.


Cultural performances at the museum for every age and preference Choi Sang-oh(curator, Cultural Relations & Publicity Division)

MUCH’s cultural performances in 2022 were, in celebration of its decennial, diverse and of excellent quality. In May, the sEODo Band (winner of Poongryu, the JTBC’s music contest program) performed in an outdoor concert at MUCH. In October, musical actor Jung Sun-ah performed on MUCH’s third-floor outdoor terrace. In September, “Now Is the Era of the Gwanghwamun Singer,” a singing contest for the general public, was held with extra pomp for MUCH’s 10th birthday. This month, we met with curator Choi Sang-oh, who is responsible for MUCH’s cultural performances, to hear more about what MUCH has accomplished and what new approaches it hopes to take in terms of cultural outreach.

Performances that are well-received and embody MUCH’s identity

Q. What is the objective of MUCH’s cultural performances?

At MUCH, we hold cultural performances to fulfill two goals: cement MUCH’s reputation as an authority on modern and contemporary history and increase our visibility.

Events held to commemorate a historic occasion are, by nature, focused on cementing MUCH’s identity. On the other hand, performances held on all other holidays, such as Children’s Day, are more about making MUCH a familiar face to the general public. Our regular concerts, which are held a few times per year and for which we usually invite prominent/famous musicians, aim to fulfill both goals.

Q. Most of MUCH’s events seem to be related to its exhibits. The population-themed special exhibition was held with a conference.

Unlike academic conferences, it is difficult, if not impossible, for cultural performances to be directly linked to a particular exhibition/gallery theme. What we try to do is design them around a theme that people can recognize as being related (albeit, indirectly) to a historical event or issue. For example, “Family Stories in Classical Music” and “Diaspora Stories with Hareem and Blue Camel Ensemble” are concerts that were held in 2021 in conjunction with “People in Numbers: Korean Contemporary History from the Perspective of Population” under the premise that the concept of “population” encompasses issues such as birth, family planning, and immigration.

Musical actor Jung Sun-ah wowed spectators with her vocal skills at an outdoor performance on October 15. Ⓒ MUCH

With and for citizens, both online and offline

Q. For the greater part of 2020, there were no offline performances or concerts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MUCH chose to go online. What was the response to this, overall?

Cultural performances were postponed when MUCH was closed during the early stages of the pandemic. From May to June of 2020, however, we shifted to posting videos of pre-filmed events online. Currently, we offer both offline performances and live online broadcasts of them. They help increase our visibility because all posts and live feeds are made available through MUCH’s YouTube channel.

Quality over quantity

Q. How will MUCH be operating its cultural performances in 2023?

Our overarching goal for 2023 is quality over quantity. We are planning to hold eight events, which is less than previous years. Each one, however, will embody MUCH’s identity, reflect social issues, and, of course, be of excellent quality. To give a sneak peek of just a couple, we will be holding a concert on Day of Persons with Disabilities comprised entirely of performers who themselves have a physical or mental disability. We are also planning a contest-style event to boost the spirit of young people who are experiencing financial difficulties. We want our cultural performances, like our exhibitions, to be linked to social issues of our time.

Today in History

From Uribyeol to Danuri: History of the development of Korean satellites

(from left) Uribyeol 1, launched in 1992; Mugunghwa 1 (1995); Arirang 1 (1999); First micro-satellite for research purposes (2003); Cheollian 1 (2010); Naro (Space Launch Vehicle 1; 2013) Ⓒ Yonhap News

Today, most countries are setting their sights on the realm beyond Earth. The race to develop satellites and other space-related technologies is an unavoidable reality that governments and private companies are pursuing in hopes of achieving greater development, profit, and adventure. Although Korea’s history of aerospace advancement is relatively short, it has been nothing if not eventful.

The start of the space race

Satellites are used in various sectors, such as the sciences, telecommunications, national defense, and climatology. The world’s first, Sputnik 1, was launched by the USSR on October 4, 1957, sparking a cutthroat Cold War-fueled competition between the US and USSR. As of 2021, approximately 10,000 satellites have been put into orbit by countries around the world. By 2022, Korea will account for 20 to 30 of them.

Emergence of Korean-made satellites

On December 4, 1987, Korea enacted the Aerospace Industry Development Promotion Act (No. 3991) as its first step toward producing artificial satellites. It was a statement of the government’s commitment to improving the “people’s economy” by funding the aerospace industry as well as to not falling behind in the international space race.

In Korea, R&D on satellites began after the founding of KAIST’s Satellite Technology Research Center in 1989. On August 11, 1992, Korea successfully launched its first satellite, Uribyeol 1, at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. Uribyeol 1 photographed the Earth’s surface, collected audio recordings, and communicated video-based information to Earth.

On September 26, 1993, Uribyeol 2, the first satellite manufactured entirely in Korea, was launched. This was the beginning of a quick succession of other launches: Mugunghwa 1 (a communications satellite) on August 5, 1995; Uribyeol 3 (Korea’s first independent model) on May 26, 1995; and Arirang 1 (a multipurpose satellite) also in 1995. Arirang 2 and Mugunghwa 5 were launched in 2006.

Space exploration as reality

Naro Space Center in Goheung-gun, Jeollanam-do Ⓒ Yonhap News

In 2009, construction of the Naro Space Center, the 13th of its kind in the world, was completed in Goheung-gun, Jeollanam-do. Nuri, Korea’s first low-earth orbit multipurpose satellite, was launched into the desired orbit on the second try in July 2022. In August 2022, Danuri, Korea’s first lunar orbiter, was launched, making Korea the seventh country to join the ranks of those that have reached and explored the moon.

The Ministry of Science and ICT is planning an eight-year development project (to be started in 2024) with a budget of KRW 570 billion for the purpose of increasing the number of launched satellites and developing advanced satellite telecommunications technologies. The “Future Space Economy Roadmap,” which was unveiled on November 28, outlines the goals of Korea’s space industry in detail, including the establishment of a central ministry for aerospace development and plans for exploring Mars.

National Museum of Korean Contemporary History Newsletter Jan-Mar 2023 (vol.67) / ISSN 2384-230X
198 Sejong-daero, Jongro-gu, Seoul, 03141, Republic of Korea / 82-2-3703-9200 / www.much.go.kr
Editor: Lee SeungJae, Ahn SeongIn, Tak MinJung, Shin JungSoo, Chang HaYoon, Kim JeongSeon
/ Design: plus81studios

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