If it’s February, it’s Korea

I have had the privilege since 2008 to serve on the editorial board of the International Journal of Intangible Heritage (ijih.org) published by the National Folk Museum of Korea. Members of the board are summoned annually to Seoul for a week of work and field trips somewhere in the country every February. We are a multinational group now comprised of members from Australia, Barbados, Honduras, Japan, the Netherlands, the US, and, of course, Korea. Members in past years came from Russia, Germany, France, and elsewhere.

Image result for international journal of intangible heritage

My first trip to Korea was actually in 2004 for the Triennial meeting of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), ICOM’s first conclave in Asia; since then we met in Shanghai (2010) and Kyoto, last year. That first trip was an enjoyable eye-opener to a world filled with outstanding and incomparable hospitality, amazing museums, and unbelievable landscapes not to mention warm and welcoming people. The meetings, themselves, were excellent but the Ethnography Committee (ICME) post conference tour was beyond compare. ICME was invited to hold the 2009 annual meeting in Seoul after I joined the editorial board in the capacity of ICME chair. Again, the entire stay – conference and tour – was impossible to replicate (I will write more about these experiences on another date).

Back to the past week’s experiences. This year’s visit to Korea was colored by the presence of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Masked faces filled the airplane, the airport, and the streets of Seoul. Each of us was provided with our own face masks and hand sanitizer by our hosts. We were urged to use the former at the truck stop during the field trip.

Supplies for the week

For two days, we are sequestered in the National Folk Museum where sessions were punctuated with lunches and tours of special exhibitions. That’s when we deliberate on the content of that year’s journal and other topics associated with its publication. In the evenings, we enjoy each other’s company over food at local restaurants. The museum is a fun place. Yes. Graphics on the staircase to the offices remind staff members to take the stairs instead of the elevator to work off calories. I almost always comply!

During Day 1’s lunch break we toured the annual lunar calendar exhibit – Every Rat has his Day. The same small exhibition space is transformed every year and objects from the museum’s rich collection that represent the year’s animal are creatively assembled. Various display techniques interpret the meaning and symbolism associated with it.

Rat gnawing fruit
20th century painting
rats scurrying, projected image
Rat Trap

 Back to lunch! Starting last year, our working lunches were catered by Sieun Lee or Shee’s Cook (instagram.com/Sieun2876). Her food is beautifully and lovingly prepared and presented.

Day 2 lunch, 2019
Day 1 lunch, 2020
Clockwise center top –
fruit for dessert, potato salad, duck, 2 kimchi banchans, soup, rice, I forget what meat, scallions, pollack (fish) powder, mushrooms in the center

Notice the rice on the lower left side; I forget the reason given for this … but there is a reason.

Another beautifully presented meal, day 2 lunch, 2020
Clockwise from center top –
fruit, crunchy seaweed, salad, 2 banchan, kelp soup, rice, bulgogi, noodles made with pollack powder, noodles, see below for close-up of center
Close-up, pancakes (jeon), eggplant, and egg with fish roe

There’s lots more to share of meals in restaurants and other museums visited, but frankly, jet lag is settling in. I did get to watch movies on the flights – old ones going (Isle of Dogs and The Favourite), new ones on the way home (Where’d you go, Bernadette and Parasite). All good. I’ll continue you this ….

The chef!


  1. Great coverage of the first couple of days of our meeting, Annette – looking forward to reading more about this and other subjects on your blog. All the best from Ros in Australia.


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