On July 2nd, Jeju had its very first Gender Equality Music Festival in Chilsung-ro Plaza near Tapdong.
Jeju local, Baak Eunsok was one of the event organizers who introduced the idea of bringing music to the cause.
He certainly knows his stuff as a music critic who has spent his fair share of time in the music scene up in Seoul.
Last year Korea declared the first week of July the official week of gender equality, requiring all major municipalities to formally acknowledge the vital significance of this objective in South Korean society.
Baak got involved with the event because he abhorred the idea of a stiff ceremony at City Hall that only paid lip service to the issue.
He thought, why not make a music festival, maybe something like the Lilith Fair festival they had in North America in the 90s?
Indeed, it is a difficult task to take on. Baak admits South Korea has a long way to go to integrate the importance of gender equality into the attitudes of it citizens, especially of the older generations, which is why this year’s theme at the Jeju Gender Equality Music Festival was, “What is gender equality?”
Baak states that his personal main goal with this festival isn’t to create change overnight, but simply to introduce the concept of gender equality to the minds of people who might not have given it much thought before.
He believes that art is always at the forefront of social change, so he tried to attract people with a standout show. Just by showing up, it was hoped people would get involved and be interested in these pertinent social issues.
It was truly a beautiful thing to see Baak’s vision come to life.
There were lots of booths: tables set up where kids could do art projects, a stand to make your own gender symbol t-shirts, a wooden structure to hang people’s written feelings of gender equality, a picture area where people took shots holding their personal promises to make a difference.
There were organizations providing information about local resources. The nice ladies at the Sunflower Center table explained that they have centers in all major cities in South Korea to give resources to victims of violence and sexual assault.
Jeju Governo Won Hee-ryong even showed up to the party. He cheerfully listened to the concerns about gender issues from a panel including a high school student, a recent college graduate looking for work and a working mother and father.
Discussing the significance of gender equality, Baak and many other people stated that considering some tragic events of this year—notably the random stabbing of a woman in Gangnam Station—gender equality has become an especially pressing hot topic.
With such events, many people feel at a loss about how to respond in a constructive way. Luckily, a community event like this festival brings a positive perspective to serious issues with resources that can both enlighten and support local residents.
Baak seems to have perfectly understood the urgency of this type of event for its citizens, and made the best of it by ensuring a powerful show with a stellar line-up of professional musicians.
Following the example of Lilith Fair, Baak chose bands that included strong female musicians.
The voice of the frontwoman So-young of indie-band Swallow, along with their technically skilled musicianship, was breath-taking.
Canadian-born Ruth Minnikin also played a moving set, just her and her guitar, of folk music. The headlining act of the night was the K-pop star Horan.
This year’s first Gender Equality Music Festival in Jeju proved to be an exciting beginning for an event that has potential to make waves of change.
It offers an opportunity to celebrate each other and helps provide answers to some tough questions in South Korea's changing times.
Ann Bush email@example.com
Photos by Douglas Macdonald