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Q&A: Ryu Jae-hyun (Executive Director of the World DJ Festival)

The World DJ Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year

How do you feel about the World DJ Festival’s success?
A lot has changed over the past 10 years. There are still many difficult things to deal with and I have more to worry about now. We were the first EDM festival in Korea, but shortly thereafter, licensed worldwide festivals started coming one after another. Large conglomerates are also jumping on the bandwagon. It’s difficult to keep people focused on our festival. We know that we need to just keep innovating and developing our own unique identity.

How is the World DJ Festival different from other festivals?
There is a passion and enthusiasm that seems to be uniquely Korean. We try to anticipate and meet the needs of our fun-loving attendees. The true star of a festival isn’t the DJ but the audience. Also, as you can tell from our line-up, we host a large variety of DJs. Unlike other festivals, we don’t rely on big names.

You said you don’t rely on famous DJs, but if you were to pick a few who have really stood out at the festival, who would they be?
Swedish DJ duo Dada Life and Swedish DJ Avicii. Dada Life came to the World DJ Festival twice, both times making their name well known in Korea. These two are also famous because one carries around a bottle of champagne and the other a banana. DJ Avicii is an unforgettable performer who I can’t leave out. He’s grown into one of the best in the  industry and is known for his innovative and creative tunes. Korean fans call him “god-vicii”, proving his popularity.

Why is the festival held in Chuncheon, not Seoul?
Ever since I was young, I’ve done things differently. The World DJ Festival is one of those things. Seoul is often considered the cultural epicenter of Korea, so I wanted to spread it to other regions. It’s not that it’s difficult to open a festival in Seoul. In fact, beginning next year, I’m thinking of opening a May festival in Seoul and the August one in Chuncheon.

When do you feel that directing the festival is most worthwhile?
When I see EDM spreading in Korea, when DJ-ing is accepted as a legitimate occupation and when the number of people becoming DJs increases.

There isn’t an internationally recognized Korean DJ yet. Why do you think that is?
There are plenty of talented artists in Korea that could swim in international waters. Unlike 10 years ago, DJs don’t just DJ, they make their own songs and have great producing skills. They know what’s trendy and think deeply about their music. But the fact that Korea isn’t an English-speaking country is the main reason Korean artists aren’t being picked up. If artists keep sharing their music on SoundCloud and YouTube, they will be able to grow their fan base and eventually, I’m sure one artist from Korea will make it big in the international EDM scene, just like Yuna Kim or Psy did in their individual fields.

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