The Two Signpainter’s Journey to Korea: Korean Translation and Echoes of The two signpainters (≪兩個油漆匠≫) by Huang, Chʻun-ming
Until the 1980s, when Taiwan and South Korea still maintained diplomatic ties, Taiwan had been less known to Koreans for its unique indigenous or contemporaneous image, and more known for the traditional and stereotypical image of ‘Free China’, which could be substituted for the then very nebulous image of ‘China’. As the anomaly of the Cold War ended, the quiet introduction of the Taiwanese writer Huang Ch'un-ming to Korea that led to our new understanding of Taiwan and its literary world. In 1983, with Korea still under the rule of a military dictatorship, translations of Huang's writings were prohibited from sale immediately after their publication. Paradoxically, this gave his work a new literary life. One short story included among his translated works, The Two Signpainters, was soon adapted as Chilsoo and Mansoo, which became one of the best satirical plays that had heartened Koreans during this oppressive political era. In addition to being the most discussed play of the 1980s, the play was later made into the first Korean new wave film in 1988.
However, in the process of the film adaptation, Huang's name was no longer mentioned, and the Taiwanese aspects, so vividly depicted in the original novel, were completely replaced by Korean content. This paper examines the background and history of the adaptation of Huang's story, and the subsequent trends in its acceptance in Korea. We, then, analyze the reasons for the success of the adapted play and film, based on elements inherent to the original work itself. For example, we discuss its theatrical composition, satirical elements, and contemporary source materials, such as advertising and the press. Finally, we investigate the significance and sentiments that these elements had granted to Korean audiences, in the acceptance of this work.