Ringing in the New Year in styleIt’s time to ring out the old year. And whether you’re glad or sad to see 2004 go, everyone seems to be starting the new year with a bit of good luck since the holiday falls on a Saturday, providing at least a two-day break. Which is why you must come out to greet 2005.
From parties to gatherings, Seoul won’t sleep on New Year’s Eve, so there’s no reason to stay home. For a perfect finish to 2004, here are a few tips on how to spend the holiday.
If you’d like to experience an authentically Korean way to greet the New Year, the Jonggak area in Jongno, central Seoul, is the right place to be. A bell-ringing ceremony has been held there each year since 1953, when the Korean War ended. And this year is no different, as a crowd of tens of thousands will claim the area to hear the bell ring out the old year.
For this ceremony, subways will operate until 2 a.m., and traffic will not be allowed in the area. Also note that from 10:30 p.m., subway trains will not be stopping at Jonggak station on line No. 1 and Gwanghwamun station on line No. 5 in the area.
For many people, the bell-ringing ceremony, which will follow performances by a group of pop singers, remains an annual tradition, along with another New Year ritual of watching the year’s first sunrise at the seashore, and it is Seoul’s version of the celebration in New York’s Times Square. A word of caution: Be mindful of pickpockets and potential accidents.
But when the bell rings 33 times starting at midnight, it serves as a fun and exciting ritual to welcome a brand new year. The number stems from the Joseon Dynasty tradition of ringing bells 33 times each night to pray for good luck to the 33 Buddhist saints.
But even if you do not go to this bell-ringing ceremony, you’re still in luck if you choose to dance and drink the night away. Both north and south of the Han River, the city will be alive with parties and concerts to help you have a fun and auspicious start to 2005.
The competition among the capital’s party organizers will keep New Year’s Eve revelers ever busier than usual with more varieties of programs in different locations; the choices are tough as each party has its own theme and style.
Last week, an event organizer, NY Express, showcased a visiting American dance troupe, Keith Williams and Mystic Steps, which will be performing at a few different parties until the year-end.
The Brooklyn-born Williams boasts a star-studded history of choreography and dance styles from having worked with names like Madonna, Mystique and Barbara Tucker.
At the sneak preview in southern Seoul, Williams, with five male and female dancers, dazzled the invitation-only crowd and press with Madonna’s “En Vogue” followed by highly charged jazz, modern dance and tap.
This week, Williams and Mystic Steps will be performing at “Get Wet with Mystic Steps Party 1 & 2” today and tomorrow. The first party, with dress code “sexy,” starts at 8 p.m. today at the newly opened TriBeCa club (02-3448-4550), while the second party is tomorrow at Sugar Club (02-515-8222). The dress code for the second party is formal. Prizes for both parties include Rado watches, cosmetics and more. A ticket to “Get Wet with Mystic Steps Party 1” costs 50,000 won ($45), while the charge for “Get Wet with Mystic Steps Party 2” is 100,000 won.
Starting from 10 p.m. on Friday, party planner Miggi Chi of Sway Production is organizing a luxurious black-tie event, “Party de Luxe,” at Mr. Chow restaurant in southern Seoul. A 100,000 won ticket starts with a glass of complimentary champagne at the door, followed by an unlimited buffet dinner and alcoholic beverages, including red and white wines and vodka-based cocktails, as well as a special performance by Keith Williams and Mystic Steps. Prizes will be given for Best-Dressed Couples, who will win a luxurious date, including a ride around the city in a limousine. For ticket purchases or information, call Sway Production at 02-544-3467 or Mr. Chow at 02-517-2100 or visit www.mrchowseoul.com.
On the same night, a new party production company, Riskei, presents “New Year’s Eve Extravaganza” at the W Seoul Walkerhill Hotel in eastern Seoul. The party will take place in the hotel’s two venues, Woo Bar on the first floor and Wet, the outdoor swimming pool and garden, on the third floor.
To funk up the party mood, six internationally acclaimed DJs will be spinning progressive and deep funky house music. Surrounded by an art exhibit by Choi Jung Hwa, one of Korea’s finest avant garde artists, the Wet area will have an array of dance music spun by DJ Swirl People from Sweden, DJ Gomi from New York City and DJ Olivier Desmet from San Francisco. At midnight, there will be a drag show by a special guest from New York, Mila. Organizers urge partygoers to dress “to wow!”
A ticket, which includes one free drink, costs 70,000 won at the door, 60,000 won when purchased in advance. For inquiries, contact Riskei Party Production at 02-544-0682 or visit its Web site (www.riskei.co.kr).
At the Grand Hyatt Seoul, Fantastic Plastic Machine is all set to heat up the night. A Japanese one-man band consisting of DJ Tomoyuki Tanaka, Fantastic Plastic Machine presents a chic concoction of various genres developed into a whole new appropriation based on electronic sound.
Fantastic Plastic Machine is a representative musician of what’s dubbed Shibuya-kei, or the Shibuya scene, referring to a certain type of music that originated in a Tokyo area called Shibuya. Mixing bossa nova, hip-hop, electronic, deejaying and others, such Shibuya-kei musicians have been welcome as trendsetters of music as well as style. Young Koreans have also opened their eyes to the Shibuya-kei sound and Fantastic Plastic Machine is enjoying popularity here, which provides a reason to spend New Year’s Eve this year in Seoul. Starting at 8 p.m., the performance, titled “Move to the New World,” continues non-stop until 4 a.m., with a surprise event to greet 2005, a visual art performance.
Remaining true to its reputation, for this performance Fantastic Plastic Machine will feature a number of Korean as well as Japanese musicians. Included on the list is another hip DJ from Japan ― Free Tempo ― and one of Korea’s hottest groups of the genre at the moment, Clazziquai.
Tickets reserved online in advance are offered at 50,000 won, whereas tickets sold at the door will cost 60,000 won. For more information and tickets, visit Web sites www.maxticket.com or www.lupinrecords.com.
Another big performance hall in southern Seoul at the COEX presents “Real One Party,” featuring the British DJ Pete Tong and the Japanese project group Mondo Grosso, led by Osawa Shinichi. The performance starts at 9:30 p.m., running until 5:30 a.m. and filled with upbeat and danceable live deejaying. The performance will be broadcast live on Pete Tong’s BBC radio show Essential Mix, bridging Seoul and London on this New Year’s Eve. Tickets reserved online in advance cost 60,000 won and ticket sales at the door are at 70,000 won, including one free drink. For more information and ticketing, call 02-1588-7890 or 02-1544-1555.
A clubbers’ paradise, the Hongik University area, better known as Hongdae, is also burning the midnight oil with music and dancing. Instead of other parties that take place at colossal venues like hotel ballrooms, clubs in the Hongdae area will present a cozy as well as fun night. The club m.i. presents an all-night New Year’s Eve party, featuring a hotshot deejay lineup. Another club, m2, features Infusion, an Australian live electronic band, along with its own deejay lineup.
If you’re not a party animal yet are still in search of a decent, fun New Year’s Eve, concerts are the right event for you. This year especially has a number of “party concerts,” where you can listen to pop singers as well as DJs at the same time.
Selected concerts include one by Lee Sang-eun, also known as Lee Tzsche, tomorrow and New Year’s Eve at Rolling Hall, a live concert hall in Hongdae. As one of the few popular as well as acclaimed contemporary artists, Lee Sang-eun will present a live acoustic music performance, followed by an electronic deejaying performance. Tickets are available at 40,000 won. For more information, call (02) 543-1671.
If you want some fun, check out the Year-end Party Concert by Jo PD and Friends at the Sheraton Grande Walker Hill from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. A popular hip-hop musician, Jo PD will appear along with a number of hotshot singers and bands, including Psy, Clazziquai and MC Sniper. Tickets are 60,000 won for advance sales, and 65,000 won at the door.
Looking for a romantic night? Then Bobby Kim is here to present groovy as well as melodic songs. Ready to fill the night with his hit numbers from one of the best-selling albums of the year, Bobby Kim will also perform good old songs like “Hotel California” and “Wonderful Tonight.”
by Ines Cho, Chun Su-jin