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Global Utopia and Local Anxiety on the Stage of the Korean Musical

Sung Hee Choi 1

1이화여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this essay is three-fold: to trace the genealogy of the Koreanmusical, which ever since its inception in the 1960s has been seeking to modernizeKorean theater with Broadway as a constant role model; to investigate how thenational and the global conflict and are conflated in the form of the Korean musicalin the process of its (dis)identification with Broadway; and to examine how itsintercultural translations reveal and reflect the dilemma and ambivalence posedby globalization in our era. Drawing on Richard Dyer's signature articleEntertainment and Utopia, I analyze how the Korean musical manifests and conduitscompeting utopian impulses of Korean/Global audiences. I also attempt toproblematize the formulaic notion of Broadway musicalsthe Superior Other!whichimplies a global hegemony that does not, in fact, exist because the boundarybetween the global and the local as well as the power dynamics of global cultureare not fixed but constantly moving and changing. Today's musical scene in Korea shows interesting reversals from the 1990s, whenKorean producers were eager to debut on Broadway and impress Americanaudiences. Korean producers no longer look up to Broadway as a final destination;instead they want to make Seoul a new Broadway. They import Broadway musicalsand turn them into Korean shows. The glamor of Broadway is no longer the main attraction of musicals in Korea. What young audiences look for most isthe glamor of K-pop idols and utopian feelings of abundance, energy, intensity,transparency and community, which they can experience live in the musical withtheir favorite stars right in front of their eyes. In conclusion, I delve into the complex dynamics of recent Korean musicals withThomas Friedman's theory of Globalization 3.0 as reference. The binary formulaof Global/America versus Local/Korea cannot be applied to the dynamic andintercultural musical scene of today. Globalization is not a uniform phenomenonbut rather a twofold (multifold) process of global domination and dissemination,in which the global and the local conflict and are conflated constantly. As thisstudy tries to illuminate, the Korean musical has evolved in a huge net ofinterdependences between the global and the local with a range of sources, powersand influences.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.