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[Well-curated] Luck of the draw

Revisit legendary comics at National Library, take in works by pop art masters, or relax in modern hotel with classic Korean inn vibe

May 17, 2024 - 09:01 By Choi Si-young By Lee Yoon-seo By Kim Jae-heun
Original works by Lee Hyun-se are showcased at "The Road of Lee Hyun-se: Start of K-webtoon Legend." (National Library of Korea)

Explore legendary Korean comics

Visit the National Library of Korea this weekend to explore a special exhibition that delves into the history of Korean comics, or manhwa, by following the career of Lee Hyun-se -- the cartoonist behind one of Korea's most successful series ever published, "A Daunting Team."

"The Road of Lee Hyun-se: Start of K-webtoon Legend" (National Library of Korea)
A person sits for a portrait by AI. (National Library of Korea)

The exhibition, titled "The Road of Lee Hyun-se: Start of K-webtoon Legend," is free of charge and divided into three parts.

The first part introduces various works by popular Korean cartoonists from the 1970s, such as Nah Ha-na, Sohn Eui-sung, and Ha Young-joo. The second part showcases over 120 original artworks by Lee Hyun-se, while displaying a model of Lee's studio and his palette. Visitors can also take photos at a photo zone featuring Kkachi, an iconic character created by the artist and watch Lee's cartoon characters come to life in a media art show.

The third part features films and animations based on Lee's hit works such as "Armageddon." Here, visitors can also have their portraits drawn by a trained artificial intelligence in Lee's idiosyncratic style.

A comics book store has been recreated in the library lobby, where visitors can peruse over 1,000 Korean comic books, including Lee Hyun-se's works and popular webtoons.

The exhibition will run until July 31.

Iconic silk-screen prints of actress Marilyn Monroe by pop artist Andy Warhol at the Insa Central Museum (Choi Si-young/The Korea Herald)

Warhol in Seoul

Among all the works of American pop art, Andy Warhol and his iconic painting “Campbell’s Soup Cans” are probably familiar to most.

At the Insa Central Museum in central Seoul, the exhibition “Masters of American Pop Art” explores the works of eight pop artists: Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann and Jim Dine and Andy Warhol.

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Crak!” starts the tour into American pop art. The lithograph inspired by comics represents the art movement that began in the 1960s, characterized by everyday imagery of consumerism and mass production -- a reaction to abstract expressionism of the previous two decades.

Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans and Marilyn Monroe portraits are next, detailing an era defined by printing. Bold and vivid colors narrow the divide between commercial and fine art, while repeated patterns provide a new way to look at originality.

“LOVE” screen prints by pop artist Robert Indiana (Choi Si-young/The Korea Herald)

The iconic “Love” series by Robert Indiana is a reminder that pop art images are better at sending a message than their flat appearances suggest. The series helps revisit the power of simple texts and images.

A docent will walk the visitor through more than 180 artworks on display. For those who would rather go at their own pace can listen to the same audio guide on their smartphone. Earphones are provided.

The exhibition runs through Sept. 18. Admission costs 20,000 won for adults. A canvas tote with a Mickey Mouse print created by silk screening is available for 20,000 won.

A room at Almond Villa (Courtesy of Bae Hye-rim)

Almond Villa recreates Korean 90s hostel experience

People these days look for unique accommodations to visit, especially on the outskirts of Seoul -- where they can find restaurants and bars locals go to.

Almond Villa, located in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, opened in April last year, but it has already attracted many Koreans as well as foreign tourists, mostly Taiwanese and Japanese. It is registered as a hostel due to the small number of rooms, but the owner prefers to call it a boutique hotel.

Having originally opened in 1990 before being abandoned, the building underwent extensive renovation before reopening last year as Almond Villa, but the place retains the distinctive vibe of an old Korean-style inn.

All the rooms feature European-style furniture and state-of-the-art appliances. The best part is that all 11 rooms, except one, have a kitchen -- encouraging family visitors to stay for extended periods.

Dash and Bitters, a cocktail bar in the basement, closes at midnight on weekdays and at 1 a.m. on weekends.

Spring and fall visits are recommended, as the cherry blossoms and reeds at the nearby Musim River are a sight worth seeing.

Dash and bitter bar at Almond Villa (Courtesy of Bae Hye-rim)