Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TEDx in Sinchon: Lectures on Korean fashion, film, food and more

If you're a fan of TED talks and Korean culture, I highly suggest you check out the TEDx conference in Korea. This weekend we had a group outing to Seoul to hear lectures on various aspects of Korean life. Photos by Jacq.

The seventh TEDx lecture series took place yesterday afternoon. This time around, the theme was "Cabinet of Curiosities".

Collaborative painting outside the TEDx theater
Outside the lecture hall, a cultural festival was taking place. There we saw paintings, musical performances and avant garde arts and crafts. At one point, I spied an ajumma getting funky at a hip-hop show. It was beautiful.

The lecture hall was packed. In the first set, actor and filmmaker Mahbub Alam shared an insightful take on migrant labor and foreigners in Korea. He's been living in Korea for more than a decade. He moved here from Bangladesh to find work and soon found a niche in Korean film as a young, talented actor. Since then he has acted, directed and organized programs for foreigners in Korea. His lecture dealt with common misunderstandings about migrant workers, for instance the myths that they are inherently criminal and that they are stealing jobs from Koreans.

Chef Kim Kiho had some excellent ideas about modernizing Korean cuisine. He claims that adding Korean food to Western dishes is seen as innovative, but modernizing Korean dishes is heresy. He points out that even the making of kimchi has undergone several changes over the years. Tradition, mentions Kim Kiho, is always changing, and it is the task of modern culinary experts to create Korean traditions for the future.

Designer Chang Minyoung also made some interesting points. He compared male and female fashion. According to Chang Minyoung, Korean women will experiment with their looks, whereas Korean men don't even try to be fashionable. He lamented the invention of the shiny suit, and referred to many modern Korean males as fashion terrorists.

This piece was composed onstage
by Kwon Ohyun and Jang Eunji
Despite these gripping and innovative topics, ultimately my favourite speech was "Language and Art" by Kwon Ohyun & Jang Eunji. This duo produced an excellent albeit informal speech on how they met on Jeju Island and fell in love. She adored his writing and he was mesmerized by her watercolour paintings of clouds.

The day after the speeches, I returned home where Nunim promptly picked me up and brought me to a performance of Fanta Stick, a soulful Korean Romeo and Juliet story with music, dancing, audience participation and hilarious fight scenes. After that, I went to my friend Vincent's chip-duri, or housewarming, and we laughed late into the night.

Oh, Korea, when will your brilliance fade? Just when I think I have an understanding of your culture, an avalanche of new ideas, cultural experiences and outings changes my perception yet again.

Hanguk, sarang-hae.

Yours truly,

Leif Teacher.


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