Korean Ceramics

Korean Ceramics


The Chosun dynasty ruled Korea from 1392 to 1897. This era marked the golden age of Korean pottery, with a long period of growth in imperial and provincial kilns and much of the highest quality works still preserved for reference today.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, distinctly simple yet elegant forms were favored. The preference for plain whiteware, at least during the early Chosun period, demonstrates in-part the minimalist and purist aesthetics associated with the new ruling ideology of Neo-Confucianism.

The Fall of the Chosun Dynasty gave way to the short-lived Korean Empire, after which the peninsula was occupied by Japan until the end of World War II. The turmoil brought on by the 20th Century left cultural advancement for Koreans somewhat on the backburner, as the country split in two and attempted to rebuild itself into a modern nation for the very first time.

It was not until the later part of the century that the legacy of Korean Pottery began to re-establish itself. When Young Sook Park started to make ceramics in the late 1970s she was one of very few potters who had, in addition to the practice of her craft, training and knowledge in Korean antiquities. This distinguished background largely informed her rigorous dedication to recapturing and reinterpreting the lost techniques of the Chosun Dynasty.


Buncheong ware originated during the first 200 years of the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910) and refers to an expressive style of pottery that employed a stoneware clay similar to its predecessors during the Koryo Dynasty, known as Celadon. Celadon is remembered for its iconic green-glaze, and Buncheong ware often reflects a similar tonality. However, the clays themselves were of a noticeably coarser grade; the result of which was a product that utilized a white-slip beneath the top glaze as a means of smoothing the surface of the wares.

The word ‘Buncheong’ is a rather contemporary term coined in the 1930s by South Korea’s first art historian, Go Yuseop. It translates as “gray-green ceramics decorated with powder.”


White Porcelain, first fabricated in Asia roughly 2,000 years ago, is recognized for its qualities of strength, translucency, and purity of whiteness. White Porcelain may be broadly defined as high-fired, vitrified, and translucent white ceramic.

A porcelains purity manifests because of a lack of other ingredients in the clay, like iron, that may change the color and property of the ceramic. Often the raw materials of White Porcelain include kaolin (a type of white clay) and petuntse (also called Chinastone). In Korean, porcelain is known as Baekja, or whiteware.

orcelain is notoriously difficult to work with because it is unforgiving, lacking the additives that make other clays more plastic, and thereby stretchy. In addition to its rigid nature, Porcelain is high-firing (temperatures in the kiln exceed 2600 fahrenheit) and fine-grained.