A Wonderful World of Entertainment for KidsHere is the good news for parents this winter. At last there are places where children can enjoy quality cultural activities, apart from watching tedious animal parades at local amusement parks.
Since last month, local theater companies have been presenting children's musicals that are well worth the 20,000 won ($16) admission fee.
One show is the musical "Little Prince" at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Filled with poetic metaphors and rich philosophical insights, "Little Prince" is an enchanting fable.
Written by French novelist and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the story is about an alien visitor, the Little Prince, and a pilot whose plane crashes in the Sahara. Urging the pilot to take him home to Asteroid B-612, the Little Prince tells of his journey and the people he has met along the way.
The story of the "Little Prince" is filled with ambiguous, sometimes, philosophical suggestions, that may be difficult for children to understand, and which are perhaps too heavy for a musical. This is why producer Park Jong-sun has paid extra attention to the choreography and the music.
"If the show is too analytical, kids will yawn or soon fall asleep," says Mr. Park. "So we tried to make those complex lines as simple as possible. Instead, we added humor to the songs and the mime scenes, and focused on friendship as a main subject. We felt that was a common theme with which children can easily identify."
The musical always has its young audience in mind. When the pilot draws a sheep for Little Prince in his sketchbook, a video projection appears. Whenever there are flashbacks, the stage is filled with soap bubbles. When this happens, the children jump from their seats with excitement.
The "Frog Prince," at Seoul Arts Center, offers a similar spectacle. Produced by Sadari, a local theatre company that has been staging children's musicals since 1988, the show is about an arrogant prince who is turned into a frog.
"The entertainment culture in Korea is entirely adult-centered," says Kim Kwang-tae, who brought his two daughters to see "Little Prince." Mr. Kim says there is not enough culture for children in Korea.
"I feel bad and partly responsible as a parent," he says. "I mean, yes, there are children's programs on television and there is Cola-tech, (a dance club that does not sell alcohol) but it's really unfortunate that there isn't a whole variety."
After similar complaints from many local children's activists, the situation is finally improving. Local cinemas have also begun showing G-rated films and animated films for the winter vacation.
"Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," a Japanese animated feature, and "Pocket Monsters," otherwise known as "Pokemon," opened at the Christmas Weekend. "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Chicken Run" opened the week before that. Adults and children alike have praised "Nausicaa," which is based on a teenage girl's adventures.
Museums and galleries are also presenting exhibitions that are entertaining as well as educational for a younger audience. The Ancient Mesopotamian Civilization Exhibition, at the Seoul Arts Center, is one of the most popular, with artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia on display. It is certainly a chance for young people - and adults - to brush up on their history.
The Gallery Korea Life Insurance 63 Building is featuring "Relics and History of Chinese Emperors" through March 4. This exhibition features elaborate costumes and delicate ceramics from the ancient courts of China.
Samsung Children's Museum is also running regular activities.
So bundle up your children and go. But check first, because many of these venues do not admit children under 3 years old.
by Park Soo-mee