The scene was conspicuous enough — around thirty young Korean men and women dressed in traditional attire, eating sandwiches at the foot of Westminster Abbey — yet none of the hundreds of tourists and other passers-by seemed phased. Even after their lunch break was finished, and the group was introduced to the public as a Korean dance and martial arts group, no one really took notice. No one, that is, until the team began to perform.
First to present was a group of five Korean musicians on drums, gongs, and vocals. The drummers started out quietly and slowly, but as the rhythm picked up pace and grew into a crescendo, side conversations on the Westminster Green quieted down, and all eyes were on the young musicians. The crowd began to clap with the beat, and surprised but delighted smiles could be seen on the faces of the 100 or more spectators who witnessed the open-air show.
After the final gong of the opening piece sounded, a corps of Korean dancers took to the impromptu stage, followed by a team of young men who performed synchronized martial arts. Throughout the whole show, the audience maintained rapt attention.
“This is just fantastic,” said Val Kendall, who was spending the weekend in London with friend Maureen Pelling. “It’s another example of all the nations of the world coming together at this time. Their costumes are gorgeous, and their dances are so impressive.”
Londoner Sandra Dixon echoed Kendall’s reaction. “I was on the tube earlier today, and there were French people singing their native songs. Now there’s this. You really feel like you’re in the middle of the world.”
A few of the spectators came from Korean backgrounds and found the spectacle to be not only impressive, but also a comforting reminder of home. So-mi Lee, originally from Korea, was walking through Westminster when she heard familiar music being played a distance away. “I said to myself, ‘Oh! That’s Korean!’ So I walked over here,” said Lee. “It’s nice to see something from home. . .I’m very proud.”
The team from Korea, however, aimed to bring more to the Westminster area than just a momentary sense of heightened cultural awareness — their ultimate end was to present the message of the Gospel in an eye-catching and accessible way. At first this was only evident to speakers of the Korean language. “The songs they are dancing to have a strong Christian message,” said Lee.
Yet their “Christian message” was soon easily discernible by speakers of all languages when the troupe interrupted their traditional performance to put on a short, silent play about the redeeming power of Christ’s love. Once again, the crowd was silent, perhaps partly out of surprise at the striking contrast of this to the preceding piece. In spite of their astonishment, the meaning of the drama’s content was not lost on the public. One man in the crowd was particularly struck by the drama and observed that no matter where you are in the world, or what culture you come from, questions relating to love are still relevant for everyone.
This is exactly the type of reaction the performance troupe hopes their performances will elicit. “Often people come and ask what we are doing and what our dramas are about,” said Ashley Wyi, a performer and member of the Korean dance group. “That gives us an opportunity to tell our stories and explain to people about Jesus.”
The team is a group of students involved in a Discipleship Training School (DTS) offered by Youth With a Mission (YWAM). They have found that the public in Europe responds very positively to traditional Korean performances. “Sharing our culture grabs attention of Europeans,” said Wyi.
As the crowd dispersed after the show, a few people hung back to chat with the group and take pictures of them. This was a cultural display too beautiful to be passed by, and a message too compelling to be ignored — the public was certainly taking notice of the team now.