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After a full career, a time to breathePerformer and author Hong Sin Cha chose Jeju to settle down into retirement
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승인 2010.10.16  10:50:37
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▲ A beaming Hong Sin Cha in her Pyeongyang-style wedding dress.

Hong Sin Cha is many things to many people – one of Korea’s most influential artists, avant-garde dancer, established choreographer, best-selling author, meditation guru, spiritual warrior.

By the end of this year, the internationally renowned 70-year-old and her newly wedded and academically distinguished German husband will be the island’s newest residents.

All this begs the question, “Why Jeju?”

“First of all, the nature and space allow us to have our own privacy,” Hong said. “Enough of the city life. It is time to move and start fresh. We both love water, so where we can see the water, it is positive. We can experience fresh energy.”

Hong met Werner Sasse, a cultural anthropology department chair professor at Hanyang University, two years ago. It was not until last November they met several times again, Hong explained, and had conversations to get to know each other. Eventually, they became closer and agreed to travel.

“We came to Jeju around New Year’s weekend. We were here and said, ‘Oh, Why don’t we move here? Why don’t we live here?’” Hong continued, “Overall, Jeju is like a big park with a village here and there. I like small villages.”

Sasse first stepped on the island 30 years ago, and Hong made it here in the mid-1990s after spending more than 20 years in New York and creating the Laughing Stone Dance Theater.

The couple’s future plans are free, matching their vibrant spirits. However, if the eclectic performance at the couple's recent Jeju Stone Park wedding is any indication, the island will only benefit from their presence.

“Anything is possible,” said Hong about future community involvements with dance, choreography, and spiritual workshops. “I want to settle down first and the ideas will come.”

“And, whatever I do I will be promoting Jeju.”

They are eyeing putting roots down in Hallim, citing it being quiet, not too windy with a nice view of Biyangdo, and its location about halfway between Jeju and Seogwipo cities. With the year winding down, both couple’s work schedules will slow to a trickle.

“This is retirement, but we will always work, and not completely stop working. When we die, we die,” Hong offered. “Maybe once a month we will have some things to do on the mainland; gradually, we won’t go anywhere.”

Hong said they are eager to adapt and enjoy the Jeju style of life and culture, including the culinary fare of fresh fish, buckwheat noodles, barley, and vegetables.

“I look forward to eating things that came out of this land,” Hong said. “I like simple food.”

Not simple are Hong’s reflective, artistic nature and expansive, philosophical views that have given her country’s people inspiration for decades through her artworks. And, some of this contrasts and is critical concerning modern Korean society.

“The modern people problem: They are so serious. They only have the purpose and ideas and getting there, desires, they cannot enjoy the very free and open being here now, living in the moment.”

Hong continued: “They worry about tomorrow and are afraid about everything, thinking about what other people think, asking, ‘What about my parents, what about my children, my friends?’ There is always conflict between oneself and the other, always living in the conflict.”

Hong alleviates conflict having spent years practicing meditation.

“My daily life is meditation,” Hong said. “How you walk, how you eat, how you breathe, how to see, how to listen, everything, it can all be a state of meditation; a daily thing, a living meditation.”

Hong also feels a connection with Shamanism, which still has a strong foothold on Jeju.

“Sometimes I think I am Shaman,” Hong said. “It comes out in dance and life in general. I can feel like I am Shaman.”

For now, Hong is content knowing Jeju is the next step and bicycling, walking, and hiking Mt. Halla with her new beau are all around the corner.

“We’re both Bohemians, we’ve moved around everywhere, and are a little tired,” Hong revealed. “Finally, we have a home. I never had a home, just a temporary stay while working or a center. I will have a home.”

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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