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(Yonhap Feature) Museum to introduce Korean lighting culture to Chinese city

All News 09:00 June 14, 2016

By Chung Joo-won

WEIHAI, China/ SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- Situated along the beautiful seaside of the easternmost tip of China, the city of Rongcheng has been engaged in a special project that the communist country has never seen before.

The town in Weihai, Shandong Province, has joined with a South Korean lighting company to launch a lighting art museum by late October at the earliest.

The spread of Korean pop culture has long seized the hearts of China's young generation, but yet the delivery of Korean lighting culture to China is a fresh effort for both countries.

Taking a glance from the breezy rooftop of the Feelux Optoelectron building in Rongcheng, one can see two vast construction sites for the new museum and a decorative garden, surrounded by a lake and stone bridges. The Chinese officials turned the nearby marshland into a man-made lake.

"The city office closely follows up on the construction progress of the lighting art museum," says Hong Song-lin, the general manager of the Shandong operation of electric parts and lighting maker Feelux Optoelectron IC Co., Ltd., on June 1.

The following day the chief met with the officials of the Haoyunjiao Tourism Resort Committee of Rongcheng, where he was briefed on new details of the museum by two South Korean architects from southeastern Seoul in charge of constructing the ball-shaped museum.

The Chinese authorities allowed Feelux to bring in South Korean specialists for the museum, since constructing a completely spherical building is not a familiar model among local Chinese architects.

"Rongcheng and its special tourist district of Haoyunjiao wish to add cultural icons to the region, and the lighting museum is one of them," said Kim Jin-myung, the executive managing director of Feelux Lighting Co., Ltd., the mother company and 100 percent shareholder of the Weihai-based Feelux Optoelectron IC.

According to the contract, Rongcheng City will cover the construction and maintenance costs of the new museum and Feelux Optoelectron will manage it. The South Korean company considers the museum a non-profit social contribution to the Chinese community.

Regarding the interior of the museum, the Chinese local government officials insisted on building "exactly the same museum" in Rongcheng as that located near the Feelux headquarters in Korea, after they went on three business trips there, according to Kim.

The original facility, the Feelux Lighting Museum, was launched in 2004 and officially registered in 2005 in Yangju, a city north of Seoul. It is the first and only lighting art museum in South Korea, and is surrounded by a lush traditional Korean garden and giant outdoor stone lamps, with a performing arts stage for concerts and plays.

Taking up the base and ground floor of the rectangular building, the museum is a cultural hangout space for parents with kids and young couples. On weekdays, the place receives about 200 daily visitors, mostly groups including students and instructors from local schools and educational institutions. On weekends, some 350 visitors surge to this suburban hideout.

The museum is seeing an increasing number of millennial couples in search of photo-friendly venues for their blogs and social media.

"At the time of the opening, the region did not have many cultural gathering places nearby, so the museum instantly became a popular hangout place for the local villagers," said Ahn Sang-kyung, the vice director of the lighting art museum, jointly run by Feelux Lighting and Yangju City.

The museum mostly explores the lighting history of Korea and modern lighting art, in addition to antique lighting collections from all around the world. It also holds photo exhibitions and children's events to raise public awareness of "light pollution," or excessive lighting that can damage the ecological system.

A large part of the antique pieces on display are from the private collection of No Si-chung, the 65-year-old founding chairman of Feelux Lighting. No has gathered antique lamps as he traveled around the world. Among his collection are two Tibetan lotus-shaped brass candleholders used for religious rituals, with petals that spread in full bloom as one turns them around.

In the world lighting history section of the museum are late 19th century European lamps with clocks that were placed on the fireplaces of aristocrats and wealthy merchants and exquisite Chinese candleholders.

Most collections in the ancient lighting history section are replicas of ancient artifacts that are currently preserved in national museums around Korea. The bowl-shaped lamp-holders near the entrance of the exhibition on the ground floor include ones that were excavated from the royal tombs of King Muryeong and his queen from the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C.-660AD). The original Baekje candleholders, the earliest existing lamps in Korea, are at Gongju National Museum.

The media art section mostly features devices for hands-on experience and is among the most popular content among children. Included in the section is the "Arena-O-Kiddo," a lighting system that operates on sound energy. When a visitor talks into a microphone in the corner of the dark room, dozens of Arena-O-Kiddo lamps light up at once.

Other popular spots in the experience zone are the virtual reality zone and the lighted coloring zone.

The new museum under construction in China will basically follow along the same layout as the Korean museum, Feelux officials said.

Since putting "exactly the same artifacts and gizmos" simultaneously in two museums is impossible, however, Feelux plans to fill half of the new museum with antiques and collections from the South Korean museum. The other half, the company is leaving open to many options. The media art exhibitions, for example, will engage works by different designers and experts, company officials said.

jwc@yna.co.kr
(END)

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