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Intangible heritage of Thailand, Bhutan to be performed in Korea

Traditional mask dances of Thailand and Bhutan will be performed in Korea as part of a cultural exchange program, along with an international conference about the present and future of traditional mask dances in Asia.

“Mask Performance in Asia,” hosted by the National Intangible Heritage Center, will be held at the NIHC complex in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, from Oct. 4-5. 

A performance of Khon (National Intangible Heritage Center)
A performance of Khon (National Intangible Heritage Center)

The highlights of the event will be the performances of Khon from Thailand and Drametse Ngacham from Bhutan, which were inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2018 and 2008, respectively.

The former is a dance-drama genre traditionally performed by masked men in the royal court, accompanied by narration and a traditional piphat music ensemble. The latter is a sacred festival dance performed in Drametse in eastern Bhutan.

Both are considered representative traditions of each country and are protected and passed on under the authority of the government and the royal family.

Opening the festivities at 7 p.m. on the first day will be the performance of Khon, based on the tales of the Thai epic Ramakien, which tells the founding myth of the country.

It will be followed by the Drametse performance at 2 p.m. the next day, which features 10 musicians and 16 male dancers wearing masks that resemble real and mythical creatures.

According to the NIHC, watching the performance is said to bring good luck, as it conveys the Buddhist beliefs of eradicating evil and being touched by Buddha’s mercy and care.

A performance of Khon (National Intangible Heritage Center)
A performance of Khon (National Intangible Heritage Center)

Korea will join the festival with its traditional Hahoetal mask dance, which dates back to the 12th century and involves the performance of ritual dance dramas with stock characters, ranging from noblemen to scholars, old women, priests and butchers.

A collaborative performance of the masked dances from the three countries will be held Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.

The dances will be held at the performance hall of the NIHC. Masks used in the dances will be exhibited at the venue’s lobby.

Meanwhile, an international conference will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the center to discuss the characteristics of the masked dances, how they have been passed on and their prospects.

Professor Jeon Kyung-wook of Korea University and Heo Yong-Ho, a visiting professor at Korea National University of Arts, both experts in the field of cultural heritage, will speak at the conference.

Joining them will be Tshering Penjor, a senior driglam officer from the Department of Culture at Bhutan’s Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, and Lasit Isarangkura, a senior adviser and expert in archeology at the Fine Arts Department at Thailand’s Ministry of Culture.

The performances and the conference are free of charge. Reservations can be made at the NIHC’s homepage (

By Yoon Min-sik (

A performance of Drametse Ngacham / National Intangible Heritage Center