Culture History

No K-Pop? Try traditional Korean entertainment. Pansori, Samulnori, and more!


Pansori 판소리 – Korean Musical Storytelling. It is a type of solo opera in which a sorikkun 소리꾼 (singer/vocalist) tells a story with gestures to the rhythm of gosu 고수 (drummer). It was performed in a yard or concert hall, and for long stories, it could easily take over three hours.

Pansori: Korea’s Authentic Musical Storytelling

Pansori 100-year time capsule (Korean Edition)

Samulnori 사물놀이 – meaning “play of 4 objects.” It is a traditional type of music developed based on the rhythm of pungmulpae 풍물패 (Korean traditional percussion band). The 4 instruments are kkwaengwari 꽹과리 (small gong), jing(larger gong), janggu 장구 (an hourglass-shaped drum), and buk (barrel drum).

Arirang Special _ Korean Music Fest _ Samulnori

SamulNori: Contemporary Korean Drumming and the Rebirth of Itinerant Performance Culture (Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology) [Amazon]

Buchaechum 부채춤 (“fan dance”) – It’s the most representative group dance/performance of Korea, well known for the beautiful fans that captivate the audience with flashy dance moves. It was created by dancer Kim Baek-bong in 1954 who simplified and reinterpreted traditional Korean dances, such as the court dance, Korean Buddhist dance, and even the shamanistic rituals.

[부채춤] 선화예술학교 – 2019 서울놀이마당 Korean Folk Dance: Buchaechum | 4K UHD By Seonhwa Arts School

Have two left feet but want to have those beautiful Korean fans?

Talchum 탈춤 – It’s a traditional play performed while wearing a mask. At first, clowns performed at court events, but during the late Joseon Dynasty, it developed into a popular culture, satirizing the feudal status society and humorously depicting the hard life of the people. Hahoe Byeolsingut Talnori 하회별신굿 탈놀이 (special ritual drama to the gods mask play) and Bongsan Talchum 봉산탈춤 are among the more famous.

Bongsan Talchum 봉산탈춤

Hahoe Tal 하회탈 (mask) is a ritual and artistic mask handed down from around the late Goryeo Dynasty in Hahoe Village in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The material of the Hahoe masks is alder tree, and they are designated as National Treasure No. 121 in 1964. It’s a valuable cultural heritage representing the faces of Koreans.

Hahoe masks are an important element  of traditional Korean entertainment
Image by eunyoung LEE from Pixabay

Hand Carved Korean Hahoe Man Dance Smile Wooden Wall Decor [Amazon]

Hand Carved Korean Hahoe Woman Dance Smile Wooden Wall Decor [Amazon]

Seopyeonje 서편제 (1993) is the story of a family of Korean pansori singers who are struggling to make a living in the modern world. Won the Berlin Fim Festival Honorary Golden Bear Award in 2005.

서편제 Seopyeonje 1993 : Final scene

Nanta : Cookin’ is a non-verbal performance that reinterprets traditional samulnori in a modern way which gained huge popularity through a world tour.


Wangeui Namja 왕의남자 (The King and the Clown, 2005) – During the Joseon Dynasty, An acting troupe gets arrested for mocking their hedonistic king, and are given a chance to spare themselves under one condition – make the king laugh. The movie has traditional Korean play scenes including talchum.

King and the Clown (왕의 남자) – Main Trailer with English Subtitles

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