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  Arts & Living
The Good, the Bad, and the Talented
The Highlight of Itaewon Global Village Festival
By Conor Purcell
Senior Writer
Columbia's Chica Chicos at the main stage at Arirang Public Parking Lot.

For those Koreans who have only seen foreigners "performing" on educational TV shows, their view of the ability of the average "waygook" would be pretty low. Phonic-obsessed goons running through Myeong-dong in lime jump suits and hungover kindergarten teachers stumbling through their lines on EBS do little to advertise the variety of talents that foreigners in South Korea have to offer.

"The foreigner talent show" then, was the place to put that right. Any non-Korean currently in Korea was able to take part, and the event was to be the highlight of the week-long Itaewon Global Village Festival.

This year's festival was hoped to inject some life back into the area which has suffered a down turn of late due to everything from the prostitution crackdown to the early military curfews. It was disappointing therefore to see a half empty car park on Saturday night.

Foreign Female Dancer
A foreign woman is dancing on a make-shift stage during Itaewon Global Village Festival held from Oct. 12, to Oct 17, 2004 in Itaewon, a major foreign community in Seoul.

Rows of empty plastic chairs stood as testament to the fact that most Koreans have no interest in watching some English teacher singing a Celine Dion standard. And most English teachers would rather drink on the main drag than walk 10 minutes to the festival venue.

The contestants hailed from all over the world, with a big North American and African contingent. Due to the inability of the host to speak English clearly, it was nigh on impossible to hear the names of the contestants.

First up was a Canadian guy, who belted out some standard Korean K-pop fare. This seemed to go down pretty well. Certainly better than the next contestant's P-diddy effort which was almost impossible to hear. The host helpfully pointed out that the singer of that song was black. "Another black. There lots of blacks in Itaewon." Cue nervous laughter from the front row.

A shopping street in Seoul's Itaewon

"We all live together in Itaewon; black, white, yellow, we all share together, it doesn't matter our color." Laudable sentiments indeed, although slightly strange given his next sentence: "Now another black, from Africa, a lot of blacks in Africa." This teeth-clenchingly embarrassing segment was thankfully cut short when, the 'black' on next dived head first into a Neil Diamond standard, backed by an expat band.

Next up was the best performer of the lot, Josie Whales, who is known for presenting the news on AFN. Her version of a song I have never heard of, went down well, due to her excellent voice and the antics of the backing band, who seemed determined to get the crowd going. Unfortunately at that stage, the 'crowd' consisted of about 50 people, many of whom where ambling around the empty car park, oblivious to the goings on stage.

The low turnout was a disappointment, but maybe the idea of an "expat community" in Itaewon is a pipe dream. Without the bars and clubs in the area, Itaewon would be dead once the sun went down. The fact that it seems to be slowly dying anyway didn't help the turnout for this years festival.

A traditional Korean performance in Itaewon

The military curfew has widened many GI's horizons and those who would not have ventured past Geckos or the hill in years past are now taxiing to Sinchon, Hongdae and Apgujeong in an effort to avoid the curfew. Even still, the military provided the most visitors to the festival, which does not bode well for the festival once the troops pack up and leave.

All the contestants tried their best and kudos to them for having the balls to get up on stage to strut their stuff. Whether we will get a chance to see Korea's expat community entertaining the masses next year remains to be seen however. If it does go ahead in 2005, replacing the host would be a good start.

Related Articles
    Hot Performances for a Cold Day
    Itaewon's "Global" Festival Kicks Off
    "Government Should Deregulate Itaewon"
    Itaewon Turns into Cultural Melting Pot

Other Articles by Conor Purcell
    Foreigners Fear for Safety in South Korea
    "Me Want Talk to You, 2 Minutes, Come Baby"
    Lost in Racism?
    Impeachment Makes Korea Laughing Stock
    Anarchy Rules in Streets of Republic of Korea

Conor Purcell, an honor graduate from Griffth College in Dublin, Ireland, is currently working as staff writer for The Seoul Times. More writings from Conor can be seen at






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