ASSITEJ Korea opened the new year of 2017 with our annual Winter Festival, and very timely, including ASSITEJ International Executive Committee meeting, there were quite a few international guests who visited during the festival season. We were busy to maximize our opportunity to expose Korean contents to the world and to discuss some international issues. One of the highlights was 2017 International Performing Arts Networking for Young People held on 6th January in Seoul. The networking program was divided into 4 sessions: introduction of Korean theatre venues only to children, reality of global market, pitch session for some of Korean performing arts companies and to wrap up the day, there was a roundtable session by ASSITEJ EC members with Korean participants.
To build a public cultural venue dedicated only to children has happened in Korea only recently after some political changes and cultural awareness. They changed children’s cultural-scape more art friendly and made art more accessible locally in children’s daily lives. After presentations, some international guests were amazed how these venues could receive public fund without public pressure from higher regulatory bodies.
The second session was about presentation by two Korean performance groups which actively have been touring abroad and it followed to discuss the reality of performing art internationally. These groups, Brush Theatre and Artstage SAN, both started their international career by attending international festivals and now changed their direction focusing long term pre-production with international partners. Many questions and frank answers reflect that there are certainly keen interests and passion towards global market but again it is true to face with solid obstacles, too. In particular, many people wanted to assure what the uniqueness of Korean art is and accordingly its competitiveness. For Korean performing groups, it is still very initial stage to enter the international market, especially due to language barriers as well as insufficient funding and lack of information.
After pitching session by 5 Korean performing groups, the ‘roundtable’ followed. The roundtable was designed to hear some strategies of ASSITEJ Head Office to promote international exchange and international cooperation for the members of ASSITEJ. Yvette Hardie, President of ASSITEJ presided the discussion and shared some experiences and tips for the issues. Everybody agreed that ASSITEJ played the enormous role to introduce local performing theatre to the world and the importance of international exchange which enriched our cultural environment and understanding. Most of attendees agreed to consider their initial trials as ‘investment’ for the future, however, there was some discordance in what ‘investment’ signified. This degree of discordance was equally applied to the far cry from reality towards the international fee set by each local office of ASSITEJ for international expansion. There is a strong demand for long term funding scheme from public sectors and more systematical support for sustainability. Since most of attendees earn their living as full time artists, the significance of economic concerns is far from small.
One afternoon is too short to discuss so many tangled issues but it was long enough to assure our ideals and curiosity towards the world. It cannot be an answer for all, but the possibility of educational workshops organized to meet some local needs such as playwriting, or technology, etc. by ASSITEJ International may shed light on the future discussion. When we closed the sessions, ASSITEJ Korea started becoming busy in plannning our next project for the members and we cannot wait to show our upcoming progress! We would like to thank all EC members who shared their precious experiences together with us.