A veritable Babel of vocalizingIt may not be a concert at Carnegie Hall, but professors, housewives, teachers, youngsters ― just about anybody proficient in a language other than Korean ― will get a chance to unleash their singing talent in that tongue on Saturday afternoon in central Seoul.
Participants include several of the more than 2,200 members of the Before Babel Brigade, a Korean nonprofit organization that provides on-the-spot assistance to foreigners by phone in more than a dozen languages. The JoongAng Ilbo and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism have coordinated this free language service since the 2002 World Cup, and it proved helpful at the Busan Asian Games last fall, and more recently at the Daegu Universiade this summer, by providing foreign journalists, coaches, tourists and other non-Koreans immediate help in a familiar language. Assistance is offered in Thai, Chinese, Japanese, English, French, Spanish and about 10 other languages. Since its inception, the Before Babel Brigade has answered 35,000 calls.
As of Tuesday, the 10 entrants in Saturday’s contest included nationals of China, Japan, Spain, Germany and Poland, bringing a global flair to the event. At least one contestant will use sign language. Teachers, students and staff members from foreign embassies and the American Chamber of Commerce are also among the vocalists.
The contestants will not only enjoy each other’s singing; the top performer stands a chance to win a round-trip flight to China. Twenty round-trip tickets to Jeju island will also be given out. In addition to the grand prize, awards will be given for most popular performance, best costume ― and, for everyone involved, a “participatory prize.”
The Myeong-dong Merchants Association teamed up with Korea’s Culture and Tourism Policy Institute and the Before Babel Brigade Association to put on the inaugural BBB Singing Contest. The event coincides with the 32d Myeong-dong Annual Festival, a monthlong carnival on the area’s pedestrian walkways involving concerts and dance and singing contests.
Saturday’s contest will begin at 3 p.m. and continue for two hours outside the old National Theater in the heart of Seoul’s Myeong-dong shopping district.
Ambassadors to Korea from several European Union nations, Venezuela, Ecuador, Belarus, the Ukraine and Sudan have pledged to attend, further enhancing the international flair. Following the contest, a professional band and dancers will take over the stage for a while.
After the contest, organizers have prepared an hour-long reception with beverages and snacks at the Royal Hotel, also located in Myeong-dong. The reception is open only to foreigners and BBB members.
Aspiring singers, however, will have to wait until next year, because the closing date for registration was yesterday.
by Lee Ho-jeong
For more information call (02) 725-9108, 9109.