K-pop comes to town

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Korean culture, high and low, comes to Hong Kong.

More than 800,000 Hong Kongers have flocked to the Festive Korea festival [http://festivekorea.com] over the past three years.
It’s little wonder, given the rising popularity of everything Korean – pop stars, movies, period dramas, street fashion, food. (Yes, the new KFC is Korean Fried Chicken). K-pop is such a cultural force that the phenomenon – called hallyu – is the subject of a major new book, “The Birth of Korean Cool.”

Festive Korea, an annual event organized by the Korean Consulate General, has ridden on that wave. The fourth edition of the festival, which has tripled in size since 2011, began in early October and is running through November. Its 30-odd programs include both high-brow fare like contemporary art, classical music and theatre, as well as crowd-pleasing movies, pop concerts and cooking shows.

K-pop is a cultural force called hallyu

Stars of stage and film
Festive Korea is bringing in K-pop bands in a nod to Hong Kong’s never-ending appetite for cute. NewUS – a quintet of heartthrobs, including the vowel-less wonder Hm — will be squeezing eight free performances into the weekend of Oct. 11 and 12. The next weekend, Oct 18 and 19, Love Cubic will follow the same marathon schedule, also at Times Square. (Organizers are working these K-pop kids hard). Expect an adolescent-fuelled mob scene, and God help you if you are parent of tweens.

Drummers from Korea and Taiwan will be playing with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra at the Cultural Centre on Oct. 24. “Andersen’s Gazes,” an acrobatic take on Hans Christian Andersen, shows the next night on Oct. 25.

The Asia Society is hosting a series of events, including film screenings of “Family Ties” (2006) on Oct. 18 and “The Oldest Son” (1984) on Oct. 19.

The main film attraction will be the festival at STAR Cinema at the PopCorn mall in Tseung Kwan O.

The highlight will be the director’s cut of “Secretly Greatly” (2013), a blockbuster about North Korean spies in the South that broke all sales figures domestically. There is a whole sub-genre of films about Northern espionage, including movies like “The Suspect” (2013). “The Youth” (2014) is a collection of four short films starring former boy-band idols like Lee Donghae, Song Seung Hyun, Nam Ji Hyunu. “Tazza: And the Hidden Card,” (2014) about a master gambler genius, stars T.O.P. of Big Bang.

The highest profile art event will be Christie’s selling exhibition of 30 works from top Korean artists, including Chung Doo-hwa, who is showing in Hong Kong for the first time. It will be open from Oct. 29 until December, at the James Christie Room in Alexandra House.

The K11 Art Mall will be holding a Korean Design Exhibition by 14 artists until Oct. 12.

The Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, a turn-of-the-century colonial building on the edge of Hong Kong Park, will be showing both Hong Kong and Korean artists in “Nuclear Fusion” from Oct. 22 to 27. And Cho Young Chul’s sculptures, plus a collection of travel photography, will be shown at Times Square.

Ties with Hong Kong
Yu Byung-chae, the Korean cultural consul in Hong Kong, introduced the festival at a press conference at Korea Plaza, a space run by the Korea Tourism Organization at the World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay. Present were representatives from the local partners like the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and the Fringe Club, who will be hosting a Korean artist at a residency later this year.

The highest profile art event will be Christie’s selling exhibition of 30 works from top Korean artists

Yu noted that 2014 marked the 10th anniversary of a memorandum of understanding on culture between Hong Kong and South Korea. That was topped up last month [Sept 2014] with a MOU between the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and Arts Council Korea.
In a separate interview, Yu explained the concerted drive behind Korea’s making hallyu into a global force.

“A decade ago, the domestic market for Korean movies, TV dramas and music was not enough,” he said. “So we tried to explore new markets overseas. We wanted to make productions that make people feel good, to hit emotional themes that would move people.”
While there were advances in, say, moviemaking techniques, the main difference was in the “storytelling,” he said. “Korean cultural offerings use universal subjects and topics, like family or motherhood, that speak to people all over the world.”

For details and ticketing information, go to http://festivekorea.com.

Joyce Lau spent nearly a decade as an editor with The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Previously she was The South China Morning Post’s Arts Editor, and HK Magazine’s Managing Editor. She also runs the Hong Kong Human Rights Press Awards at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. She is a Montreal native and a mother of two children.