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Big Seol and Little Seol

Posted August. 31, 2005 06:49,   


“These days the Seol brothers are the only ones who make money,” performing arts industry insiders often jokingly say. The Seol brothers mean Seoul Do-yoon (46), CEO of Seol & Company, and Seol Do-gwon (42), CEO of Clipservice.

The elder and younger brothers produced “The Phantom of the Opera” and “I Love You,” respectively, making the two musicals this year’s greatest hits. The share of paying seats of “The Phantom of the Opera” scheduled to end on September 1 is temporarily estimated at 95 percent, while “I Love You” topped the list of reservations in the first half of this year. It is fair to say that the elder dominated the large theaters and the younger one did the same with small-and medium-sized theaters.

Your reporter interviewed the brothers together who avoid meeting with each other because “it looks funny if brothers are always with each other.”

Producer Versus Producer-

“I Love You” is the first musical that the little Seol produced. He had been focusing on marketing of performance rather than on planning and production.

“I followed in my elder brother’s footsteps as a producer. But we separated each other’s realm. My brother focuses on large-scale musicals, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, while I’m planning to select among off-Broadway musicals.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary the two have engaged in musical business “together and separately.” The Seol brothers are preparing for the first performance that they jointly produced. The performance will be the musical “The Producers,” which set the record of winning the most awards by being nominated for all categories of the 2001 Tony Awards and was awarded in 12 categories.

The storyline of the comedy is that a skilled Broadway musical producer and a new producer try to mess up a show, but things go in an unexpected direction after the show proves to be a smash hit.

Is such a “fraud” possible in reality?

“It is true that there are “strange producers” who inflate production costs. There is also the clumsy management of funds in which producers use funds for a show to finance another and fill up the fund later. Above all else, transparent accounting is the most important for musicals to be established as an industry,” says Seol Do-yoon.

Big Seol Versus Little Seol-

Foreign producers call the elder Seol “Mr. Seol” and the younger Seol “Little Seol.” In Korea, the elder is called “CEO Seol” and the younger “President Seol.”

The elder and the younger majored in vocal music and business administration, respectively, and have very different personalities.

Big Seol tends to speak spontaneously, while Little Seol often cites specific figures, like, “Sales will increase 50 percent if ticket prices are discounted 30 percent.”

The outgoing Big Seol enjoys meeting people, while Little Seol does not like to stand before others. The brothers divided their roles according to their personalities from the beginning.

Big Seoul assumes the tasks related to drinking, entertaining, and golf, while Little Seol is responsible for the rest. When asked, “It seems that your elder brother takes all the good stuff,” the younger one answered, “Is that good? I feel pity for him.”

Troublemaker Versus Trouble-solver

Having their photos taken during the interview, the brothers seemed to feel awkward, saying, “It is first time in decades we have been photographed together.” But they share an extraordinary brotherly affection. Born in Pohang, the brothers attended school living in a lodging house together in Seoul.

As he admits by saying, Big Seol says, “I was always a ‘troublemaker’ and my brother was always a ‘trouble-solver.’” Big Seol made much trouble. Even when he secretly drove a military vehicle to go to a nightclub and became engaged in a car accident, Big Seol called his brother first.

The relationship of “troublemaker and trouble-solver” reversed after 1990. When Little Seol failed in his business, Big Seol paid back all debts using his retirement payment. Now? When asked if they are going to make trouble together, the brothers answered, “Then, we will become the main characters of ‘The Producers.’”

Sue-Jean Kang sjkang@donga.com