You might’ve realised that performing on the streets in Korea is a very normal thing. That is called Busking! What is it you may ask? Continue reading to know more!
An Introduction To Busking
What Is Busking?
The busking culture (버스킹 문화) is growing at a very energetic pace in Korea and you can easily stumble upon young, innovative individuals and teams expressing their creativity as you walk on the streets (거리). It is not an exaggeration to say that you never fail to see a large crowd of people dancing and singing as you walk through the busy streets of places like Hongdae.
The Art Of Busking
Freedom (자유로움) is what it signifies, the art of busking. These street performers in Korea engage in a wide range of activities and performances like music, dancing and playing musical instruments. With today’s technology (테크놀로지), many buskers even live stream their performances on social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube for their foreign fans to watch online.
Why Busk On Streets?
Some started to perform for the sake of simply doing what they truly love as a mere hobby. Others go even further and seek to become successful musicians (뮤지션). For the latter, it is not easy and only very few people can actually make ends meet by busking. Nevertheless, some big names in the current Korean music industry like Yozoh (요조) and 10cm (십센치) both began their respective careers from busking.
How To Enjoy Busking?
Busking constitutes a cultural charm that Korea offers. Essentially (기본적으로), busking is free and open to anyone who walks by and you can just take as long or short as you want to enjoy the performance without the need of buying a ticket or booking a seat. In fact, many street performers love to connect with the audience by inviting them to the stage, letting them be a part of their shows.
Popular Busking Spots
Hongdae is very vibrant and energetic that has proven attractive to not only locals but also foreign visitors. Busking in Hongdae tends to be cool, young and trendy with street dance groups getting down with the latest K-POP hits. What has made Hongdae the center of Korea’s busking culture is the actual involvement of the audience.
Some buskers in Hongdae conduct a variety show-like performance where there is a specific timeslot for the audience to jump in and show what they got and usually, participants are awarded small gifts and souvenirs for their participation.
The area of Daehak-ro hosts many theatres and art studios, making it the hub of creativity and performances. As compared to Hongdae, busking at Daehak-ro appeals to a wider audience, regardless of age (나이). The major type of performances at Daehak-ro are buskers expressing their talent by showing their mastery of musical instruments. Violinists, guitarists and even pianists, you name it.
On weekends, the area around the nearby Marronnier Park (마로니에 공원) hosts many pop-up stalls that sell food, drinks and also handicrafts.
Quick Tips for Viewing Busking in Seoul
Official Busking Schedules
There is no such thing as an official busking schedule. Many buskers usually display boards and signs in front of their stages which provide information about their social media platforms. If you find your favourite busker, you can follow them on social media (소셜미디어) and stay tuned for the freshest information on their next performances.
When it comes to tipping, it’s considered unnecessary and sometimes even avoided in Korea. However, tipping buskers for their amazing performances is completely fine and culturally acceptable in Korea although it is not a must. You’ll find tipping boxes placed in front of the stage and buskers usually ask at the end of their shows to chip in a little to show your gratitude.
As such, having a few 500 KRW coins and 1,000 KRW notes is a great idea when you plan on going to see busking.
What If I Want To Busk in Seoul?
You would in most cases need to obtain a permit from local authorities in order to busk in Korea. Take the vicinity surrounding the Cheonggye Stream (청계천), for example, the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture (서울문화재단) is the point of contact for you as it is the organization that grants exclusive rights to buskers seeking to perform in this identified area.
Technically, you are allowed to busk in this area without a permit but you would have to strictly follow the regulation that you can’t accept tips and other forms of monetary compensation from the audience.
We hope that this was a fun and insightful post for all of you! Who knows, maybe we’ll catch one of you busking on the streets of Korea one day? Let’s hope that happens! Feel free to share this blog with your friends as well. Since we’re on the topic of busking, check out our other blogs about Does Korea Have Drag Queens and Fortune / Tarot Reading Culture In Korea!