Monday, May 04, 2009

[Trans] Interview with Mr Jun Yong Bok

original in japanese: noriko iida / hallyu fan ver. 10 (2009/04/23)
translated into chinese: snowkin / loveyongjoon
translated into english: happiebb / bb's blog

Snowkin: Noriko Iida is a magazine reporter, and she is also a loyal bae-fan.
She would update her bae-blog on a daily basis.
In this issue, she even interviewed blogger fuyuka,
who has the most visited blog amongst bae-fans, with over 2.2m visits.

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Yong Joon says, "I'm very happy."

Interview with Lacquer Artist Jun Yong Bak:
Yong Joon's Secret 1-week Morioka Visit


【Yong Joon spent happy times learning lacquer painting in secret】

The second day after completing a week's worth
of learning about lacquer painting secretly in Iwate-ken (Morioka city),
Bae Yong Joon appeared at the Gosireh restaurant at Shirogane in Tokyo.
The expression on his face was like that of a curious young man, bright and radiant.
This is the first time I've seen Bae Yong Joon
wearing such a relaxed and happy expression on his face.

From arriving in Japan on 26th Feb,
and having spent a week in Iwate-ken must have a most fulfilling time for him.
Mr Jun Yong Bok, the lacquer artist who has brought such happy times to Bae Yong Joon
- What sort of person would he be?

Mr Jun who showed up at the Morioka TV news station is a very gentle and kind man.
He's the lacquer artist who has gained world fame
from restoring over 5,000 pieces of lacquer art pieces at Meguro Gajoen.
I was nervous when I had made that call to him,
and through the phone, he also transmitted his gentle personality.
Right after that (call), he immediately sent me his book,
"Soul: Dad Why Are We Here In Japan?".

I took a week to finish this book,
and I also went to see the fine lacquer pieces at Meguro Gajeon.
In the morning of 16th March, I boarded the Shinkansen from Tokyo for Iwate-ken.
This happened to be the exact opposite direction of Bae Yong Joon's first time on the Shinkansen,
and the train sped all the way towards Iwate-ken.


【Under the guidance of the lacquer sunbae's spirit;
worked hard at restoring lacquer works】

Let's start with Mr Jun's life as written in his book.

Mr Jun was born in Busan in South Korea in 1952.
Born to a poor family, his elder brother passed away when he was in primary five.
As the oldest of the family (from that time), he had to work from dawn and dusk everyday.
In secondary school, he started selling chrysanthemum bread, moving coals,
and working all sorts of jobs to help support the family.
During this time, he was influenced by his two uncles who were painters,
and developed an interest in painting.
As I was reading the stories from Mr Jun's youth,
images of Chan Woo's family as portrayed by Bae Yong Joon
in the drama First Love appeared in my head.

After Mr Jun graduated from high school,
he served his military duty with the marine corps for three years.
After that, he worked in a company dealing with composite wood.
When the company was penetrating the furniture market,
he was the planning chief, responsible for design and operations.

He was not satisfied with just furniture with mother-of-pearl inlay,
so he set up a lacquer research centre in Busan in 1980
and became involved in the creation of lacquer works passionately.
The meaning of 'Japan' is actually lacquer, lacquer-ware,
or the act of coating with a brilliant, hard varnish,
and in order to learn about the world-renowned Japanese lacquer painting techniques,
he made numerous visits to Japan.

One day, the Meguro Gajeon commissioned Mr Jun
to work on the restoration of an ozen (Japanese-style dining tray),
and this was the turning point or trigger of the restoration project at Meguro Gajeon.

During Mr Jun's first visit to Meguro Gajeon,
he found the name of a Chosun lacquer artist (Gwang-Shin)
on the lacquer and mother-of-pearl works.
Mr Jun swore "These works that bear the soul and the spirit of the lacquer-artist sunbae,
I want to bring them back to life with my two hands."

From then on, Mr Jun made many visits to Meguro Gajeon,
and spent two years to study and research secretly about how to restore these lacquer pieces.
The entire process of how the restoration project was handed to Mr Jun
was like a TV drama with an exciting plot and story development.


【The international person who loves his own country's culture with such passion;
bridging the gap between Japan and Korea with lacquer art】

The three-year restoration work was carried out at the compounds
of a defunct primary school located in Kawai-mura within the Iwate-ken perfecture.
Mr Jun's family of five lived in the village together with over 100 artisans;
they experienced much difficulty and hardship.
But they overcame all sorts of difficulties and challenges
with the life philosophy of 'I will not retreat no matter the difficulty. I Can!'

In my mind, images of Mr Jun working on the restoration project with all his might
overlapped very naturally with the images of Bae Yong Joon
fighting to complete the TWSSG filming despite his injuries.
Mr Jun believes that one must first the culture of one's own country,
before one can be a truly global citizen,
and this has a common thread with Bae Yong Joon's own attitude towards life.

I've read Mr Jun's book;
Mr Jun who 'bridges the gap between Japan and Korea through lacquer art',
and Bae Yong Joon who 'who bridges the divide between Japan and Korea through TV dramas',
I feel that there is some sort of fate between the two men.


【Met BYJ in December, had many things in common,
and became lacquer teacher】

The Iwayama Urushi Art Museum is located at mid-way of the hillside,
and it takes 10 minutes by car from Morioka city.

As the museum is now closed (temporarily),
the spacious museum has become very quiet.
In the studio on the second level,
Mr Jun is working on creating high-end lacquered watches.
During a break from this work, he told me the story about how he had met Bae Yong Joon.

"At first when Bae Yong Joon spoke about wanting to write the book 'Beauty of Korea',
I wasn't particularly interested.
I was wondering if Yonsama was just wanting to do something nice-looking...

Later, through an email sent over by his staff,
he had clearly expressed his wish to contribute
towards the cultural exchange between Japan and Korea.
So I too changed my mind."

Mr Jun and Bae Yong Joon's first meeting took pl*ace
in Seoul on 19th December last year.
They got along and chatted well together for about three-and-a-half hours.

"My son Hyun Min was also with us at that time.
He looked at my son and said, 'Your name is Jun Hyun Min,
and you're born on 23rd October 1989, right?'

I was very surprised then.
Looks like he had read my book before the meeting, and had made preparation.
I met him directly and listened to his ideals,
on how he wants to experience and understand the culture personally
and then to relay and disseminate the message from his own perspective.
It was very admirable.

If it's for money,
then it would be more profitable to just act in dramas and CFs (laughs).
To go around the whole of Korea personally,
he fired ceramics, made kimchi, and personally took pictures and did interviews.
Even here, he too took pictures of my works,
he's very good at photography."

With Bae Yong Joon, Mr Jun spoke about the history of lacquer, the present and its future.
He even showed him the high-end Seiko watches made from gold and mother-of-pearl
which were released last year.

Mr Jun said, "Traditional culture is not about copying or reproducing things
that existed in the past.
Tradition must grow and move forward together with times,
culture has to change and progress together with the times.
There're many fine and beautiful things about lacquer throughout history,
it's still fine and beautiful to use lacquer in the art-form and cultures in this 21st century."

Bae Yong Joon who had listened to Mr Jun speak about lacquer history
with his fullest attention told Mr Jun, "I'm not here to interview,
but I want to learn lacquer painting. Can you teach me?"

Mr Jun said, "If you're doing this with just a cursory or casual attitude,
or if you think it's cool to do this,
then I'm very busy and have no time, and will reject you.

But if you really want to understand the journey of lacquer, and wish to create,
then I will teach you."


【Completed 12 lacquer works in a week; can't imagine he's a novice】

Mr Jun said Bae Yong Joon is a very busy man
playing the dual roles of an actor and a businessman,
and he did not think that he would come and learn lacquer painting.

"When he really showed up in late February, I was really very surprised.
I didn't even tell the neighbours or the people who come in and out of this pl*ace.
I've lived here in Japan for 20 years, and I'd never told lies like this.
It's very hard (laughs).

But for someone who had come with a purpose, an objective,
to let him go without achieving his goal, isn't that a pity?"

All thanks for Mr Jun's care and concern,
Bae Yong Joon was able to complete his lacquer learning stint smoothly
without anyone discovering it.
In that week's stay, Mr Jun had taught Bae Yong Joon all the process
of creating a complete lacquer work.
Thereafter Bae Yong Joon started his creation on his own, freely.
There were 12 pieces of works.

The bigger wall panel is 80cm by 120cm.
Which of these works is the most outstanding?

Mr Jun said, "There're works with the sea as the theme,
and there're also works based on the heart as a theme.
All of the works are outstanding.
There will be one day he himself will want to show everyone his works,
please do enjoy them at that time."

"From the use of the brushes to the dust problem during the drying process,
he solved all the problems.
All 12 works were completely lacquered.
Can't imagine that this was his first time learning and creating such lacquer works.

He didn't mimic or copy me at all;
instead, the creations are Bae Yong Joon-style,
I'm very happy about this."

Other than using lacquer painting,
the 12 works also included the use of ceramics, sh*ells and others.
Bae Yong Joon would understand it completely
so long as Mr Jun explained the basics to him once.

Mr Jun said, "Up till now, I've not met anyone
who's able to produce such outstanding works with just a week's stay.
I can feel his passion and love for lacquer painting.

He has read many books about lacquer painting before coming here,
so he has already learnt about things
such as the composition of lacquer, the use of the pen or brush.
He has already grasped the theory,
so the understanding will be quicker."


【Creating his art till 5am; the quiet Bae Yong Joon too jokes】

Bae Yong Joon is not afraid of lacquer poisoning.
Mr Jun had asked in concern, "Is it alright when you've filming work?"

Bae Yong Joon had replied decisively, "I will do it without gloves.
It's okay, I can bear with it."

Mr Jun said, "When there's a real risk, I will also wear gloves,
and during such times, I will also make him put on the gloves.

Bae Yong Joon did everything himself,
from getting ready and packing up after the work sessions.
He would be engrossed in his creation from 4am all the way till 5 o'clock or thereabouts."

In addition, even if he only had abit of sleep,
he would wake up early to go for morning strolls with Mr Jun at the back of the hills.
When cleaning up the lacquer brush made from human hair,
the quiet Bae Yong Joon said to Mr Jun, "I want to keep my hair long and beautiful,
and make them into lacquer brushes for Mr Jun."

"He has a prudent and careful character,
likes learning and often brings books with him.
He can't drink all that much, but when he drinks, he moves his body sideways.
He's very well-mannered, and really cares for his staff,
I really do admire him.

When I'm not around,
the usually quiet Bae Yong Joon would imitate my Busan dialect
to make everyone laugh (laughs)."
Mr Jun spoken about his stay happily.


【Shared beauty of Iwate's nature, and happiness of walking on the streets;
experience Beauty of Japan at Konjikido】

In order to create (good works),
coming into contact with Iwate's nature is also important.
Together with Mr Jun and the staff, Bae Yong Joon had visited the fish market,
Jodo Ga Hama, and also went to the Kumanohana Observatory.

Mr Jun said, "At Jodo Ga Hama, there were kids playing and throwing rocks,
Bae Yong Joon took pictures of this scene,
but the kids' parents all did not notice.
No one would imagine that Yonsama would be there (laughs).

At the fish market, the ajummas are my fans,
and they would call out to me, 'Ah, Mr Jun...'
He also took pictures of such scenes, but no one noticed him."

He went to Koiwai Nojo (Koiwai Farm), and also saw cherry blossoms.
He also went into the big supermarket within Morioka city,
and walked on the big streets, went into coffee shops,
but no one noticed.
Not only did he learn about lacquer painting,
he also fulfilled his wish to walk freely on the streets
without anyone discovering that it's him.

For Bae Yong Joon,
it must have been a wonderfully fulfilling and enriching Iwate-ken stay.

On the last day, 4th March,
he visited the Konjikidō in Chusonji with Mr Jun playing tour-guide,
and saw the exquisite lacquer and mother-of-pearl works there.
When visiting the main hall, the teahouse at the side
was holding a workshop on tea ceremony,
Bae Yong Joon joined them.

In the teahouse, Mr Jun sat next to Bae Yong Joon.
Mr Jun said, "He knows the rituals of the tea ceremony very well;
he was very humble and was tasting the tea very carefully.
He even visited the tatami tearoom next door with much interest."

Mr Jun started on the Meguro Gajeon restoration project at the age of 36,
which is the same age as Bae Yong Joon now.
Having taken care of and tended to Bae Yong Joon for a week,
what thoughts does he have towards Bae Yong Joon?

"I think it's quite impossible for ordinary people
to gain such recognition by people at the age of 36.
I too am very proud about my own work.
To promote the cultural exchange between Japan and Korea through lacquer,
my fame in Japan is not even 1% of Bae Yong Joon's in Japan (laughs).

Personally, I've no interest in his TV dramas,
but in terms of the effect he has of introducing Korean arts and culture to Japan,
he can be said to be a great person.

To do this much to promote the relations between Japan and Korea,
he must be the first in history;
this achievement will probably remain in history, I guess..."
Mr Jun said this of Bae Yong Joon.

As for Bae Yong Joon up-close-and-personal,
Mr Jun said, "He's very polite, very humble, and very sentimental.
Looking at him like this, I'm relieved.
We should be honored to have such a Yonsama whom we can proud of.

Many stars become famous and popular,
but many of them just disappear very quickly, but he's different.
Bae Yong Joon's someone who can bring happiness to the family,
this I understand." Mr Jun complimented him as such.

As part of the Bae family, I felt as though I was being complimented,
and was feeling especially happy.

Through the interview, I reaffirmed my thought that
these two men are destined to meet.
Just like Bae Yong Joon and his family.


【To introduce the essence of Eastern culture to the world】

"These two men both have thoughts of introducing Eastern art and culture
to the world in future."

"To introduce such precious Eastern culture to the rest of the world,
and contribute to world culture."

Mr Jun and Bae Yong Joon exchanged their ideals and ideas about the future.

The Iwayama Urushi Art Museum is currently under renovation,
and is slated to reopen in August tentatively.
The newly-renovated museum will exhibit Mr Jun's works,
the exquisite lacquer and mother-of-pearl watches, guitars and other works,
and there are also plans to add a science hall to promote the study and research of lacquer,
and also a garden-museum with lacquer as the theme.

The display of Bae Yong Joon's lacquer works has not been decided,
but surely they will be on display one day,
am already looking forward to that.

During the re-opening in August, even if it's just one of Bae Yong Joon's works,
it is ours, the family's wish that it could be displayed,
hopefully our wish can come true.
I left Iwayama Urushi Art Museum, and said my goodbye to Mr Jun;
he too stretched out a warm hand and bid me goodbye.


A Small Story...
Mr Jun and his son Hyun Min

Mr Jun said, "Bae Yong Joon is just like a son.
I address him like how I would address someone younger and in a friendly tone,
using 'no' or 'chane'."

"He wrote in my interview notes happily,
'Bae Yong Joon is BYJ, and Jun Yong Bok is JYB.'

I said, 'So son-saeng-nim can also be called Yongsama!
So in future let it be Yongsama of Iwate!' He smiled shyly to that."

Hyun Min (19) who had slept and eaten with Bae Yong Joon for a whole week said,
"I call Bae Yong Joon-ssi 'hyong', and we spent our times just like brothers.
I was abit nervous in the beginning,
but after drinking tea and chatting till very late everyday,
the nervousness disappeared very quickly."

He showed me the pictures they'd taken together with the cellphone,
Bae Yong Joon looked very happy.

"When he was returning home on 9th March, at Narita Airport,
he called me before boarding the plane, 'Hyun Min? This is Yong Joon-hyong...'
I was so surprised that he'd called me."

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