World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Korean Youth Cultural Center

GENRE: Pilbong
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2000 as Han Ma Dang

Korea is one of the world’s oldest civilizations and one of only few countries remaining inhabited by a relatively homogeneous population. A peninsula in East Asia bordered by China, Japan and Russia, Korea was called “land of the morning calm.” Korea’s music and dance is deeply rooted in ancient religious rituals and collective agricultural labor. One folk tradition, called p’ungmul, incorporates drumming, dancing, singing and street theater into one coherent processional art form. An integral part of village life for centuries, was performed to increase productivity during farm work and at rural holiday celebrations. With its repetitive, circular movements and hypnotic rhythms, p’ungmulp’ungmul has been used to unite community spirit, and has served as an outlet of personal and collective expression.

P’ungmul has had an interesting social and political history. Over time the function of the p’ungmul events have changed from ritual to political action. During the Japanese occupation of Korea between 1910-1945, became a form of recreation stripped of its meaning and power to unite. Yet by the late 1970s the People’s Movement, which sought to mobilize workers and farmers to establish a national identity, revived it again. It also played a key role in the student democratization movement in South Korea in the early 1980s. Although deeply rooted in Korea, by the late 1980s p’ungmulp’ungmul spread to major metropolitan areas in the United States as sympathetic groups sought out meaningful and uniquely Korean American expression. It is performed today in both cultural celebrations and political protests.

Founded in 1987, the Korean Youth Cultural Center (KYCC) is one of the oldest Korean community organizations in the United States. Its goals are to preserve and promote the traditional arts of Korea and to use the arts to improve the social conditions of Koreans and their broader Bay Area community.


TITLE OF PIECE: P’ungmul of the Pilbong Tradition CHOREOGRAPHER: Jeahong Jin, Dohee Lee DANCERS/MUSICIANS:Swe: Jenny Cho, Jaehong Jin, Jing: Ilho Park, Jessica Yang Changoo: Misook Ko, Eunha Lee, Helen Min, Buk: Ann Kwon, Juney Lee, Kyung Jin Lee, Catherine Pyun, Sangmo: Patrick Chew, Kyungwook Jung, Sam Kim, Peter Halim Ko, T’aep’yǒngso: Donna Kwon, Manjang:Soomi Kang, Elizabeth Suk, Misook

Like any dance or music form, p’ungmul has many different styles. Pilbong is considered a purer style derived from the village rituals of Korea’s Jeolla (Cholla) Province. The Korean Youth Cultural Center performs a version of this in Pilbong-Pan-kut, The musical instruments have deep symbolic meaning; metal in the gongs symbolize the heavens, while the wood and leather of the drums represent the earth. Humans who play the instruments are considered the bridge between heaven and earth.

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