▲ German sculptor Mirco Weingart and local sculptor Jang Kong Ik share a joke in Jeju City. Photo by Jean K. Min
There is a new lady on the land.Although she isn’t the 36’ 24’ 36’ Western perception of perfect beauty, her 80 centimeters of detailed bronze beauty has men collapsing all around her, even to their death, or so the story of Lorelei tells.
Hundreds of years ago, according to German folklore, a beautiful woman by the name of Lorelei leaped to her death from a large cliff overlooking the Rhine. Before jumping she proclaimed she had only ever loved one man and without him her life was not worth living.
The myth of this tragic girl is that her spirit clung to the rock and sang out to fishermen passing by, luring them to their death as well. So what does this temptress have to do with Jeju? Well, Lorelei is a gift from Germany in exchange for two dolhareubang (stone grandfathers) recently sent abroad from the Jeju government as a gesture of friendship.
The Lorelei was unveiled in Eo-young Park in Jeju City, Aug. 17, in a dedication ceremony attended by Kim Byoung Lip, mayor of Jeju City, Dichter Klassen, mayor of Lorelei and Angelica Stein, the current Miss Lorelei.
Compliments were exchanged amongst officials, but the most noteworthy was that from Mayor Klassen.
“Jeju and the city of Lorelei share one thing in common — they are both home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Dolhareubang in Germany and Lorelei in Jeju will hopefully work to promote the peace of the two cities,” Klassen said.
Jeju routinely sends dolhareubang as gifts to their sister cities as a gesture of friendship. Dolhareubang sit all over the world representing the tiny island. This particular exchange was in hopes of promoting that both Jeju, South Korea and Lorelei, Germany have been recognized as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.
Lorelei Rock is located near St. Goarshausen and rises to a height of 133 meters above the surface of the Rhine River. According to loreley-rhine.com, the stony ridges, projections, and shallows combined with a strong river current makes this a dangerous place. The Rhine is a major inland water-way, and over the centuries numerous boatmen, especially the inattentive, have lost their lives there.
The local Lorelei government approached sculptor Mirco Weingart to come up with an equivalent exchange for the dolhareubang. Five months later Weigart presented the 80 centimeter-high bronze statue. The statue was completed by the sculptor's teenage students. There were six statues actually made and the best of the lot is the one you can now see on the island. Weingart had intended to do all the work in Germany but ended up finishing the stone base for the statue here on the island in Jang Kong Ik's workship in Hallim.
“The shipping cost was too much, so I decided to finish it here,” said Weingart.
Jang Kong Ik is a famous sculptor of Jeju. More than 90 of his dolhareubang statues have been exchanged to places around the world; including, Japan, China and the U.S. Jang said he creates three each time, two larger statues and then a smaller one for the head of state. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is an owner as well. Two 3-meter-high dolhareubang statues were sent to the city of Lorelei on Nov. 29, 2009. Jang said it only takes him a few days to complete the work.
Jang started sculpting 55 years ago with intentions of selling souvenirs. Now, almost 80 years old, he says he prefers to create pieces for his garden in Hallim.
Jang said it was interesting to watch Weingart work. While they are both masters with rock, the materials here are somewhat different. Weingart said “the rock here isn't as healthy, it creates too much dust and the dust makes it difficult to work.”
Weingart’s dust comments were validated by the appearance of Jang. The small man was covered from head to toe in grey dust, highlighted by the white of his smile as he positioned his mouth for a smoke.
This was Wiengart’s first trip to Jeju. He said he had many difficulties communicating on the island, so much so that he and his girlfriend were unable to do things they had intended, like climb Mt. Halla. But Weingart said he knew immediately those frustrations would not be a problem at Jang’s workshop.
While Jang did not help with the base of the Lorelei, his son did. Weingart said he was having trouble with the engraving on the base because the tools here were different. He said he wrote the inscription “Ich Weiss Nicht” — “I know nothing” — on a piece of paper and Jang’s son knew what he wanted without further description.
“It’s the language of the arts, we don’t need words to understand,” he said.
Weingart says the Germans unfortunately don’t fully appreciate the dolhareubang because they don’t understand its story or its significance. He also pointed out the location of the statues is all wrong. Consequently, so is the placement of Lorelei in Jeju. Weingart said the Jeju government has placed the statue in front of a parking lot.
“The Lorelei should be off the beaten path, you should have to search for the Lorelei,” he said.
Weingart went on to say that neither the dolhareubang nor the Lorelei will be fully appreciated unless they are moved. He has suggested this to the Jeju government. Weingart said he hopes to persuade the Lorelei government to relocate the dolhareubang in Germany as well.
“If you don’t understand the culture, you don’t understand things,” said Weingart. “An artist is allowed to say this, we can make it better.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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