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Arirang gets festival treatment

Big-name stars participate in upcoming celebration of folksong

Though considered the unofficial national anthem of Korea, it’s hard to see “Arirang” being performed by today’s popular contemporary musicians.

Korea’s Culture Ministry, however, is throwing a special event this month ― offering a rare opportunity for Seoulites to experience a one of a kind Arirang-themed concert performed by some of the big-name stars in Korea’s entertainment scene.

Titled the “2012 Arirang Festival,” the three-day event is taking place as Seoul prepares to submit its official application for a UNESCO designation for “Arirang” in all its regional forms this month. This follows on the heels of China’s controversial decision last year to list the song as its National Intangible Cultural asset, and seek registration as China’s UNESCO World Heritage. 
K-pop girl group SISTAR. (Arirang Festival)
K-pop girl group SISTAR. (Arirang Festival)
Veteran singer Insooni
Veteran singer Insooni

One of the highlights of the festival is the concert taking place on June 16. Visitors will be able to listen to the folksong performed by popular K-pop stars and artists, including veteran signer Insooni, girl group SISTAR and boyband TEEN TOP. The two idol groups will perform a newly arranged version of Arirang, which adds the flavor of the current K-pop rhythm and sound.

Pansori singer Oh Jung-hae, who is most famous for her performance in director Im Kwon-taek’s 1993 Pansori-themed movie “Seopyeonje,” will host the event. She is also scheduled to perform the folk song along with SISTAR and TEEN TOP during the concert.
Pansori singer Oh Jung-hae
Pansori singer Oh Jung-hae

Meanwhile, former Hee Sisters member Insooni will reunite with the members of the group, and perform their 1978 song “Arirang Naenima” together. Insooni made her musical debut as a Hee Sisters member in 1978, and the song was inspired by the national folksong.

On June 17, another Arirang concert will be held under the theme of love and family. The show will offer an opportunity to listen to diverse versions of Arirang from different regions of the country, including Jeongseon Arirang, Miryang Arirang, as well as “Homage to Korea,” a specially arranged version of Arirang that figure skater Kim Yu-na used as the background music for her free skating program in the 2010-2011 season.

The concert will be hosted by popular freelance anchor Lee Geum-hee, and Korean-Japanese pianist Yang Bang-eon will perform during the show.

The festival also includes children’s programs where the young participants can learn more about the folksong and its legacies, as well as theatrical performances and academic conferences.

The festival is organized by the Korean Traditional Performing Arts Foundation and Arirang Globalization Committee along with the Culture Ministry. It runs from June 15 to 17 at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. Admission is free. For more information, visit or call (02) 580-3282.

By Claire Lee (