The arts and culture of South Korea is rich and vibrant having a history of creative innovation in the field of painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama and literature. The contemporary South Korean culture derives much from the traditional Korean culture. However, since the division of Korea in 1948, South Koreans have developed a culture of their own which is different from North Korean culture. The arts and culture of South Korea has been greatly inspired by Confucianism and Buddhism which is evident in the style of architecture, housing, costumes, and beliefs. Koreans are very open to change and are fast catching up with international trends.
Buddhism has been a great source of inspiration for Korean artists and the examples of the outstanding Korean artwork and architecture are seen in Buddhist temples and paintings.
The earliest examples of Korean painting can be found on the walls of tombs in Manchuria. Paintings in Korea were traditionally inclined to celebrate nature or religious themes. In the 18th century some artists deviated from the norm and started depicting the dramatic landscape or daily life.
Korean artists were introduced to Western oil painting at the time of Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. Contemporary South Korean artists incorporate the western style with classical Korean styles and themes, to create work of genius and originality. A huge collection of 20th-century Korean and Western art is displayed in the National Museum of Contemporary Art in South Korea.
Traditional music in Korea incorporates folk or court music which is slow, somber and complex. The other more formal kind is the ‘P'ansori', which is a musical narrative based on folk tales. Folk songs generally express the emotions and feelings of the working class.
The Korean Traditional Performing Arts Center is devoted to the preservation of traditional music and also encourages the development of new genres of music. It was established in the year 1951.
The Korea Philharmonic Orchestra Society and numerous other orchestras in Seoul perform contemporary music in South Korea. Operas are also quite popular in the country.
The invention of the Korean phonetic alphabet, Hangul was one of greatest achievements of the 15th-century in the literary world of Korea.
The literary history of Korea grew from the custom of narrating folk tales and legends at festivals and other social gatherings. The folk tales mostly laid stress on Korean values and summarized the kingdom's mythical origins. A large collection of Korean cultural and folklore relics are preserved in The National Folklore Museum in Seoul.
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