Festival visit: Korea Calling at the Thames Festival 2011

Korea Calling this year was very well attended. The two-day event near the South Bank’s OXO Tower (Saturday September 10/Sunday September 11) formed part of the Thames Festival. This was the event’s fifth year, and there were plenty of features on when I visited on the Sunday.

The Sookmyung Gayageum Orchestra playing a Beatles number
The Sookmyung Gayageum Orchestra playing a Beatles number

At the centre of Korea Calling was a theatrical stage, where events were staged throughout the day. One that I was particularly impressed by was the Sookmyung Gayageum Orchestra, playing traditional instruments. The large sitting audience heard traditional Korean folk music, but also more modern music such as the Beatles “Let it Be”, with the traditional instruments lending their own sound to the famous melody. Later on there was a play and taekwondo demonstration on the stage, with accompanying workshops.

Young students at the gayageum workshop
Young students at the gayageum workshop

Modern Korea was well in evidence at the event. At another stand, I saw young Koreans singing Korean pop lyrics from an available list of contemporary songs. Korean popular music (otherwise known as K-pop) has made a big impact not only in South Korea, but all over East and Southeast Asia.

Outside the Noraebang tent
Outside the Noraebang tent

For those thinking of holidaying in South Korea, the Korea Tourism Organisation was offering travel guides and UNESCO world heritage leaflets for sites of particular historic interest. Jeju island, favourite destination for Koreans going on family holidays and honeymoons had a separate stand and leaflets (all of these were in English).

Kimchi Cult's kimchi burgers
Kimchi Cult's kimchi burgers

One stand I found particularly interesting, was the fast food stall. I knew about McDonald’s burgers. However, this stand was selling burgers Korean-style, with meat and kimchi as fillings. (Kimchi, a staple Korean food, is cabbage seasoned with spices).

Well-known Korean dishes, such as Bimbimbap (white rice with seasoned vegetables and egg or sliced meat) and Bulgogi (beef marinated with sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil and vegetables such as onions) were also on display. Korean food has become increasingly popular, and a leaflet with the growing list of Korean restaurants in London was being distributed (www.hansikuk.com).

There was a medicine stand selling traditional herbal treatments from Donguibogam Town in Sancheong, a centre of emerging international importance for Korean traditional medicine.

The Sancheong  stall gets ready for business
The Sancheong stall gets ready for business

Adrian Evans, Director of the overall Thames Festival stated in his forward to Korea Calling: “The contribution from the Republic of Korea is growing in both reputation and popularity. Over the years it has introduced many excellent performers, musicians and artists”.

In the wake of the recent riots and troubles, I think Korea Calling shows the more positive side of London, as probably Europe’s most culturally diverse city, and one of the most diverse cities in the world,

by Shouvik Datta.

Image sources:

  • K-pop Noraebang tent and Kimchi burgers: KCCUK. Used with permission
  • Other photos © LKL

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