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Hiroyuki Sasame
Profile
Mr. Lee Jong-Ho
Born 1953. Studied French Literature at Seoul National University and graduated from the university’s graduate school.
He worked as a correspondent for the French magazine Le pays du Matin Clalme (1977), as a journalist for the French weekly of the Korea Herald newspaper (1977-1978, 1979-1980), after which he transferred to the Yonhap News Agency in 1981 foreign, where he served in the foreign correspondence dept., Society Dept., foreign correspondent to Brussels, Culture Dept. chief, and senior culture editor before resigning from the company in March 2009.
He is recipient of the Ministry of Culture & Tourism Award (2007), the Korean Modern Dance Development Association’s International Exchange Development Award (2007) and the medallion of Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2007).
He served as Executive Council Member of the Association of Asian Performing Arts Festival (2004-2008), as President of the Korean Society of Dance Critics (2001-2004), as a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Performing Arts Advisory Committee (2004-2008), as a member of the planning committee for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s ASEAN Special Summit (2008-2009).
Presently he serves as President of the CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter and administrative chairman and artistic director of the SIDance festival.


SIDance (Seoul International Dance Festival)
SIDance
Tel: +82-2-3216-1185
Fax: +82-2-3216-1187
http://www.sidance.org/
Presenter Interview
2010.2.17
Leading South Korea’s dance world  CID-UNESCO Korean Chapter and SIDance 
 
In 2009 in its 12th holding, the Seoul International Dance Festival (SIDance) has become one of the highlights of South Korea’s autumn performing arts season. Since the first holding in 1998, some 1,300 dancers from about 50 countries have participated in this festival and the total cumulative audience draw since the first festival now totals approximately 170,000. Besides this festival, its organizing body, the Seoul Section of the CID-UNESCO also operates programs for collaborative productions with overseas dancers and for overseas performances by Korean dancers, as well as a variety of exchange programs. In 2005, the Japan Foundation, the Korea Foundation and the National Theater of Korea jointly organized the “Korea-Japan Friendship Dance - Butoh Festival/Contemporary Dance Festival” in Seoul. As the first systematic presentation of butoh and contemporary dance together in one festival, it became the focus of much attention in the Korean ad Japanese dance worlds. In this interview we spoke with Lee Jong-ho, who founded the CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter in 1996 following successful careers as a newspaper journalist and dance critic and continues to be a leader in the Korean dance world as president of the CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter and artistic director of the SIDance Festival.
(Interviewer: Noriko Kimura)


Because of your activities in a variety of fields and roles, it is difficult to know how to introduce you.
My main profession after becoming an employee of the Korea Herald in 1977 was always that of a newspaper journalist, but I ended my more than three decades as a journalist when I quit the Yonhap News Agency in March, 2009. So now I am involved purely in the field of dance as a dance critic, chairman of the CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter and artistic director of Seoul International Dance Festival (SIDance).

What was your initial encounter with dance?
I was interested in literatures, music, art and theater since I was a child and did things like writing poetry and publishing a school newspaper as well as going often to art exhibitions and concerts, but for some reason, dance remained the one thing I wasn’t interested in. As a student I remember being very bored by the performances of traditional Korean dance by a troupe from an arts high school. It was in the 1970s when everyone was interested in Western culture, and in that context dance in general appeared to be a third-rate genre not nearly as sophisticated as the other arts.
 Then, in the early 1980s, the monthly dance magazine Chun asked me to do translations of critiques and essays about dance from American and French publications. At first I was doing it as translation but I gradually found the things written about dance to be very interesting, so I began going around to the different countries’ embassies in Seoul to read magazines and other materials about dance. Then I began to write articles based on the things I was reading, which turned out to be quite well received. Also, for my translations I had begun going to see dance performances.
 At the time, dance critics didn’t really exist in Korea, so the job of reviewing dance performances was usually given to music critics. When I spoke with the publisher of the monthly Chum, Mr. Choi Dong-Wha, he told me that he had started doing dance critique from scratch because there was no one else to do it. He said that although there were professional theater and music critics there were none in the field of dance, so people of ability were needed to support the dance world as critics. I remember being very moved by his words, and that is what led me to take on the additional job of dance critic along with my responsibilities as a newspaper journalist. That is how I came to be involved with dance.

As a critic, how did you come to establish the CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter?
I guess it was my fate to become involved with dance. Originally there was an older woman, a dancer, who was making the preparations to found a CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter, but she passed away suddenly and I was asked to take over in her place. Considering the fact that my profession was first and foremost that of a newspaper journalist, I refused the offer on the basis that I was not the person for the job. But the other people who emerged as prospects were not completely trustworthy. So, I decided that even though it would be difficult I should accept the position of president. The Chapter was then officially launched in 1996.
 Since the 1980s, the Korean dance scene has seen the emergence of exciting companies and highly original works. The number of critics specialized in dance has grown and the dance world here in Korea has become quite active and dynamic. Seeing these developments, I began to feel that I had to do more than just writing as a critic. I got the feeling that I wanted to work more directly on the scene and possibly help speed up the advancement of the Korean dance world in effective ways by becoming involved in the production of works and international exchange.

What kind of organization is the Korea Chapter?
CID (Conseil International de la Danse) was founded in 1973 as a non-profit NGO within the Paris offices of UNESCO, and today it has grown to include chapters in some 160 countries around the world. The purposes of the Korea Chapter are to maintain ongoing exchange with the chapters in these other countries to enable us to invite outstanding overseas dance to Korea and also to provide opportunities for works by Korean dancers to be performed overseas.
 The main platform for these activities is our annual Seoul International Dance Festival (SIDance) held each autumn. In addition to SIDance we have organized the Korea-Japan Friendship Dance event in 2005 in cooperation with the Japan Foundation, which brought Japanese butoh and contemporary dance to the Korean audience, and in 2007 and 2008 we worked with South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to organize an “Africa Arts Festival” and the “1st Arab Arts Festival.” In 2009 we worked with the Korea-Arab Society to organize our “2nd Arab Arts Festival.” These festivals are designed to deepen people’s understanding of the arts and culture of specific countries and regions of the world through dance.
 Other regularly held events are our annual performances on the themes of “Korean Dance Meets World Music” and “The Shining Colors of Korean Dance,” and since 2003 we have organized a “Digital Dance Festival” focused on dance with the latest technology.
 Of course, we also produce performances of foreign and domestic dance works and also produce collaborative productions with international and Korean artists. We also have academic programs and we exchange judges with dance contests around the world as some of our many other activities.
 In 2003 we were accredited by the Korean government as and arts organization, which has made it possible for us to establish close working relationships with government agencies and the foreign embassies here in Korea. This, in turn, has helped lay the foundation for a wider range of exchange projects.

SIDance clearly seems to be a central part of the activities of your CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter. What was your purpose in launching this festival?
In order to make the impact of our newly formed CID-UNESCO Korea Chapter, we quickly applied to host CID’s biennial General Assembly. Since our Chapter had just opened, some were saying that it was too early for us to be hosting the Assembly, but I worked to convince the committee to let us host it, explaining to them how impatient Koreans are by nature. Those efforts paid off and we were able to host CID’s 13th General Assembly here in Seoul. I wanted to see us organize a world-class dance festival to accompany the holding of this big Assembly, and the result was our first SIDance festival.
 As a journalist I gad spent three years as a foreign correspondent in Brussels from 1992 to ’94. During that time I had gone to a lot of different types of festivals around Europe and they made me envious. Up until that time I had been working to introduce foreign culture and arts to the Korean audience through articles and the film/video materials that I had been able to purchase in Korea. I thought SIDance would be a great opportunity to bring actual foreign performances to the stage in Korea for the first time. Also, at the time, the only Korean dance being introduced overseas were occasional performances of traditional or folk dance, whereas there were almost no opportunities for Korean contemporary dance to be performed abroad. And, in fact, there were Korean works at the time worthy of being performed internationally. I wanted SIDance to be a venue where people from overseas could see Korean contemporary dance.
 At the time, the Korean dance world was isolated from the trends and movements in international dance. Korean dancers knew nothing about what foreign dancers were thinking, what kinds of works they were creating and what they were doing in terms of exchange. So, I wanted our festival to be an opportunity to get to know the international dance world. These were the two main objectives when we launched our first SIDance festival in 1998.
 
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