Korean Arts Week Comes to Lincoln Center

New Yorkers can experience South Korea’s best dance, music, visual arts and literature for free via the Summer for the City festival.

Last week, I saw the film Past Lives and loved it so much (translation: cried so hard) that I basically had to be escorted from the theater. It’s set in both Seoul and New York City and examines the intricacies of a love triangle for a stunning one hour and forty-six minutes. Afterward, over a meal of bibimbap—I couldn’t resist—I admitted to my partner that Seoul looked nothing like I’d imagined it. So many things in the film surprised me and left me wanting to know more. More about Seoul, more about the Korean experience, more about K-arts other than K-pop.

Here’s what to see and do at Korean Arts Week 2023. Courtesy Lincoln Center

Well, I am in luck, and so are you, because Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is hosting Korean Arts Week for the first time, featuring more than a dozen free events, as part of its second annual Summer for the City festival. From July 19 through July 22, New Yorkers can experience a sampling of South Korea’s best dance, music, visual arts and literature.

Summer for the City was one of the good things to come out of the past few years. Shanta Thake, Chief Artistic Officer at LCPA, said that the pandemic taught the Center a lot about the value of their public spaces and what it means to use those to their utmost capacity, to be able to welcome in as many New Yorkers as possible “and really celebrate what makes this city incredible.” They are working hard to highlight the diversity of New York through their programming and make Lincoln Center an accessible “home away from home in the summer.”

As with all Summer for the City programming, Korean Arts Week will utilize LCPA’s transformed campus (all beautifully designed by Visual Director Clint Ramos). Not only the theaters but also its plazas, atriums, halls, gardens and parks.

What is Korean Arts Week?

This is the first time Summer for the City will do a deep dive into one culture. Their choice of Korea was inspired in part by the unfortunate rise of anti-Asian violence in the city and across the country, as well as because of the incredible breadth and of creative work coming out of the country.

LCPA already had a longstanding relationship with Korean Cultural Center New York and SK Group (who generously sponsored last year’s festival), and both were thrilled to help recommend artists for the festival. As the second-largest conglomerate in South Korea, SK Group places a huge value on corporate social responsibilities which include fostering cultural exchange and funding the arts. Seok Ha, Vice President of the company’s SUPEX Council Communication Team, said they hope the festival will showcase the rich diversity of Korean culture on a global stage while allowing emerging artists the opportunity to pursue their dreams overseas.

What not to miss at Korean Arts Week

Dance

The highlight of the week is sure to be Seoul Metropolitan Dance Theatre’s One Dance produced by the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and playing at the David H. Koch Theater from July 20-22. The 70-minute, four-act show is a contemporary reimagining of Jongmyo Jeryeak, one of Korea’s most treasured ancient rituals meant to honor the late kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty.

One Dance was created under the artistic direction of Kuho Jung, a heavy-hitter in Korea’s fashion, film, and theater industries. He has served as Executive Director of Samsung’s fashion division and Vice President of FILA Korea, and is known as the man who “put Seoul Fashion Week on the international map.” Jung has directed performances for the Korean National Ballet, the National Theater of Korea, the National Dance Company of Korea, and the Korea National Opera, and he is known for his signature mash-up of traditional and contemporary aesthetics. Needless to say, the costumes and set design will be phenomenal.

KTMDC Dance Company, under the director Yusun Kang, presents a traditional music and movement showcase. Photo by Deokhyung Cho

The thirty-nine dancers perform movements that are a blend of traditional Korean and modern dance. The ritual’s ceremonial dance “Il-mu” (line dance), usually performed in a formation of several rows and columns of dancers, has been recreated by SMDT’s Artistic Director Hyejin Jung in collaboration with choreographers Sung Hoon Kim and Jae Duk Kim (who also composed the music). The original score is inspired by Korean court music meant to please the spirits who attend the ceremony.

One Dance promises to be K-arts at its best: full of grand spectacle, cutting-edge talent and a beauty that’s both of the moment and a thousand years deep. For a more traditional music and dance showcase, check out From the Heart of Korea by KTMDC Dance Company at the Hess Grand Promenade in David Geffen Hall on July 22 at 12 p.m.

Music

There can be no celebration of Korean culture without its music.

K-Indie Music Night, curated by the Korean Cultural Center New York, will feature Seoul punk and indie rock pioneers Crying Nut and Busan surf-rock indie band Say Sue Me on July 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Damrosch Park.

Three K-pop-themed silent discos led by Korean American DJs will take place on July 19, 20, and 21 at 9 p.m. on The Dance Floor at Josie Robertson Plaza.

New York-based Korean American DJ Peach. Courtesy Lincoln Center

But there’s so much more than K-pop coming out of Korea right now.

On July 21 at 7:30 p.m., the experimental prog rock/metal trio Dongyang Gozupa will perform in the David Rubenstein Atrium. On July 22 at 7:30 p.m., the innovative quartet Gray by Silver (piano, vocals, percussion, strings, and junggeum bamboo flute) will perform, also in the Atrium.

For classical music lovers, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra’s “Tribute to Korea” will feature flutist Jasmine Choi and composer/haegeum player Soo Yeon Lyuh conducted by Louis Langrée at Damrosch Park on July 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Visual Arts

Don’t miss the video art installation WAVE, created by the Seoul-based digital media design company d’strict, on view in The David Rubenstein Atrium from July 19-22 from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. The wall will transform into a massive transparent aquarium where you can be immersed in “endlessly undulating waves.”

‘WAVE’ is on view at the David Rubenstein Atrium. Courtesy Lincoln Center

At Rockefeller Center, Johyun Gallery (the leading art gallery in Busan, Korea) will present Origin, Emergence, Return from July 17 to August 27. The exhibit highlights emerging Korean artists including Sungsic Moon, Park Chan-wook, Jina Park, Heejoon Lee, HaSeulLin Jeong, and Hyundoo Jung.

As part of the New York Asian Film Festival, a screening of Bong Joon Ho’s 2006 high-concept disaster film The Host will be shown at Damrosch Park on July 21 at 9 p.m.

Literature 

In partnership with PEN America, PEN Presents K-Lit: A Conversation with Korean-American Authors on the K-Zeitgeist July 21 6 p.m. at Hearst Plaza. The panel will feature NYC-based Korean-American writers and artists Min Jin Lee (Pachinko, Free Food for Millionaires), Eric Kim (Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home), Nicole Chung (A Living Remedy, All You Can Ever Know), Mary H.K.Choi (Yolk, Permanent Record) and journalist and event moderator Hannah Bae.

Family Events

While most events are family-friendly, two were planned especially for kids.

The Musical Theatre Storytime with Helen Park (composer of Broadway’s KPOP) on July 19 at 11:30 a.m. at The Garden at Damrosch Park is sure to be a hit.  There will also be an interactive  pre-show Family Workshop led by Lincoln Center Teaching Artists on July 22 at 11 a.m. in the Leon and Norma Hess Grand Promenade of David Geffen Hall.

How to attend Korean Arts Week

All events except for One Dance are free and open to the public. Most events are first-come, first-served through General Admission. There is also a Fast Track option where you can reserve tickets starting today (July 17).

Korean Arts Week Comes to Lincoln Center