Modern Korean Drama

Modern Korean Drama: An Anthology

Edited, with an introduction, by Richard Nichols
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/nich14946
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  • Book Info
    Modern Korean Drama
    Book Description:

    Carefully selected and represented, the plays in this collection showcase both the fantastic and the realistic innovations of Korean dramatists during a time of rapid social and historical change. Stretching from 1962 to 2004, these seven works tackle major subjects, such as the close of the Choson dynasty and the aftermath of the Korean War, while delving into trenchant cultural issues, such as the marginalization of students who rebel against mainstream education and the role of traditional values in a materialistic society.

    Longtime scholar of Korea and its vibrant, politically acute theater, Richard Nichols opens with a general overview of modern Korean drama since 1910 and concludes with an appendix describing theater production and audience attendance in Seoul. He chooses works that aren't just for Korean audiences. These texts confront universal themes and situations, tackling the problem of ambition, the trouble with fidelity, and the complexity of sexual and interpersonal relationships.

    Nichols situates each work critically, historically, and culturally, including brief biographies of playwrights and extensive notes. A bibliography also provides alternative readings and the titles of additional plays currently available in English. Primed for production, these skillful translations provide Western directors with exciting new material for the stage. At the same time, they offer students and scholars a sophisticated survey of the modern Korean dramatic tradition.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52038-6
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XIII-XIV)
  5. EDITORʹS NOTES
    (pp. XV-XVIII)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    The history of Korean dramatic literature spans less than a century. Put another way, before the first decade of the twentieth century, there is no history of a complete, written play script serving as the source of a Korean theater performance. True, proto-theatrical aspects of ritual and shamanistic rites (kut) date back at least two thousand years, and more recognizably theatrical forms, such as the puppet theater and mask dance (t’alch’um) performances, have centuries-old roots, but they were essentially orally transmitted traditions until the scenarios were transcribed in the 1930s and after. During Korea’s Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910), during which...

  7. BURNING MOUNTAIN (SANBUL)
    (pp. 13-76)
    CH’A PŎMSŎK

    Ch’a Pŏmsŏk (1924–2006), his career spanning more than fifty years, is recognized as a pioneer and leading light in the modern Korean theater. A firm believer in the theater of realism, he sought to show life as it is. Known for acutely observant, emotionally powerful, realistic dramas, frequently depicting the lives of the poverty stricken and the politically repressed, Ch’a also valued a progressive Korean drama, and his Sanha Theater Company (founded in 1963) developed new Korean plays and audiences. His wide-ranging output includes film scripts and television dramas; stage adaptations of novels, such as Gone with the Wind...

  8. O CHANG-GUNʹS TOENAIL (O CHANG-GUN ŬI PALTʹOP)
    (pp. 77-116)
    PAK CHOYŎL

    Pak Choyŏl was born in 1930 in what is now North Korea. Along with countless others, he fled to the south during the Korean War, leaving behind his family. After serving in the Republic of Korea army for some twelve years, he left in 1963 to enter the Theater Academy at the Drama Center in Seoul, driven, Pak notes, by a need to fill an intellectual void in his life. He is a major figure in the Korean theater, often mentioned along with O T’aesŏk and Ch’oe Inhun, as one whose work marked a departure from the previously dominant realism...

  9. PLEASE TURN OFF THE LIGHTS (PUL CHOM KKŎ CHUSEYO)
    (pp. 117-166)
    YI MANHŬI

    Yi Manhŭi is viewed by some scholars as the most influential dramatist of the 1990s. His creative dramaturgy and moving language have earned him many awards, leading one critic to describe him as the “alchemist of the Korean language.” Born in Taech’ŏn City in 1954, Yi graduated from Dongguk University in 1978 with a degree in Indian philosophy. He subsequently spent two years at the Kumsan Buddhist Temple, a religious experience reflected, in Yi’s words, “in the fusion of my ardor for religion and literature.”

    Maiden Flight (Chŏnyŏ pihaeng, 1982) was the first of his works produced, followed by Lepers...

  10. BELLFLOWER (TORAJI)
    (pp. 167-200)
    O T’AESŎK

    Perhaps the most influential Korean theater artist of the last quarter century, O T’aesŏk won a newspaper literary contest in 1969 on his way to a career leading to international stature as playwright, director, and theorist. Born in southern Ch’ungch’ŏng Province in 1940, he studied philosophy at Yonsei University. Following a period of study in New York City, during which he was exposed to a wide range of experimental theater, he returned to Seoul. In the early 1970s, along with Pak Choyŏl and Ch’oe Inhun, O emerged as a leading innovative playwright opposed to shin-gŭk’s realistic theater.

    Several qualities can...

  11. A FEELING, LIKE NIRVANA (NŬGGIM KŬGNAK KATʹŬN)
    (pp. 201-244)
    YI KANGBAEK

    Considered by many to be the doyen of Korean playwrights, Yi Kangbaek has been awarded every prestigious Korean playwriting award, his works numbering more than forty plays published in seven volumes. Born in 1947 in Chŏnju City, North Chŏlla Province, Yi is largely self-educated. His debut play, Five (Tasŏt, 1971), won first prize in a newspaper literary contest. Yi acknowledged that he wrote the play at that time because he was impressed by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

    Yi Kangbaek is known as perhaps the premier writer of allegorical social criticism, a form that evolved during the 1970s and 1980s...

  12. IN PRAISE OF YOUTH (CHʹŎNGCHʹUN YECHʹAN)
    (pp. 245-270)
    PAK KŬNHYŎNG

    Pak Kŭnhyŏng received the Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s “Today’s Young Artist” award in 1999, was named the “number one theater director for the next generation” by the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper (2003), and has received prestigious playwriting awards for In Praise of Youth (Ch’ŏngch’un yech’an, 1999) and Kyŏng-suk, Kyŏng-suk’s Father (Kyŏng-suk i Kyŏng-suk abŏji, 2006). He represents a growing number of Korean theater artists who combine playwriting and directing, staging their own plays as well as the works of others.

    Born in Seoul in 1963, Pak joined the Theater Company 76 in 1986. By the time he entered Taejin...

  13. CHʹOE SŬNGHŬI (CHʹOE SŬNGHŬI)
    (pp. 271-310)
    PAE SAMSHIK

    Born in 1970 in Chŏnju City, North Chŏlla Province, Pae graduated from Seoul National University, where he majored in humanities and then studied playwriting under Pak Choyŏl and Yi Kangbaek at the Korean National University of Arts. Considered to be one of Korea’s most promising young playwrights, Pae gained recognition in 1999 for his first play, November (11 wŏl). Since then, he has written two or three plays a year, among them a musical, Jungle Story (Chŏnggŭl iyagi, 2004), The Life of Sir Chu (Chu-kong haengjang, 2006), and Inching Toward Yŏlha (Yŏlha ilgi manbo, 2007), for which he received a...

  14. APPENDIX: THEATER IN SEOUL
    (pp. 311-318)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 319-326)
  16. TRANSLATORS
    (pp. 327-328)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 329-330)