Hi Seoul Festival hopes to set a new standard this summer

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Hi Seoul Festival hopes to set a new standard this summer

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The Birdman competition gets off to a flying start.

The Hi Seoul Festival kicked off in 2003 with the goal of becoming a landmark celebration enjoyed by both Seoulites and tourists. The event went through its fair share of trial and error since then, receiving mixed reviews - some good, others harsh.

Festival organizers hope this year will be a turning point, and that Hi Seoul will prove itself to be a well-grounded, sustainable event filled with innovative, fun programs. It’s expanded to encompass all four seasons for the first time this year, and the summer section is taking place down by Hangang, or the Han River.

This weekend, the First Hangang Birdman Contest will kick off the Hi Seoul Summer Festival. At the Yeouido Special Airstrips, built specifically for the competition, 150 teams will attempt to fly all the way across the Han River using flying devices of their own creation. Organizers say this is the first-ever flying competition using non-power-driven machines in Korea.

Prizes are 1 million won ($980) for whoever makes it farthest from the three-meter (10-foot) board, and 2 million won for the eight-meter board. Anyone who can make it all the way across the river wins a whopping 100 million won.

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A street parade held Tuesday promotes the festival. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Also this weekend, a “Monster Ballet” will be performed at the Yeouido Riverside Stage. The debut show of dancer-turned-choreographer Kim Yong-geol, the ballet will team the brute force of massive heavy machinery with the grace of ballet dancers. The juxtaposition is intended to convey the harmony created by man and machine, and organizers promise that it will be presented with colorful creativity.

For water sports fans, or just people looking to cool off in the river, there is the Hangang Canoe Festival. From this Saturday to Aug. 15, anybody can learn to canoe in the Yeouido area under the Mapo Bridge. From Aug. 16 to 17, a dragon boat and canoe race tournament will wrap up events. Organizers say about 350 teams will compete for the top spot, with the winning team taking home prizes worth up to 300,000 won.

The Hi Seoul Summer Festival runs from this Saturday, Aug. 9, to Aug. 17. Most events are free. For details, check out www.hiseoulfest.org (available in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese), or call the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture at (02) 774-4053 x1119.


By Kim Hyung-eun Staff Reporter [hkim@joongang.co.kr]
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