Wanna get animated? Then dress upGoodbye, Japan’s “Sailor Moon.” Hello, Chelsea, from Korea’s “Magna Carta.”
In the world of costume play, where people dress up as animation or computer game characters to feel a sense of unity, Korean characters are catching the vibe.
Costume play originated at European festivals, where people dressed up as their favorite fairy tale characters. In Korea, costume play for a long while meant copying the attire of Japanese characters. But in recent times, there has been a prevalence of Korean characters such as the game character designer Kim Hyeong-tae’s “Magna Carta” and “Genesis3,” the cartoonist Lee Myeong-jin’s “Ragnarok” and the cartoonist Park Seong-woo’s “Nawoo.” Korean movie characters from “Friend” and “Bichunmu” are also popular.
At this week’s Hi Seoul Festival, staged by the Seoul Metropolitan government, extra points are given to participants in “Costume Play.” Chungkang College of Cultural Industries has a “National Costume Play contest,” in which domestic animation characters such as “Woobi boy” and “Maskman” have their own competition. Cho Yeong-ah, a professor at the college, says, “This helps to upgrade the competitiveness of domestic characters and we want to create a colorful costume play culture.”
Kim Mi-ri, a 21-year old junior at Sookmyung University and a six-year-veteran of costume play, says “In the past, Korean characters were not attractive, but nowadays, there are so many cool characters out there.”
These days, young people make their own clothes and accessories. And they like to transform into cartoon and animation characters of their liking. This kind of costume play came to Korea from the United States via Japan. The Japanese call this, “cospre” for short. Since the wave was introduced to Korea in 1990, numerous mania groups and online clubs have emerged.
There are events at least twice a month, held by cospre-related companies and groups. Two out of 45 kids in an average classroom are so-called cospre kids.
Ms. Kim says, “I majored in music back in high school, but I would make costumes in my spare time. My skill in clothmaking has vastly improved since then.” Yu Gyeong-jin, a 19-year old college student majoring in physical therapy, says, “Whenever someone tells me that the clothes and ornaments I made for costume play look good on me, I feel an indescribable sense of joy.” Online sites that lend clothes and accessories, such as www.f-needle.com or www.cosphoto.com, are becoming popular as well.
“Some kids think it’s cool to follow Japanese animation characters,” Ms. Yu says, “but this hinders our [Korea’s] mass culture from establishing itself, which is a shame.” Efforts by character creators and consumers have turned the Japanese-oriented cospre into a Koreanized “costume play.”
Costume play events coming up
1. Saturday, Sunday: The 1st Seoul Cartoon Costume Play Festival, Seoul Finance Center. Performances, photo opportunities, character doll shows. www.ani.seoul.kr, www.cospre.com
2. Saturday: 3d Chungkang National Costume Play, 1 p.m., Chungkang College, Gyeonggi province; Sunday, 2 p.m., Doosan Tower, Dongdaemun. www.chungkang.ac.kr
3. May 31-June 1: 26th ACA Cartoon Festival, Federation of Small Business Exhibition Center, Yeouido. Cartoon club stalls, cartoon disguise competition, illustration exhibition. www.aca2000.com
by Jung Hyung-mo
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