The London Korean Festival 2006 was the last of the festivals organised by Oh Tae-min and his team, which included Stephanie Seung-min Kim who would go on to be the first curator at the Korean Cultural Centre before moving into the art curatorial world on her own. Previously working from within the Korean Anglican Community Centre (a non-profit organisation affiliated to an Anglican church in central London much frequented by Koreans, with an office based in Warren Street), Oh Tae-min set up a new company, CnE (Culture and Entertainment) Limited, for the purposes of promoting Korean culture in London. The 2006 Festival was its main project, and the company is now no longer in existence. Sadly, along with the company, its website, with images of the beautiful ceramics exhibited as part of the Traditional Yet Contemporary exhibition, is also defunct. I wish I had been bolder in “borrowing” the contents at the time.
The London Korean Festival 2006 was partly supported by the Korean Embassy’s Think Korea 2006 programme. The embassy was selective in the events it chose to include under their brand. Specifically, the opening event of the festival, a fun gig by the punk band Crying Nut, was not considered appropriate for inclusion, possibly because the event included a British band, but more likely because, well, that would have been a bit too adventurous. A squeaky-clean K-pop band might have been OK (though a bit expensive, and at the time the UK audience for such a concert had not developed to where it is today); but maybe a more free-thinking outfit (one which, along with many others, would later participate in the anti Park Geun-hye demonstrations) was at the time a step too far.
The events organised under the umbrella of the 2006 London Korean Festival were as follows:
- Sat 20 May: Opening event: Crying Nut play the Mean Fiddler
- Mon 22 – Fri 26 May: London Korean Film Festival
- Sat 27 May: Korean Day at the Victoria + Albert Museum
- Mon 29 May – Sat 3 Jun: Traditional yet Contemporary ceramics exhibition
- Mon 5 Jun: Kim Chang-nam on Modern Korean Culture
Why is CnE no longer on the scene? I can only speculate as I have not had a chance to talk about it with its founder, who has now moved on to a new phase in his life. Oh Tae-min clearly had a higher calling: he is now a parish priest. But I suspect also that organising his fourth and final London Korean Festival was a bruising experience given the need to work with the Embassy’s Think Korea programme. Further, it was during this time that the Embassy was looking for premises to establish its Korean Cultural Centre (which finally opened in 2008). With an increasing involvement in cultural promotion from the Embassy, the space (and possibly funding) for private sector initiatives was likely to be squeezed out. The Embassy, in fact, made its intentions clear later in the year by organising its own London Korean Film Festival, which in subsequent branding exercises has been deemed to be the “first” such festival, even though there had been Korean Film Festivals in London since 2001 or even earlier.
Thanks for the fun you gave us, Tae-min.
The above article was penned in 2017 during an exercise to clean up and organise LKL’s archives.
(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.