Amid the hectic routine of our daily lives, many of us find ourselves fantasizing of a Mediterranean getaway and the sights and smells that would greet us on a leisurely stroll down a quiet seaside street. One such dreamy destination is Montpellier, a city with over a thousand years of history and a culture that shines with dynamic energy and dignified elegance. The city is known as the second capital as it serves as the cultural center of southern France, hosting a variety of culture and arts events and festivities. Here, the multi-faceted Korean culture is highlighted annually at a large-scale festival, Coree d’Ici.
Festival Coree d’Ici began in 2015 with the efforts of Korean modern dancer Nam Young-ho and supporters. The name of the festival literally means “Korea is here.” The festival shares diverse cultural aspects of Korea including traditional dance and music, exhibitions, film, cuisine, and ceramics, enjoying popularity among locals and foreign visitors to the region alike. Owing to the city administration’s all-out support, the festival also functions as a significant channel introducing various aspects of Korean culture to neighboring Mediterranean countries. Last year, the festival was held in Montpellier and its suburbs, offering colorful programs that featured pungmul (a form of traditional Korean folk music) and B-boying performances; exhibitions of Korean paper works and ceramics; and culinary experiences where participants could taste Korean dishes and relish tea in the traditional fashion.
Montpellier Mayor Philippe Saurel has persuaded the city council to support the festival and render full administrative and financial assistance through the provision of venues and budgetary and publicity aid. Thanks to his unrivalled consistent support for the introduction of Korean culture, the festival has grown from a small festivity marked by a samulnori performance featuring four Korean traditional percussion instruments into the only large-scale Korean culture festival in southern France. The Korean government, in recognition of Mayor Saurel’s devoted efforts, honored him with the Order of Cultural Merit, the Hwagwan Medal, in 2018.
It is particularly noteworthy that Festival Coree d’Ici is no longer an event that unilaterally introduces Korean culture overseas, having become a venue for networking between young artists of Korea and France. A full half of Montpellier’s population are in their 30s or younger, and the city has been eager to discover and support young artists looking to collaborate with fellow artists from other countries. Coree d’Ici is one of the shining success stories of this initiative, greatly contributing to Korea-France relations.
As Montpellier citizens’ interest in Korean culture spreads throughout the city thanks to the city administration’s support, a department of Korean language has even been established at a local institution. It is, indeed, something to celebrate. No wonder the number of Koreans touring the Mediterranean has markedly increased in recent years. And if and when you plan to join them, be sure to include a trip to Montpellier and a visit to the Coree d’Ici on your itinerary!
Written by Kim Shinyoung