Korea's 'souvenir of the year' is actually super cute

Korea's 'souvenir of the year' is actually super cute

Tiny ceramic bluespotted mudhopper wins first prize. It's also a pipe
Korean souvenir
We wonder what the other entries were. Some of those fish have pretty gruesome smiles.

It’s a sad, sad tale. Many a tourist in Korea has bought souvenirs in Myeongdong, only to discover “Made in China” blatantly printed on the back when they get home.

In an effort to upgrade the quality and creativity of souvenirs, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has sponsored an official souvenir contest for artists and craftsmen in Korea for the past 15 years.

Art and craft 

This year, first place went to ceramic artist Chang Sung-joo, 36, from South Jeolla province, for his entry titled “The Sound of the Sea.” The prizes were announced late last week.

“The Sound of the Sea” is a small ceramic “fish with personality,” according to the KTO press release -- a jjangttungeo, or a bluespotted mudhopper, hailing from the mudflats of Suncheon, to be precise. Chang has been making ceramic art in Suncheon for 11 years.

korea souvenir If you've ever seen a mudhopper, you will recognize why this artistic representation is such a triumph.
The clincher seems to have been the fact it is also a pipe, and one can actually play music on it … or at least make some high-pitched noises, anyway.

This year’s competition saw 238 entries by artists from 16 cities around Korea, and was judged by 200 local and foreign judges. The prizewinners -- 55 in total, including “encouragement prizes” -- will now be a teensy bit more marketable at souvenir shops.

korea souvenir Second place went to "Nostalgia" -- these tiny kerosene lamps. Now, if they could only make them into actual lighters, they'd be a shoo-in for first place next year.
The top entries will go on sale at KTO booths at upcoming tourism fairs in London and Los Angeles. The trinkets will also be available from official vendors around Korea later in the year, including at the official “upscale souvenir center” in Insadong.

"The Sound of the Sea" is currently available only at Chang's shop "Mud and Fire" (흙과불) in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province. Prices range from ₩15,000-₩35,000 (US$13-31). 

Mud and Fire (흙과불), 1696-10 Joryeo-dong, Suncheon, South Jeolla Province(전라남도 순천시 조례동 1696-10); +82 10 3642 8736

Souvenir Center, 15 Insadong Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울시 종로구 인사동 15); +82 2 2 735 6529

More on CNN: 5 wacky souvenirs from Korea 

What's your idea of a great souvenir? Tell us in the comments below. 

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