Although there are quite often exhibitions of Korean art in the UK, as well as Korean films being screened, and more recently Korean food has become increasingly popular, it still seems a bit as though the sudden Hallyu Wave could be drowning out all these other aspects of Korean culture and their fans. An example of this is with the recent Kpop Academy which started a few weeks ago. It was sold as an 11 week course where participants get to learn about Korean culture, such as history, contemporary culture etc. This was an amazing opportunity, but it clearly stated that it was specifically to “cater to the K-Pop fans” and with a photo of students (well ok yes, it was an academy after all) this course was very much marketed at younger people. The MASSIVE saw several older people wanting to join, but feared feeling a bit alienated being an older fan. These people, including the MASSIVE, would have loved to partake in the Korean culture activities listed at the Academy and it would be great if this opportunity was available to all people, not just Kpop fans. People of all age ranges should be catered for and made to feel comfortable about applying and participating. As we track the progression of the Kpop Academy, the culture lessons look absolutely AMAZING. But our question and main frustration as “older” fans of Korean culture is why was it marketed as a “Kpop” Academy and only for Kpop fans when the course was not Kpop orientated? What about all the original loyal fans of Korea?
The MASSIVE think that maybe this recent favouritism could be because in earlier days when more cultural topics were promoted, attendance was low, so it seemed like not many people were interested in Korean culture. Currently, Kpop seems to be very much in the limelight due to the Hallyu wave actively being pushed and helping Korea as a whole gain more public awareness. Therefore by tapping into this Kpop fanbase, it could be a good way to increase interest in Korea as a whole. However promotion of Korean culture was never that frivolous to begin with, as long time fans of Korean culture, we ourselves often found it hard to find information on events happening, which was one of the main reasons we started this blog, to help spread the word and aid other fans of Korean culture. Any information we found on Korean related aspects and events in the UK came from spending a lot of time digging and researching as resources were limited and helpful websites such as London Korean Links only came into existence six years ago. Much of our own love for Korea came from happy accidents. My own (Ema) in particular was for Korean films, but to find out about the latest Korean film festivals/ film screenings required me to search every so often at Cinemas such as Prince Charles and going through listings upon listings. It was very hard to find readily available and up to date information.
During our research we have found many other aspects with a much wider appeal that could be invested in. With the recent award winning “A New Space around the Body” exhibition and SNSD’s invitation to the Burberry Prorsum show, fashion is definitely something that would appeal to fashion conscious UK. Our own London has always been listed up there with Milan and Paris as one of the fashion capitals of the world. With many of our streets dedicated to specific fashion styles, like Camden for punks and Savile Row for bespoke suits, the UK is definitely a country open to all types of fashion styles. When talking about Asian fashions, a westerner would typically picture the funky Japanese style, anime hair, outrageous and loud clothing. However, as we become more familiar with Korean contemporary culture, we have noticed that Korea has a very specific fashion style themselves. Effortless flawless chic, perfect skin, perfect hair, it’s been a style we at the MASSIVE strive to emulate. It would be great to be able to see Korean fashion more present in the UK fashion scene. As we can see, with BB cream on the rise in the UK (although still a lot of catching up to do in terms of quality), the UK is definitely starting to take notice of Korea’s signature flawless appearance.
Another import which was probably one of our first experiences of Korea was Taekwondo. During the era of Bruce Lee, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Karate Kid, the world went crazy for martial arts. British people were taking up Karate, Kung Fu, Wing Chun, Judo, Jujitzu, ninja-ing and of course Taekwondo. At events such as the Thames Festival, the Taekwondo display is normally one of the most packed out acts with kids and adult alike taking part in demonstrations. Because at the end of the day, it’s just super cool to kick ass.
One of my FAVOURITE Korean events in the UK has been the comedy theatre shows. Back in 2007 I watched the show JUMP at Peacock theatre in Holborn. It was so different and funny that I went back again the next time time around with my whole family (seriously, we took up a whole row). If you have not heard of JUMP it’s basically a live slap stick comedy show, if you are familiar with Korean movies then you should know that Koreans have a fabulous sense of humour. Even the most tear jerking movies have a good few laugh out loud moments. JUMP appealed to all ages, everyone from my 6 year old cousin to my grandfather were laughing till they cried. The most brilliant thing about it is that you did not have to speak English to understand! Koreans are extremely expressive in their actions and facial expressions, so even though they could not speak English, they were able to portray a million emotions. Even my illiterate non-English speaking Grandmother understood what was happening, which shows what a worldwide mass appeal this kind of thing can have!
After JUMP which happened at the Peacock theatre about 3 times, there was also a break dancing prison break theatre show called ‘Break Out’ which I unfortunately missed and have waited for its return for all these years. This show gave many UK folks a glimpse at just how cool and awesome Koreans are at dance. JUMP returned a few years ago where spectators at the Thames Festival was treated to the WHOLE show for ABSOLUTELY FREE!!! But the price they paid was being squished amongst strangers as people packed out the whole entire area with people wanting a seat having to wait hours earlier. I stood there with no personal space whatsoever, tip toeing and trying to see the stage, it was like a Kpop concert, that’s how popular it was. Then in 2011, I was reminded of my love for live Korean comedy at the Korean Calling event at the Thames Festival with Babbling Comedy- Perfordian Factory. Again the guys spoke very very little English but it was absolutely HILARIOUS! There was juggling, amazing comical beatboxing, and some questionable costumes. It started raining during the performance I attended, but no one got up to leave, we all remained on the grass totally entranced.
We at the MASSIVE would definitely like to see something like this return and be invested in more! After all, it’s laughter that brings people together, no matter what their background.