Tag Archives: seoul

RPDR’s Kim Chi slays Seoul debut at SKRT in Itaewon

“One day, I would love to be able to perform in South Korea and actually have people come out to see me.”

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Kim Chi performs at SKRT in Itaewon, Seoul on Sept. 24. SCREAMfmLondon

About an hour before doors opened at the Itaewon nightclub SKRT for Mad Bambi’s third drag ball in Seoul, the line already stretched down the block and around the corner. By 11 p.m., the line had grown beyond the fire station at the nearby intersection, down the street and out of sight. Forty-five minutes after the doors opened, tickets were sold out.

Seoulites walking past would stop and stare at the huge crowd. “What is the line for?” they would ask.

“We’re waiting for Kim Chi,” we’d respond. They would continue to stare.

“All these people are waiting in line for some kimchi?”

“No, this person on the poster is Kim Chi, a man who dresses as a woman.”

“…That’s a man?”

The attraction of the evening was, of course, Kim Chi — an anime-inspired, conceptual drag queen and runner-up on season eight of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Born in the USA but raised in South Korea, Kim Chi has a special place in the hearts of Korean fans who turned up en masse to support her debut on the Seoul drag scene.

I’ve never been to such a crowded drag show. I missed half the voguing waiting in line out front, and strained to see over the crowd during the opening performances of local queens Nikki Ashes, Charlotte Goodenough and Cha Cha.

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Kim Chi performs for fans at SKRT in Itaewon, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Finally, Kim Chi arrived onstage to the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon,” twirling her red skirt and tipping a wide-brimmed hat. Kim is a queen known for her incredible looks and makeup talent, so it was a thrill to see her work up close as we all sweated and danced together to the DJ’s tunes that ranged from Lady Gaga and Beyoncé to their K-pop equivalents HyunA and CL.

Kim Chi spoke to the audience in both English and Korean, expressing her joy and gratitude for the warm reception. During her set, Kim performed English and Korean lipsyncs, as well as her RPDR trademark song, “Fat, Fem & Asian,” which is a tongue-in-cheek response to the marginalization of anyone fat, femme or Asian in the gay community.

It was very exciting to see Kim Chi’s triumphant return to Seoul after her rise to stardom on RPDR. It was exciting to see such an excellent turnout despite South Korea’s less-than-accepting stance on homosexuality.

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Seoul’s gay pride parade this June. SCREAMfmLondon

At the annual gay pride parade in Seoul every summer, religious protesters surround the event, preach over loudspeakers and occasionally try to put a stop to the Pride events. In previous years, Christian groups have laid down in the street to stop the parade and, last year, attempted to prevent the event from even receiving its permits from the city.

But the Korean LGBT community carries on, with role models like Kim Chi paving the way. Her drag is captivating and cutting-edge, and she never shies away from her Korean heritage. On “Drag Race,” Kim Chi stood out from previous Asian contestants for not simply joking about racial stereotypes but instead embracing her Korean roots and using that connection to her full advantage. One standout moment came when Kim appeared on the main stage in a beautiful traditional hanbok as a tribute to her mother.

Kim Chi’s sold-out performance at SKRT is hopefully a sign of more good things to come.

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K-beauty review: moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX

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YG Entertainment’s cosmetics brand Moonshot presents its special Lucky Box event for Big Bang’s 10th anniversary. SCREAMfmLondon

As K-pop’s greatest boyband, Big Bang, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, its label, YG Entertainment, has pulled out all the stops so fans can make the most of the occasion. From concerts and an art exhibition to an in-theater movie and a line of makeup and skincare products, there is no end to the festivities.

I picked up the moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX for 70,000 KRW (about $62.70) at the BIGBANG10 concert in Seoul. The box features about six products from the cosmetics brand Moonshot (also owned by YG Entertainment) that are advertised by Big Bang’s G-Dragon and 2NE2’s Dara. Here is my rundown of the box’s contents:

All in One Moisturizer ($21.40)

First of all, this is a men’s product intended to keep your face soothed and moisturized after shaving your beard. Although this is not a problem I really have, I’m sure I’ll get some use out of this product anyway. It’s supposed to contain the qualities of a toner, lotion and an essence combined, and it’s said to even out the skin tone. If I never use it, at least I’ll have it on hand in case GD wants to spend the night.

Moonshot's Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Moonshot’s Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Microfit Cushion SPF 50+ PA+++ ($23.05)

This product is one I really love! It’s a layerable foundation with a light formula, and it really creates a smooth, poreless look. The Microfit cushion has become my go-to cushion compact for traveling and for going out. It makes the skin look flawless, and I really highly recommend it.

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Moonshot Cream Paint in 104 Pink Punch. SCREAMfmLondon

Cream Paint ($20.58)

This cream paint is a multipurpose lip and cheek tint with a creamy texture and a powdery finish. I received the cream paint in color no. 104, pink punch, which is a bright magenta color that I quite like. I don’t normally wear lip or cheek products, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to experiment with this one and see how it turns out for me.

Line Performer Pencil ($14.82)

This is a waterproof pencil eyeliner that I received in color no. 01, deep black. Most intriguing is the included blending applicator and sharpener. This pencil is supposed to be great for both smokey eyes and sharp cat eyes, but I’ve pretty much transitioned to exclusively using eyeliner pens, so I haven’t taken the time to try this out yet.

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G-Dragon’s signature scent by Moonshot: GD Eu De Toilette. SCREAMfmLondon

GD Eu De Toilette (65,000 // ~$58.22)

The Lucky Box came with a small sample of G-Dragon’s signature scent, but I actually purchased the full-size, 50 mL thing because I really dig the scent. It’s advertised as a unisex fragrance, so it’s a bit more subtle. A breakdown of the perfume shows three different groups of scent: the top layer being grapefruit, lemon, tangerine and cottonwood; the middle layer is sage, seaweed, jasmine and bamboo; and the base layer is ambrette, cedarwood, musk and patchouli. I really enjoy this fragrance, and I’m really happy with the purchase. It doesn’t even give me a headache after wearing it for a while — the true test of any perfume.

Multi Protection UV Bouncer ($28.81)

This is kind of a base product that moisturizes the skin while providing protection from UV rays. It can be used as a primer under foundation, and the gelly formula can be cooling, soothing and refreshing. I imagine this would be a nice product to use during the heat of the summer, but as it’s moving into fall now, maybe it’ll have to wait until next year.

Everything Else

The rest of the Lucky Box is filled with postcards and pictures of GD and Sandara Park, Moonshot’s two main YG models, as well as a commemorative BIGBANG10 sticker. Some Lucky Boxes allegedly contained signed Big Bang CDs or tickets to the art exhibit, but I had no such luck. All-in-all, I’m happy with my Lucky Box and I’m glad I had the opportunity to pick one up and participate in all the Big Bang 10th anniversary madness. Keep it coming, YG. I’ll probably buy anything G-Dragon is trying to sell me.

Live: WAPOP [Collaboration of K-Drama and K-Pop]

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Dance performance team Blue Whale Brothers performs in the WAPOP concert at Children’s Grand Park. SCREAMfmLondon

When a friend offered me free tickets to a “k-drama k-pop concert thing” called WAPOP, I, of course, just had to go see the live combination of these forms of entertainment.

WAPOP is an ongoing event that takes place at 8 p.m. every single Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The name comes from some strange combination of “Wow Pop” and “World & Asia,” and the event is clearly marketed toward tourists specifically from China. The website is offered in Chinese, Korean and Japanese, but a lot of the pre-show content deals with the relationship between South Korea and China, and a lot of the dialogue is in Mandarin.

The performers change from night to night, but the current players frequently include 24K (my favorite rookie group from last year’s Dream Concert!), A.Cian (my favorite rookie group from this year’s Dream Concert!), Bloomy and Minx.

In addition to the k-pop concert, WAPOP also offers live k-drama performances, b-boy dancing, and wild laser light tricks. The whole thing is virtually hosted by actor Lee Byung-hun, who escorts the audience on a train ride through space and time via incredibly deluxe 260-degree panorama video projection.

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The duo Meivley performs a song from the original soundtrack of the popular drama “Descendants of the Sun.” SCREAMfmLondon

When I imagined “live k-drama,” I basically just figured they’d show an episode of “Boys Over Flowers” on the big screen and be done with it. However, the k-drama bits are, in fact, very cool. The big screen is used to show key scenes from popular shows like “My Love From Another Star” and “Descendants of the Sun” while live musicians and dancers perform dramatic scenes on the stage.

When Lee Byung-hun first drops us off in the Joseon Dynasty for some Korean culture, the historical drama is augmented with hip-hop dancing to the tune of a traditional Korean stringed instrument, the gayaguem. The k-drama scenes make great use of the stage and the theater’s technology.

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Minx performs T-ara’s “Roly Poly” onstage at the WAPOP concert. SCREAMfmLondon

In between each k-drama performance, a different rookie idol group takes the stage to perform a few songs — usually two original songs and one cover.

On the night I attended, girl group Bloomy performed first, introducing original songs “흥칫뿡” and “Because of You,” which are both surprisingly excellent. The group is really new (they debuted in February), but the performance was legit. The second girl group, Minx, was less impressive, but they performed a fun cover of T-ara’s hit song “Roly Poly,” so that was something.

A.Cian, the only boy group that night, closed the event. I remember loving their catchy single “Touch” the last time I saw them live, and they delivered again at the WAPOP concert. Their dancing is over-the-top cute, their outfits are over-the-top stupid, and they are overflowing with fanservice. The perfect combination. They, naturally, closed the show with a cover of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” because that’s what you do when you’re targeting an audience of tourists.

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A.Cian performs their single “Touch” at the WAPOP concert. SCREAMfmLondon

I actually really enjoyed the whole show, and I ended up downloading both A.Cian’s and Bloomy’s albums when I got home. Loved it and would totally do it again.

That being said, I have no idea who the hell would pay $70 for this experience. There are a million opportunities to see huge k-pop stars perform for free. So why would anyone pay this price to see some random rookie acts perform two songs alongside a video projection of Lee Byung-hun? If they sell any tickets at all, that blows my mind.

But WAPOP is a cool experience, really. I would pay, like… five bucks to see it again.

WAPOP
238 Neungdong-ro Gwangjin-gu
8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
Tickets range from 50,000 to 70,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.wapophall.com.

Theater: Arts Council Korea presents ‘Save the Green Planet’

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“Save the Green Planet” at Daehakro Arts Theater in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Ever felt that Stephen King’s “Misery” was lacking in aliens? Director Jang Joon-hwan thought so too. So, he devised the 2003 genre-bending film “Save the Green Planet!” inspired by the aforementioned psychological thriller as well as the exciting internet theory that Leonardo DiCaprio is an alien.

The resulting film contains elements of horror, comedy, science fiction and thrillers, and has gained a cult fanbase following its success at several international film festivals.

This April, “Save the Green Planet” made its official debut as a stage drama at the Daehakro Arts Theater in Seoul’s most famous theater district, Daehangno. The script was adapted for the stage by playwright Jo Yong-shin and directed by Lee Ji-na.

The story centers on Lee Byeong-gu, who believes only he can keep aliens from destroying the Earth. In order to get in touch with the Prince of Andromeda, Byeong-gu kidnaps the man he perceives to be the highest-ranking incognito alien in Seoul: pharmaceutical executive Kang Man-shik. Once he has Man-shik secured in his basement dungeon, the torture begins to get the answers he’s looking for before local detectives can find him.

It’s a very good movie: a beautiful combination of goofy, disturbing and titillating. Definitely one to check out for fans of black comedy and zany sci-fi.

The stage adaptation is quite a bit different — everything about the production is scaled down, which is intriguing. The set is very, very minimal and relies heavily on lighting, video projection and sound to create the scenes. The theater itself is small, holding only 500 seats with little space between the audience and stage. And the cast is comprised of only four actors.

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Shin Ha-kyun and Baek Yoon-sik star as Byeong-gu and Man-shik in the 2003 film “Save the Green Planet!” Photo courtesy of CJ Entertainment and Koch-Lorber Films.

Like the film, the play is character-driven, relying on the actors’ performances to sell the story. As is customary, “Save the Green Planet” features a rotating cast for its characters. The show I attended featured SHINee’s Key as Byeong-gu, Kim Do-bin as Man-shik, Ham Yeon-ji as Byeong-gu’s henchman/girlfriend Su-ni, and Yuk Hyun-wook as literally everyone else.

Hyun-wook is excellent onstage, and I was super impressed with his ability to make each of his many characters seem different in such a short period of time. He keeps the play’s momentum going and even interacts with the audience and improvises well.

Key and Do-bin have great chemistry during the torture sequences, and all of the actors had good comedic timing. I was often amused by the perfectly choreographed, slow-motion fight sequences and chunks of dialogue delivered in the language of Andromeda.

The play really excels in its comedy, and it is super entertaining. The best thing about “Save the Green Planet” is its ability to garner so many laughs despite the gruesome and weird plot progression.

However, the play was not as successful as the movie at achieving the truly dark, twisted and emotional side of the story.

I was very curious to see Key take on the role of Byeong-gu because he’s such a cute boybander, and he’s so different from the older, grittier actors who also star as Byeong-gu (as well as the film’s excellent Shin Ha-kyun). I would have loved to see him go all out into the addled mind of the character, but I get that he’s a pop star, he’s got other stuff to do, and he can’t fully dedicate himself to such method acting. But if they ever want to film a remake, I’m still curious.

Overall, I really enjoy both the “Save the Green Planet!” film and play, and I would definitely see the stage production again. I appreciate how the actors work with the set-up onstage, as well as the source material. Ultimately, it’s a cool story about humanity.

Now who will save the Earth?

‘Save the Green Planet’
110-809 Daehak-ro 10-gil 17, Jongno-gu
8 p.m. Tuesday – Friday, 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through May 29
Tickets range from 45,000 to 55,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.koreapac.kr.

Cherry blossoms at Seoul National Cemetery

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Trees in full bloom at Seoul National Cemetery. SCREAMfmLondon

Every year, people wait for the perfect few days in April to head out to the best parks in Seoul for viewing blooming cherry trees. Yeouido and Jinhae are particularly popular spots for cherry blossom picnics and photoshoots, but Seoul National Cemetery in Dongjak-dong offers a less crowded, more peaceful alternative.

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Cherry blossoms signal the coming of spring weather in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Seoul National Cemetery is known for its weeping cherry trees, which have flower-covered branches that hang low and swing in the wind. The elegant weeping cherry tree branches fit the tranquil mood of the cemetery.

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Seoul National Cemetery. SCREAMfmLondon

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Seoul National Cemetery. SCREAMfmLondon

The cemetery is reserved for Korean veterans, including those of the Korean independence movement, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Several former Korean presidents are also buried there. In addition to the cherry trees, there are photo exhibits and memorial monuments to appreciate.

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Cherry blossoms at Seoul National Cemetery. SCREAMfmLondon

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Cherry blossoms at Seoul National Cemetery. SCREAMfmLondon

Although viewing cherry blossoms is so popular in modern-day South Korea, the country’s relationship with the national flower of Japan is actually kind of complicated. Because Yoshino cherry trees were planted on Korean palace grounds during the Japanese occupation of Korea, the continued cherry blossom festivals have been controversial. Some Koreans view the trees as symbols of the occupation, and many trees have been chopped down as a political statement.

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Cherry blossoms at Seoul National Cemetery. SCREAMfmLondon

Regardless of the contentious history of cherry blossoms in Korea, the beautiful and short-lived blossoms still attract huge crowds during the first few weeks of April. This weekend, the weather was warm, but the skies were gray — not with fog but with awful air pollution. Such is spring in 2016.

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Spring! SCREAMfmLondon

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Cherry blossoms at Seoul National Cemetery. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Samgyeopsal, galbi and more Korean BBQ

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Love this delicious samgyeopsal: thick, fatty slices of pork belly cooked on a grill with mushrooms, kimchi and bean sprouts. It is (obviously) one of my favorite meals in Korea. SCREAMfmLondon

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We came to this restaurant near Wangsimni Station to keep the party going after the last Big Bang ‘MADE’ concert. Ordered the samgyeopsal and galbi (marinated beef short ribs). They also carry the (amazingly delicious) pineapple-flavored soju! And we love how they cook egg on the grill inside of a slice of onion. SCREAMfmLondon

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I wrote about this restaurant in my first Korean food post last year, and I still love it just as much! Nothing beats that excellent little omelette that surrounds the grill and cooks alongside your meat. SCREAMfmLondon

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Can you tell that I really love samgyeopsal? This restaurant in Hongdae plays good music, has a serve-yourself counter for side dishes, and hands out free ice cream as you leave. Couldn’t get much better than that. SCREAMfmLondon

Spatial Illumination – 9 Lights in 9 Rooms at D Museum

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Flynn Talbot’s “Primary” installation is one of nine works of light-centered art on display at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

The most popular art hotspot in Seoul right now is D Museum — a new exhibition space in Hannam-dong operated by Daelim Museum. The museum’s inaugural exhibition is “Spatial Illumination – 9 Lights in 9 Rooms,” which has been drawing crowds with large-scale light installations, sculptures, videos and interactive works by international artists.

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D Museum in Hannam-dong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

The exhibit leads visitors through a maze-like space divided into nine rooms showcasing different pieces. The hallways (as well as many of the rooms) are darkened almost entirely as all of the artwork uses light as its medium.

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Flynn Talbot’s “Contour” depicts a human fingerprint, showing the light within yourself. SCREAMfmLondon

The journey begins with the neon installation of Cerith Wyn Evans, a British contemporary artist. “Neon forms (after Noh II and III)” are inspired by Japanese Noh theater.

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Cerith Wyn Evans’ “Neon forms (after Noh II and III)” at the D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Next came one of my favorite rooms: Flynn Talbot’s color-changing piece, “Primary.” The light sources are concealed and the room is completely dark, which really gives you a chance to focus on the work and enjoy its strange, soothing qualities as the colored lights gradually shift from pink to blue to orange and everywhere in between.

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Flynn Talbot’s “Primary” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Another favorite piece is Carlos Cruz-Diez’s “Chromosaturation.” Before entering the room, everyone is required to slip cloth covers over their shoes to protect the installation. The room is filled with different walls and shapes suspended from the ceiling. Different colored lights create interesting images when they catch all of the dimensions of the room.

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Carlos Cruz-Diez’s “Chromosaturation” at the D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

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One of the most popular rooms featured in D Museum’s current exhibition, “Spatial Illumination—9 Lights in 9 Rooms.” SCREAMfmLondon

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Such a fun room to explore. SCREAMfmLondon

After leaving the “Chromosaturation” room, visitors ascend the stairs. As you climb, Studio Roso’s “Mirror Branch” installation becomes visible. This piece is comprised of thousands of tiny mirrors forming the shape of a tree, which casts bright, twinkling reflections and bouncy shadows around the room and down the stairs.

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Studio Roso’s “Mirror Branch” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Next, you open a door and are transported into a very cool room: “My Whale” created by a Russian creative group of sound engineers, musicians and visual artists. The tunnel is lined with mirrors, creating the illusion that it goes on infinitely. The room plays whale songs and its pulsing light projections change in time with the sounds.

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Tundra’s “My Whale” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Paul Cocksedge filled one of the exhibition’s largest rooms with his piece, “Bourrasque,” which looks like sheets of lighted white paper blowing in the wind.

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Paul Cocksedge’s “Bourrasque” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

I particularly enjoyed Dutch artist Dennis Parren’s room. His “CMYK Corner” and “CMYK Wall” are specially-designed lights that project cyan, magenta and yellow on the surrounding walls. These pieces are simple but intriguing, hinting at the deconstruction of light.

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Dennis Parren’s “CMYK Wall” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

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I love this from every angle. SCREAMfmLondon

Parren also presented a CMYK installation called “Don’t Look Into the Light,” which uses its audience as the subject. The colorful shadows and shapes you create as you move through the space are really fun.

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Lots of selfies happen in here. SCREAMfmLondon

“Spatial Illumination – 9 Lights in 9 Rooms” is definitely a cool exhibition, and it’s totally worth checking out if you enjoy wandering around in the dark, appreciating neon and/or taking lots and lots of Instagram photos. I’m very curious to see what D Museum will present next.

Spatial Illumination – 9 Lights in 9 Rooms
D Museum
5-6, Dokseodang-ro, Yongsan-gu
Tickets are 8,000 KRW for adults, 5,000 KRW for students (ages 8-18), and 3,000 KRW for children (ages 3-7)
The exhibition runs through May 8.
For more information, visit www.daelimmuseum.org.