Mimes and music, building bridges

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Mimes and music, building bridges


Their main stages are Cheonggye Plaza, the starting point of the newly renovated Cheonggye Stream, and on the several bridges that span the stream, including Mojeongyo, Gwangtonggyo and Jangtonggyo. Passersby show their appreciation and complement these “unconventional artists,” who stand and perform on a mat laid on the ground. Some throw coins into a hat placed beside the “stage.”
More than 100 days have passed since the performances of the “Cheonggye Stream Artists” began with the completion of the stream’s restoration on Oct. 1. The Seoul Foundation of Arts and Culture initially planned to discontinue the performance between December and February. However, residents’ enthusiasm for the performances and the artists’ commitment saw them continue during the chilly weekends. Korea appears to have embraced the act of busking ― doing street art.
Among the 30 performance groups, musician Yun Hyo-sang, 39, and mime duo, Kim Jeong-han, 39, and Park Seok-hyeon, 22, who call themselves, “A Theater Company Whose Life is Beautiful,” are two of the most popular. They command more than 100 spectators on average despite the heavy traffic and constant swirl of pedestrians.
Mr. Yun had been presenting a show that combines humor, dance and song in Daehangno street until he saw a newspaper ad looking for street artists for the Cheonggye stream and thought it would fit him perfectly.
During one performance, Mr. Yun spoke of an incident in which a bus driver was yelling at an old lady who was getting off a bus at the front. He chastised the bus driver saying, “There is no front door or back door. There are only side doors.” Passersby burst out laughing.
Mr. Kim and Mr. Park paint everything including their face, caps and shoes gold and pose like statues. When passersby approach them, the two make comments and surprise people with small gestures.
“I don’t mind people poking me with their fingers or touching my ear, but when someone comes near and touches my buttocks, it gives me the jitters,” Mr. Kim said.
The two groups perform two to three hours a day and earn 40,000 won ($40) to 50,000 won. Mr. Yun donates all the money, through the Korea Welfare Foundation, to poor youngsters. Mr. Kim and Mr. Park use the money for their daily needs such as showers and food.
“I will continue to perform unless the coldness from the ground creeps into me,” Mr. Kim said.
What is so attractive about unprofitable street performances?
“I’m happy to freely interact with the audience on a casual stage,” Mr. Kim said.
“I’ve been doing this for 18 years and I’m glad that I have a stage where I can perform for 12 more years,” Mr. Yun said.

by Shin June-bong
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