On the 5th and 6th of May, the Sydney Korean Festival was held at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbor. Under a clear blue sky, visitors to the festival could be seen examining the wares of stalls around the park’s perimeter, sampling delicious Korean cuisine, and engaging with traditional culture at the Korean Cultural Office’s tent and more modern performances on the main stage.
From the time I arrived at the park; around 2pm, the celebrations were in full swing, with a large crowd bustling around and almost all of the tables and seating full with spectators. A delightful mixture of families, couples and many young adults and teenagers milled around the place. Many of the younger crowd sported various KPop-related fashion- a testament to the rapidly-increasing popularity of the music genre amongst the city’s residents.
As I wandered around, the long line of people trailing out of the Korean Cultural Centre’s stall caught my eye. Not only was it the largest tent in the park, but it was the most active too. The list of activities: playing traditional games such as Tuho (투호), trying on a hanbok (복 - traditional Korean outfits), creating an ecobag, fashioning a spinning top or constructing traditional shoes, brought both the young and old over, lending this area of the festival a great sense of enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. Alongside these activities, a small book stand also gave visitors a chance to learn more about Korean culture and its place within Sydney’s landscape.
Once three o’ clock rolled round, the seats closer to the stage filled up people excitedly watched the first of the big kpop competitions; KTalent. Designed to showcase Sydney’s talented performers and Korean culture together, the show was filled with lively dances, beautiful voices and some gorgeous outfits. Standout acts for me included a solo vocalist in a gorgeous hanbok, singing a traditional song, second-place winners VII’s energetic routine, and three singers (all non-korean) harmonising to produce a heavenly-sounding rendition of BTS’ House of Cards.
Finally, the sun set and the last competition of the Saturday drew near. The Changwon World Festival drew the largest crowd of the day; uniting all the spectators for one of the most polished showcases of talent I have seen. Each crew competed for a chance to head to South Korea and step on stage at the biggest festival dedicated to kpop cover crews. All the outfits, all the moves and all the expressions of the dancers not only helped to increase the enthusiasm of the audience, but conveyed just how much fun the performers were having on stage. Each team was given a rousing round of applause after their performances, and when it came to the announcement of the winners, the air was filled with a tangible sense of aniticipation. When first place was called, the winning team; Triple Threat, was met with an incredible cheer of support from everyone at the park.
As Saturday’s events finally wrapped up, people seemed to leave Tumbalong park with a contentedness not regularly seen within the city. The first day of the festival had brought people from all cultures and backgrounds together to enjoy a day filled with good food, sunshine and fun. The best news was that this was all set to continue the next day! If you have the chance to head to the Sydney Korean Festival in the future, I highly recommend heading over. The atmosphere is lively, and you are sure to have a great time. I can’t wait until next year, and I hope to see you there!
Below: Podcast flashback 'Kwave preview - 2014'.
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Written by: Katy Phillips