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‘All Eyes on Korea’ vies for London limelight

Korean Culture Centre UK on a 100-day journey to promote Korean culture in the Olympic host city

It all started with K-pop.

Interest in Korean pop artists has led to many young Europeans wanting to know more about Korea and its other cultural offerings such as food, traditional music, film and art. To meet the growing interest, Korean Culture Centre UK kicked off a three-month-long journey titled “All Eyes on Korea” last month to offer a wide range of creative Korean culture in various parts of London, the city that has become the center of international attention as the host of the upcoming summer Olympics.

“Taking advantage of being in London, the host city of the Olympics, we will hold various cultural events to draw interests from not only local people but also from visitors from all around the world,” said Won Yong-gi, director of KCC UK in a telephone interview with The Korea Herald.

The events are also aimed at improving the negative image of Korea, the country that suffered from the 1950-1953 Korean War and its long confrontation with North Korea, he added.

K-culture supporters, local youngsters who attended a 12-week K-pop academy course at the center, have been grabbing attention. The 50 volunteers, dressed in a T-shirt designed by Korean fashion designer Lie Sang-bong, have visited major tourist attractions in London to promote “All Eyes on Korea” events. K-pop dance and songs were also their PR methods, the center said.

“All Eyes on Korea” was launched with the unveiling of installation artist Choi Jeong-hwa’s outdoor exhibition “Time after Time” and “Life-life” on displayed between Southbank Centre and the Hayward Gallery. Choi, with the help of local supporters and volunteers, created a series of sculptural columns of green baskets at the multi-level architecture of the Southbank Centre site, KCC said. Kim Beom will hold his solo exhibition “School of Inversion” at the same venue from July 16 to Sept. 2. 
K-supporters in front of Tower Bridge during a street promotion of “All Eyes on Korea” in London on June 26. (KCC UK)
K-supporters in front of Tower Bridge during a street promotion of “All Eyes on Korea” in London on June 26. (KCC UK)

“Korean Funerary Figures: Companions for the Journey to the Other World,” an exhibition that showcases a traditional funeral bier along with wooden figures of people, will be held from July 11 to Sept. 8 at the KCC building. “With their bright colors, gaiety and laughter, the wooden figures explore both Korea’s optimism toward life as well as a unique aspect of Korean folklore,” said KCC.

The highlight of the events are a series of concerts which will be held on the last week of July. On July 30, a gala reception titled “Korea Shining Bright” will be held featuring a fashion show by designer Lie Sang-bong and Korean cuisine.

The country’s well-known classical musicians, violinist Sarah Chang and soprano Sumi Jo, will perform with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Leif Segerstam at the Royal Festival Hall on July 31. At the concert titled “Shining K-Classics,” Chang will perform the third movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and an arrangement from Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite while Jo will sing “Ah! Vous dirai-je, maman” from Adam’s Le Toreador and Eva Dell’Acqua’s Villanelle. She will also perform an arrangement by Ahn Jun-joon of the traditional Korean song “Arirang.”

KCC has also been promoting Korean films by screening movies and inviting film directors. The list of Korean filmmakers featured includes Lee Jun-ik of “Battlefield Heroes,” Lee Hyun-seung of “Hindsight,” Lee Yoon-ki of “Come Rain, Come Shine” and Jeon Kyu-hwan of “Varanasi.”

In August, the center will also screen “Crossroads of Youth” the country’s oldest surviving black and white silent movie, accompanied by a narrator and live orchestra. Other performing arts teams including pansori singer Lee Za-ram, Be-being, GongMyoung will introduce the world of Korean traditional music and stage works at Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room of Southbank Centre from July 23 to 29.

The All Eyes on Korea event ends with an outdoor event that promotes Korean art and cuisine for families at Tate Modern Bankside. The event, apart of 2012 Mayor’s Thames Festival, will stage comedy shows and display contemporary arts and crafts, and also a selection of food. It will also showcase a traditional Korean wedding celebration, the center said.

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By Cho Chung-un (