His mission: to sell Korea in 30 minutes

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His mission: to sell Korea in 30 minutes

The artist chosen to design the opening ceremony for this year's World Cup soccer games, Sohn Jin-chaek, is a man of few words. But it seems he has even less to say now that he has a major international event on his hands.

Up to 2 billion people are expected to watch the May 31 ceremony. The 30-minute show will be performed in the Seoul World Cup Stadium before the opening match between France and Senegal. Sohn, 54, a highly regarded play director, is reluctant to reveal the details of his plans, but did provide an overview.

"Unlike the opening ceremonies for Olympic games, where culture and art are emphasized, the World Cup ceremonies are down-to-earth and simple," Sohn said. "The soccer games are the main event and culture is only thought of as a sideline."

Despite his calm demeanor, Sohn is by no means taking the assignment lightly; he said he wants to make that 30 minutes the brightest moments of his artistic life. "The concept of the ceremony can be summarized as 'communication,'" he said. "By that I mean the harmony between nature and man and the communication between the universe and humankind. Through this, I want to express a message of harmonious coexistence to all humankind, along with the hope that even a small thing like a soccer ball can make coexistence a reality."

To gather ideas for the ceremony, Sohn attended the opening of last summer's Beijing Universiade, where college students from 168 countries competed in athletic contests. He has also been watching videos of other opening ceremonies for large sporting events like the 1998 World Cup in France. "The opening ceremony of the Beijing Universiade was a gargantuan event, with 12,000 people involved," Sohn explained. "We won't be able to bring that many people together. Our ceremony will be more like a specialty shop offering just the important things than a department store offering everything."

Sohn will choreograph the entire ceremony to ensure that it is consistent and smooth. He hinted that high-tech effects will be used, while expressing concern about the timing: from 7:30 to 8 p.m. He is worried that it may not be completely dark for his show.

Asked which ceremony was the best model to follow, Sohn cited France's "Children of Grass" show at the last World Cup. "The performance achieved an exquisite harmony between the traditional and the modern and contained a future-oriented message as well," he said. Presenting the values inherent in Korean culture will be the primary objective in this year's show. The production staff in charge of making Sohn's vision a reality, called Taskforce, was put together by the local advertising agencies Cheil Communications and Diamond AD. The team is in the process of recruiting performance groups and artists for the ceremony. The first rehearsal is set for March.



by Jung Jae-wal

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