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Art&CultureReview
Culturally defining the Dokdo disputeArtists put on show of traditional and classical music and art for disputed islands
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승인 2013.08.22  07:22:06
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▲ The Lee Hye-geyong and Ijeueum Dance Troupe. Photo by Darren Southcott

It has been said that it is hard to experience a culturally euphoric moment in Jeju which has been considered by some to be a cultural wasteland. However, Aug. 20 certainly marked a different chapter in the lives of both the domestic and international culture loving crowd in Jeju.

The moment in question occurred at the Jeju Stone Park in the form of the Dokdo Love Concert co-hosted by the Association of Artists for Dokdo Love and the Northeast Asian History Foundation. This was an effort on the part of both the association and the foundation to recover and redefine the true identity of Dokdo which is going through a heavy territorial dispute. It was the public unveiling of artist Jeon Jong-cheol's Dokdo art installation plans, "Lights of Dokdo." (For an interview with artist Jeon Jong-cheol, click here.)

▲ Gayageum player Lee Ji-yeong, violinist Choe Yun-jeong and pianist Lee Ju-hye Photo by Darren Southcott

In the minds of all Koreans, there is no doubt whatsoever that Dokdo is by right a Korean territory but the claim has been contested by Japan for a number of years. Aside from the political agenda, however, the event in question attempted to resolve the issue through cultural means via excellent performances by a poetess, a dance troupe, a pianist, a violinist, a tenor, and a guitarist who have attained international acclaim in their own right. This was intended as the inaugural event before it opens throughout the rest of Korea.

The sheer artistry of the performances couldn’t have been more compatible with the magnificence and the ambiance of the unique amphitheater of the Jeju Stone Park. The different genres of music in classical, Korean traditional and voice talents all melded together to offer an extraordinary evening for the audience who were lucky enough to have had the time to find themselves there.

▲ Violinist Choe Yun-jeong and guitarist Kim Seong-jin. Photo by Darren Southcott

The evening entertainment began with a passionate reciting of two personal poems by Choe Jeong-ran, who urged the people to call Dokdo by its rightful name. It was followed by a metaphorical dance that symbolized Dokdo and its waves. The dance was poignantly ballet-like in some ways but imbued with haunting Korean elements. The evening ended with a series of delightful pieces masterfully played out by a virtuoso tenor, violinist, gayageum player, guitarist and pianist who all weaved a magic spell with their international music selections from different parts of the world that had also been through territorial disputes.

Not only was the concert itself beyond expectation, but it was especially notable in the fact that it tried to include foreign residents that live in Jeju but for one reason or another are usually unable to attend domestic cultural events. One member of the audience even remarked that it was the first time that she had ever felt so included in the community.

▲ Pianist Lee Ju-hye and tenor Lim Min-woo Photo by Darren Southcott

The performances in general were of stellar quality but the only regret would be that - despite the effort to give sparse English translations and introductions to the performances - more context to the Dokdo dispute was not introduced. The background of the performances was sometimes lost on the foreign audience with minimal knowledge as to why Dokdo belongs to Korea and perhaps belying the purpose of the concert to imprint on the audience the importance of Dokdo’s sovereignty internationally.

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