Park Sae-un talks about her story of Korean girl becoming France's top ballerina

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Park Sae-un talks about her story of Korean girl becoming France's top ballerina

Ballerina Park Sae-un speaks at the CICI Korea Image Awards ceremony at the InterContinental Seoul COEX in southern Seoul, Thursday, after receiving the Korea Image Flower Stone Award for promoting Korea in Paris. Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) president Choi Jung-wha is with her. Courtesy of CICI

By Jung Da-min

Park Sae-eun, premier danseur at the Paris Opera Ballet, used to be called "a Korean girl" when she joined France's national opera and ballet company.

"People called me 'a Korean girl,' not really knowing much about me or Korea when I joined the Paris Opera Ballet in 2011," Park told a press conference Thursday at the InterContinental Seoul COEX in southern Seoul.

The meeting was held before the CICI Korea Image Awards ceremony, where Park received the Korea Image Flower Stone Award. The non-profit Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) has been presenting awards each year to those who promote the image of Korea to the world.

"As I started to receive promotion every year and play a leading role, people became interested in who I am and what Korea is like," Park said. "For example, people asked me what I think about North Korea, saying they saw news on TV, or asked me if there is a Korean restaurant I go to often in France."

Park said her French colleagues had a good impression of Korean people being diligent when she joined the ballet company, thanks to ballerino Kim Yong-geol, who became the company's first Asian soloist in 2005. Kim was Park's professor at the Korea National University of Arts.

"As Professor Kim Yong-geol showed his commitment as a dancer, French colleagues had an expectation of Korean dancers to be hard-working when I first joined," Park said. "They told me that they were convinced of the image of Koreans as hard workers seeing me."

Park said now there are two more dancers ― Kang Ho-hyun and Yoon Seo-hoo ― who joined the ballet company after her and she is proud that they are also working very hard.

She said she wanted to encourage other young dancers not to hesitate but challenge themselves, as she did eight years ago.

"I also wondered if I could make it at the time when I was making a new step to come to France, as I was already recognized in my own areas, taking leading roles and awarded at concours," she said. "And there were hard times, of course, during the past eight years. But with patience and time, the days of happy dancing had come."

Ballerina Park Sae-un. Courtesy of CICI

Last June, Park was awarded in Moscow at the Benois de la Danse awards, recognized for her lead role in "Diamonds," part of the "Jewels" trilogy from choreographer George Balanchine.

"It felt special for me as I was awarded as a Korean dancer representing French ballet," she said."People recognized my sincerity when I did my best, practicing every day."

Asked about her future, Park said she does not have a plan but will do what she can to make a choice when the next opportunity arises.

"Many people ask me what I am planning to do in about 10 years, after my retirement, but I do not really have a plan," Park, 29,said. "I have been doing my best every day, what I can do at the moment since I started ballet 20 years ago.

"But if there is an opportunity in Korea to share my talents, I am willing to take that."


Ballerina Park Sae-un speaks at the CICI Korea Image Awards ceremony at the InterContinental Seoul COEX in southern Seoul, Thursday, after receiving the Korea Image Flower Stone Award for promoting Korea in Paris. Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) president Choi Jung-wha is with her. Courtesy of CICI

By Jung Da-min

Park Sae-eun, premier danseur at the Paris Opera Ballet, used to be called "a Korean girl" when she joined France's national opera and ballet company.

"People called me 'a Korean girl,' not really knowing much about me or Korea when I joined the Paris Opera Ballet in 2011," Park told a press conference Thursday at the InterContinental Seoul COEX in southern Seoul.

The meeting was held before the CICI Korea Image Awards ceremony, where Park received the Korea Image Flower Stone Award. The non-profit Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) has been presenting awards each year to those who promote the image of Korea to the world.

"As I started to receive promotion every year and play a leading role, people became interested in who I am and what Korea is like," Park said. "For example, people asked me what I think about North Korea, saying they saw news on TV, or asked me if there is a Korean restaurant I go to often in France."

Park said her French colleagues had a good impression of Korean people being diligent when she joined the ballet company, thanks to ballerino Kim Yong-geol, who became the company's first Asian soloist in 2005. Kim was Park's professor at the Korea National University of Arts.

"As Professor Kim Yong-geol showed his commitment as a dancer, French colleagues had an expectation of Korean dancers to be hard-working when I first joined," Park said. "They told me that they were convinced of the image of Koreans as hard workers seeing me."

Park said now there are two more dancers ― Kang Ho-hyun and Yoon Seo-hoo ― who joined the ballet company after her and she is proud that they are also working very hard.

She said she wanted to encourage other young dancers not to hesitate but challenge themselves, as she did eight years ago.

"I also wondered if I could make it at the time when I was making a new step to come to France, as I was already recognized in my own areas, taking leading roles and awarded at concours," she said. "And there were hard times, of course, during the past eight years. But with patience and time, the days of happy dancing had come."

Ballerina Park Sae-un. Courtesy of CICI

Last June, Park was awarded in Moscow at the Benois de la Danse awards, recognized for her lead role in "Diamonds," part of the "Jewels" trilogy from choreographer George Balanchine.

"It felt special for me as I was awarded as a Korean dancer representing French ballet," she said."People recognized my sincerity when I did my best, practicing every day."

Asked about her future, Park said she does not have a plan but will do what she can to make a choice when the next opportunity arises.

"Many people ask me what I am planning to do in about 10 years, after my retirement, but I do not really have a plan," Park, 29,said. "I have been doing my best every day, what I can do at the moment since I started ballet 20 years ago.

"But if there is an opportunity in Korea to share my talents, I am willing to take that."


Jung Da-min damin.jung@koreatimes.co.kr


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