Korea’s B-Boy performers, who have become an internationally recognized cultural brand, had the rare chance to strut their stuff for audiences in Vientiane, Laos. In this way, the Korean Wave made its way to this little known country in Southeast Asia, much to the delight of the Lao people.
Korea’s hip hop culture, in the form of B-Boy performances, was successfully introduced to audiences in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, on June 4-5. Though rather unfamiliar to many Korean people, Laos is a country in the center of Southeast Asia, which is best known for its “Golden Temple” and Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of note, Laos was ranked first among “The 53 Places to Go in 2008,” compiled by The New York Times. The territory of Laos is bordered by Vietnam to the east, Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south, and Myanmar to the northwest.‘Flying Higher – Korea’s B-Boys’
Under the joint sponsorship of the Korea Foundation, the Korean Embassy in Laos, and the Lao Ministry of Information and Culture, the performances were staged at the Lao National Culture Hall, in Vientiane, under a title of “Flying Higher – Korea’s B-Boys.” It featured one of Korea’s premier B-Boy teams, Gambler Crew, along with a Poppin’ team Animation Crew, Girls Hip Hop Duo, and a female singer. In this way, the socalled Korean Wave made its way to Laos, whose people are considerably less exposed to Korea’s popular culture, in comparison to nearby countries like Vietnam and China.
In Laos, there is a serious lack of cultural content for the people to enjoy. There are two state-run TV stations, but they offer little in the way of cultural programs, so most Lao households tune into broadcasts from Thailand. Moreover, since development of the local performing arts culture is limited as well, people have a keen interest in cultural/entertainment events that are arranged by foreign embassies. According to the Korean Embassy in Laos, the performances of “Jump” and “Break Out,” which had previously been hosted by the embassy, were well received by local residents, thereby raising expectations about Korea-related performances. As a result of this background, the Lao National Culture Hall was crammed with people who hoped to view the B-Boy performers. Even a heavy rain outside could not dampen the audience’s excitement.
In line with the “Flying Higher” theme, the Korean B-Boys deftly executed high flying maneuvers that seemed to somehow defy gravity. The dynamic break dance movements, combining acrobatic and gymnastic agility, elicited gasps of amazement and appreciation from the audience. Animation Crew’s Poppin performance, a kind of mime slapstick, easily had everyone laughing aloud. In addition, the Girls Hip Hop Duo and the female singer further energized the frenzied atmosphere with their choreographed dance and enchanting singing. The first performance attracted the attendance of prominent local figures, including government and diplomatic officials, like the Lao Minister of Information and Culture, who presented a bouquet of flowers to the performers, as an expression of the Lao people’s appreciation of Korea.Cultural Diplomacy
In the morning after the second performance, the performers visited Chansavanh Secondary School in Vientiane to present scholarship aid and school supplies to students. Along with enthusiastically welcoming the performers, the students presented them with a handmade embroidery work, with a message of friendship between Korea and Laos. The embroidered message, in Lao, Korean, and English, in addition to being carefully crafted, was a heartfelt symbol of the warmth of the Lao students. After an impromptu presentation for the students, it was time for us to depart for the airport, winding up our five-day visit. During the flight home, people shared photos and stories about their memorable experiences in Laos.
For the otherwise reserved Lao people, the B-Boy performance was a special occasion for them to thoroughly enjoy this new form of entertainment. The universal appeal of Korea’s hip hop culture was readily evident and well received. Of note, with the people in Laos having a favorable perception of Korea, due to promotional efforts by the Korean government and business concerns, it seems natural for the Korean Wave (Hallyu) to gain considerable popularity there, similar to the situation in Vietnam. Starting from popular culture, and then introducing the refined content of Korea’s culture and arts through exchange activities, it would be possible to enrich the life of the Lao people and develop more cooperative relations between our two countries.