‘Hyopyulsa (협률사, 協律社)’, the first modern theater, was built in 1902. Changgeuk (창극, 唱劇), modern performing art derived from Pansori, began in that theater. However that Changgeuk was similar to singing Pansori in divided characters style. There were former stage and later stage. Conventional dances, songs, instrumental music plays, and acrobats were performed at the former stage and Changgeuk was performed at later stage. So Changgeuk <Chunhyang-jeon (춘향전)> was performed in 3 days. Changgeuk was started in that way.
‘Society for Joseon Vocal Art (조선성악연구회)’ was made in 1934. The Society made possible to show all the work at once, the works like <Chunhyang-jeon>, <Heungbu-jeon (흥부전)>, <Baebijang-jeon (배비장전)>, <Yuchungryeol-jeon (유충렬전> etc. So to speak, a entire work performance period began. After Kim Chang-hwan, Song Man-gap, Yi Dong-baek, Kim Chang-ryong, Jeong Jeong-ryeol, 5 great singers in early modern time, led that Changgeuk. Japan’s Cultural Policy and the movement of traditional Joseon culture in 1930’s began after March 1th Claiming Movement in 1919. But it was in the time of Japanese colony and Japan went into the war mode at the Japan to China War in 1937, and the Pacific War in 1941. Changgeuk could no longer be developed.
After the liberation, Changgeuk could have re-jumping time. There were the conflict between leftists and rightists and the basic economic poverty problem. But Korean traditional music artists gathered around ‘Korean Traditional Music Institute (대한국악원)’ in heightened nationalism and presented Changgeuk as their most important performing art. So ‘Gukgeuksa (국극사)’, the Changgeuk Troupe of the Korean Traditional Music Institute, and independent Changgeuk Troupe like ‘Joseon Changgeuk Troupe’, ‘Changgeuk Association’ and ‘Kim Yeon-su Changgeuk Troupe’ re-made <Chunhyang-jeon>, <Simcheong-jeon (심청전)>, <Heungbu-jeon (흥부전)>, <Janghwahongryeon-jeon (장화홍련전> etc., that were handed down, and made new works competitively. So every Changgeuk Troupe should make a new one in every 3 months like <Cheongsando Jeolno, Saramdo Jeolno (청산도 절노, 사람도 절노>, <Princess Seonhwa>, <Prince Hodong>, <Midnight of Ye (예, 濊) Castle)> (예도성의 삼경), <King Danjong and Sayuksin (사육신, 死六臣>, <Great Wall> (만리장성) etc. that were high level in art and popular in ordinary people. Because it was 3 months for performing a new work from the theaters of Seoul to the ones of 30 big cities.
At that time domestic movies was an initial step, and ths imports of foreign film was limited, so it was theater performing era for Operetta (악극, 樂劇), Changgeuk, Sinpageuk (신파극, 新派劇), Singeuk (신극, 新劇), and Variety Show. Both high level cultural figures and ordinary people all had concern for Changgeuk, because Changgeuk had the aspects of ethnic art and popular entertaining. As a result, there was a room that Changgeuk became to be the most important performing art in the liberated father land. So Park Hwang (born in 1917) who placed the field of Changgeuk for a long time, said the liberation period was the most prosperous time in the whole history of Changgeuk.
But the Korean War taken place on Jun 25th in 1950 stopped all these processes. Also there was a big blank, because Park Dong-sil, Jeong Nam-hui, Jo Sang-seon, and Im So-hyang (woman), all were very important persons in Changgeuk, went to North Korea after the War. Futhermore the ‘Woman Gukgeuk (여성국극)’ oversupplying took all chances of so-called man and woman co-ed Changgeuk Troupes. The ‘Woman Gukgeuk’ was made in 1948 and already started to monopolize the audiences of theaters before the War. As a result, Changgeuk Troupes doomed out since 1955, and there was no Changgeuk Troupe by 1958. It became the time of no Changgeuk Troupe.
The people of Changgeuk that went to North Korea made music play form that became the foundation of today’s North Korea Operetta (가극, 歌劇). South Korea made a ‘National Changgeuk Troupe (국립창극단)’ to maintain the life of Changgeuk.
As Pansori is the most representative performance art in our country. Changgeuk succeeding Pansori needs to be the most representative performance one in our country too. ‘Liberation Period Changgeuk’ was proper Changgeuk for the first time, and could be called the most prosperous period Changgeuk by someone. Therefore, that Changgeuk will be the most important guider to us trying to make today’s Changgeuk to be the most representative performance art of our country. The reason studying Liberation Period Changgeuk in the view of the whole Changgeuk history is right here.