2023 SUMMER (Vol. 69)



70 Years of Korea-U.S. Accompanying History through Treaties

A Special Exhibition on the 70th Anniversary of the ROK-US Alliance, <We Go Together>

<We Go Together>, which was held from April 24, is an exhibition designed to examine major treaties related to the ROK-US alliance signed each time in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the ROK-US alliance. Important events and photographs of the sites at the time are linked and decorated, so you can understand the exchanges between Korea and the United States more easily when following the chronology at the exhibition hall.

How was the ROK-US alliance strengthened?

The exhibition starts with the United States–Korea Treaty of 1882, signed on May 22, 1882, which can be seen as the beginning of the Korea-US alliance. The Flags of Maritime Nations, which contains the first Taegeukgi design, and the US trade records left by Shin Heon, who was the plenipotentiary of Joseon at the time of the treaty, are also introduced as exhibited materials. Article 1 of the United States–Korea Treaty of 1882 stipulates, ‘Good Offices (居中調停)’, which means that allied countries should provide aid if they are threatened by foreign invasion. This leads to Articles 1 and 2 of the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America, a ‘joint response in case of an armed attack on the other side’.

Provisional Signing Ceremony of the 「 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America 」 ⓒ National Folk Museum of Korea

The Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America is a treaty between South Korea and the United States for the defense of each other's allies, and you can see the entire text in the exhibition room. On August 8, 1953, Byeon Young-tae, Korean Foreign Minister, and Dulles, United States Secretary of State, signed the treaty at Gyeongmudae, followed by a treaty signed in Washington, DC, U.S. on October 1. In this special exhibition, photographic relics of the scene at the time are displayed, so you can see the site of the ROK-US alliance.

With the Agreed Minutes between the United States and the Republic of Korea on Economic and Military Aid signed on November 17, 1954, economic aid from the United States has been made in various fields. In the exhibition room, you can see that economic aid from the United States served as a stepping stone for the Korean economy in the 1960s, such as the construction of schools and the opening of the C footbridge of the Hangang Railway Bridge.

Exchanges that Go Beyond Security and Extend to Politics, Economy, and Culture

A poster depicting economic aid from the United States ⓒ National Museum of Korean Contemporary History

The story of the US Peace Corps, which was active in Korea from 1966 to 1981, is also introduced. You can also find interview videos and books containing memories of Kathleen Stephens, who was the former US Ambassador to South Korea and a member of the Peace Corps, as well as oral materials from the US Peace Corps published by the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

Since the establishment of the Korean government in 1948, the number of official mutual treaties between Korea and the United States has reached 261. The treaties cover many areas, including economic aid, education, science and technology, and culture. We hope that this exhibition, which reviews the history of the ROK-US alliance that currently extends beyond security cooperation to politics, economy, culture, and people-to-people exchanges, will serve as an opportunity to draw a future-oriented and developing relationship between Korea and the United States.

Current Keywords

Korea and the U.S. Communicate Through Butter and American Pie and Music

From the Kim Sisters to New Jeans

The beginning of Korea-US popular music exchange dates to the Armistice Agreement of July 1953. Korean musicians who participated in the ‘American 8th Army show’ and performed for US forces, Korea (USFK) gradually became acquainted with the grammar of popular American popular music, such as jazz and rock and roll. The Kim Sisters, a three-member girl group, received attention from this show, and entered the Las Vegas stage in 1959.

Since then, it has been 40 years since Korean popular music was introduced in earnest. In 2001, Kim Beom-soo remade the hit song, ‘Hello Good-bye Hello,’ in English, and entered the Billboard sub-categorical charts. In 2009, ‘Asian Star’ BoA ranked 127th on the Billboard main album chart, ‘Billboard 200’, and in October of the same year, Wonder Girls entered the ‘Hot 100’ at 76th place.

History Hall on the 5th floor with exhibits related to the Korean Wave since the 1990s

Then, in 2012, Psy's 'Gangnam Style' took second place on the Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks, and became a sensation. It was the result of the music video going viral on YouTube, which was a new platform at the time. Since then, with the appearance of BTS, the history of K-pop in the United States has been rewritten. After first entering the Billboard 200 ranked 171th in 2015, BTS topped each of six albums on that chart, and ranked first in the Hot 100 with a total of seven songs, starting with “Dynamite.”

With BTS, the door to the Billboard charts opened wide to K-pop. As of June 2023, there are a total of five K-pop teams that ranked first on the Billboard 200 chart: SuperM, Stray Kids, Blackpink, and TOMORROW X TOGETHER. BTS is the only K-pop group to top the Hot 100, but New Jeans, which were not highly promoted, and Fifty Fifty, which belongs to small and medium-sized agencies, made it to the Hot 100.

Collaboration between K-pop and US labels

Korean entertainment agencies are dreaming of entering the mainstream American popular music market beyond K-pop.

Currently, the hottest issue in the exchange of Korean and American popular music is girl groups, which will be showcased in collaboration with large K-pop agencies and influential local labels. JYP Entertainment is strategically collaborating with Republic Records for the American girl group fostering project, ‘A2K’. HIVE is also preparing a girl group with the US Universal Music Group. Kakao Entertainment, which acquired SM Entertainment, made a partnership with Columbia Records, and is also entering into the local market.

On the other hand, Korean indie music with a different quality from performance-oriented K-pop is steadily being introduced to the local market, mainly at the Korean Cultural Center New York and Lincoln Center.

Looking at Our History in a Strange View

How did Koreans make a lot of money?

<The Dream of Raising a Round Sum: Korean Modern History as seen through Investment Techniques>

Interesting investment techniques in Korea

Entrance to the exhibition hall of the special exhibition, <The Dream of Raising a Round Sum: Korean Modern History as seen through Investment Techniques>

The first thing that caught my eye while looking around the exhibition were the various types of safes. Before the current financial system was overhauled, Korea had to 'save' money at home, just like in the UK. Investing in stocks, as well as the rather primitive way of storing cash in a safe to make big bucks for the future, is familiar to both countries.

However, a meeting called ‘Gye’ is a Korean unique investment technique that can never exist in the UK. In England, there is a strict rule: never lend money to friends or relatives. Of course, even in Korea, there are cases where this Gye is broken, and gets swindled. However, in British society, if you entrust someone with a large amount of money and it is your turn to receive it later, it is highly likely that the money is already gone with the wind. On the other hand, Korean individuals were able to accumulate wealth through Gye based on stronger trust.

You can also see Korea's unique investment technique, lump-sum deposits. Like Gye, lump-sum deposits are a system that is not possible in the UK, as it is a way of trusting and entrusting a huge amount of money to 'another person, a lessor’ and is not sure if it can be returned later. From the point of view of the lessee, the house can be used for a long time without paying monthly rent. The lessor can purchase a house with less money by receiving the deposit from the lessee, and can sell it later for a larger amount if the house price rises, so lump-sum deposits can be a means of investment for both sides.

The balance between saving and spending is difficult in Korea and in the UK

It is a little easier to buy a house in the UK than in Korea. You can own a house by paying 10-15% of the house price, and getting a loan from the bank to pay off the debt for 20-30 years. This is not much different from Korea. However, in Korea, house prices are much higher than those in the UK, so many young people find it difficult to afford even 10% of the house price.

There is a ‘bond premium’ as a method of investment that exists only in the UK. The UK's bond premium is a unique way to drive interest to a few people like lottery winnings. So, some people get a million pounds in interest, but most people get 10 pounds or so. Just as a first-birthday ring or gold nugget is presented to a baby at the age of one in Korea, grandparents in the UK present a bond premium to their grandchildren.

(Clockwise from left) Various securities and transaction status tables in the stock section, savings section, printouts of My Savings Journal, insurance policy section (educational insurance policy, workplace insurance policy, etc.)

One last noteworthy aspect of the exhibition is that the Korean government has long campaigned to encourage people to save. It was possible to guess that personal savings were of great help in developing Korea into an economic powerhouse. Of course, savings-based industrial development does not always work. That is why sometimes a situation arises in which consumption is encouraged, rather than saving. Just as countries use austerity or expansionary fiscal policies depending on economic conditions, wouldn't it be necessary for individuals to maintain a balance between preparing a large amount of money for an unstable future and spending money for present happiness?

Review for the Museum

The first publication of a Braille catalog containing the artifacts of the permanent exhibition

The National Museum of Korean Contemporary History published the first Braille catalog for the history hall on the 5th floor of the permanent exhibition room. The Braille catalog was made into a large book to improve readability, and Braille translation and Korean explanations are written together so that the visually impaired and their companions can read together. Moreover, the materials and shapes of the representative artifacts are tactilely felt. Braille catalogs can be accessed through a “Braille information reader” after downloading the “electronic Braille book file” from the museum website. Following the production of audio guides and Braille leaflets and catalogues, the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History plans to expand its “barrier-free” service for the viewing convenience of the disabled.

Inauguration of Han Soo as the 5th director of the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History

On June 16, Han Soo, the former director of the Gongju National Museum, was inaugurated as the 5th director of the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History. Director Han Soo (left) majored in archeology at Sungkyunkwan University and its graduate school, then served as a curator at the National Jinju Museum, a growth strategy officer at the National Museum of Korea, and a director at the National Gongju Museum.

Meanwhile, the 4th director, Nam Hee-sook, retired on May 4, leaving behind many achievements, including reorganizing the permanent exhibition hall and thematic hall, opening the Metaverse Museum and permanent donation hall, and promoting the establishment of a Memory and Heritage Data Center (right).

Preview for the Museum

Opening Ceremony of the Special Exhibition, <The (      ) We Loved, and the Korean Wave> on July 18th

The special exhibition, <The (      ) We Loved, and the Korean Wave> (July 19, 2023 - September 3, 2023), which sheds light on the Korean Wave and popular culture, will hold an opening ceremony on July 18. Starting with the question, “Where did the Korean Wave come from?”, this special exhibition will show the process and meaning of contemporary Korean popular culture leading to the Korean Wave.

Through the special exhibition, we want to examine the process by which the Korean Wave develops into a global phenomenon by experiencing it with people all over the world, and realize that the core of the development of the Korean Wave lies in the inclusiveness of various cultures.

National Museum of Korean Contemporary History Newsletter 2023 SUMMER (Vol. 69) / 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
/ Design: plus81studios

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