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SOUTH KOREA

Dinosaur Time


By Jheri St. James

 

Butch Vallee is owner of the Crystal Image Gallery in Laguna Beach, one of the places where Gary Simpson shows his art--large frescos and pieces from the Diversity series. (See Gallery portion of the website.) The two men have been in business for many years and Butch used his business trip to South Korea in April of 2006 as an opportunity to participate in the Common Ground 191 project, a longtime wish.

In addition to paintings, Butch’s gallery exhibits many examples of Mother Nature’s art—geodes, fossils, jewelry made from minerals and stones from around the world, and many other beautiful organic items. Crystal Image sold the rarest animal skull in the world this year, but it was fossils that brought him to South Korea—fossilized dinosaur footprints. That country, in the exciting process of building an enormous dinosaur museum and amusement park in Goseong invited Butch to participate in the Dinosaur World Expo 2006. Dinosaur footprint fossils are called trackways, and Butch brought a container of trackways with him to South Korea, the site of many good trackways fossil impressions very near the construction site of the new museum and amusement park. Unlike the bone fossils of dead dinosaurs, fossil footprints provide paleontologists many insights into the lives of dinosaurs, for instance whether a dinosaur moved in collective groups or alone, and other important scientific evidence, impossible to conduct with fossilized bones, vital clues for uncovering the secrets of the age of dinosaurs.

There are over 500 dinosaur genera (the plural of genus) identified, named and scientifically accepted; about 100 genera that are dubious (nomen dubium); and almost 100 newly-discovered genera whose names have not been through the formal naming process (nomen nudem). Naming is done by the ICZN (the International Committee on Zoological Nomenclature) where it is decided whether a specimen represents a new genus. Even though evidence of all the dinosaurs that ever existed is discovered all the time, and the dinosaurs who left no fossil evidence are lost forever, the actual number of dinosaur genera that lived is unknown.

In 1842, the anatomist Richard Owen attempted to order the then-recent discoveries of prehistoric reptiles. In what we today would call a "review article," Owen discussed in considerable detail all of the bones and teeth found by Gideon Mantell, William Buckland, and many others, and he tried valiantly to sort them out in good paleontological fashion. He found that three of the vanished genera--Iguanodon, Megalosaurus, and Hylaeosaurus-- shared similarities in the structure of their vertebrae, and in their sturdy, elephant-like posture. So Owen grouped them as a sub-order in the Saurian order, and he called them: Dinosauria, the "terrible lizards". The term "dinosaur" was born.

Recounting the details of his trip and soil collection, Butch said he loved the park, the museum, and the exhibit. There were parades every day he was at the Expo, and he was surprised to see a Russian dance troupe, and an American Indian band. To him, South Korea seemed to be in a race to maximize its own identity, surrounded as it is by more ‘dramatic’ neighbors—Japan, China, and North Korea. Goseong is one of the least exploited areas of South Korea, but major construction is everywhere—government buildings, hotels, golf courses and many other recreational facilities. South Korea is looking ahead, gambling that the might of North Korea will not last another 5-10 years. They want to build a road to China which will make their country a tourist destination for the newly affluent Chinese, and the dinosaur museum will be a big attraction.

The "Land of Dinosaurs" and the Home of "2006 Goseong World Dinosaur Expo" is located at the southern part of the Korean peninsula. More than 1,900 fossilized footprints of dinosaurs were found on the 6 km long coastal rock bed, which is believed to have been formed approximately 100 million years ago during the early and mid cretaceous period. Along with Colorado in the USA, and the west coast of Argentina, Goseong is recognized as one of the world's three largest dinosaurs' fossil footprint sites. "Dinosaurs, Earth and Mystery of Life" took place from April 14 to June 4 at the Danghangpo tourist attraction, special event hall and Sangjokam Park. Major exhibitions included "Visions of Goseong, the Land of Dinosaurs", and many of the world's fossil, reptile, and various kinds of dinosaurs were shown at the Dinosaur Pavilion. Other activities included international exchange programs, symposiums, dinosaur explorations, and playing with dinosaur robots and models.

Completed on August 10, 2005, the Dinosaur Museum shows the world of dinosaurs from 100 million years ago. It is composed of a three-story building with basement, a total area of 3,400 ?. It has special exhibition halls for the Goseong footprints of dinosaurs, a dinosaur park from the cretaceous period, and Dino Land. The museum displays more than 96 pieces of fossils and skeletons of archaeornis, peterosaurus, apatosaurus, ankylosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus. There are also halls for young students to experience the world of dinosaurs such as Theme Land with Dinosaurs, Story Telling, Puzzle of Bones and Game Land, also with an outdoor playground for children featuring benches and footprints.

Butch said he thinks that the legend of the dragon in Asian cultures has a basis in fact because of the similarity between dragon images and dinosaur representations. Thank you, Butch, for your time and efforts in collecting this valuable soil, imprinted with such ancient animal life tracks. We at Common Ground 191 appreciate it.

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North Korean Border, near Panmunjom

Korea was an independent kingdom for much of the past millennium. Following its victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Japan occupied Korea; five years later it formally annexed the entire peninsula. After World War II, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), U.S. troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union. An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 14 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, Kim Yo'ng-sam became South Korea's first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South's President Kim Dae-jung and the North's leader Kim Jong Il.

Since 1953, the most hermetic border in the world separates North from South Korea. On each side, barbed wires and miradors surround a two kilometer wide demilitarized area, in which it is forbidden to enter. Panmunjom is the only contact point between the two countries. The Korean War caused great devastation to the people of the Korea Peninsula. Although 20 other nations eventually became involved in the war, the Koreans saw it primarily as a civil war between the North and the South. In this photograph, Koreans suspected of being Communists are held by anti-Communist South Korean troops.

Seoul at Night

Since the early 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy. Four decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies. Today its GDP per capita is equal to the lesser economies of the EU. Between 2003 and 2005, growth moderated to about 4%. A downturn in consumer spending was offset by rapid export growth. In 2005, the government proposed labor reform legislation and a corporate pension scheme to help make the labor market more flexible, and new real estate policies to cool property speculation. Moderate inflation, low unemployment, an export surplus, and fairly equal distribution of income characterize this solid economy. South Korea exports semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships and petrochemicals. Its largest export partner is China.

* * *

South Korea plans to launch a new space program to search for extraterrestrial life, government officials said Wednesday. The country's National Science Museum is scheduled to initiate the program, dubbed SETI, by setting up a high-powered radio telescope in its exhibition hall, the officials said. SETI, which stands for search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, is a program which analyzes all kinds of radio waves from outer space in an effort to find non-human intelligent life forms. The museum will be the world's second institution to seek alien life forms through a radio telescope, after a program at the University of California at Berkeley in the United States. The radio telescope with a six-meter radius will be set up in the museum under construction in Gwacheon, a city 18 kilometers south of Seoul.

Participants in the SETI program, in which the public will be allowed to take part, will assess the possibility of alien life through analysis of radio wave data transferred to their personal computers. Incoming radio waves will also be used to map out hydrogen distribution in space as areas of high hydrogen concentration are considered to play a main role in the creation of new stars. "We expect a large number of youths to take part in the SETI program as there is no minimum qualification required to participate," said Lee Kang-hwan, head of the SETI program.

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Flag
Coat of Arms

Motto: "Broadly bring benefit to humanity."

Seoul is the capital of South Korea, pronounced the same as “soul”. In the non-material, spiritual world, 46% of the nation has no religious affiliation, 26% are Christian, 26% are Buddhist, 1% is Confucianist and 1% lists “other” as their religion. The Jogye order, the oldest and largest in Korean Buddhism, is part of the Seon sect (better known as Zen). Famous Buddhist temples include: the 6th century Bulguksa in Gyeongju, Kyong Ryong, and Jakwangsa and the architecture is vividly styled. Korean temples are usually colorfully painted, their giant wooden pillars seemingly made of entire logs painted maroon. Their black roofs flare toward the sky, showing off an underskirt of beams decorated in patterns of green, blue and red.

These trees are called "Grandfather" and "Grandmother" pines. They are 20 meters apart. The Grandmother tree is 20 meters high, 6 meters wide (trunk), and the branches are 12 meters wide. In front of the tree is Waun Village. The villagers regard the tree as guardian deities and on the third day of the Lunar New Year, they hold a ceremony there.

South Korea is a land of timelessness, combining the dinosaurs of the past with the future road to China and seeking extraterrestrial life, all the while venerating the grandparent trees. In the context of Common Ground 191 and soil collections, if the rumored nuclear proliferation of its neighbor to the north should “go south” and something explosive happen, the soil of South Korea will once again fall to the ground, temporarily irradiated to be sure, but life itself will begin all over again, in dinosaur time. The word for peace in South Korea is phyongbwa.


Korean Farmer’s Dance

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