Abstract

Abstract:

This essay examines how contemporary theatre critically intervenes in the popular imagination surrounding North Korea. It analyzes two recent plays about North Korean defectors—Mia Chung's You for Me for You, which premiered in the United States in 2012, and Kim Eunsung's Sister Mokrahn, a South Korean play that premiered in Seoul in the same year—as key examples that challenge the neoliberal ideals of individualism and free choice widely celebrated in the humanitarian discourses. While defector narratives often recast North Korean border-crossers as future world citizens who have escaped from a totalitarian dystopia, these plays bring to the fore the processes in which defectors become subject to the new mode of global exploitation. The essay argues that defectors' performances of potential citizenship in these plays illuminate how the language of freedom conceals the workings of transnational capitalism that conditions the lives of individuals in the post–cold war geopolitical landscape. While sharing the social critique and concerns about the plight of defectors, these plays take differing stances toward reconnecting to North Korea, and reveal the ambivalent nature of imagined kinship in the process. By placing these plays in conversation, the essay further asks how such imagined identification with North Korea might mirror and contest the differing geopolitical realities and senses of belonging for audiences across the Pacific.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-332X
Print ISSN
0192-2882
Pages
pp. 179-196
Launched on MUSE
2020-07-10
Open Access
No
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