News / Arts & Entertainment

Korean American Deli Owner Is A Calligrapher

Korean American Deli Owner Is A Calligrapheri
X
February 07, 2013 11:57 PM
Kwon Myoung-Won from Korea works hard, like many immigrants, running a small business for long hours every day. But he never lost his passion for the calligraphy he began doing as a boy. Although few may know about this art, some of his works are displayed in museums and galleries across the US and around the world. VOA’s June Soh visited Kwon’s convenience store in the Washington suburbs, where his art flourishes.

Korean American Deli Owner Is A Calligrapher

TEXT SIZE - +
June Soh
Kwon Myoung-Won from Korea works hard, like many immigrants, running a small business for long hours every day. But he never lost his passion for the calligraphy he began doing as a boy. Although few may know about this art, some of his works are displayed in museums and galleries across the U.S. and around the world. Kwon’s works at a convenience store in the Washington suburbs, where his art flourishes.

Kwon Myoung-Won tends to customers at the counter while his wife So-Young makes the sandwiches. They've been working together for 20 years in this store that sells beer and wine along with specialty sandwiches.   

“The store hours are from six thirty in the morning to ten at night. But I arrive at six, so I work 16 hours a day,” Kwon said.

The store, near Washington DC, does not exhibit art. But long rolls of rice paper are stored under a shelf for merchandise.  When the store is not busy, usually in the late afternoon, it's time for calligraphy.  Kwon is writing the word “door,” in Korean, over and over.  

"Door implies opening. And getting through all the passages in life is also opening a door.  But we cannot do that without efforts. We have to work hard to open the doors to achieve our dream," Kwon said.  

Most of Kwon’s calligraphies contain small Korean letters. He says that's a byproduct of circumstance.

“While running the store for long hours, I wanted to utilize the time because I barely had time at home.  But when customers came in, I had to stop writing. Then the tip of the brush got dry and the mood changed.  So I decided that I could work better with small letters,” Kwon said.

One of Kwon's works is the silhouette of a figure skater. It's formed from thousands of tiny letters. The skater is Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-Na from South Korea. The letters are her nickname, “flower.”   

“I started calligraphy when I was seven. My older brothers who went to a village school wrote letters with a brush.  I was fascinated watching them write words with a thin brush.  So I started practicing myself,” Kwon said.

Some of Kwon’s works are displayed in the Library of Congress in Washington.  Paul Taylor heads the Asian Program at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in Washington. Kwon's calligraphy is on permanent display there, as well.  

“The most important element of Kwon Myoung-Won’s calligraphy we are emphasizing here is his use of classical form in a dynamic, modern, new kind of tradition that he carries forward as a member of the Korean diaspora based here not in Korea,” Taylor said.

For this piece, Kwon was inspired by President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  

He's donating it to Lincoln's presidential library near Chicago.

Kwon has performed traditional Korean calligraphy at the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival in Washington.  And he demonstrates his art at a local university.

“Diverse culture coexists in this country.  So I try to help other people recognize the beauty of the Korean language and the art of Korean calligraphy. That is my dream,” Kwon said.

Kwon Myoung-Won says he's doing his best to make that dream come true.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Saxophonist Craig Handy has an exciting new band called 2nd Line Smith, which combines the organ-jazz repertoire of Jimmy Smith with the “second line” rhythms of New Orleans parade music. Craig Handy joins "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten at Washington’s Bohemian Caverns jazz club to talk about the music and perform with the band.