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Durham University's Oriental Museum offers a Korean Cultural Festival

A programme of lectures, films, music, food and children's activities will be part of May's Korean Cultural Festival in Durham

A pair of Korean wedding ducks
A pair of Korean wedding ducks

To the north is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; to the south lies the Republic of Korea.

Divided geographically and ideologically since the end of the Second World War, this might be the only thing you know about this nation split in two.

Some of you might also know that Samsung and other technological giants thrive south of the demilitarised zone, contributing to the reputation of the South Korean capital, Seoul, as one of the boom cities of the 21st Century.

But a Korean Cultural Festival in May offers to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

It will offer a different perspective to that which often makes the news and is invariably generated by the tension between uneasy neighbours with similar cultural roots but very different political outlooks – the one taking its lead from communist China and the other leaning towards the capitalist West. A fortnight of activities and events will offer visitors to Durham University’s Oriental Museum a taste of Korean music, food, language and... yes, politics.

Korean Cultural Festival
Korean Cultural Festival

The highlight of the festival, which runs from May 18-30 with support from the Korea Foundation, will be the celebration of Buddha’s birthday on Monday, May 25, a bank holiday.

This occasion alone merits a national holiday in South Korea, and the museum will be celebrating in customary style with colourful paper lanterns decorating the public areas and a performance of traditional Korean drumming.

Visitors will be able to buy Korean food and there will be craft activities and storytelling for children.

Entry to the museum – one of the gems in the region’s cultural crown – will be free from noon to 5pm with the celebrations supported by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism which can trace its history back 1,200 years.

The Korean Cultural Festival will put the museum’s own Korean gallery in the spotlight. The gallery opened in 2013 and is the only permanent gallery devoted to Korean art and culture in the north of England.

Its collection includes objects that date back more than a millennium and also examples of contemporary Korean art and K-pop memorabilia.

The Oriental Museum is at Elvet Hill, Durham DH1 3TH – call 0191 334 5694. The full Korean Cultural festival programme, including lectures, music, food and film, can be seen at www.durham.ac.uk/oriental.museum


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer