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“I Apologize For the Japanese Assault Against Korea”

Posted April. 14, 2004 22:11,   


All of the performers and the staff members consist of Japanese people. But half of the roles in the performance are designed to be Korean. This unique performance is the musical “Jebi” in Korean and “Tsubame” in Japanese, which is scheduled to be performed in Seoul on May 8 and 9 by Warabi Zwa, one of the renowned Japanese theatrical companies.

“Jebi” deals with the importance of affinity and reconciliation of people in the two countries, Korea and Japan, through the unfortunate life of a woman who has her husband in two countries simultaneously due to the disorder of war. It is a musical which expresses the apology of Japanese people for their past blunders. Following the rhythmical harmony of the performance, one can dance without any awkwardness.

The protagonist is Chun Yeon, who was forcibly moved to Japan after the ancient war between Korea and Japan, and got married to one of the Japanese warriors. But when her husband, who was forgotten as being killed during the war, returns as a member of the Korean delegation to Japan, the two people meet again. Though her husband, Lee Kyung-sik, urges her to come back to her mother country, the existence of her Japanese husband, Mizshima and her baby hold her mind.

After its first release to the public in August 2002, it has been performed more than 300 times in both countries in front of 200,000 audience members. Describing the affection with the background of four hundred years’ history, it has faithfully revived the traditional culture of the two countries, gaining public favor.

In order to deal with the Korean roles, the performers have learnt Korean language, methods of traditional dancing, Korean music, and traditional festivals. Their way of dancing has also been authorized by the experts. Though the method of dancing in Korea and Japan seems to be very similar, those are very different in many ways, giving lots of pressure to the performers of each country. “When I dance and lament about the protagonist’s unfortunate destiny, bitter tears welled up,” remarked Tsubaki Jiyo, 34, adding, “I realize that feeling is same, though the way of expression is different.”

Though Warabi Zwa has visited Korea five times since 1995, it is the first time for them to perform in Japanese. James Miki, who takes charge of drawing up the scenario and presentation of the performance, has stated that “though Toyotomi Hideyoshi attacked Korea with their advanced weapons, Korea paid it back with a cultural envoy to make a reconciliation. It is worth studying critically even in the present days. I hope that this performance can allow the both country’s people to increase their depth of understanding for each country.”

This performance is supported by Dong-a Ilbo and sponsored by the National Theatre. The National Theater will produce the Korean version of “Jebi” and is scheduled to perform it at Tokyo as one of the commemorative events for the 40th anniversary of the Korea-Japan establishment of diplomatic relations.

The performing times are 3 and 7 p.m. on May 8, and 3 p.m. on May 9. After the performance in Seoul, the theatrical group will visit Gwangju and Busan in succession on May 11 and 14 respectively.

In 1951, the theatrical group Warabi Zwa was organized in Akita County, on Honshu Island of Japan, which is regarded as a remote region in Japan. Though it began as a local group, gathering fame by conducting a tour performance, it gained its current position of a famous theatrical group.

In addition, this group has introduced a new business model, which connects tourism and leisure with its performances, attracting people’s attention. It also runs a 700-seat theatre in Akita County with a hotel equipped with a hot spring bath, beer brewery, and fine-arts exhibition center. Thanks to these facilities, this place is regarded as a most favorable site for middle and high school excursions, attracting about 500,000 visitors every year.

“Considering that dependence on the inspection fare would not give financial stabilization to the theatrical group, we turned our eye to the connection with other businesses. Korean theatrical groups can refer to our business model,” remarked Korenaka Mikio, the chief of the performance and business department of this group.

Won-Jae Park parkwj@donga.com