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The Transitional Justice of Kyeokjeong-Manri and the Deconstruction of Korean Drama History

  • The Journal of Korean drama and theatre
  • 2021, (72), pp.13-44
  • DOI : 10.17938/tjkdat.2021..72.13
  • Publisher : The Learned Society Of Korean Drama And Theatre
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Received : May 11, 2021
  • Accepted : June 12, 2021
  • Published : June 30, 2021

Seo, Jaekil 1

1국민대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper examines the play Kyeokjeong-Manri (Passion Faraway), first performed in 1991 by the Arirang Theater Company, from the perspective of transitional justice. The play depicts the history of modern Korean drama using the play-within-a-play format. However, the work was suddenly excluded from official participation in the 1991 Seoul Theater Festival, an incident that has been called the Kyeokjeong-Manri affair. This incident seems to have been motivated by a Cold War mentality related to the conflict between the liberal and conservative factions of theatrical circles during the transition to democracy in the 1990s. The chronotopes of transitional justice in Kyeokjeong-Manri may be approached from three directions. First, it tried to reinstate some actors who had previously been marginalized in the history of modern Korean drama due to the overestimation of new theater groups that had been regarded as mainstream. Second, it depended on the independence and autonomy of theater by criticizing the political point of view of art and theater. Third, Korean local-colored theater emerged instead of intelligentsia theater, which was very distant from traditional Korean performances. The performance was significant because it restored private memories of melodrama groups and traditional performance groups and presented them as counter or alternative memories to the mainstream memory of modern Korean drama history at that time; this rewriting of history was possible thanks to the oral life histories of veteran melodrama actors. In 2006, a revival performance of Kyeokjeong-Manri was presented to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Arirang Theater Company. The revival differed from the 1991 premiere in several aspects. In this performance, the narrator, who had dominated in the premiere, was absent, and the revival used singers during the intermission instead of the narrator. Additionally, the show deliberately tried to imitate the vocalizations and old accent from colonial-era performances. These changes aimed to revive various performance elements from colonial theater, including intermission shows. As transitional justice has become irreversible in Korea after the 21st century, the performance was able to express its true character by concentrating on micro-narratives in place of the macro-narratives of modern Korean drama history.

Citation status

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