I get quite a different feel from Busan.
The Koreans here are more like country folk in their attitudes and ambitions. They still giggle and smile when they see a foreigner and just seem less worried about keeping up with the Jones' as their northern counterparts. We've always had great live DJ's, expat and Korean bands playing western music, open mic nights, trivia, holiday events, parties and gatherings around western celebrations, or sporting events. People have more free time here to pursue their passions, and are well received for at least giving it a go. Now with Facebook, it seems the word spreads fast when there is a new band playing, or a party of some sort.
I was therefore not surprised to see the recent promotions of the upcoming "Busan Night Live." I have to admit, a groan of sorts did escape me when I read the tagline – 'a night of sketch comedy.' My thoughts were darkened by old memories of the 'Babopalooza' incident. It was, and still remains a personal disappointment for a few reasons.
I didn't have anything to do with the infamous production, but did find myself there on the night in question, as an eager audience member. I must admit I did find some of the jokes to be a bit offensive, vulgar, and often portrayed Korean stereotypes in an unflattering light. Indeed the organizers had accomplished their mission: western-style comedy in Korea. The host (Korea) was roasted, chargrilled and then put in the microwave for good measure. That's what we do sometimes –much as everyone does as an outlet to difficulties in any host country.
I was, however, tremendously surprised at the host's reaction to this loving, poking and prodding. Headlines of the sort exposing how a group of foreigners were calling Koreans racist, incompetent, dog-eating, xenophobes – while illegally making tons of money at it. In the days that followed, people were detained, arrested, drug tested, fired and deported. I remember for a moment thinking my own freedom was in jeopardy in this atmosphere of suspicion and retribution.
That was then.
When I saw that while recruiting acts for the upcoming Busan Night Live, special attention was given to the culturally sensitive nature of possible comedy routines, where it was obvious the creators were aware of the former incident. I know there's a large community of artistic people in this city and they want to get their art on, perform for people, share their sense of humor, poke fun at the things that we all ponder upon, in the hopes of finding each other in the process of finding ourselves. This is what we do, and I encourage, empathize and endorse it wholeheartedly. I just hope our host is as accommodating this time around.
Busan Night Live will put on two shows this weekend March 12th and 13th @ Club Fabric in Kyungsung. Get there early, the place is gonna be packed.