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Bucheon International Comic Festival (BICOF) 2010, South Korea
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
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 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 AgencyClick thumbnail to view full-size
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 GroundsClick thumbnail to view full-size
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 BucheonClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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, KoreaClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.