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TRAVEL WATCH: OCTOBER 25, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 16

    ALSO IN TIME
Offbeat Onsen Offer Tradition with a Twist
Magical restorative powers are attributed to onsen, heated by warm, mineral-laden spring water, and the Japanese approach the experience with due reverence

Detour
South Korean artisans are resurrecting time-honored glazing and firing techniques in the Ichon Ceramics Village

Web Crawling
Condé Nast Traveler's revamped website now offers the same style of travel advice online

Hot Tip
Robust travelers would do well to check out National Geographic Adventurer's '25 Greatest Adventures in the World'

Detour

Whatever you do, don't call Jong-Chul Park's pottery "ceramics." The owner of Ji Won Artistic Pottery (82-336) 32-7230 in South Korea's Ichon City sniffs at the industrial-sounding term. "My work is all made by hand, so I prefer to call it pottery," he says. He is among a new crop of South Korean artisans who are resurrecting time-honored glazing and firing techniques in the Ichon Ceramics Village, about an hour southeast of Seoul. The bulbous brick kiln used by Park to fire his creations looks primitive by modern standards, but 800 years ago the design was leading-edge technology. The oven allowed potters of the Koryo period to maintain the high temperatures and reduced oxygen levels necessary to produce the light green and blue-green celadon glazes that collectors of Asian antiques still prize.

While lacking the sublime qualities of true Koryo celadon, the best modern reproductions mimic ancient forms and decorative styles with remarkable grace and precision. Ichon showrooms also sell reproductions of the pure white porcelain made for Korea's elite in the 15th century, as well as a less formal style of decorative stoneware called punch'ong, which was exported to Japan in the 16th century for use in Zen tea ceremonies. Visitors to the village can watch the potters crafting their wares at every stage of the process. But if you can't make the trip, you'll find plenty of handmade pottery for sale in craft stores and galleries all over South Korea, including Insa-dong (aka Mary's Alley) in Seoul. High-quality reproductions aren't cheap--the best pieces are priced in the hundreds of dollars--but if you're trading sturdy U.S. dollars against the weak won, now is a good time to buy. For information, visit the Korean National Tourism Office online at www.knto.or.kr.

--By Morris Dye

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