When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch
South Korea

Young Passion For Pansori, Reviving A South Korean Tradition

Youth performers revive pansori, the folkloric art of musical storytelling, a South Korean cultural heritage.

Pansori performers
Pansori performers
Philippe Mesmer

TOKYO — In South Korea, pansori, the art of musical storytelling, is synonymous with tradition. Its name comes from the words pan, which means "room" or "meeting place," and sori, "singing."

Declared a cultural heritage by Korea in 1965 and by Unesco in 2008, pansori is part of the country's national folklore, passed orally from generation to generation since its age of glory in the 19th century. The singing of secular stories accompanied by a janggu, a traditional percussion instrument, at village festivals, had for a long time mainly attracted an older audience. But now the style is seeing a renaissance, with young interpreters mixing it with modern sounds, or evoking current themes.

Pansori is a way of expressing your feelings

One such group is Modern Pansori, created by singer Song Bonggeum, whose arrangements embrace jazzier melodies. "Pansori is a way of expressing your feelings. Anyone can add their feelings to enrich it," the singer said. Her lyrics notably deal with the reluctance of the younger generation to marry and have children, and sometimes touch upon political issues.

In the piece Golden Spoon, Song Bonggeum uses pansori to mock well-known families that run South Korean conglomerates, as well as society's extremely hierarchical structure. Open to all types of musical experimenting, she says she also hopes to perform with the stars of South Korean pop groups, or K-pop, such as the boy band BTS.

Along with other artists of her generation, such as Byun Jin-sub or Yu Taepyungyang, Song Bonggeum tries to breathe new life into the genre, often by giving shorter performances than the traditional versions, which can last hours. Though her audience does not match that of K-pop groups, pansori attracts youths who are attached to tradition even if they prefer not to listen to hours of droning by traditional storytellers.

Song started performing pansori 10 years ago. "A friend played the ajaeng a sort of zither. She was a star, and I was a little jealous. So I wanted to sing." The choice seemed obvious to the native of Jeonju, a city in the North Jeolla province in the country's west, a bastion of pansori. "It was normal to come into contact with pansori here."

The idea is to shake the foundations of tradition

Known for its neighborhood of traditional houses and the Gyeonggijeon temple, Jeonju maintains its local heritage with the annual Jeonju International Sori Festival, held every September since 2001.

The idea, explains the percussionist Park Je-chun, charged with the festival's programming, is "to shake the foundations of tradition" by promoting experimentation. "We try to find a balance between tradition and the taste of today's youth," explained Kim Han, the festival director.

Pansori has its own stars, like Yoon Jin-chul. During the last sori festival, Yoon dazzled the audience with a version of Jeokbyeokga, a story inspired by a passage from Sanguozhi yanyi (The Three Kingdoms), by the 14th-century Chinese writer Luo Guanzhong. There, Yoon worked with young people invited to collaborate with foreign groups, such as the Greek band En Chordais. Yu Taepyungyang has done similar work with the French band La Tit'Fanfare. It's all part of a campaign to open the frontiers of tradition even wider.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

eyes on the U.S.

Murdoch's Resignation Adds To Biden Good Luck With The Media — A Repeat Of FDR?

Robert Murdoch's resignation from Fox News Corp. so soon before the next U.S. presidential elections begs the question of how directly media coverage has impacted Joe Biden as a figure, and what this new shift in power will mean for the current President.

Close up photograph of a opy of The Independent features Rupert Murdoch striking a pensive countenance as his 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper announced its last edition will run

July 7, 2011 - London, England: A copy of The Independent features Rupert Murdoch striking a pensive countenance as his 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper announced its last edition will run July 11, 2011 amid a torrid scandal involving phone hacking.

Mark Makela/ZUMA
Michael J. Socolow

Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States of America on Jan. 20, 2021.

Imagine if someone could go back in time and inform him and his communications team that a few pivotal changes in the media would occur during his first three years in office.

There’s the latest news that Rubert Murdoch, 92, stepped down as the chairperson of Fox Corp. and News Corp. on Sept. 21, 2023. Since the 1980s, Murdoch, who will be replaced by his son Lachlan, has been the most powerful right-wing media executivein the U.S.

While it’s not clear whether Fox will be any tamer under Lachlan, Murdoch’s departure is likely good news for Biden, who reportedly despises the media baron.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest