Visitors, residents should have direct role in festival

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The Hue Festival should be elevated to one that is identified with Vietnam the world over, Keum Gi Hyung, director of the South Korean Cultural Center tells Thanh Nien Weekly, adding considerable work needs to be done to reach that stage.

The 2010 Hue Festival, which opens tomorrow in the central ancient town of Hue, will be a rendezvous for ancient cities and world cultural heritages.

Themed "Cultural Heritage with Integration and Development," the biennial festival has attracted the participation of art troupes from 31 different countries, including South Korea, France, Russia, Australia and Central Africa Republic.

In his conversation with Thanh Nien Weekly, Keum Gi Hyung, spoke of some key things that can be done to give the festival an even higher national and international profile.

How would you describe your interest in the festival and what you see as its potential?

The festival is very well known. Two South Korean troupes, including the National Traditional Music and Dance, will participate in it.


A variety of unique festivities will take place all along nine days of the festival. Royal rites and performances reenacted in previous editions, like the Nam Giao Offering Ritual, Royal Palace by Night and Legends of the Perfume River will be artistically improved. Art exhibitions, street art performances, and diverse community tours and several social activities are set to hold visitors in thrall.

Attracting the interest and participation of many people is the most important task in all festivals. For this, festivals should have specific characteristics.

The Hue Festival should take the advantage of the historical and cultural values of Hue, the capital of Vietnam's last feudal dynasty, Nguyen Dynasty. Visitors now come to a locality not only to enjoy its sights, but also to learn about its culture.

Vietnam should have a strategy that focuses on potential development factors and take the festival to new heights.

If we have abundant capital and natural flavor, we could develop all aspects. However, we should choose some potential elements for development in the context of limited capital resources.

The state should offer more support to the Hue Festival, making it one that typifies Vietnam, like Thailand's water festival Songkran, Brazil's Rio Carnival, and British Edinburgh Festival.

What do you think of Vietnam's plans to develop Hue into a city of festivals?

It is a significant and important goal. In developing the Hue Festival into a trademark of Vietnam, the city will become a major destination for domestic and foreign visitors, who will want to learn about specific aspects of the locality.

Hue should have a specific slogan that lures visitors to its festivals. But, visitors will not feel the value of the festival if they can only see it. It is necessary to build programs that they can directly participate in.

Can you be more specific on how visitors can directly participate in the festival?

If the objective was just to see the festivities, with the current development of the means of communications, people will stay in their homes. Therefore it is a global trend that visitors can directly participate in and experience festivals.

For example, ordinary people could be cast as the king in a traditional art performance. Local residents can sell the products they make. So, visitors and local residents will feel happy and proud of their contribution to the festival

Keum Gi Hyung, director of the South Korean Cultural Center

For Hue's residents, the festival should carry some benefit. The local government should facilitate them in opening a night market, for instance, which trades in local specialties, and souvenirs.

There should be more cultural heritage guides to introduce to visitors the value and beauty of tourism localities. They should narrate interesting stories related to the locality. For example, when people visit a palace, guides should narrate stories about kings who used to live there, their harem, the furniture and other details.

When I worked in South Korea's tourism sector 5-6 years ago, the country had a policy of training people to narrate stories on tourism localities. Normally, these would be residents who've lived there for a long time, or retired rectors of schools. With a heritage site like Hue, the locality will be more attractive to visitors if such a policy is implemented.

The participation of Hue's residents will contribute more to the success of the festival as well as the development of the locality into the city of festivals.

How can Vietnam tap Hue's advantages, including mausoleums and temples, to serve the public better, especially visitors during the festival?

If a city with many heritages is not able to attract visitors and introduce its values, the heritages will become dead ones. Thus, it is important to introduce the distinct characters of Hue to local and foreign visitors and help them understand and learn their value.

During the festival, as I noted earlier, there should be good narrators to tell the stories of localities to the visitors, and there should be programs that visitors can directly participate in.

Organizers should bring into full play the advantage of the heritages, but not harm their value. We shouldn't focus on short-term benefits, in two or three years, but focus on the larger targets of preservation and sustainable development.

How can the festival be promoted more effectively?

First, create good slogans. Vietnam's tourism slogan has changed from "Hidden Charm" to "Your Destination." In my opinion, both are not as attractive as Thailand's "Amazing Thailand." We should introduce the beauty of Hue in just a very characteristic sentence.

In the information age, if information is shallow, it will not last long. Now, the Hue festival is in its infancy, limited to introducing its beauty to the outside world, so it is necessary to have good services for participants who are volunteerly to spread out the charming of the festival around the world.

Participants are the ones that promote festivals well. There are those who consider Hue festival successful, but we should not be complacent, but seek more advice from foreign experts in improving the festival further.

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