Another summer, another Korea Burn. Last years’ was actually just ten months prior.
Another summer, another Korea Burn. Last years’ was actually just ten months prior. This year’s was over a longer period of time (Thursday, July 3rd to Sunday, July 6th), was more expensive (60,000₩ early-bird and 90,000₩ at the door), and had more people —but less theme camps. The space was littered with many more tents and bodies, but the art and interaction areas felt sparse.
For the second year in the a row, my friends and I created, set up, and executed the Hula Girls’ Phobooth theme camp, where we took photos of and with people (with props!) and then later uploaded them to a website for people to download. It’s a fun treat for people who want to have a picture to look back at, but don’t want to carry a camera themselves.
Speaking as an attendee and also as a theme camp leader, Korea Burn has increasingly become more frustrating and questionable over its span of three years. I have such a great time every year, and am also impressed by the love and creativity of the people around me. Still, I want to share some thoughts.
For the first year of Korea Burn, in 2012, the event was free. People came and openly shared with each other. I have heard that this was the best year. Of course, it’s easy to look back at the past with only fond memories. It was in a different location, was smaller, and more intimate.
For the second year of Korea Burn, in 2013, the organizers said they had to charge for the event. I don’t remember the early-bird price, but the price at the door was 50,000₩. Apparently there were unexpected costs from the prior year that had to be paid for. Also, they provided some artists with grant funds from the money collected from ticket sales. As a theme leader, I had a surprise ticket reimbursement for myself. Our theme camp was seemingly simple: take photos of people and upload them to the internet afterwards. Still, it took time and money to buy and create our costumes and props. Also, it takes me hours to upload hundreds of photos, edit them, and host them on a website that I pay for. Our theme camp received no further reimbursement. Attendees asked for transparency in regards to funds, but none was provided.
For the third year of Korea Burn, this year, costs drastically increased. it was again for the second year in a row located at the Cheongpo Island Camping Site (청포아일랜드 캠핑장) near Taean. To keep costs low, they asked attendees to sign up for three hours of volunteering, with tasks which included helping to sign-in individuals or pick-up garbage.
This year, there were two rounds of early-bird tickets. If you purchased tickets by April 30th, the price was 60,000₩ each. If you purchased tickets by June 25th, the price was 80,000₩ each. After that, tickets were 90,000₩. People endlessly complained about the soaring ticket prices and lack of transparency in regards to funds. Still no information has been released about what costs were or were funds were allocated. As a theme leader, I received absolutely no compensation this year for my camp. If one posted on the Facebook group page asking questions, they were asked to remove their post. A friend told me that they were threatened with being denied to the event and not having their ticket price refunded if they did not remove their post.
After the event, several people were sick from mosquito and sand flea/tick bites. Again, another friend of mine was told to remove their Facebook post on the Korea Burn group page.
At Korea Burn, just as with Burning Man events all over the world, we are supposed to be at “home.” One is supposed to feel open to free expression while also being accepting to all those around them. Walking around this year felt much different than the year prior. People felt duped due to increased ticket prices with no sense of where the revenue was going to. To me it felt that people were less prone to share what they brought, especially with strangers, and seemed less friendly to the idea of making new friends. I felt like many people were walking around, not really understanding what the event was about or how they fit in there.
Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll go to another Korea Burn. But maybe I will. Let’s see if those ticket prices go up again and if any further details are shared with the public.