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The Colours of Manhwa - Korean Comics Exhibition @ Korean Cultural Centre UK

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by Chris Henniker (subscribe)
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Walking out of Gangnam
Walking out of Gangnam, you can't help but notice that the Korean Peninsula can be more stylish and diverse than what you think. Temples, churches, mountains and weirdness as abundant as the eye can see. Even the North is just weird, you only have to look at who's running things from Pyongyang to see how bizarre the only hereditary Stalinist dictatorship is. Hell, I can see Kim Jong-Un coming out and doing his shopping in Gangnam, with a member of his Pleasure Squad in tow. I think I saw her on a lead as he was walking through New Malden while stealing from old ladies. The country must be that hard up that he has to mug people to fund a nuclear weapons programme, which shows why you need a guide to the Hermit Kingdom.

Psy isn't the best guide to Korea, but our friends at the Korean Cultural Centre on Northumberland Avenue are and they have Manhwa mania for the next few weeks. Manwha are Korean comics and you may think that it's all schoolgirls with big eyes, big tits and loads of kick-ass weapons. In some cases, you're right (that's why I like Japanese Manga and anime). Take another look and you'll see a wider range of practices, from the watercolour of Seok Jeonghyun's "friends" to the cute but sinister webtoons of Studio MentalRope's "Mental Rope". Seeing "Mental Rope's" characters having tufts of hair that grab onto ropes was disturbing in that they look like they've been hanged, yet it was so cute. The big eyes make all the characters so appealing, yet they'll tell you a secret: not all are cute.

It really feels like you've been given access to their secret stash of comics that are funny, moving, weird, familiar yet like nothing you've ever seen. The most moving images for me were Seok Jeonghyun's "Friends", which capture the solipsism of contemporary urban life and the tenuous connections we establish with each other through music. We see a man and woman on a Seoul subway train in their own solipsistic ways, music coming out of the woman's cans. Although the man is on his own, he responds by humming a tune that makes the unamed woman take her cans off to hear. It moved me at an emotional level because I can connect to these people through music, but I can't figure out why. Mind you, these are universal themes we can all relate to.

If it's their Secret stash, you really feel privileged to be let in on this secret by going to a part of the gallery to read what's available in a Manhwabang. It's basically a reading room where you can open up your neural pathways and give them a good shagging, enjoying everything from comedy to romance, to the latest OD of schoolgirls, big guns and bigger tits. A commonplace sight in South Korea, you can go in and rent a comic for a few pence and spend an afternoon there. I spent the whole afternoon there and loved every minute of the time I spent there gazing and reading like I had all the time in the world, but you only have until the 24th of November to read another culture.

If you're in London on a wet miserable day that makes you feel like you're being pissed on by the DPRK after 70 pints, make your way to the Korean Cultural Centre and discover what a gallery on Northumberland Street has to offer you. It's more stylish than Gangnam.
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Why? The Colours of Korean Comics
When: 1-21 November
Where: Korean Cultural Centre UK
Cost: Free admission
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