News flash: Nude fest flap not about skin

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News flash: Nude fest flap not about skin

Thirty minutes after the dance performance was supposed to start, an announcer spoke over the public address system to calm the crowd. "Because we're doing an international nude festival, we've run into some of problems. Please continue to wait. A Mongolian model has refused to perform and has claimed that she was being detained. Her complaint was misconstrued and now the Incheon city officials are here to investigate the matter."

Later it was revealed that the model had called the Mongolian Embassy expressing her wish, for reasons unclear, to opt out of the nude performance. The embassy alerted the Incheon city officials and the Immigration Bureau. An hour later the issue was settled, and the show, part of a series of performances that make up Incheon's International Nude Festival, finally began.

Not surprisingly, it was a fiasco. Called "The Birth of Venus," it was supposed to depict the things that make up life: conception and birth, joy and sadness, experience and trials. When the performers -- 20 or so Mongolian college students imported for the production -- undressed from their gowns, some put on sunglasses. Others tried in vain to appear at ease. That was difficult to do while being eyed by the audience of 100 or so, in a stadium that seats far more.

To make things worse, the director of the performance, a Korean student from a local university, ran to and fro among the naked models, giving instructions in Korean. The models couldn't understand his pleas, such as "This group go over there," or "No, no, no, don't go that way," or "Keep going in a circle." So a Mongolian woman offstage translated for him. All the while, the director narrated the action to the audience. The clumsiness peaked at the end, when he told the girls to sit down, but they didn't understand.

The dance was advertised to be 90 minutes, but lasted only 30. As soon as it was over, the Mongolians rushed to put on their dressing gowns and dashed toward the changing rooms.

And the audience? Unsurprisingly, most were men. One or two female students were there with sketchbooks. Some of the men had binoculars. A woman who attended the show with her husband, on her way out, said, "I can't believe we paid 90,000 won [$75] for that. It was horrible."

The disaster of a show was just Day 2 of the International Nude Festival, which runs until Sunday at the Indoor Stadium of the Incheon Sports Complex. The event is jointly organized by the newspaper SportsToday and a video distribution firm. It is supposed to celebrate the aesthetic beauty of the human body. Throughout the week, models and artists from Mongolia, Russia and Japan as well as Korea will participate in various performance arts incorporating nudity, such as dances and body painting.

Staging the productions are Korean college students who are members of university clubs set up to study fine art. The clubs are competing for cash prizes totaling 50 million won that will be given for the best productions.

The festival ends Sunday. Entrance fee is 45,000 won ($35). For more information, call (02) 3775-3489.

by Choi Jie-ho

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