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Hallyu Blossoms on Sao Paulo’s Avenida Paulista

  • [등록일]2019-12-30
  • [조회] 387

Korean Culture Center relocates to downtown Sao Paulo

Avenida Paulista in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil, becomes a pedestrian-only cultural street this Sunday, filled with performances, parades and festivities. K-pop fans gather in front of the Korean Culture Center on Avenida Paulista, 460 to do dance covers. BTS and Blackpink are their idols.
Since the Korean Cultural Center relocated to Avenida Paulista in early August, some K-pop fans who performed dance covers at the Centro Cultural Sao Paulo moved to the new venue. Minzy of 2NE1 gave a street performance on Avenida Paulista during the reopening event. The Greetingman statue donated by sculptor Yoo Young-ho must have watched over the mix of K-pop excitement and Latin American passion.
Avenida Paulista is one of the main streets of Sao Paulo, the largest city in South America. It is like Seoul’s Gwanghwamun area. Built from the 19th century, the eight-lane avenue stretching 2.5 kilometers is lined with high-rise buildings. The burgeoning district of Morumbi is growing rapidly, but Avenida Paulista is still the key landmark of Sao Paulo. It was renovated in the 1950s into what it is today. Major multinational corporations, broadcasters, banks, shopping centers and the Sao Paulo Museum of Art are located on the avenue.
What make this avenue famous are the numerous parades and events held there, starting with the Reveillon, which runs through New Year’s Eve. Popular protests against corruption in Brazilian politics are also held here. Soccer fans often celebrate ecstatically here when the pro soccer clubs in Sao Paulo win.
There is a reason that the consulates and cultural centers of various countries are located on Avenida Paulista, while their embassies are in the country’s federal capital Brasilia. Despite the high rents and outdated infrastructure, Avenida Paulista is a historical downtown area preferred as the site of many diplomatic missions. The consulates of France, Italy, India, Japan, and Korea, among others, are located on Avenida Paulista. The cultural centers of Spain and Italy and the Japan House are situated nearby.
The only thing the avenue was missing was a Korean Cultural Center?there may have been a consulate general of the Republic of Korea in the area but no cultural center. There are three Korean Cultural Centers in Central and South America: one in Buenos Aires in Argentina, one in Mexico City in Mexico, and one in Sao Paulo in Brazil (in the order of establishment). The Sao Paulo Korean Cultural Center, established in 2013, however, was initially located in an area with little access to public transport and near a crime-ridden neighborhood. Because it was neither close to Koreatown in Bom Retiro nor on Avenida Paulista, the inappropriateness of the location had constantly been addressed.
The center eventually reopened at a partly purchased building on Avenida Paulista. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism runs Korean Cultural Centers in 32 countries, including four Korea Centers, and this was the second time the Korean government purchased a site for an overseas culture center, after Buenos Aires. This is where lovers of K-pop, Korean films, Korean literature, Korean art and photography, and Korean classical music gather now.


Outstanding programming to achieve a balance of pop culture and high culture

Together with the Korea National University of Arts, the Korean Cultural Center organized a musical education program for children of low-income families in Brazil called “Classical Music Camp for Dreams and Hopes.” In September, jointly with the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, the center held a “Korea-Brazil Night of Literature” in a bid to promote Korean literature in the South American country. The Greetingman statue donated by sculptor Yoo Young-ho is a public installation work on permanent display. Such efforts to strike a balance between high culture and pop culture were paying off.
The response from Brazilians participating in these events was remarkable. They had grown more earnest and enthusiastic. How did this happen? With the constant flow of K-pop and Korean dramas for years, perhaps the time has come for a transformation from quantity into quality. The location of Avenida Paulista also helps draw more people, and I think the Korean consulate, culture center and the Korean community created a synergistic effect.
Brazil is finally becoming familiar with Korea. Six years ago, MBC sadly shut down its Central and South American bureau in Sao Paulo. Remembering how nothing but K-pop was known about Korea at the time, I can only marvel at the changes I see today. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties. Brazilian guitarist Marco Pereira held a concert in Korea, and Brazil-based Korean artist Jeon Ok-hee’s paintings were exhibited at the Legislative Chamber of the Federal District in Brasilia. Idioms like “all kinds of flowers are in full bloom” (萬花方暢), and “let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend (百花齊放)” cross my mind. Hallyu in Brazil is in full swing, and bilateral cultural exchanges are entering a new phase.


K-pop used as bait for human trafficking

Yet, with the good comes the bad. An unbelievably appalling incident took place. Five men were arrested for forcing Brazilian women to provide sex after luring them to come to Korea with promises of K-pop stardom. They approached seven Brazilian women through social media in early July, convinced them to come to Korea by lying that they will help them become entertainers or models. When the women arrived, the men confiscated their passports, confined them, and sold them off to brothels for KRW 2 million per person, according to news reports. The women managed to contact the Brazilian embassy and were rescued by the police.
Citing the incident as “violence against women,” the Brazilian media reported that the rescued Brazilian women were K-pop fans who had fallen victim to the sex trade in Korea. Comments in the Brazilian news article read: “It was Europe in the past, is it Korea now?”; “Korea is the destination of trafficking of women”; “Young and naive, they were duped by evil.” Anti-Korean sentiment can rise in Brazil. People are still posting comments on the news article on the Brazilian website.
I shared the news on Facebook, and people wrote comments like: “They must be severely punished as they are disgraces to the country”; “Wish they could be taken to Brazil, and handled under Brazilian law”; and “They should be jailed here in Brazil.” It is embarrassing that K-pop was part of this case. The victims were women in their 20s and 30s interested in Korean culture.
K-pop was used as bait in a crime. Even if a considerable number of Korean songs, drama and movies become major hits, one malicious crime like this can tarnish the image of Korea and Korean culture. The incident can be the object of anger and mockery for quite some time. After this incident, I became more cautious about looking into the Hallyu situation in Brazil. I wonder how many K-pop fans may be performing dance covers this coming Sunday in front of the Korea Cultural Center on Avenida Paulista, Sao Paulo.


Written by Jung Kil-hwa, executive producer of the unification cooperation business team at MBC


Source: Hallyu Story, Issue October+November 2019