Nights of lights, rhythms to set autumn days aglow

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Nights of lights, rhythms to set autumn days aglow

The daytime skies are clear, the evenings are cool. It’s hard to find a critic of Seoul’s fall weather. Culture vultures will find another reason to get out of the house: a bevy of outdoor festivals this weekend.
Tomorrow night, fireworks will once again embroider the sky over Han River park. The 30-minute display near the 63 Building on Yeouido will feature Chinese and Korean pyrotechnic bursts accompanied by music and a laser show. It begins at 8 p.m., followed by the film “Funny Movie,” shown on a large screen.
Those who have visited the event in past years offer both praise and complaints.
“The only thing I did during the 30 minutes of the fireworks show was stare in awe and applaud every time the sky lit up with the colorful sparks,” said Kim Min-woo, a Yonsei University student.
Some people living on Yeouido see things from a different perspective. The throng of festival-goers park their cars seemingly at random, disregarding city regulations. Adding to the inconvenience, local roads and the Yeouinaru subway station are shut down. People wishing to see the fireworks finale are urged to use public transit due to the road closures (the Yeouido subway station remains open) and not to litter.
Thanks to the immense popularity of this extravaganza, the riverfront parks and adjacent sidewalks and restaurants will be pulsing with crowds by 5 o’clock tomorrow. And they stay alive well after the festivities, strolling along the riverfront paths or buying their own fireworks from vendors who migrate to the area.
“There were so many people at the festival, it was like Gwanghwamun during the World Cup Games,” Mr. Kim said. “I actually met some of the people who watched a match with me last year.”
For those keen on hearing some pounding rhythms, the Seoul Drum Festival 2003, which runs today and tomorrow at Gyeonghui Palace, the Sejong Arts Center and along Jeong-dong Road, should provide an earful. The aim here is to merge percussion styles of Western and Eastern cultures.
Performance teams from the world over, including 12 Korean musical troupes, have gathered in Seoul to show off some decidedly offbeat ways of saying “they got rhythm.”
Although most of the Korean teams will use traditional instruments, like the janggu, or hourglass drum, others, such as Nanta, prefer to employ kitchenware ― frying pans, plates, pots ― to produce their rhythmic tunes. The group Pungjang 21 combines its music with a mime show. Overseas groups include the Caixa Trio from the United States, Son Reinas from Japan and Djembe Rhythm, an Afro-Irish music group from Senegal. Those with a passion for percussion will appreciate an exhibit of drums of the world, a drum contest and free samples of the Korean liquor makgeoli, or unrefined rice wine. Drum shows run all weekend, starting at 10 a.m. at the palace. Street shows in Jong-dong start at 4 p.m.
Saturday’s main performance runs from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at the palace, with Sunday’s closing show scheduled for 7 p.m. at the same site. For more information, call (02) 399-1706/7.
The nation’s largest pure art performance festival is a merger of earlier dance and theater festivals, which were organized by the Dance Association of Korea and the National Theater. This year, organizers are trying to push the boundaries of art away from the typical formal indoor settings to myriad ad-hoc outdoor locales, under the theme “Performing Arts: Moving Toward an Infinite Space.”
These performances target areas of town where office workers and students congregate and encompass many genres of expression, such as a cappella, orchestra, swing dance, salsa and mime. Throwing out the routine stage venues, these performers alight on university entryways, outside fast-food restaurants and elsewhere. Every day at lunchtime, dancers from overseas will perform for 40 minutes at various locales.
For more information call (02) 3673-2561 or go to For ticket reservations, call (02) 3672-2466 or go to
Out in the suburbs of Bucheon, in Gyeonggi province, Songdong park will be ablaze thanks to the Italian International Lights Festival Luminarie. Now in its 30th year, this affair lights up the night with 340,000 tiny bulbs, similar to the kind used for Christmas decorations, nightly through October 20.

by Lee Jung-bi
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