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Olympics for magicians to kick off in July in Busan as organizers anticipate NK's participation

BUSAN -- More than 110 top guns of the magic world will gather in the South Korean coastal city of Busan this summer to take part in the World Championships of Magic competition, organizers said Tuesday.

The organizing committee for the competition, which is hosted by the International Federation of Magic Societies, said the triennial event will bring together 113 top-notch magicians from 22 countries -- 56 from five European countries, 22 from five North and South American countries, 34 from Asian countries and one from Oceania.

In case performers from North Korea attend the Olympics for magicians, the number of participating magicians at the July 9-14 event will rise to 115. The Busan municipal government has announced that two North Korean magicians won berths for the competition from the board of directors of the competition's Asian federation.

As many as 2,500 magicians are expected to visit the venue, the auditorium at the BEXCO exhibition center, as spectators, according to the organizing committee.

This photo released by the organizing committee for the World Championships of Magic competition on April 10, shows a magician performing at the 2015 competition in Rimini, Italy. (Yonhap)
This photo released by the organizing committee for the World Championships of Magic competition on April 10, shows a magician performing at the 2015 competition in Rimini, Italy. (Yonhap)

Seventy-four magicians will perform in the stage competition and 39 in the close-up event. The stage competition will have five divisions -- 17 magicians for manipulations, 32 for general, four for illusion magic, 11 for mentalism and 10 for comedy magic. The close-up event will comprise three divisions -- 11 magicians for card magic, 18 for micromagic and 10 for parlor magic.

Three South Korean magicians -- Ahn Ha-rim, Lee Kun-ho and Chung Min-kyu -- will show their prowess in the manipulations category. Ahn took third place in the category at the 2009 World Championships of Magic in Beijing.

Also participating in the category are French performer Nestor Hato, who is well known for his fast card magic, and Japanese performer Satoru Furukawa, who is famous for his incredible money magic tricks.

The general category, or the magic of storytelling, will draw the largest number of performers, including five South Korean artists.

Four teams -- including ones led by Yunke of Spain, who took second prize in the illusion category at the 2000 World Championships of Magic in Lisbon, and Lipan Jr. of Argentina -- will participate in the illusion magic competition.

Eleven magicians, mostly from South America and Europe, will show off their talents in mental magic tricks that include the art of reading people's minds or making prophecies. Asian performers fall relatively behind in the field.

Eric Buss of the United States, who has amazed audiences worldwide with his innovative brand of comedy and magic, is expected to stage a new type of wonderful comic tricks in the comedy magic category.

In the card magic category, South Korean performer Yoo Hyun-min, who took third place in the card genre at the 2012 Blackpool Convention, will be pitted against two magicians from Spain, the powerhouse in the close-up sector, and his South Korean compatriot Jan Ji-woo.

South Korean performer Kim Kyung-duk, the winner of the most original close-up act award in the 2015 competition, will compete in the micromagic category, in which smalls items such as dice, bottle caps, sugar cubes, pebbles and pens are used for performances by sleight of hand.

In parlor magic, a genre smaller than stage magic and larger than close-up magic, magician Choi Hyo-won will represent South Korea. Magic Brothers, a duo from South Korea, took the third place award in the category with Henry Harrius from Hong Kong at the 2015 competition in Rimini, Italy.

The organizing committee for the competition has been paying keen attention to whether North Korea will take part in the competition. Kang Yeol-woo, who heads the organizing committee, and Ahn Sung-woo, the arts director for the convention, are in talks with officials of the Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean issues to discuss the North's possible attendance at the event.

Domenico Dante, president of the International Federation of Magic Societies, has expressed his support for North Korea if the country decides to send its magicians to the Busan event.

If North Korea's intention to attend the competition is confirmed, the organizing committee plans to hold a joint performance with magicians of the two Koreas during the competition in a bid to give a message of inter-Korean reconciliation and peace to spectators.

North Korea disappeared from the international magic stage after it performed as a special guest at the 1976 World Championships of Magic in Vienna. If the North participates in the global contest this year, it will mark the first time for the North to attend the competition in 40 years.

Kang, the organizing committee's chief, said the committee will hold a public magic gala show on June 28 in the lead-up to the opening ceremony of the competition on July 9 and wishes to present a high-level magic festival in Busan this summer. (Yonhap)