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This is Ray Kim and I at the opening.
I wrote this letter as a documentary of my travels to the Opening of the first Korean Teddy Bear Museum on April 23, 2001.

Mike and I had a wonderful trip.....in so many ways. I really feel that my work has finally reached museum artwork status and recognition. I guess in the end it is a confirmation of my artistry and creativity, and it is such a good feeling.

And then the trip...getting to know the country and its culture. Mike and I are always adventurous and don't let any grass grow under our feet. We tend to go and do what the locals do, while getting oriented to the new surroundings. We had some superb cuisine and cultural experiences. No spectacular tours...just moving about Seoul on our own, taking everything in, observing Korean customs, its people, its history, and enjoying it all. Everywhere that we went, adults were friendly and helpful. The children were unabashed and beamed with "Hello, how are you"? "Can you tell me what time it is"? The wonderful memories are documented in my photographs, but a new respect and affection for the Korean people will live in my heart.

Mr. Eddie Cheon, Mr. Jesse Kim and wife, Bev and Mike White on opening morning.
Finally ..... the trip to Cheju, a large extinct volcanic island off the southern tip of South Korea, with very interesting geography and a culture of its own.

International guests from the West who traveled to the celebration were Tom and Dee Hockenberry from PA, Linda and Wally Mullins from CA, Annamika Koetse from Holland, Jean Lafitte representing Steiff GmbH, and Mike and I of course. We arrived at the Seogwipo City resort area on the south side of Cheju Island Saturday morning and were graciously received. The museum workers were furiously trying to finish the outside landscaping and garden areas, while others detailed the gleaming floors, sparkling white walls and glass interior. What an overnight transformation!

Throughout a sunny Sunday morning, a steady stream of festively ribboned plants with congratulatory messages arrived and were placed in front of the Museum entrance. A beautiful bear ice sculpture was brought out and threatened to melt quickly in the breezy sunshine. Welcoming refreshments and the distribution of commemorative gifts greeted the more than six- hundred invited guests.

A Pledge to the Flag of the Republic of Korea and Opening Ceremonies were officiated by Mr. Ray Kim, the Museum and Business Director. Many expressions of individual recognition and appreciation were made, plaques were presented, and speeches were given by local officials. Mr. Eddie Cheon, President/Chairman of J.S.I. gave a brief history of the Museum's development to its inception. Finally, Mr. Jesse Kim Chairman/CEO of JS International Inc. and the Teddy Bear Museum addressed the large crowd of invited guests expressing his appreciation to all of those involved in preparation for this day, and giving special recognition and thanks to Mr. Yoshihiro Sekeguchi, owner of three Japanese Teddy Bear Museums, for his valuable guidance and support in developing the first Korean Teddy Bear Museum.

Dee, Linda, Anna, Bev and Mr. Sekeguchi at the ribbon cutting.
When the moment for the ribbon cutting arrived, the international guests were honored by being asked to participate in this memorable event. The Museum was declared open and visitors were treated to two separate galleries of artistically displayed bears in an amazing variety of styles, vignettes, collections and animated dioramas. Included, were tastefully displayed historical collections, contemporary artist bears, antique and vintage treasurers. There were framed parodies of famous artworks and people, such as Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. A coy Marilyn Monroe appeared caught with her dress fluttering in the breeze. There was a splendid animated bear fashion show, complete with sophisticated "bear" models in glitzy fashions, strutting the runway to the audible pleasure of a demure audience of appreciative, well dressed ladies. Mr. Kim's recently acquired $200,000.00 Louie Voutton Bear with its designer wardrobe and support documents provided for the viewing public, a close encounter with 'another kind'.

The contemporary design of the museum is enhanced by its futuristic Time Travel Gallery which takes the visitor on a voyage back thorough ten great events of the twentieth century. Marty McFly, the Time Traveler Bear in his red spaceship, greets his fellow travelers at the entrance and invites them to come along for the trip through time. He manages to arrive before the viewer in each animated 'decade diorama', waiting there to surprise or wave to his smiling guests. Amusing parodies of famed humans throughout the century are seen in many additional glass enclosed cubicles. Bearmakers from all around the globe were commissioned to do these bears, as well as local Korean bearmakers.

Last minute primping of "The Beatles."
Following the formal opening, all guests were treated to a delicious buffet luncheon and had the first opportunity to look around the Teddy Bear Republic Gift Shop, the Bear Valley Hills Museum Bar, the Meine Baren Restaurant and the Teddy's Forest Gardens (still under construction). When has anyone thought of putting a bar and nice resturant adjacent to a museum...its a great idea.

The International guests were additionally treated to a guided, local 'points of interest' tour to enjoy some of the beauty of the island later in the day. Serene, beautiful and delightful are the discriptive words that come to mind.

Altogether, it was a Beary Great Day for the teddy bear world........... not just in Korea but all around the world.!!

Beverly White,

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