Festival: The Garden City gets a Taste of Korea

On December 3, 2016, Christchurch's annual Korean culture festival titled“Taste of Korea” was held at the City's Cathedral Square. Organised by the Korean Society of Christchurch, the K-Culture Festival is a good example of a migrant community sharing its unique culture with the local society as a way to maintain its roots and celebrate diversity and co-existence.

This year’s event included a special guest performance from Seoul – The International Youth Arts Troupe – along with the traditional performances put on by members of the local Korean community to offer audiences a tantalising taste of Korean culture.

In addition, following last year’s immense popularity, the second K-Pop competition was held in second half of the event, with the final 10 teams (chosen from the initial 25) performing their magic on stage, wowing the crowd with their charisma or with the typical butter-wont-melt-in-her-mouth cuteness found in all popular girl groups all while moving in sync as if they are a unit of well-disciplined soldiers – a trademark in Korean idol groups known as ‘kal gun mu.’

Among the guests were the Christchurch City Mayor, Lianne Dalziel, the resident Korean Ambassador to New Zealand, Hae-yong Kim, and the National to Christchurch Central, MP Nicky Wagner.

When asked about their opinion of the 2016 K-Culture Festival, Mayor Dalziel commented that the Pansori performance, a traditional Korean musical genre of storytelling, was “spell binding” and although she did not understand the words spoken, she said she could feel the emotions carried in the song. She was particularly impressed with the performance by the local Korean children who sang the New Zealand national anthem in both English and Maori, which signified what events like these were all about: a “joining and sharing of culture.” She added that Korea and New Zealand has a special bond, forged from the Korean War where New Zealand sent many of its soldiers to fight for Seoul’s freedom, pointing also to the sister city partnership Christchurch has with the special district of Songpa-gu in Seoul as well as New Zealand’s role in assisting the Korea Antarctic Program.

Ambassador Kim stated that he was very pleased and thankful to the Korean community for their ability to come together and arrange the annual event and mentioned that he was highly impressed with the high-quality of the performances put together by the Korean community.      He added that this year’s event offered a lot to the spectators, ranging from traditional performances by the Korean community as well as a special performance by Seoul’s International Youth Arts Troupe to the K-pop auditions in the latter half of the festival.

The Ambassador also noted that although the Korean embassy is located in Wellington, it had a good communication channel with the Korean community in Christchurch which allowed them to respond quickly to the recent earthquake that hit Kaikoura. In particular, he wished to thank the Christchurch city council for their assistance with the location and evacuation of Korean nationals who were affected by the Kaikoura earthquake and reminded the Korean community about the resident-Embassy staff in Christchurch to contact in case of emergencies.

- Lisa (Yoon Jin) Oh

Recently finished a Master's in Human Rights and Democratisation in the Asia Pacific from the University of Sydney specialising in migration. Previously worked for the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an English Editor.

The above two pictures are courtesy Adam, Chrislynn, Sophia, and and Luke from the Kimchi Club Photography Group; rest of the pictures of the Korean festival published in this story were taken by Lisa Oh