From Storytelling to Nation Branding - Seung Ah Kim's Story

Seung Ah Kim is the founder of Arirang Storytelling Concert. Inspired by the folktales her grandmother told her as a child, Seung Ah tells Korean folk stories in a dynamic and interactive way that is engaging for audiences of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities. Her performances combine traditional Korean folktales and mythology with contemporary stories from her own life. As a pioneer Korean professional storyteller, she has travelled across all the continents to bring Korea to the world through her stories and tales, and has developed “K-STORYTELLING” as a new facet of Korea’s nation branding. This world tour includes various performances, workshops, and events focused on Korea, its culture and its people, extraordinary and ordinary heroes. Recently Seung Ah Kim shared Tiger Stories from Korean Folktales at Gyan. Manch,Kolkata organised by Wild Strawberry.

What inspired you to come up with the idea for K-Storytelling World Tour Project?
Storytelling is my passion and my life. I truly want to share Korean stories and my love for storytelling with more people in the world. That has been my dream so I have been travelling many countries to share Korean stories and culture since I became a professional storyteller. In Korea I have been trying to introduce storytelling as an art form and to establish a storytelling association and a K-Storytelling Center for 10 years. But I couldn’t make it happen. One day with broken heart I was crying. I lamented “God, why people in Korea don’t appreciate storytelling more than ones in other countries? Why nothing happened even though I tried so hard?”

At that moment an idea hit upon me. “Seung Ah, just think of bright sides. Look you have many friends and fans outside of Korea. They all appreciate what you are doing. Just go and tell stories and share stories with 1 million people. 1 million people out of the whole population of the earth are nothing. If 1 million people appreciate your storytelling and donate money to support your dream, you can establish a K-Storytelling Center in Korea.” Then I started to contact my friends in different countries and told them about the K-Storytelling World Tour Project. Since they are storytellers and story lovers, they all supported my idea. That’s why I am here in India. India is my third destination after the USA and Taiwan. Since June 2017 my world tour started. I was the first donator for this project. I cleared my house and put my things in a container near Seoul. I set off my journey. Through this world tour project I have learned so many things and met so many people. Working with my storytellers friends in each country I visited is a lot of fun. We could understand each other more and sharing ideas about promoting storytelling to people. Automatically all of journey is full of adventures and stories which give people more understandings about storytelling and storytellers. We all believe that we will make it happen. Do you why? We are all small heroes.
Why is storytelling important to children in this digital-world?
Storytelling gives us chances to see images through our mind eyes, to feel the vibration of the voice of our storyteller, to make eye contact and interact heart to heart. These are all the things we have lost in the digital world. 

It is often said that storytelling and story-listening can contribute to children’s intellectual, emotional, and social development. Could you please throw some light on that?
Storytelling and story-listening are like the sunlight and the moonlight in our life. As the sunlight makes trees grow bigger, storytelling and listening help our knowledge and wisdom grow bigger. As the sunlight gives warmth to the earth, storytelling gives warmth in our life. As the moonlight guides you in the darkness, storytelling enlightens your life.

Do you have advice for parents looking to try storytelling with their kids?
My advice is “Never feel burden when you tell stories to your kids”. Most of parents feel that storytelling is a duty as good parents. But storytelling is a heart to heart communication. It delivers not only stories but also feelings. Telling stories to your kids should be the same as making food you like and sharing it with your kids. If you simply think sharing your favorite stories with your kids, you will feel more comfortable. When you learn something new from your daily life, you can share it with your kids. If you heard something fun or touching from your friends, you can share it with your kids. Also listening to your kids’ stories are good. After listening to them, you can share your opinions, feelings or other stories which come up your mind. If you really want to share stories with your kids, your kids will feel your passion and love even though you don’t have any skills in storytelling.

What role, according to you, does storytelling play in the classroom? How can teachers use storytelling in the classroom?
In old days, even nowadays storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in education. We can Google information so easily now. That means people can get knowledge everywhere. But not so much wisdom. Storytelling is all about wisdom and inspiration. So in this digital era, the function of schools is focused on more human things and more social things. In the classroom through teacher’s voice and eye contact students can get more inspired. If teachers tell stories that could be more fantastic because storytelling creates very strong connection and motivation. Let’s just what smartphones cannot do for students. The answers will be what only teachers can do.

People have forgotten how listen, tell and share a story. Stories are endangered and, I fear, if not shared will get lost. As a storyteller what are your thoughts on this?
Yes, we are losing the oral tradition. But luckily there are storytellers and story lovers in the world. In Canada I came across to read a slogan from a poster of ‘the Parent-Child Mother Goose Program’, it has been in my mind as a storyteller. “Stories are treasure to share.” In modern society when people think about treasure not many people consider stories as treasure. As a storyteller I have found that stories and our tradition are blessed heritage. I feel like I am a billionaire heiress. We cannot measure the value of stories as we cannot measure happiness. Since I became a storyteller I have been experienced happiness simply by sharing stories and culture. I have seen smiles from my audience’s faces and lights from their eyes. I know we cannot buy those things with money. That’s why I want to devote myself to keep storytelling tradition alive. I strongly believe as long as storytellers exist in the world, we will keep telling stories and the stories will be spread out all over the world. 

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