The Korea Herald


Hi Seoul Festival focuses on non-verbal shows

By Oh Kyu-wook

Published : May 1, 2011 - 19:31

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Annual city-wide festivities start Thursday at Yeouido Hangang Park and other public squares

Spring has finally arrived and the city of Seoul is transforming itself into a festival city.

The Hi Seoul Festival sponsored by the city government starts Thursday, offering a packed program.

The annual event, organized by Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, is to take place from May 5-10 this year with Yeouido Hangang Park as the main venue.

Public squares, such as Seoul Plaza, Gwanghwamun Square and Cheonggye Square will also turn into festival venues during the six-day event. 
“Boom Family” by Sunff Puppets “Boom Family” by Sunff Puppets

Going into its eighth year, the organizer opted to roll out non-verbal performances to ensure that everyone including overseas tourists and expats can fully enjoy the festive atmosphere.

“Our aim is to become the world’s top nonverbal performance and arts festival,” said Ahn Ho-sang, CEO of Seoul Foundation For Arts and Culture, during a press conference on Friday.

Last year, when it first adopted the nonverbal performance theme, it drew some 1.8 million visitors, and this year it aims to attract more than 2 million people, according to Ahn.

This year, under the slogan of “Calling for Spring,” a wide range of nonverbal performances from Korea, Spain, Australia and China will meet the audience for the next six days.

In particular, 18 leading performance groups from around the world, including Spain’s La Fura dels Baus, Australian art group Well and award-winning Korean production Nanta are participating in the festival this year.

On opening day, street shows and parades with 10,000 citizens participating will take place at Seoul Plaza.

Also, the Great Wall of Books, a 5-meter-high art installation created by Well, will be set up in front of City Hall, inviting citizens to explore performances, new media and interactive arts.

“One of the aims of our festival is to provide an opportunity for residents and visitors to become a part of the festival, and to be involved in performances” said Lee Sung-yeop, the festival’s arts director.

This year’s festival offers seven projects in which performances are created through cooperation between professional performance groups and citizens, Lee explained.

Although the festival suffered a 50 percent budget reduction this year, the organizer insists that it will make sure to prevent any decrease in public participation by working closely with NGOs and private organizations, he added.

During the six-day festival, the streets of Seoul will become the venue for more than 300 nonverbal performances.

One of the highlights of the program is “Rainbow Drops,” by La Fura dels Baus, the world-renowned performance group which has presented unique shows, including at the opening ceremony of the 1992 Summer Olympics. 
“Rainbow Drops” by La Fura dels Baus “Rainbow Drops” by La Fura dels Baus

La Fura dels Baus, directed by former rock musician Miki Espuma, will present an aerial circus, firework shows and a lighting art performance. As part of it, a group of 50 people will form a human web in the air, dancing to music from 30 meters above ground.

“There will be various types of music playing for the show. Especially, we’re going to use the traditional Korean song ‘Arirang’ in the end. It’s the highlight of the show,” Espuma said.

During the six-day event, three temporary theaters with a capacity of 2,000 people will be set up at a festival village at Yeouido Park to host performances, workshops and art experience programs.

The performances are all free. Reservations are encouraged for indoor performances, however. For more information, visit

By Oh Kyu-wook (