Hallyu in the hood: Abu Dhabi gets Korean centre

The Korean Cultural Center, which opens at Abu Dhabi's twofour54 complex, will include a "traditional experience zone" as well as a comprehensive library and virtual-reality centre.

Director Hyo-Keon Park says the centre will offer a range of free-to-attend courses and activities. Photos by Irene Garcia Leon / The National
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From kimchi workshops to K-pop dance lessons, a ­centre ­devoted to hallyu – Korean ­culture – will bring a host of new activities to the UAE when it opens at the twofour54 complex in the capital on Thursday, March 10.

The Korean Cultural Center, the first of its kind in the GCC, is one of 29 branches in cities around the world, including New York, New Delhi, Tokyo and Egypt, with headquarters in Seoul, the South Korean capital.

It will be inaugurated during an invite-only ceremony on Thursday, March 10, attended by guests including Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of culture and knowledge development, and Park Younggoog, Korea’s deputy minister of culture, sports and tourism.

See more: A look inside the newly opened Korean Cultural Center at twofour54

The two-storey space, spread over 1,556 square metres, ­includes a “traditional experience zone” that is designed to look like a hanok, an old-style Korean house, where cultural shows will be held and visitors can have their photographs taken in colourful hanbok (traditional costumes).

There is also a library with more than 2,000 books and a comprehensive digital section, a ­virtual-reality centre, plus separate rooms for seminars, martial arts, dance, cookery courses and calligraphy workshops.

Hyo-Keon Park, the director of KCC and cultural attaché at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the capital, says Abu Dhabi was chosen as the GCC venue for the facility for two reasons: its significance as an important cultural destination, and the UAE’s strong ties with Korea.

“The UAE has a strategic partnership with South Korea,” says Park. “Including our collaboration on the Barakah nuclear power plant, Korea has only strengthened its relationship with the UAE in various sectors, from energy to culture.”

From Sunday, the centre will come alive with a range of workshops, exhibitions and courses, all of them open to the public. To encourage participation, most of the sessions are free to attend, with only nominal fees in place for extras such as textbooks and equipment.

Read more: KCON 2016 coming to Abu Dhabi's du Arena

“We kick off with language classes, as well as cookery and calligraphy courses,” says Park. “And there’s much more planned – free screenings of classic and new films, quiz nights, concerts, plays and even a tae kwon do competition.”

Of note, says Park, is an introductory language course. The first term is free to attend, on a first-come, first-served basis. All language courses will be run by the prestigious King Sejong Institute, with experienced teachers from Seoul.

As for the workshops on food, music, dance and art, Park says the local Korean community will be tapped to share their talent.

“There are around 14,000 Koreans living in the UAE,” he says. “That is half the number of all Korean expatriates in the Middle East. We expect many of them to contribute towards some of our classes and events.”

Besides focusing on its packed in-house schedule over the next few months, KCC will host a night of entertainment on March 21 at Abu Dhabi Theatre, featuring musical and artistic talent from Korea.

It will also participate in KCON 2016 Abu Dhabi, a Korean-­culture convention, followed by K-pop concerts, on March 25 at du Arena on Yas Island.

The Korean Cultural Center, in building 5 on the twofour54 campus, is open from 9am to 6pm (library hours are 10am to 8pm), ­Sunday to Thursday, closed Friday and Saturday. Call 02 491 7227, email info.kccuae@gmail.com or connect at www.facebook.com/KoreanCulturalCenterUAE

Feeling Korea

To mark its launch, KCC is hosting a night of hallyu entertainment, including a high-energy tae kwon do demonstration by martial arts group K-Tigers; a breakdance performance by Gamblerz; Heungbo's Breaking a Calabash, a play based on the finale from a pansori (a genre of musical storytelling) called Heunboga; and an interactive show in which artists will paint and draw to live music featuring traditional instruments, including the sinawi.

Feeling Korea is on Monday, March 21, at Abu Dhabi Theatre on the Corniche Breakwater. The show starts at 7pm and entry is free. Call 02 4917 227 for more details