“Jump” and “Puppet City,” two of Korea’s foremost contemporary performing arts groups, staged performances in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Harbin, China, as part of Korea’s efforts to promote worldwide cultural exchange.Korean Culture in Bangladesh
With support from the Korea Foundation, in cooperation with the Korean Embassy in Dhaka and the Ministry of Culture of Bangladesh, two groups from Korea staged performances as part of the “Korean Cultural Night” held at the International School of Dhaka (October 16) . The festive event featured presentations of Jump, Korea’s representative non-verbal performing group, and Puppet City, a marionette play based on aspects of traditional Korean culture.
Well before the start time, the auditorium was already filled to capacity with an audience that included prominent local figures, the diplomats of various countries based in Dhaka, Koreans residing in Bangladesh, and local residents. It was apparent that this rare chance to see Korean culture attracted a larger than expected turnout, which required the event organizers to provide makeshift seating that still could not accommodate all of the overflow crowd.
While introducing Korea’s traditional culture, Puppet City revealed the cultural brilliance of Korea through the dexterous manipulation of unique Korean puppets to the accompaniment of traditional Korean music. In this way, it was not difficult for the audience to imagine that they were watching an actual traditional performance in Korea. Then, it was Jump’s turn to take center stage. Based on Korean forms of martial arts, the performers staged comical scenes as well as dynamic routines and acrobatic maneuvers, which visibly energized the audience. This performance in Dhaka was more than an occasion to simply introduce Korean culture to the Bangladeshi people, in that the Korean performers also had a chance to enjoy the audience’s feedback. At a dinner held after the performance, the Korean Ambassador to Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi Minister of Culture, and other people involved with the event expressed their appreciation for the performances, along with their strong desire to promote further cultural exchange between the two countries. Before winding up the evening, the Bangladeshi Ministry of Culture expressed his sincere gratitude to the Korean groups for their wonderful performances and his personal interest in seeing more of this kind of cultural exchange in the future.Korea-China Cultural Relations
After their successful performances in Dhaka, the two groups made their way to China to perform at the opening ceremony of the fourth “Korea Week” event, organized by the Harbin City government and the Consulate General of Korea in Shenyang. At the Convention Center in Harbin, China, the Korea Week event included a variety of cultural programs as part of the efforts to commemorate the centennial of the death of Korean patriot Ahn Jung-geun and to realize cultural exchange between Harbin and Korea.
At the opening ceremony, seven Chinese groups staged performances of singing, dancing and martial arts, which were followed by the Puppet City and Jump presentations. The audience included Harbin government officials and local Chinese residents. Although appearing somewhat reserved early on, the audience quickly warmed up to the entertaining Korean performances, laughing aloud and applauding heartily. Thereafter, several Harbin government officials mentioned their desire to have these groups stage additional performances in China.
Through the experience of performing on the same stage, the Korean and Chinese performers naturally developed a sense of kinship with each other, based on a sharing of their respective performing art cultures. Of course, the efforts to introduce Korean culture to the people of countries abroad can be undertaken in any number of ways and forms. But personally, I believe that cultural exchange can be more effectively implemented through the presentation of works which are animated and entertaining, so as to appeal to a broad crosssection of international audiences.
As such, it can be said that these presentations in Bangladesh and China marked a departure from the more conventional performances of Korea’s traditional culture, while introducing aspects of the contemporary culture of Korea, in an audiencefriendly manner. Based on the enthusiastic responses of local audiences and high praise from government officials, I hope that this kind of contemporary performing arts can continue to receive support so that the world can understand the dynamic nature of Korea’s modern culture and people.