Hey guys!! So this week I experienced one the most strange but ingenious city of culture events ever which was called ‘one day maybe’. The event was inspired by the May 1980 democratic uprising in Gwangju, South Korea which played an important part in the country breaking away from a rule of tyranny and in the birth of the 6th Republic in 1987. ‘One day maybe’ is largely set in the present day and although it started off as seemingly being just a tour of a technology company named Kasang, its focus morphed into the modern world we live in today from perspective of May 1980. The event is the brainchild of dreamthinkspeak and it took place in an old bank office building in Hull which was decorated especially for the event so people could feel the full emotional impact of the performance. So in today’s post, I’m going to be describing my experience of the ‘one day maybe’ event and giving you my opinion of it.
SOUTH KOREA 1980 DEMOCRATIC UPRISING
After the Korean war, which started when North Korean troops invaded South Korea, South Korea fell victim to a tyrannical government led by President Chun Doo Hwan, a South Korean army major general, who used tensions between the South and North of Korea to enforce a hard-line military rule. As part of this, on May 17 1980, he forced the Cabinet to extend martial law to the entire nation which closed universities, banned any political activities and further reduced the press. So in rebellion of this new law, students joined together at the gates of the closed down Chonnam National University on the morning of May 18th. At around 10am, a battle broke out between South Korea army’s soldiers and the protesters with the soldiers charging the protesters and the protesters bombarding them with stones. It is said from witnesses that soldiers clubbed both protesters and onlookers and an unfortunate victum of this was a 29 year old deaf man called Kim Gyeong-Cheol who had no part in the protest and was clubbed to his death whilst passing by. The violence shown by the army whilst dealing with the protesters deeply angered many citizens and so the number of protesters rose to 10000. Over the next few days after that, the army and the protesters continued to clash; the army fired on citizens, killing many of them and on that same day, infuriated protesters burnt down a local broadcasting station for misreporting on the events that had unfolded in Gwangju. On the night of May 20, a great number of taxis, buses, trucks and cars paraded down toward the Provincial Office to meet the protest. All the while, soldiers pulled them from their vehicles to beat them up and shot at them to try and kill them. The violence from both parties continued until on May 27 with the help of more soldiers, troops from 5 divisions moved in and defeated the rebellion. After this, the democratic uprising followed which after being forced back under the dictatorship of Chun Doo Hwan again, many workers in June 1987 unified Labour unions to strike. Finally, in December 1987, South Korea had its first democratic election which meant the people of South Korea were finally free to choose who they wanted as their leader.
ONE DAY MAYBE EVENT
Once we walked into the old bank office building, we were escorted up to the reception area of Kasang technology company and invited to sit down on one of the seats that circled the room whilst others arrived. A couple of minutes later, a group of Korean people all dressed in identical Kasang uniforms entered the room and one of the women introduced herself as being one of the heads of Kasang Technology Company. She then directed her co workers in handing us all a ‘K-Pad’ which she explained would help in directing us through our tour. Once we’d all got a K-Pad, we were told to set up a profile with the company which included giving our full name, e-mail address, age and taking a picture of ourselves for the profile picture. The lady who was sat next to my Mum was actually one of the actresses in the performance since she was dressed up to be an old Korean woman and she intereacted with us through asking to see our profile pictures and gesturing that we looked really smiley. Before we embarked on our journey, one of the Kasang workers taught us two phrases in Korean that meant ‘hi’ and ‘thank you’ so we might use them with Kasang workers we encountered on the tour.
Our group was led down a dark corridor and out into a room with black curtains surrounding it where we were told that Kasang had been working on a new hologram for the entrance to their office and that we’d be some of the first people to see it. A curtain at the front of the room was pulled up to reveal the hologram which featured a group of people, standing in a certain formation who had been significant in the democratic uprising. The head of Kasang began to list brands that come from South Korea that we would not get, if it hadn’t been for the people in the hologram but as she repeated the brands over and over again, her voice took on an electronic quality, almost as if it was a recording and she wasn’t speaking at all. All the other Kasang employees remained still like robots as one by one the people from the hologram straightened up and filed out to the sides of the room. Before I could properly register what was happening, the curtains that surrounded the room flew up and revealed a shopping alley with a clothes shop, make up shop, food shop, home appliances shop, a shoe shop and a VR headset room. Our K-Pad’s all flashed up with a slide that allowed us to buy items from each shop with a maximum of £10,000 that we were allowed to spend. I’m a self confessed shopping addict so whilst going around and buying items from each shop, I was on cloud nine and I was really enjoying myself. However, before I had time to properly appreciate it all, the lights dimmed and we all came out of the shops to find screens all down the corridor of the shopping alley which I hadn’t noticed up until that point, lighting up with the news story that the former president of Korea had been released from prison after a 20 year sentence. A melancholy song accompanied the news story as every Kasang employee faced a screen each and began to dance in front of it. As the news story faded from the screen so did the sad mood in the room. All the Kasang employees turned back around as bright and friendly as ever and they each gathered together a small group of people closest to them. The Kasang employee who came to us had my parents and I and the two other people in our group introduce ourselves before he led us downstairs into a small rectangular room with a line of seats so we could test out Kasang’s new game ‘Hostages 4’.
Once we were all seated in the small room, our K-Pads switched onto a new slide, ready for us to play Hostages 4. Yet I felt anything but ready as my heart pounded at the unknown territory I was about to step into. The Kasang employee let each of us out of the door opposite the one we’d entered the room through into a maze with so many options of paths we could take. Our K-Pad’s showed the maze with a green dot lighting up where we were and red dots lighting up American Soldiers we had to avoid. The aim of the game was to make it to the other side of the maze where there was a police office without encountering the two American Soldiers and wait for further instruction there. My parents and I had probably navigated our way through about half of the maze when all of the sudden we turned around to see the crisp green uniform and intimidating stare of one of the American Soldiers. Panic took over and I frantically tried to run away from the scary soldier who’d just appeared in front of me but instead of chasing after me like my brain was telling me he would, he instead just walked on through the maze. Luckily, we managed to make it out of other side of the maze and our K-Pads flashed informing us of a new mission to find 8 checkpoints, hidden around the police offices. This ignited a new hope in us all that after finding the checkpoints we’d be rescued from the game and brought back to reality. The police office we were in was anything but pleasant. Plaster was cracking off the dingy white walls and the flooring had seen better days. In some of the rooms which appeared to be cells, there was a single white metal chair which looked as though it would collapse under the weight of even a small baby and a rusty metal bucket for prisoners to go to the toilet in. All the time that we were exploring the police office and searching for the checkpoints, I couldn’t wait to find them all so we could finally desert the depressing, dirty police offices. After finding 3 of the checkpoints, I suddenly heard an angry torrent of a foreign language which I assumed was Korean and the sharp sound of footsteps, drawing nearer and nearer to the room I was in. A group of police officers appeared at the door and gestured for us all to exit and follow them. We all obeyed them and I was unsure of whether we were being rescued or if we were being taken as prisoners.
Our entire tour group was lead out into a car park and made to line up across a long white line. The officers positioned themselves so they were facing us all and stared unblinkingly at us in an intimidating manner. The officer right at the front of the line bellowed orders at the other officers in Korean to which they saluted him and yelled back something that probably meant “yes sir!!”. We were then guided back around the car park and down a flight of stairs into another room similar to the police office we’d been in before with various different rooms. Each police officer took a company of about 3 or 4 people from our entire group and gestured for us to follow them into one of the many rooms. They locked the door behind us and walked around in an aggressive way meant to terrify us even more. Suddenly, a wistful song began to play in the room and the officer hung their hat on one of pegs to the side of the room and began to dance. There was such emotion in every movement and as the song faded out, my mood went from petrified to quite glum. The officer gestured for us to follow him and this time our group found ourselves back together in another room with a wooden ledge circling it. On the ledge, there were pictures of smiling Koreans with a few possessions in front of it such as a photo of them with their family or a piece of jewellery like a brooch. I only had time to quickly scan over a majority of the pictures because a man was stood in the doorway opposite the one we’d come in through, demanding we exit the room.
Once we’d come out of the room, we were directed to take our shoes off and enter a very different room to all the ones we’d been in before. There were two tables with korean food placed on them that were low to the ground so you could sit at them whilst sat on the floor. Cushions neatly circled the tables and wood panels made up the walls. At the front of the room, a middle aged woman welcomed us in with her smile and offered us drinks and food once we were seated. I tried something that look similar to a fig and it was pretty delicious. After about 5 minutes had passed, some upbeat music began to play and the woman started to dance around the room. There was a doleful kind of edge to the music which you would’ve missed if you payed more attention to the woman skipping around the room. As the last bars of the song rang out, the woman lit an incense stick that sat on a table at the front of the room. As it burnt, it let off smoke that spiraled round and round as it faded into nothing and a silence fell over us all. The door into the room slid open and the same people from the hologram right at the beginning of the tour entered, dressed in plain, simple clothing. They stood in the centre of the room in 3 lines and in one swift movement they got into the same formation they’d been in when they were in the hologram. After they’d held the position for a few minutes, one by one they exited the room and we were motioned to follow them.
After we’d put our shoes back on, we were shown through a door which led into a room which was set up to look like a flat. The furnishings looked like they’d come straight out of the 80s and it was very simple in comparison to flats that people tend to live in today. Then, we opened a sliding door to reveal a flat that was the opposite to the one we’d just been in with a sleek white table and chairs, a widescreen TV with a Korean boy band music video playing on it and a high-tech fridge. There was really no comparison to be made between the two flats since they were polar opposites with one being more simple and yet feeling quite homely and the other with lots of high-tech appliances and sleek furnishings. Next, we headed down a darkened corridor which had VR headsets in two different rooms you could try out (I decided not to- I was still emotionally drained from all the other events of the evening). After we’d reached the end of the corridor, we found ourselves in a massive room that had huge screens stretching out across it with all the profiles of the people in our tour group. I scanned over all the profiles and eventually found an updated version of mine where they’d formed an opinion on me based on what items I’d bought in the shopping alley and how quickly I’d escaped the maze in ‘Hostages 4’. I was taken aback as it had never even occurred to me that since I’d got here, my every move was being tracked and recorded. After exiting that creepy room full of people’s information, we came out into another car park but this one had a very different feel to it than the other one. Identical white chairs were lined up perfectly in rows with a single candle burning on each one. It appeared as though it was some sort of memorial and it felt so hauntingly beautiful. You could tell all the work someone had gone to exquisitely line up all the chairs and as I walked down past it, my emotions finally reached a level of calmness and I felt at peace after the somewhat dramatic events of the night.
‘One day maybe’ was an amazing event in so many ways and you could really tell that a lot of hard work had gone into perfecting the performance so that the tour groups got the best possible experience. I was left with quite a lot of questions after the event and I researched about what had happened in South Korea in the 1980s and about Korea in general. If you have the opportunity, I would definitely recommend this event because it’s so unique and an experience not to be missed. I learnt a valuable lesson from it as well: that technology is such an amazing thing that has changed all our lives but we must be aware of the dangers it brings as well.
Thank you for reading this blog post and sorry about how long it is!! You deserve a medal if you’ve managed to read it all!! There’ll be another post out soon but until then bye for now!!
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull