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Bucheon International Comic Festival (BICOF) 2010, South Korea

Updated on January 13, 2011

Our experience at the 11th International Comic Artist Conference in Bucheon Korea

The 13th Bucheon International Comics Festival or BICOF was held in Korea's "Cartoon City", Bucheon from September 15 to 19, 2010.

The annual International Comic Artist Conference is a non-government exchange organization that promotes mutual and cultural understanding among comic artists around the world. The headquarters is in Korea and the annual conferences have been alternating between Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan since 1996.

My husband, Filipino graphic novelist Arnold Arre was invited to participate for this year's BICOF. It was his second time to go and since I've never been to Korea, he decided to take me along so that I too could experience the camaraderie between fellow artists from Asia and the world.

If you'd like to learn more about our memorable experience in BICOF this year, please read on.

BICOF 2010 poster image is courtesy of Bicof.com

The Manhwa Gyujjanggak Museum at the KOMACON compound

Komacon in Bucheon, Korea
Komacon in Bucheon, Korea

Most of the events and conventions took place at the Manhwa Gyujjanggak Museum situated at the Korean Manhwa Contents Agency (KOMACON) compound in Bucheon.

The huge comics complex houses a theater, a comics museum, a comics library, comics studios and offices dedicated to the development of the Korean comics ("manhwa") industry.

Day 1: ICC and BICOF 2010 Opening Ceremony

The BICOF 2010 Opening Ceremony - Screening Room of Manhwa Gyujjanggak Museum, Komacon

BICOF 2010 Opening Ceremonies
BICOF 2010 Opening Ceremonies

BICOF 2010 kicked off with a grand opening ceremony on Wednesday, September 15 2010 at 5pm. The delegates were treated to a cultural show featuring a Korean martial arts exhibition and a musical performance by Bandy, a musical group that makes use of traditional Korean music instruments. One of the members of Bandy is legendary Manhwa comic creator Park Jae Dong. Mr. Park was joined onstage for opening remarks by another acclaimed Manhwa creator, Kim Dong Hwa and Bucheon City's mayor. After the ceremony was a celebratory dinner where we had a sumptuous buffet of Korean and Chinese food and drinks.

Photos of Day 1 at ICC & BICOF 2010 - Venue: Korea Manhwa Contents Agency

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Opening ceremony martial arts exhibitionOpening ceremony martial arts exhibition.Opening remarks by Korean manhwa comic creators Park Jae Dong and Kim Dong HwaAwarding of the winners of the Comic Artists CompetitionPerformance by "Bandy" headed by Korean comic artist Park Jae DongPark Jae Dong and "Bandy"My husband Arnold Arre with Kim Tea Won of KOMACONOutside the  Manhwa Gyujjanggak MuseumMy husband Arnold Arre with Lim Duck Young, the creator of Toontoys.Opening Ceremony Celebration Dinner
Opening ceremony martial arts exhibition
Opening ceremony martial arts exhibition
Opening ceremony martial arts exhibition.
Opening ceremony martial arts exhibition.
Opening remarks by Korean manhwa comic creators Park Jae Dong and Kim Dong Hwa
Opening remarks by Korean manhwa comic creators Park Jae Dong and Kim Dong Hwa
Awarding of the winners of the Comic Artists Competition
Awarding of the winners of the Comic Artists Competition
Performance by "Bandy" headed by Korean comic artist Park Jae Dong
Performance by "Bandy" headed by Korean comic artist Park Jae Dong
Park Jae Dong and "Bandy"
Park Jae Dong and "Bandy"
My husband Arnold Arre with Kim Tea Won of KOMACON
My husband Arnold Arre with Kim Tea Won of KOMACON
Outside the  Manhwa Gyujjanggak Museum
Outside the Manhwa Gyujjanggak Museum
My husband Arnold Arre with Lim Duck Young, the creator of Toontoys.
My husband Arnold Arre with Lim Duck Young, the creator of Toontoys.
Opening Ceremony Celebration Dinner
Opening Ceremony Celebration Dinner

Highlights of the BICOF conference - A video overview of our Bucheon experience

Comic artist Arnold Arre (delegate from the Philippines), made a video of the highlights of our BICOF 2010 experience. It features scenes from the opening program as well as the artist's night and various other events and festivities. The music in the background is taken from Bandy's performance at the opening program.

Day 2: Seminars, an Artist Workshop, Open House and Fellowship

Conventions and Workshops on Day 2 at BICOF - Venue: All around Komacon

Our 2nd day at BICOF was jam-packed with events and things to do. Our day started with a seminar in the morning about the current situation of comics in East Asia, mainly in Japan, Korea and China. It was astounding to hear about the state of local comics from their perspectives as we in the Philippines still have a long way to go in terms of having a solid comics industry.

Lunch was at a traditional Korean style restaurant where we were served a hearty meal of Korean BBQ (using duck meat, I was told). Korean wine (which I mistook for soda!) was served along with the food and it was my first time to taste something like it. It's not as potent as soju but it still got me tipsy, nonetheless.

Events in the afternoon included a tour of creative studios in the Komacon compound. The first stop was Gobooky Books, a Korean manhwa publishing house where we had a question and answer session with the publisher.

The next stop was Liquid Brain Studio, a Korean animation company that was established in 2000. They showed us clips from their upcoming animated film Rolling Stars.

The next event took us by surprise - it was a nude croqis sketching session where everyone had to draw the male and female models in 10 different poses at 3-minute and 5-minute intervals. it was fun seeing the fast drawings everyone came up with.

Our last stop for the day was veteran Korean comic artist Tae San Jang's studio. He took us through his work process and showed us some of his amazing sketches and comic book pages. It's interesting to note that he does not use pen & paper, he draws everything straight on the screen of his Cintiq 21!

After the sessions, all the artist delegates were led to a small Korean village outside the Komacon where we witnessed a performance of Pungmul, a Korean folk dance.

The Artist Night festivities were also held at the grounds. There was a musical program, games, a big buffet spread, overflowing soju and lots of fellowship.This is also where we got a chance to meet and become friends with artist delegates from all over Asia and the world.

Photos of Day 2 at ICC & BICOF 2010 - Venue: Komacon Grounds

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Outside the Komacon ComplexSeminar on the Records of the Three KingdomsLunch time!Open house at Gobooky Books, a Korean manhwa publishing firm.Open house at Liquid Brain Studio, a Korean animation company.Nude croquis sketching session. Those are my 3-minute sketches in the foreground.Veteran Korean comic creator Tae San Jang showing us his artworks on a Cintiq.A Pungmul dance performance.Artists' Night lamp-lighting ceremony.Artists' Night celebration
Outside the Komacon Complex
Outside the Komacon Complex
Seminar on the Records of the Three Kingdoms
Seminar on the Records of the Three Kingdoms
Lunch time!
Lunch time!
Open house at Gobooky Books, a Korean manhwa publishing firm.
Open house at Gobooky Books, a Korean manhwa publishing firm.
Open house at Liquid Brain Studio, a Korean animation company.
Open house at Liquid Brain Studio, a Korean animation company.
Nude croquis sketching session. Those are my 3-minute sketches in the foreground.
Nude croquis sketching session. Those are my 3-minute sketches in the foreground.
Veteran Korean comic creator Tae San Jang showing us his artworks on a Cintiq.
Veteran Korean comic creator Tae San Jang showing us his artworks on a Cintiq.
A Pungmul dance performance.
A Pungmul dance performance.
Artists' Night lamp-lighting ceremony.
Artists' Night lamp-lighting ceremony.
Artists' Night celebration
Artists' Night celebration

Korean comic artist Tae San Jang - A close look at the famous Korean artist and his work

Our group had a chance to meet veteran Korean manhwa artist Tae San Jang when we were given a tour of his studio in the Komacon. It was a delight to see him in person, learn about his work process and see some of his original comic book pages. Watch the video to witness the short time we had with him.

Day 3: More Seminars, A Tour of Seoul and the Closing Ceremonies

Seminars, a Seoul Tour, Nanta, and the Closing Ceremony - Venue: Komacon, Seoul, and Koryo Hotel in Bucheon

The last day of the conference started with a seminar on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (namely Korea, Japan, and China) where representatives of their respective countries talked about the state of their comics industries. It was fascinating to learn that in spite of print publishing being on the decline, readership is still increasing because of digital content. Comics are not limited to the printed page anymore, now you can find them via apps on your iPad, cellphones and other multimedia gadgets.

After the seminar, the delegates boarded a bus for a tour around Seoul, the neighboring city and the capital of Korea. Our first stop in Seoul was at a restaurant in Insadong where we were treated to a traditional Korean smoked fish meal (I'm not sure what it's called but it's delicious).

The next stop was the highlight of the tour for me - watching a performance of Nanta at the Myeongdong Nanta Theater. Nanta is "a non-verbal performance of free rhythmical movements that dramatize customary Korean percussions in a strikingly comedic stage show". It's a brilliant show that was hilarious from start to finish so if you're in Seoul and haven't seen a performance of it, please do yourself a favor and go.

The final stop for the Seoul tour was the Cheongwadae Sarangchae, a history center that gives visitors a chance to follow in the footsteps of presidents of Korea and gain insight into the history of Seoul. The building is just a few meters away from the Blue House, South Korea's president.

After the tour we headed back to Koryo Hotel in Bucheon where most of the delegates, including us, were billeted for the closing ceremony dinner.

Photos of Day 3 of ICC & BICOF 2010 - Venue: Seoul and Bucheon

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En route to lunch at InsadongInside the restaurantThe feast on our tableAt the Nanta Theater in SeoulAfter the delightful Nanta show.Sculpture in front of the Cheongwadae Sarangchae in SeoulPhoto collage at the closing ceremony entrance hall.A young Chinese artist delegate in costume.Performance at the closing ceremony.Fun at the after-dinner party.
En route to lunch at Insadong
En route to lunch at Insadong
Inside the restaurant
Inside the restaurant
The feast on our table
The feast on our table
At the Nanta Theater in Seoul
At the Nanta Theater in Seoul
After the delightful Nanta show.
After the delightful Nanta show.
Sculpture in front of the Cheongwadae Sarangchae in Seoul
Sculpture in front of the Cheongwadae Sarangchae in Seoul
Photo collage at the closing ceremony entrance hall.
Photo collage at the closing ceremony entrance hall.
A young Chinese artist delegate in costume.
A young Chinese artist delegate in costume.
Performance at the closing ceremony.
Performance at the closing ceremony.
Fun at the after-dinner party.
Fun at the after-dinner party.

Korean folk dance, "Pungmul" - A video clip of the performance for BICOF's Artist's Night

We were treated to a highly electric Pungmul performance right before Artist's Night on Day 2 of BICOF 2010. Pungmul is a Korean folk music tradition that includes drumming, dancing, and singing and is rooted in the dure (collective labor) farming culture. It was originally played as part of farm work, on rural holidays, at other village community-building events, and in shamanistic rituals. Today it has expanded in meaning and is also used in political protest and as a performing art form.

My husband Arnold Arre filmed the performance which you can view below.

Meeting Marvel Comics Writer, Editor and Talent Scout C.B. Cebulski

One of BICOF's honored guests

One of the BICOF's highlights this year was an opportunity for young Korean manhwa artists to show their portfolio to American writer, editor and Marvel Comics talent scout C. B. Cebulski. (The photo to the right is of C. B. and my husband comic creator Arnold Arre.)

C.B. Cebulski also held a lecture about the Marvel Comics and American method of comics production - having separate individuals handle penciling, writing, inking and so forth. As for what he's looking for as a talent scout, he mentioned that illustration style is only secondary and that the priority is really a comic creator's storytelling ability. According to him, style can change depending on external factors but that storytelling is a natural gift. It is easy to see a writer's ability to tell a story with just three pages so if you plan to show him work, it's best to show him a sequence of at least 3 to 10 pages. He also mentioned that originality and a writer's unique voice should be pursued especially since competition in the world of comics is fierce.

My husband and I had the great pleasure of meeting and spending time with C.B. in BICOF since we were in the fellowship nights together. If you want to read more insights from this brilliant writer, follow him on Twitter (like I do!).

BICOF 2010 Was a Memorable Experience - Parting thoughts from a delegate's wife.

BICOF 2010 artist delegates
BICOF 2010 artist delegates

My husband and I enjoyed participating in BICOF 2010 tremendously and we would like to extend our gratitude to all the wonderful people at ICC, BICOF, and Komacon for inviting my husband and for welcoming me and letting me experience the event as an artist too.

Meeting fellow artists from all over Asia and Europe and hearing their stories about their countries' respective comic industries was an exhilarating experience. Some of the new friends we made come from Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Finland, Russia, Iran, Australia and the US and these are people whom we never would have met or whose brilliant work we never would have known if not for the opportunity provided by the International Comic Artist Conference. It was also a great idea on the organizers' part to provide the delegates with friendly and well-versed translators/interpreters who gave us insight on everything that was happening around us non-Korean language speakers.

The tours and fellowship nights were very enjoyable and well-organized. Aside from the events I detailed above, there were a lot of stuff happening on the grounds - exhibits, cosplay events, drawing competitions and more. There was a special exhibit by featured artist Taniguchi Jiro, a famous Japanese manga artist, and forums with Kintaichi Hajime, producer of God's Water Drops, and Mikawa Kaori, producer of Nodame Cantabile (which happens to be my favorite manga-turned-anime-turned-Jdorama!). It was very obvious that the business of comics is booming here in Asia, particularly in the three kingdoms of Korea, Japan and China.

All in all, participating in the Bucheon International Comic Artists Festival this year is an experience my husband and I will keep in our hearts and minds for a long time.

Happy moments at ICC & BICOF 2010 - Venue: Bucheon, Korea

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My husband Arnold's impromptu sketch of everyone at our table.Lunch on Day 2 with delegates from Singapore and Finland (Reima).My husband Arnold at the Artists' Night party with C.B. Cebulski (USA), Lim Duck Young (Korea) and Jung Chul (Korea).Korean manhwa comic creator Jung Chul's sketch of Reima, Arnold and myself sketching the nude models.Arnold with volunteer interpreter Kim Dong Gun and comic artists Soeung Makara (Cambodia), and Narong Jarungthammachot (Thailand).Arnold with comic artists Heehos (Russia) and Mohammad Khalaji (Iran).Arnold with volunteer interpreter Lee Yuna and comic artist Tsolmonbayar Batbaatar (Mongolia).Arnold with comic artists Murat Bingol (Turkey), a student interpreter, and Razielmn Tsoon (Mongolia).Arnold and me with Japanese manga artists Sakura Mizuki and GRACE.Arnold with student interpreters Lee Yuna, Lee SeongHo, comic artist Rolf (Australia) and Sophie Jang of ICC/Komacon who was responsible for organizing the entire event. Thank you Sophie!
My husband Arnold's impromptu sketch of everyone at our table.
My husband Arnold's impromptu sketch of everyone at our table.
Lunch on Day 2 with delegates from Singapore and Finland (Reima).
Lunch on Day 2 with delegates from Singapore and Finland (Reima).
My husband Arnold at the Artists' Night party with C.B. Cebulski (USA), Lim Duck Young (Korea) and Jung Chul (Korea).
My husband Arnold at the Artists' Night party with C.B. Cebulski (USA), Lim Duck Young (Korea) and Jung Chul (Korea).
Korean manhwa comic creator Jung Chul's sketch of Reima, Arnold and myself sketching the nude models.
Korean manhwa comic creator Jung Chul's sketch of Reima, Arnold and myself sketching the nude models.
Arnold with volunteer interpreter Kim Dong Gun and comic artists Soeung Makara (Cambodia), and Narong Jarungthammachot (Thailand).
Arnold with volunteer interpreter Kim Dong Gun and comic artists Soeung Makara (Cambodia), and Narong Jarungthammachot (Thailand).
Arnold with comic artists Heehos (Russia) and Mohammad Khalaji (Iran).
Arnold with comic artists Heehos (Russia) and Mohammad Khalaji (Iran).
Arnold with volunteer interpreter Lee Yuna and comic artist Tsolmonbayar Batbaatar (Mongolia).
Arnold with volunteer interpreter Lee Yuna and comic artist Tsolmonbayar Batbaatar (Mongolia).
Arnold with comic artists Murat Bingol (Turkey), a student interpreter, and Razielmn Tsoon (Mongolia).
Arnold with comic artists Murat Bingol (Turkey), a student interpreter, and Razielmn Tsoon (Mongolia).
Arnold and me with Japanese manga artists Sakura Mizuki and GRACE.
Arnold and me with Japanese manga artists Sakura Mizuki and GRACE.
Arnold with student interpreters Lee Yuna, Lee SeongHo, comic artist Rolf (Australia) and Sophie Jang of ICC/Komacon who was responsible for organizing the entire event. Thank you Sophie!
Arnold with student interpreters Lee Yuna, Lee SeongHo, comic artist Rolf (Australia) and Sophie Jang of ICC/Komacon who was responsible for organizing the entire event. Thank you Sophie!

ICC & BICOF 2010

Despite the differences between cultures, languages, ideologies, and religions, all of us artists were united by our shared love for art and the comic medium.

Artist delegates of BICOF in September 2010

Artist delegates of BICOF in September 2010
Artist delegates of BICOF in September 2010

Pick up a Korea Travel Guide (or three) - A guidebook is your best friend when traveling

I've never been to Korea prior to this trip so before going, I immersed myself in Asian Dramas, particularly K-dramas like Coffee Prince, to learn more about the place.

How about you, have you been to Korea? Please share your experiences with me. Your thoughts about this page are most welcome too.

Were you at BICOF 2010? Have you been to Bucheon, Korea? - Let me know here, I would love to hear from you!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      What a wonderful experience, with lots of smiles of delight I'm sure. I love your husband's impromptu table drawing, what a wonderful keepsake. BBQ duck is something I have not had but I love BBQ everything! I got a kick out of you mistaking the wine for soda, a little on the light and sweet side ~ I love wine and found your comment interesting. I wander if you will return and become regular attendees.

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      Cynthia Arre 6 years ago from Quezon City

      @justholidays: Haha that's very understandable Dom, you Europeans can take a train and get to another country anytime, why even go on a plane? (: As for us, we have no choice since we live in an archipelago. We'd love to visit your country Belgium someday since it's the world's comic capital! (:

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      justholidays 6 years ago

      Oh, no, dear, never been to Korea! Never went far from home, though... if a plane is indispensable to travel, I won't move, hahaha.

      Anyway, I'm happy to see that you've got this exciting experience and wish you more than just one like that in your life!

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      Cynthia Arre 6 years ago from Quezon City

      @SciTechEditorDave: Thank you for the lovely comment, Editor Dave! I think it's never too late to become a comic artist, you should try making a comic. (: And es I remember visiting some of your great Philippine lenses, thanks for writing about our little country in the Pacific. (:

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      David Gardner 6 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Nice lens! I've always loved Japanese Manga and the overall genre. I've wanted to be a comic artist, but my skills haven't developed... but your experience was nicely presented here. I've liked, favorited, thumbs-upped, and lensrolled your masterpiece! Congrats on a great job! (My wife and daughter and I were running around in the Philippines a few years ago--I've created some Squidoo lenses about that experience!) Best regards!