- Glocalizing Shakespeare in Korea and Beyond
Recent works, including books by Alexander C. Y. Huang (2009a, 2009b); Alexander C. Y. Huang and Charles S. Ross (2009); Li Ruru (2007); Tetsuo Kishi and Graham Bradshaw (2005); Ryuta, Carruthers, and Gillies (2001); and Takashi, Mulryne, and Shewring (1998), among others, are filling in lacunae in our understanding of Shakespeare reception and production in northeastern Asia. This book discussing Korean Shakespeare is a significant addition, giving an overview of uses of the Bard from the turn of the twentieth century, but focusing heavily on 1990 to 2008. Eleven essays (three by the editor, two by Kim Dong-wook, and six by other scholars) clarify the current Korean "Shakespeare Boom." Part 1 gives a historical overview of Shakespeare in Korea and discusses overarching themes (democratization and emphasis on female roles in Shakespearean productions). Part 2 highlights the work of individual directors: Lee Yun-taek (especially his Hamlets from 1996 to 200 5) and Oh Tae-suk (especially Romeo and Juliet, 2006) are emphasized, but female director Han Tae-sook is also given attention. Part 3 allows foreign scholars from Europe, India, or Japan to react to current Korean work, sometimes using the comparative frame of major Shakespearean directors they are familiar with (Mnouchkine, Brook, and Ninagawa are included). The essays are clearly written, largely respond to actual productions, and apply theory usefully and in moderation. This book, which grows from a Korea Research Foundation project, will be useful reading for those tracking trends in contemporary Korean theatre and would be a useful textbook in a cross-cultural Shakespeare seminar. Some of the essays are reprinted from journals or proceedings, including New Theatre Quarterly, Shakespeare's World/World Shakespeare: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association World Congress Brisbane(2006), and Shakespeare Review(in Korean). However, reading the papers as a group gives a deeper sense of Shakespeare's use in contemporary Korean culture.
Kim Dong-wook of the Shakespeare Association of Korea gives an overview in "Shakespeare Studies and Hamletin Korea"(pp. 9-28), noting that the early dissemination of Shakespeare in Korea must be understood in [End Page 390]the context of Japanese colonial influences, including shimpa(new drama), school productions, and scholarship. Kim sees the period of 1964 to 1990 as a period of consolidation in which the texts of all Shakespeare's works became available in translation, scholarship flourished, and selected works (including Hamlet) received significant productions. In the period from 1990 to the present, Kim notes the acceleration in scholarly attention and a move from textual studies to performance studies in Korean appreciation of Shakespeare. He cites important productions and essays in Korea in this period.
Next Lee Hyon-u theorizes the cause of the "Shakespeare Boom" that came with the democratization of the country in the 1990s in "Populist Shakespeare in Democratized South Korea." Lee notes that among the various styles of Shakespeare productions, Koreanized Shakespeare, "applying traditional Korean theatre [techniques] and grafting Korean realities to the original text" (p. 31), has been best received. He notes that top directors such as Kim Jung-ok, Oh Tae-suk, and Lee Yun-taek have led the charge toward a "populist Shakespeare" that resonates with contemporary Korean situations. For example, Lee Yun-taek's Macbeth(1992) had a Macbeth, MacDuff, and Ross correlated with former president Chun, then President Roh, and democratic president-to-be Kim Young-Sam, respectively. The same director's Our Contemporary Learreferenced the abdicated Chun and the Kwanju massacre in which between one hundred and three hundred students were killed. Lee Yun-taek's Hamletcorrelated Shakespeare's hero to a king of the Choson dynasty in The Problematic Man Yun-san:the hero-king, finding political enemies had murdered his mother, took his revenge.
Lee Hyon-u concludes that the directors "found Shakespeare to be one of the best methodologies to satisfy the ambivalent desire of Korean people in the 1990s to acquire something global as well as something traditional" (p. 42) and local. In the...