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What to enjoy at K-Culture Festival

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From K-pop big names to aspiring artists, festival to provide enriched hallyu experience

By Kwak Yeon-soo

The K-Culture Festival is returning in full force this year after being held online and in a hybrid format during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The third edition of the festival, scheduled to take place for nine days from Sept. 30 to Oct. 8 in Seoul, will feature various programs ― showcases by musicians and bands from various music genres including concerts with star-studded lineup such as NCT Dream, IVE, The Boyz, Oh My Girl and Zico; performances by artists and crafters; and other engagement activities where visitors of all ages can experience Korean traditional culture, fashion, food and more.

Concerts, showcases

The K-Culture Festival Eve will feature a mixture of classical music and pop music. Cellist Han Jae-min, who won the grand prix of the George Enescu International Competition and the third prize at the Geneva International Music Competition in 2021, and pianist Park Young-sung will perform at a special stage in Gyeongbok Palace on Sept. 30. The National Chorus of Korea, daegeum artist Lee Ju-hang and Hae:um, a trio for Korean traditional musical instruments such as gayageum and geomungo, will also perform during the concert.

The-K Drama Concert that will be organized in front of Gwanghwamun Square on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. is set to bring joy to K-drama fans. Some of the best-loved TV series, including "The Red Sleeve," "Itaewon Class" and "My Liberation Notes," will be turned into musicals. The orchestra will perform their soundtracks led by top musical director Kim Moon-jeong, whose previous stints include "Man of La Mancha" and "Mamma Mia."

K-pop artists, including Kyuhyun of K-pop boy band Super Junior, Paul Kim and Kim Na-young, will perform songs from the soundtracks of hit Korean TV dramas such as "Hotel del Luna," "Hospital Playlist" and "Our Beloved Summer."

K-pop boy band NCT Dream / Courtesy of SM Entertainment
K-pop boy band NCT Dream / Courtesy of SM Entertainment

A talk session between producers of popular Korean series and their fans will be hosted by comedian and MC Park Kyung-lim. Director Seo Ju-wan, who is behind Kakao TV's web drama "Love Revolution" and "Welcome to Wedding Hell," and director Park Seon-ho, best known for SBS' hit TV drama "Business Proposal," will join the session to share behind-the-scenes stories. Actors Seol Jung-hwan and Hong Soo-ah will also take the stage to talk about drama production.

Tickets for the K-Culture Festival Eve and The-K Drama Concert are available at Admission is free.

The-K Concert will be held at Olympic Stadium in Jamsil in southeastern Seoul on Oct. 7, featuring big-name stars such as NCT Dream, IVE, WINENER, WJSN, Monsta X, Zico, STAYC, Blank2y and CRAVITY. Budding pop star MAX, who collaborated with Suga from BTS on his track "Blueberry Eyes," will visit Korea to perform. The Olympic Stadium can accommodate about 35,000 spectators, according to organizers.

Tickets to the The-K Concert are available on presale on Interpark. Tickets reserved online are subject to a 1,000 won ($0.70) transaction fee. One can book tickets for up to two people.

K-pop girl band IVE / Courtesy of Starship Entertainment
K-pop girl band IVE / Courtesy of Starship Entertainment

Engagement programs for hallyu enthusiasts

There are several engagement programs such as The-K Fan Fair, which includes a K-culture exhibition, K-drama pop-up stores and interactive exhibitions.

The Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange (KOFICE) explained that it received over 100 fan art submissions and among them, some 30 selected works will be exhibited inside Jamsil Auxiliary Stadium.

A fan art exhibition during the 2021 K-Culture Festival / Courtesy of KOFICE
A fan art exhibition during the 2021 K-Culture Festival / Courtesy of KOFICE

Through The-K Stage, groups consisting of young artists will have the opportunity to perform onstage. In addition, rising K-pop groups The Boyz and Oh My Girl will hold fan meet-and-greet events at Jamsil Auxiliary Stadium on Oct. 2 and 3, respectively, as part of the program.

Smaller concerts to showcase jazz, K-pop, indie and hip-hop music and DJs will also take place at the Gwanghwamun and Jamsil areas between Oct. 2 and 8. The lineup of the artists includes JK Kim Dong-uk, Jungin, Sunwoojunga, Cheese, Pentagon, Brave Girls, CIX, VIVIZ, 10cm, The Quiett, DJ Raiden and DJ Ginjo.

The "Influencer live broadcast," starring K-pop celebrity Greg Priester and TV personalities Kangnam and Jonathan, as well as the Outlookie festival will also take place during the festival.

The "outlookies" are honorary ambassadors of Korean culture, selected by the KOFICE to introduce Korean culture to people of their homelands and beyond. During the event, they will offer performances of "buchaechum" (traditional fan dance), "samulnori" (traditional percussion music), "minyo" (traditional folk song) and "taekwonmu" (combination of taekwondo with dance and acrobatics), as well as K-pop dance.

"This year, we selected 80 foreign students from 15 different countries as outlookies. They practiced the performances in July and August to prepare for the festival," said Park Jong-sup, chief director at KOFICE's cultural exchange division. "We also plan on carrying out the 'plogging' event on the final day of the festival (Oct. 8) as part of our efforts to boost environmental protection awareness."

The "World K-pop Concert" was held at the 2021 K-Culture Festival in KINTEX, Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Nov. 14, 2021. Courtesy of KOFICE

The festival will close with a massive street parade on Oct. 8. Some 2,000 citizens and art troupe members will march along a 2.6-kilometer-long section from Jongno 5-ga to Gwanghwamun Square.

Bik Hwang, the executive director of the festival, said the festival offers a broad program of performances, art and music that can satisfy global fans of hallyu (Korean wave) ― whether they are fans of K-pop, K-dramas or Korean food or fashion.

"There are many preferences and reasons to become a hallyu fan. They can experience Korean culture to the full extent through our festival where the traditional and modern meet. In addition, there are many exhibitions and hands-on events where one can get a glimpse of everyday life inside Korea and its latest trends," he said.

"As the K-Culture festival is held during peak tourist season in October, we hope to attract tourists to Seoul from near and far."

This article was written with the support of the Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange.

Kwak Yeon-soo

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