Asian Games: 'K-pop' under fire

INCHEON - The closing ceremony of the Asian Games is just three days away, but local journalists are still bristling over the opening on Sept 19, calling it a "K-Pop festival" that missed the mark, of what should have been a celebration of sports and Korean culture.

In a controversial but colourful exchange yesterday, directors of both ceremonies, Jang Jin and Im Kwon Taek, spoke on the themes of harmony and support that are set to take centrestage in Saturday's closing, only to be blasted with a barrage of criticism for the first instalment of their work.

"We are also regretful about the opening ceremony. We should have had more talks with the broadcasters," said Im, who blamed the impression of the ceremony on its portrayal on television.

The directors came under fire for K-Pop stars like Psy, of Gangnam Style fame, stealing the limelight at the Asiad Main Stadium, and also for casting Lee Young Ae (right), an actress, as the final torchbearer, a role usually reserved for sporting icons.

While Im insisted that the two children alongside Lee were meant to be the focus of the torch lighting, with Lee merely guiding them to the cauldron, Jang refused to take full blame for casting the 41-year-old most remembered for her role in period drama, Dae Jang Geum.

"The cast is not entirely decided by us. The opening is a big event, and the decision is made by (the larger) organisation," said Jang, who bemoaned the fact that there was only one rehearsal for the event.

"The preparation process was really difficult for all of us."

Billed as being low-cost, the Incheon Games organisers have spent US$2 billion ($2.5 billion), a world away from the US$32 billion spent for the Guangzhou Asiad four years ago.

That has left some wondering if tight purse strings were part of the reason for the not too spectacular opening ceremony.

"We have a lot of regrets, too," said Im of the opening ceremony. "I feel responsible for the shortcomings, and offer my sincere apologies.

"The Asian Games is a mega sports event, and we have learnt that there needs to be more talk, consultation between organisations, the directors (of the ceremonies) and those who portray it to the public."

Korea last hosted the Asiad in 2002 in Busan.

In four years, it will host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Jang and Im revealed that Saturday's closing ceremony will feature several videos, shot during the course of the Games, with the theme of harmony, paying tribute to fans, coaches and "those who stood at the back of us".

While it will feature cultural performances of some 1,500 citizens of Incheon city, the Asiad will be brought to a close by guess who... K-Pop group, Big Bang.

This article was first published on October 1, 2014.
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