The Embassy of Korea in Uganda has achieved a major feat on Uganda’s cultural scene by successfully organizing three virtual cultural events revolving around celebrating Korean culture and seeking to strengthen its bond with Uganda.
In May this year, the Embassy held the first of its three virtual events, the Online KPOP World Festival Uganda. They put out a call for participants to enter into a singing or dancing competition where they could record themselves and send in a video dancing or singing to any KPOP song of their choice, electronically. There were over 100 applicants for this event.
In order to observe the Ministry of Health’s Standard Operating Procedures on restricting public gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Embassy of Korea moved the competition online or virtual space.
The online theme followed suit for the other two events – the 2021 Korean Ambassador’s cup and the 2021 Online Korea Festival. For the Taekwondo event, participants sent in videos of themselves performing Poomsae Taekwondo. Poomsae are patterns or a set sequence of movements that consist of various fundamental stances, blocks, punches and kicks logically arranged in a meaningful order. A skilled instructor can discern the knowledge, skill level, strength, and focus of a student just by watching them perform Poomsae. Participants were grouped according to their ages and the colour of the belt that they had.
The Online Korea Festival included an essay competition, a speaking competition and an online quiz. All participants were asked to make videos for the speaking and text entries in the case of essays, illustrating their skill, knowledge or technique in a given exercise. And for the quiz it was a live event conducted online via zoom.
The festival was focused on showcasing the interest Ugandans had in the Korean language, as participants had to submit their speaking videos in Korean and were allowed to submit their writing in Korean as well. While Korean language is majorly taught at the Korea center at Makerere University and the Sejong Institute at Kumi University, organisers say it they were surprised to see other self-taught participants make entries.
Hangul is the Korean language writing system it is made up of 10 consonants and 14 vowels, making it an alphabet with a total of 24 letters.
Despite the movement restrictions, the turnout exceeded the expectations of the organisers as hundreds of Ugandans took part in the various competitions. Perhaps the handsome offer of cash and expensive electronic gadgets that were pledged by the Embassy proved to be a major motivation for the high turn up.
In total, over 300 entries were made across all competitions, according to Ms. Jungok Shin, the Second Secretary at the Embassy of Korea.
Ms. Shin further described the participation, as well as the quality of the entries as a sign of the growing popularity of Korean culture in the world generally and in Uganda in particular.
BBS Terefayina’s Sophie Gombya, who was one of the Judges of the KPOP contest also described the musical quality of some of the entries as of high quality.
KPOP spreads like wild fire
It is probably important to note that KPOP which stands for Korean Pop Music has become a globally popular dance routine and has made several entries in global competitions such as the America Has got Talent, the Pop Idol and several other internationally televised dance competitions.
The rising popularity of this genre perhaps stems from the huge fame garnered by several Korean groups like BTS, Girls Generation, whose music has conquered even bigger markets like the United States.
BTS, who originally called themselves Bangtan Boys – is a seven member all-boy group that has taken the music world by storm in recent years.
BTS made headlines in 2020 with the hit single “Dynamite,” which became the first K-pop song in history to debut at No. 1 on the US Billboard “Hot 100” chart.
This year the group hit another milestone by reaching one billion views on YouTube for their latest single Dynamite.
BTS’s runaway success continues to baffle even the strong-hearted across the world. And many Ugandan youths have clearly not been spared the Hallyu or Korean Wave – as their dance style is also known.
Away from the international success of Korean music, some Ugandan youths did their best to emulate the Korean KPOP by miming songs by some of the big KPOP groups like BTS.
At the end of the competition, the winners were thrilled to walk away with big prizes to compensate for the hard work they had invested into the competition.
The winner of the KPOP category took home One million shillings while the runners up in each category received UGX500,000. Participants in the Taekwondo competition got medals, certificates, equipment and cash prizes for their outstanding performers. Finally for the festival, the winners received laptops and over 30 phones were awarded to the runners up. There were more freebies given out such as data for mere participation.