In Korean culture, support for cultural businesses is rare and artistic creativity is almost impossible to find. Even now, it is difficult to find films of unique sub-genres or inventive B films. However, new roads are created by repeatedly walking on unprepared paths. It is vital to give a place for so-called minor culture to stand upon.
Listening to the voice of minor culture
Before I introduce people who are giving a voice to the world, let me tell you what minor culture is and how is it different from major culture.
With globalization, cultures of different countries have become diverse enough for the term 'multicultural society' to be used in our daily lives. Beliefs and behaviors that are acted out naturally are known as total culture while smaller cultures that exist within total culture with independent and unique identities are known as non-major culture.
The specific concepts of minor culture and major culture are difficult to distinguish because they are often mixed in with the historical and socio-cultural criteria of rating culture as ‘class A’ and ‘class B’. However, to find out more about the exact definition of sub-culture and the points that differentiate major and non-major, The Inha Times interviewed Professor Im Dae Geun of the University of Foreign Languages of Korea.
The Inha Times (IT): What is the main difference between mainstream and minor culture?
Im Dae Geun: It Depends on how much the public accepts the culture. If the public enjoy Teuroteu (Trot) broadly, it becomes mainstream culture. However, if hip hop gets the public’s attention instead of Trot, It can become the new major of our culture. If a culture is considered major, it means that most of the public likes that culture. Based on this fact, many investments are mostly focused on these cultures. Naturally cultures that are related to the mainstream culture can be revived too. This allows the mainstream culture to become firmly entrenched in the society and earn lots of market potential. Accordingly, the policy and system that supports that culture becomes more stable. In summary, major culture is the cultural phenomenon in which investment and support are actively pursued in terms of industry and policy depending on the degree of public acceptance
IT: Are the features of public culture related to the reason that some cultures are considered minor?
Im Dae Geun : Public culture has the same meaning as popular culture. Culture which is popular is public culture. In contrast, it is not easy for minor culture to gain enough popularity to become popular. There are some reasons why. Some minor cultures are not popular because they may have just appeared in the market. Some are experimental. Some minor cultures were famous at the past. For example, ‘Pansori’ was major at the period of the Japanese occupation or at the end of Joseon dynasty, but now it is not that popular.
IT : What influences can subculture and minor culture have on society?
Im Dae Geun : ‘Subculture’ ... well, we can’t consider subculture and minor culture as the same. However, there are some concepts that they have in common. The influence that they can give is that they can offer new perspectives via creative ideas. This is possible because, as I said previously, minor cultures are experimental and challenging whilst being creative. They open up the possibility of people thinking without fixed perspectives or prejudices.
The webtoon business was once viewed as a non-major business and ignored. However, with its recent rise in popularity, it has become part of the major culture. In this way, the view towards non-major culture is slowly widening. Next, The Inha Times would like to introduce some people who represent the voice of minor culture.
Those that represent the voice of non-major culture.
Drama off the screen and on the stage
Inha Play and Art Research Club is a play club that seeks to research and popularise the stage play. By performing plays twice a year (in the spring and autumn) and opening workshops 2~3 times each year (summer and winter workshops conducted by the members of the club, finished with a performance and additional welcoming performance for new members). They work tirelessly to inform others inside and outside the university about the stage play, which is seen as minor culture in Korea.
The Inha Times(IT): Please let me know what you think about the stage play as minor culture.
Lee Chung Whan: I do not regard the stage play being viewed as minor culture as a negative thing. Because it is minor culture, we can show a lot of stories that many people cannot show in popular culture. However, it hurts that people who are active in the theatre industry cannot perform in a better environment. I am still very much in love with drama and I am trying hard to get closer to the audience. I think that our culture can develop more when major culture and non–major culture coexist harmoniously.
IT: Please let us know what your main concerns are while preparing a play for the stage.
Lee Chung Whan: We have different resolutions, goals, and thoughts because of the nature of our club. Some entered this club as a stepping stone to nurture their dreams in the performing arts. Some entered this club because they simply like plays. Some joined to the club under the influence or encouragement of a friend. If you undertake the production of a performance with individuals who have different motivations as just mentioned, there is a clash. It is difficult to overcome this collision.
But as we prepare for the show, it seems that our goal is always narrowed down to one. There are a lot of things we should consider to put on a stage to perform better. That are more technical aspects than merely having a mindset of “let's stage a better performance”, such as acting, directing, stage, lighting, and costume design. But I think that the most important thing is the fun we have as a team. How can we please the audience if we are not happy? As mentioned earlier, the process of making one performance by gathering different people is a very difficult process, but in the end, we are gathered towards one goal and become stronger by enduring and solving the difficult process to achieve our goal. This is the charm of our club.
Well, the most important thing to remember is that while we cannot be one, we can recognise that each other's differences are important.
IT: Can you tell us what kind of support the school has for the Inha Drama Lecture Society, and how much support it has for its activities and research goals?
Lee Chung Whan: Each semester, Inha University provides a lot of support to for us to continue operating. We have regular subsidies and we also can have additional support for club activities if an activity is evaluated as being particularly good. Aside from financial support, provisions such as practice rooms for performance preparation, performance halls for performances, and lighting, are all important. However, since we have to design and create new sets every time we perform, we have to prepare everything from the big things to the small things, such as the materials for the stage production, the lighting, the costumes for the actors, the props, etc. Therefore, it would be practically impossible to run the club with the subsidies we receive from the university. Because of this we also use proceeds from performances and grants from alumni seniors in addition to school subsidies.
IT: Recently, for the 75th Autumn Period Performance, Dew of the Deceased, was staged. What was the reaction of the students to this production?
Lee Chung Whan: Dew of the Deceased is a play about death. I was a bit worried that it would be difficult for students to understand it because we were dealing with a somewhat heavy topic. However, more students than I thought left a good evaluation! I remember we had all the seats full during the two days of the three-day performance. Of course, they gave me lots of valuable advice. Such feedback is very helpful for the development of our club.
IT: Please let us know what activities you are preparing and what activities you plan to announce in the future.
Lee Chung Whan : We are currently preparing the freshmen winter workshops, where new students who joined this year and put on a performance analyse what they have learned over the year. Although I am always with my seniors, I am confronted with a lot of difficulties when I prepare only for the motivations of freshmen, but after that, I feel like myself, and I think that the concert will be the most memorable performance of the concert.
In order to raise awareness of our club’s existence and our productions, when we are preparing a performance we display posters, utilise the on-campus community website, and use social networking sites (SNS). However, I think that it is the best way for many students to come to see that we are preparing for a better performance than these technical promotions, and to be more interested in theatre through our performances.
Stage plays, as performed by Inha Play and Art Research Club, have immeasurable value because they express and deliver new voices and stories which cannot be expressed in the media. So far, we have looked at those who express themselves. Next, I will introduce the stories of those who express themselves on the screen.
Team Aria deliver their voice to the world through Korean dubbing.
Team Aria’s work centers on dubbing animations with the Korean language. With the lack of attention to the development of Korean animation and dubbing, they sought to find a way to fix this problem and created their team in the December of 2013. By February of 2015 they had gained more than 400 thousand views. They are trying to produce natural works while considering the theme of 'Korean dubbing' through singing, video editing and mixing, and are constantly struggling to make dubbing that viewers can accept without discomfort. The Inha Times met Team Aria.
The Inha Times (IT): Please briefly introduce the activities you have done in Team Aria.
Team Aria : Team Aria is a dubbing team that mainly focuses on Korean dubbing. We have worked hard to improve dubbing awareness which has been neglected recently. We are working hard for everyone to know us even though not many know us yet. Hmm.. What if there are some people who are interested in dubbing? Maybe there are some people who know us among them. (laughs)
IT: What do you think is the significance of dubbing in relation to minor culture?
Team Aria : Dubbing is just a dubbing, and the history, culture, and time of a country are so complex that we can not completely replace the word of that country. But with dubbing, you can make it more accessible and easier to see and more familiar to us. That's why dubbing is one of the ways to ‘get closer’ to us and I think we should keep it. Oh, of course, there are individual differences, so I cannot even say that the original is good even if the dubbing is good. Either way, both are important.
IT: Before you started the activity, what was your perception about dubbing, and has that perception changed since you started dubbing?
Team Aria: Actually, we did not care about the reaction of my surroundings. We was just....like ‘Let's just do it!‘ when we started because it was just the beginning and we did not care who said something. Honestly, we can say that when we started with the feeling that ’I want to turn it into Korean Version!‘. Fortunately, there were many people who were interested in it so we could make that possible. Hmm....Whether perception has changed... I can say that before, people reacted like ‘Oh, had they released something?‘ but now there are people waiting for our next projects.(laughs).
IT: What is the most rewarding thing about working on dubbing and translating videos?
Team Aria: Above all, it is most rewarding for us to be liked and praised. To tell the truth, I am constantly looking at things like comments, and reviews all the time though I pretend not to. All the words of praise are the most rewarding for us. We do have some Malicious comments.. Sometimes I see such words, but I would like to accept them in good sprit for us. Of course, except for cussing without reason (laughs). (laughs) So every time I freak out when I go see which comment we have on our projects.....
IT: Do you have any difficulties in working on your support besides gaining recognition?
Team Aria: Above all, it was difficult for us to manage our homepage and other add-ons on the team because we were not in a position to make money and profit. I want people to look at our projects enough to make a homepage and do various other things, but sometimes I do not get the rewards for what I have been doing. Sometimes I feel like ‘Do have to do something like this? Seriously..‘ But there are some people who support us too. Hearing those good words cheers do cheer us up. Another difficulty is...yeah, definitely ’Deadline’. (Laughter) We have works every week so we can finish the work almost every week. Though the person who finishes the deadline is different each time because each teammate’s field is different, we are always living in the hell of deadlines. It's a big deal if we miss one piece of song, lyrics, mix, video, translation, illustration, design, web management. Since each field is doing hard work, it can be seen that works can come out well.
IT: Any last words that you want to say?
Team Aria: I do not know if I did it properly since I am doing this kind of interview for the first time. On the radio ... I do not know if anyone has seen the radio, but as you can hear from on the radio show, we can not stay alive if there are no fans who like us. I am a bit embarrassed to confess this, we can’t last long and continue dubbing unless there is a fan. So, I would like to say that, “Look forward to Team Aria Because we will continue to work hard!”
In this way, Korean dubbing, a minor culture dealt with by Team Aria, helps Korean people to understand foreign drama, songs, animations, regardless of sex. It is necessary to pay attention to dubbing because it plays a role like an auditory stepping stone to help 'public interest' to understand deeply and 'Korean language policy' to protect the language of the home country.
Giving voice of freedom of expression
Independent film is produced by the creator's intention and does not depend on an existing business model. Today, sponsorship and production are done by individuals or clubs, so most short films are less than an hour long and have a small number of viewers and independent distribution channels. The Inha Times interviewed Lee Ji-yeon, the Secretary General of the Korean Independent Film Society, to better understand the voices of independent films.
The Inha Times (IT): Could you introduce what features an independent film has?
Lee Ji Yeon: Independent flim has features that we can’t see in normal commercial flim or popular film. One feature is the director’s expressing of a message they want to convey freely. Another is that there is no limit when they choose a genre or technique to use.
IT: Is there enough support for independent film?
Lee Ji Yeon: I cannot say that the support budget in any field is abundant. However, there are various programmes on the independent film side. There are also the Film Promotion Committee and independent film festival support projects. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism is an organisation that also supports us. However, recently the situation in Korea has become so difficult that the support system has not worked properly in recent years.
IT: What is the reason why it is difficult for independent films, regarded as minor culture, to be recognised as major culture?
Lee Ji Yeon: The biggest reason might be there is a lack of places to watch independent flims. Because of this independent films have been inaccessible to many. In addition to this, there is very little support in Korea.
IT : What significance does independent film have in our culture?
Lee Ji Yeon: Cultural diversity. There is fantasy literature in literature, but as pure literature exists, these things must coexist. By this, society becomes rich. In this context, independent films also have significance in terms of cultural diversity.
IT: What are the current activities to promote independent films and how have people responded to independent films so far?
Lee Ji Yeon: Currently, there are two independent film festivals that are held. One is the Seoul Independent Documentary Film & Video Festival focusing on documentary only, and the other is the Seoul International Film Festival. In order to make it easier to introduce independent films, we publish compilations. We also have independent movie sales pages so that the public can easily access books about independent films. There is also a site that we run called ‘Naver Indie Theater’ for similar reasons. We also do film festivals such as independent film showcases. Our ultimate goal is to make independent films more popular.
IT: Finally, if there is anything you would like to say to readers of The Inha Times, as consumers of minor culture and independent films, please tell us.
Lee Ji Yeon: I know that there is a lack of places for you to watch independent films. Despite this fact, I want you to know that there is non-comparable value and fun in independent films. Please have a lot of interest in independent films.
It is difficult to communicate a relatively free message because it is possible to distribute it by paying attention to scenarios, directing, and subjects in accordance with commerciality. However, in the case of independent film, it is worth listening because it can convey a profound theme, such as the issues of women's rights and multicultural society, and suggests various implications to the audience.
Let's listen to the small voice in culture
Major culture with commerciality can cause a unity of thinking and taste to us who consume it, and suppress originality and personality. To find out about the importance of minor culture, The Inha Times had an interview with Professor Im Dae Geun of the University of Foreign Languages of Korea.
IT: Why do you think we can’t find creativity and diversity in Korea’s culture compared to global society?
Im Dae Geun: Korean society is stingy in accepting heterogeneous culture. However, once accepted, there is a tendency to fully support it. Above all, there must be institutional and customary backing to allow generosity of creativity, experimentation, and conduct by changing the rigid social atmosphere. We need to tolerate freedom of creation and create an atmosphere that is not afraid of failure.
IT: Why do you think we can’t find creativity and diversity in Korea’s culture compared to global society?
Im Dae Geun: Culture is like an ecosystem. If you remove aspects of culture because they are small and does not make money, you will eventually have only a big culture without sub cultures, a culture that is worth money. Then, the diversity and vitality of the cultural ecosystem cannot be sustained. A small culture, that is, a variety of new ideas and experiments created by subcultures, has a small impact on major culture. As a result, a series of ecosystemic circulation structures will be created, which will enable us to create a more healthy, vibrant and creative cultural ecosystem.
Cultural people from all over Korea are making efforts through different genres in order to inform minor culture in their own way. However, minor culture is also a culture, and if we care about these cultures, the culture of the Republic of Korea will be more diversified and enriched.
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