Venue’s players draw crowd with quirky charactersOn a cool autumn day late last month, the Korean Folk Village in Yongin was teeming with people, their eyes glued to three men: a wicked district magistrate Kim Tak, 30; a handsome beggar, Kim Jeong-won, 27; and merchant Shin Dong-hyuk, 26.
Adorned in costumes, the trio did not hesitate to converse with visitors.
Since 2014, the Korean Folk Village has hired part-time workers to promote the venue and attract more people.
And so far its efforts appear to be paying off: The village is no longer considered an antiquated place and has transformed in its own right into a type of unusual theme park, drawing a younger crowd.
The percentage of visitors to the park in their 20s to 30s has grown, from 48 percent in 2012 to 64.8 percent this year.
Videos uploaded on Facebook and Youtube have also played a part in the campaign for more visitors.
The JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, recently conducted an interview with the three actors to highlight the village’s initiative. The following is an edited excerpt of the interview:
Shin (merchant): I usually sell fans, balloons and dolls. To attract visitors in a different, interesting way, I change the lyrics of some songs by [singers] Zion.T and Wheesung and sing them when I sell the goods. It’s been a huge success, and when I start singing now, visitors sing along with me.
My popularity is, to say, second to none.
Kim Tak (district magistrate): Even though I’m the least popular among us, I still have some fans. There was even one person who gave me a package full of snacks. I was so grateful, but on the other hand, it made me feel like I should put more effort into doing my job. I’m constantly analyzing my character as a district magistrate.
Kim Jeong-won (beggar): I’ve dealt with some issues with my vocal cords over the past few days, so I write down what I want to say to visitors on a whiteboard that I bought using the money I begged, and they seem to like it. Some of them even asked me for my autograph. Actually I gave my autographs to many people.
Kim Tak and Kim Jeong-won studied acting in college, while Shin is training to become a show host. But the job at the village, which they initially took to earn money, has now served as a turning point for the three men. Kim Tak and Kim Jeong-won were employed as full-time workers at the Korean Folk Village in July.
Kim Tak: I used to act in plays before I hurt my ankle. I had to take nearly two years off. I heard the Korean Folk Village was looking for a person who could work as a beggar, so I applied for because it didn’t seem so strenuous. But surprisingly, I became a district magistrate instead.
I became good at ad-libbing from talking so much with visitors. It helped me a lot to improve my acting. I now perform in the Daehangno area in Seoul during my free time.
Shin: I’m preparing in advance to work as a show host. Recently, a home-shopping company wrote a comment on an online video that I appeared in, suggesting I work for them. I was really excited.
Kim Jeong-won: My original dream was to become a musical actor. But since I became a full-time employee here, I’ve done my best to play the beggar since I believe it will help me pursue my dream.
The three men even work on national holidays, and held a comedy performance in the Hangawi [Chuseok] Festival during the Chuseok holidays with other characters at the village.
Kim Jeong-won: The village is really vibrant nowadays. I feel great that we can contribute to maintaining such lively atmosphere. But I have one thing to say to visitors: Please do not take money out of my gourd bowl that I use for begging!
Kim Tak: People from everywhere visit us to learn our techniques. But most of what we do and say are ad-libs, and we make a perfect team. My parents who live on Geoje island, South Gyeongsang, also told me that it was quite funny to watch the videos of my performances online.
Shin: A number of people ask me if I receive incentives whenever I sell goods, but there are no incentives at all. Nonetheless, I still do my best to sell the products because I love meeting different people.
BY HONG SANG-JI [firstname.lastname@example.org]