Needing a market, shows lure tourists

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Needing a market, shows lure tourists

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Given the popularity of the stage here, Korean theater producers seem to be miracle workers. They are limited however, by the size of the market.
That has led them to set a goal that might require another miracle: filling their seats with non-Korean audiences. With a bit of help from the Korea Tourism Organization, promoters are pitching their shows at foreign tourists to Korea.
Yegam, the producer of “Jump,” a non-verbal martial arts performance, opened its own theater in Jongno, northern Seoul, on Friday. The 376-seat theater fulfills two functions: It provides a steady place for shows and makes it easy for foreign tourists to locate.
“We aim to turn ‘Jump’ into something that will make foreigners want to visit Korea just to see the original production,” said Kim Hee-kyung, a spokesperson at the company. She said that currently about 30 percent of the average audience is composed of tourists, and the company expects that figure to go over 50 percent by the end of this year. “To do that, we’re planning to increase the number of teams to six from the current four,” Ms. Kim said. An audition for new teams ― each capable of doing a full show ― is scheduled for Sept. 18. Yegam is planning to hold more shows abroad to attract more foreigners.
“When we hold shows abroad, we invite local tour agencies with the help of local branches of the Korea Tourism Organization,” said Kim Min-seob, marketing director of Yegam. The company held shows in Hong Kong in July, in order to let the tour agents see the show and how much the audience enjoyed it. The three shows were all sold out, he said, and the tour agencies promised to include the show in a package, or to at least recommend the show to customers traveling to Korea. Mr. Kim added that the show is planning performances in Japan in December and May, and in Taiwan in January.
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Another way to promote the show is to advertise it in travel books; to do so, the company is talking with the makers of the popular “Lonely Planet” guide book series to have “Jump” recommended.
The non-verbal kitchen percussion performance “Nanta” is expecting to soon be seen by its 1 millionth foreign audience member since July 2000, when it first opened its own theater in Jeong-dong, central Seoul. PMC Production, its producer, is planning to hold a party on Sept. 13 to celebrate the milestone. The president of Korea Tourism Organization is expected to attend the party.
Counting those who saw “Nanta” abroad, including its shows on Broadway in 2004, that figure would shoot up to about 1.7 million. The show has been performed in about 150 cities in 25 nations since it first started in 1997.
“We have promoted our shows through travel agencies both abroad and in Korea, and at hotels in Korea,” said Min Ji-hye, a public relations staffer at PMC Production. “We also received a lot of help from the Korea Tourism Organization. ‘Nanta’ is listed on the ‘10 things to do in Seoul’ provided by the organization, and is included in the national promotional video,” she added.
PMC is also working on new projects to attract foreign tourists: the musical “Daejanggeum,” also known as “Jewel in the Palace,” based on the popular TV soap opera with the same title, and a B-boy performance, tentatively called “Beat & B-boy.” PMC held an audition in July for the B-boy show, and is planning three weeks of auditions for the musical this month.
“The TV drama ‘Daejanggeum’ is already very popular in Northeast and Southeast Asia, and B-boying is a new part of the ‘Korean wave’ that doesn’t need words and has elements that can be appreciated by anyone, regardless of nationality,” Ms. Min said.


by Park Sung-ha
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