|▲ Calligrapher Lee Byeong-gon aka Unchun|
For many Koreans, the word ‘seoyae (calligraphy)’ reminds us of Gim Jeong-hui, the master Korean calligrapher in history famous for ‘Chusachae’. The style is known to be achieved only by mastering all 5 basic fonts: jeonseo, yeseo, haeseo, hangseo and choseo. Many Korean calligraphers showed a great respect to Gim and they feel honored to copy his style based on which they develop their own styles. Calligrapher Lee Byeong-gon aka Unchun also is one of the followers who have been succeeding the excellence of Chusachae and endeavoring to develop their own styles.
A businessman calligrapher
Lee was born as the fourth son to a five children family and grew under the influence of his father who was fond of Chinese literature. He entered an agricultural high school, served in the military, worked as a farmer for 4 years and ran his own business afterwards. His brother, a little older who ran a business of installing mechanical parking stations, asked him to join the business and Lee did in 1995. The older brother had an accident one day so Lee took over the business of then Dongnam Parking.
It seemed for Lee that he could have a new life ahead of him but the doctor sentenced him with the stage 3 colon cancer; he was 40 at that time. He felt that heaven collapsed on him and people around him felt that there was no hope for him. He had to do something to console his suffering heart and he picked up a brush again which he used to do it a lot when he was a child.
Learning Chusachae under the teaching of Choi Young-hwan
Picking up a brush again brought him things he never had before. Calligraphy, in a way, is a simple act: writing letters on the paper with a brush. “This simple act brought me back those good memories of my childhood and my life, though sentenced with a stage 3 cancer, was filled with satisfaction. I had enough time to look back and I learned how to empty my mind. I realized that reading books and knowing good words are different from writing my thoughts in letters. The more I write the more I feel comforted and confident” said Lee.
Lee learned Chusachae from Choi Young-hwan aka Gasan, the president of the Korea Chusa Yeonmuk Hoe and a pupil of the best chusachae master Choi Jeong-su aka Yeonpa. He wrote a number of chusachae textbooks: <Yeonmuk Chunja>, <Yeonpa Chongseo>, <Yeonpa Seojip> and <Chusachae Thousand Character Classic>.
Lee is an advisor of the Hanseo Art Association. The association held the 1st Hanseo Art Exhibition in 2009 and is running various exchange exhibitions and competitions. Also the members of the association engage in various volunteer activities to share their good heart with people in need.
Lee has won a number of prizes at a number of exhibitions including the North-South Korea International Exhibition, the Korea Culture Awards, and the 8th Korea Chusa Art Competition. Lee is a man of diligence. He believes that diligence is one good way to reach the master’s level. The more time and effort he pours in the better results and confidence he gets. So he always emphasizes the importance of diligence. Winning the prizes could not happen without this diligence.
Fostering young students
Lee finished the master calligraphy course of Korea University Graduate School of Education. Although he is still busy running his business alongside calligraphy, he is determined to pass down his knowledge and skills to young calligraphers. The best maxim he cherishes is this: “Treat others like a warm spring wind but treat yourself like harsh autumn frost.”
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