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Korean Comics: A Society Through Small Frames

Exhibition in the Library’s Jewett Gallery, March 13-June 13

San Francisco Public Library is pleased to present, Korean Comics: A Society Through Small Frames, an exhibition of 83 framed works by 21 of Korea’s most talented cartoonists drawn over a period of four decades, on view March 13–June 13 in the Jewett Gallery at the Main Library, 100 Larkin St.

The exhibition examines the changes in Korean society from the 1950s through the 1990s as evidenced through its comics—joyful, satirical and penetrating—which provide a running commentary that reflects the lives of ordinary people. What shines most prominently through these works is an engaged and vigorous civil society in Korean, continuously challenging the status quo in whimsical and provocative ways. 

The comics play an important role in characterizing and distinguishing the culture and sensibility of two Koreas. The exhibition includes cartoons from artists in both prosperous, rapidly changing South Korea as well as from less well-known North Korea. Lee Do Yeong pioneered Korean comics in the early 20th Century, but it wasn’t until the explosion of magazines and newspapers in the middle of the century that comics emerged as a cultural force.

The comics on view range from the playful to the political. Viewers will instantly recognize the variety of juvenile comics: Kkŏbŏngi, a mischievous 11 year-old, is South Korea’s answer to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. Other comic 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 exhibition’s North Korean comics capture that reclusive country’s economic hardships and strict ideological controls on society. 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.

Korean Comics: A Society Through Small Frames is organized and curated by The Korea Society as part of their traveling exhibition programs.

Related Programs:

Wednesday, March 17
Realities and Ideals in 1950s and 60s Korean Comics
A lecture by Dr. Sung Lim Kim, professor at the University of California at Berkeley, explores the social and political history of Korea in the 1950s and 1960s, and examines how both adult and children's comics reflected the reality and ideals of that time.
Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 8
Manwha for Girls
Authors Trina Robbins, Mike Madrid and Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago discuss the role of girls and women in comics as well as comics by women artists. A book sale by Book Bay follows the event.
Main Library, Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room, 6-7:30 p.m.

Supported by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

All programs at the Library are Free. For more information, please call (415) 557-4277.

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