Korean Comics: A Society Through Small Frames


January 16, 2007 - March 16, 2007


Reading Room Gallery
27 W. 17th Avenue Mall
Columbus Ohio

The sleek lines and sci-fi plots of Japanese anime have generated a large following, but until now, few comics connoisseurs have known about Korean cartoons. No more. The Korea Society presents Korean Comics: A Society Through Small Frames, the first substantial survey of Korean comics to be exhibited in the U.S.

The exhibition features 83 framed works by 21 of Korea’s most talented cartoonists, drawn over a period of 40 years. It includes work by artists from both South Korea and North Korea.

The comics range from the playful to the political. Viewers will instantly recognize the variety of juvenile comics: Kkobongi, a mischievous 11 year-old, is South Korea’s answer to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. Other panels call for more reflection. Artists like Park Jae-Dong used their wits and their pens to illuminate the pervasive social ills in South Korea during the 1970s and ’80s-such as rampant sexism and poverty-overshadowed by the country’s overwhelming economic success.

The show’s North Korean comics capture that reclusive country’s economic hardships and strict ideological controls. The Great General Mighty Wing indoctrinates young readers through the adventures of a devoutly socialist, anthropomorphic bee. Other North Korean comics exalt the prestige of the motherland: World Professional Wrestling King-Ryok To San is a biographical comic of Kim Sin-Nak, a famous wrestler from North Korea who became a major figure on the international wrestling circuit. In the comics, and in North Korea today, he is glorified as a figure capable of defeating foreigners and defending the country’s honor.

Korean Comics: A Society Through Small Frames is organized and curated by The Korea Society as part of their traveling exhibition program. It is traveling to colleges, universities, galleries and nonprofit institutions across America.

This exhibit is co-sponsored by the Cartoon Research Library, the Korean Studies Initiative, and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

On Tuesday, January 16, the public is invited to a reception at 4 p.m. to open the exhibit which will be followed at 4:30 p.m. by a lecture titled Reflections from a Manhwabang: Life and Comics in 1960s Korea by Professor Heinz Insu Fenkl, director of the Creative Writing Program of the Interstitial Studies Institute at SUNY New Paltz. His presentation will be in the seminar room adjacent to the Cartoon Research Library, 021L Wexner.