Posted : 2013-08-28 17:18
Updated : 2013-08-28 17:18

Choreographing tale of two cities

An artist's description of the Korean Cultural Pavilion, modeled after the Bulguksa Temple, a key venue of the expo / Korea Times

Istanbul-Gyeongju World Culture Expo to kick off on Saturday

Choi Chong-im, former National Dance Company of Korea dancer and current director of Chongdong Theater, choreographed the opening ceremony for the
Istanbul-Gyeongju World Culture Expo 2013.
/ Korea Times
By Baek Byung-yeul

The Istanbul-Gyeongju World Culture Expo, aimed at showcasing the culture of the two historic cities, will begin its three-week run on Saturday (KST) in the Turkish metropolis. More than 40 other countries will also participate in the event in a celebration of cultural exchange.

Choi Chong-im, the veteran Korean dancer who choreographed the opening ceremony for the expo, planned as a lavish showing highlighted by a performance of Korean and Turkish dancers, said she focused on expressing the cultural depth of the two cities that date back to the ancient Silk Road Days.

"I directed a build-up event for the inaugural Gyeongju culture expo in 1998 and choreographed the opening ceremonies for the second and third expos. Istanbul, however, is particularly significant to me," said Choi, who, after performing for the National Dance Company of Korea for decades, now serves as the director of Chongdong Theater in Seoul, in an e-mail interview with The Korea Times.

"I have a special place in my heart for Istanbul. I visited this city when I was dancing for the national company. Then, I vaguely thought it would be great to perform here once more. It could be said that my wish was granted in a different way."

The opening ceremony will take place at the open-air stage at the square in front of Hagia Sophia and is expected to be the most photogenic moment of the expo.

Choi spent the past few months with performers, frequently moving between Seoul and Istanbul. The dance performance for the opening ceremony will depict a love story between a Turkish man "Ahmet" and "Lang," a lady from the Korean kingdom of Silla (57 B.C.-935 A.D.), which was established around present-day Gyeongju.

"The focus was to convincingly combine the elements of two different cultures into one piece, and I think we achieved that," Choi said.

The Gyeongju World Culture Expo, aimed to be an exposition of global culture, has been held six times since 1998, every two or three years. But this is only the second time it will be hosted in a foreign country, following the 2006 event in Cambodia. There will also be booths for Korean corporations such as POSCO and Hyundai Motor, which expect to use the event as a platform for business discussions.

Banners promoting the World Culture Expo in a street of Istanbul / Yonhap

The Istanbul event will run for 23 days, from Aug. 31st to Sept. 22.

"The event will be a critical opportunity to promote the history and culture of Gyeongju and North Gyeongsang Province to the world, at a city that is frequently called the cradle of civilization. It will also be an important stage for further expanding ‘hallyu,' or the Korean pop culture boom," said Kim Kwan-yong, North Gyeongsang Province governor and co-chairman of the organizing committee.

"This will be a true celebration for the global village, with other countries from Asia, Europe and the Americas represented."

The Asian part of the expo will feature a variety of cultural exhibitions and performing arts events and coming between them will be performances of Korean pop stars like Super Junior, FT Island, BEAST, miss A, MBLAQ and Ailee. The European part of the expo will be spread out to 21 different parts of the city.

At Hilton Istanbul, hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) designer Lee Young-hee will hold a fashion show in collaboration with Turkish designers. Korean painters and photo artists like Koo Bon-chang, Kim Jung-man and Seung Hyo-sang will hold exhibitions.

Opening and closing ceremony of the expo will take place at the open stage in Hagia Sophia Square. The Korean Cultural Pavilion, modeled after Korea's Bulguksa Temple and located at Eminonu Square, will be a key venue of the expo presenting a variety of display items and media works on Korean culture.

For more information, visit the expo's English web page at

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