By Ken Hegan for MSN

Got a beef with how a city’s being run?

You can march around City Hall wearing a sandwich board that advertises your grievances.

Or you can try the South Korean method of yelling into a giant, 2.44-metre (8-foot) ear.

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Outside City Hall in Seoul, Korea, an artist named Yang Soo-in (with funding by Lifethings) has unveiled a red & white acoustic installation for tourists and locals to vent their spleens. If your argument is compelling, it gets preserved in the archives. If not, your words get ground into muzak.

The ear is named Yobosayo, which is the Korean word for getting your attention, similar to ‘hello’.

According to this design blog, this ‘Big Ear’ “symbolizes the fact that Mayor Park Won-soon and his administration are willing to listen to the people.” Park Won-soon is a political independent who took office in October 2011.

The sculpture was installed this spring. So I’m guessing the mayor finally got sick of people yelling stuff at his window at 4 a.m. after all the organic cocktail bars closed for the night.


Here’s where the Big Ear gets really cool:

The sculpture doesn’t just sit there passively listening and doing nothing, like your therapist who’s fallen asleep out of sheer boredom. Instead, the sculpture records the words it ‘hears’ and broadcasts them over loudspeakers in a citizens’ affairs bureau in the basement of City Hall. So if you want to listen to speakers beaking off, go stand inside City Hall.

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When you’re standing inside the bureau, motion sensors go to work. They record how long you stand listening to people’s brilliant ideas for how every tourist to the Republic of Korea should be handed a free jetpack to hover over traffic james, or how every downtown Seoul corner should erect a free fountain serving chocolate milk.

The sensors then divide everyone’s diatribes/statements/monologues into two categories:

Option #1:

Statements that attract the attention of audiences for a long time are preserved since they’re considered valuable

Option #2:

Statements that don’t attract your attention for long are transformed by a computer algorithm into harmless mood music.

In this way, the “Big Ear” functions as a “digital ecosystem” where all your rants/suggestions/messages are either “passed on to future generations or compost,” according to the organization behind the artwork, Lifethings. It’s a hilarious way to shut down lame ideas.

Fun, huh? I bet it goes a long way to soothing frustrated locals and travellers. Especially if you imagine body part you’d see outside your local city hall. In some of our cities, I suspect you’d just get a sculpture that looks like a large middle finger.

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Got a complaint about getting around Seoul? Tell it to the Big Ear! To get there, take Seoul Subway Line 1, 2 to arrive at City Hall Station, Exit 5. The Big Ear will be in Seoul Plaza outside City Hall.

— Ken Hegan

Read all Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan

Photos courtesy Lifethings