Year of the Ox, a Review

You might have read in previous posts that since 2004, I’ve been privileged to travel to Korea numerous times, including a six-week stint teaching museum studies at Hanyang University. I never expected this trajectory. First, despite my family’s historic connection to Japan (in the early 50s, my father worked there for a short period of time), my travel desires have always pointed to Europe. Second, in the late 1990s Constant Companion worked developing intensive, hands-on courses about American business practices for Samsung management types.

My first eye-opening trip to Korea was for the triennial conference of the International Council of Museums (ICOM)* in Seoul in 2004, a lifetime ago. The meetings that focused on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) were informative. The associated programs introduced us to so much Korean culture. I participated in the program of the ICOM Ethnographic Committee (ICME). Our famous post-conference tour that year took our group deep into aspects of Korea’s ICH.

*Since graduate school in 1980, I carefully saved my meager museum income especially to attend these meetings which have taken me from Mexico City to Milan, from Shanghai to Stavanger. The recent 2019 triennial in Kyoto was the only one I did not attend. Maybe I’ll go to Prague next year!

Some years later at the 2007 Vienna ICOM triennial, I was elected chair of ICME. What an honor. What a responsibility. What fun. One assignment was to join the editorial committee of the International Journal of Intangible Heritage (, published by the National Folk Museum of Korea, a direct outcome of the 2004 meeting. Thus, in 2009 my annual “if it’s is February, it must be Korea” travel started. Our meeting was always fell shortly after the celebration of the Lunar New Year.

The Folk Museum staff develops a small interpretive exhibition every year to mark the New Year. A multiplicity of artifacts from the museum’s collections are creatively displayed to tell the story of the character. Here’s an sample of a few of these delightful, multi-faceted shows.*

*Caveat, some years are missing because of a hard drive failure a few years ago; lost data could not be retrieved. I also was not able to attend the 2014 meeting.

2013 – Year of the Snake

2015 – Year of the Goat or Sheep

2016 – Year of the Monkey

2017 – Year of the Rooster

2018 – Year of the Dog

2019 – Year of the Pig

2020 – Year of the Rat

Last year I cooked a special Lunar New Year dinner for the family, as we sheltered at home (see Jan. 29, 2020 post). I already have a few recipes pulled out for this year. I’m hoping that Constant Companion will also make another run for dim sum and other treats. We’ll combine Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day this year because they fall so close together.

Let’s hope we’ll celebrate many New Years in the future.


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