Go to contents

Playwriters

Posted January. 01, 2007 03:39,   

한국어

“Toilet Bowl” by Hong Ji-hyun was the first play to capture the attention of judges from the beginning. Its notion of God as a toilet bowl was original; it was a brilliant work that fully reflects the beauty of a one-act play.

The judges, however, were hesitant. As the author said she was 18 years old, they were not sure whether she wrote the work herself. Right before the final decision, they called her to ask confirmatory questions and chose her as the winner.

“I wanted to talk about obedience to authority in the world. On the theater stage, a strong symbol is needed. I thought it would be interesting if the highest met the lowest, so I put God and a toilet bowl in the play.”

Hong Ji-hyun (19), the youngest winner of the Dong-A Spring Literary Contest, is a freshman currently on leave of absence in the College of Pharmacy at Sungkyunkwan University. Hong, who says she “loves the works of Lee Gang-baek the most,” stated she read lots of plays instead of focusing particularly on studying writing. During her six-month leave of absence from school, she “just wrote” three etudes, among which “Toilet Bowl” is one that she completed in just a month. She smiled when she said, “My parents did not believe me at first when I told them I won the contest.”

Hong has taken a different path from those in her age. After finishing her middle school in Yeoju County, Gyeonggi Province, she took the qualification exam for high school instead of entering one. She liked to write, but she chose to enter a college of pharmacy following her elders’ advice, “Study for four years and get the pharmacist license, and after that do whatever you want.”

“Toilet Bowl” seemingly reflects the thoughts she developed in this process. In that work, a sincere young monk feels skeptical about the God in the shape of a toilet bowl, but later he obeys it out of fear.

“When I was ‘young,’ I thought I should live my life doing what I want. I still do not fully get what the elders say, like ‘It is a tough world’ and ‘I need to make a living,’ but I guess our thoughts about fears in our life change gradually. Like the ‘Toilet Bowl,’ however, wouldn’t it be possible that maybe what we believe is illusion and that something really right and beautiful might be elsewhere?”

Hong says she is interested not only in play but also in other various genres such as novel, drama and scenario. During her preparations for the literary contest, she took the College Scholastic Aptitude Test once again. Applying for Seoul National University’s College of Social Sciences and Yonsei University’s College of Business Administration, she is currently waiting for the announcement. “I am also considering applying for the Playwriting Department of Seoul Institute of the Arts to realize my dream of writing,” said Hong.

“Scarecrow” by Joo Hyuk-jun-

“It is certain that he transcribed Oh Tae-seok’s plays at least ten times.”

“It seems he has lots of experiences in transcribing and is very familiar with the actual theater stage.”

These are what the judges surmised from “Scarecrow” during the final deliberation.

Sure enough, Joo Hyuk-jun, who won the playwriting session with his work “Scarecrow,” turned out to be a student of producer Oh Tae-seok (Playwriting Department, Seoul Institute of the Arts) and an actor belonging to the Mokhwa Repertoire Company led by Oh. Joo, who is also in charge of planning at the troupe, is a “fully prepared professional” who has written over 50 etudes. Maybe it was only natural that his work got the comment from the judges, “[His play] is so elaborate and stable that it could be put upon the stage right away.”

It has been eight years since he joined Mokhwa Repertoire Company; after graduating from college, Oh encouraged him to become an actor. He has been acting in theaters and movies, mainly playing characters with strong personality such as a shaven-headed monk in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Still having a lingering desire for the spring literary contest, however, Joo wrote four plays each year. He has applied for the contest every single year since 2002 to finally win it this time. His winning the contest is quite big news at Daehak-ro, a center for theaters in Korea. Then why did Joo, who is already in the theater scene, choose to apply for the spring literary contest?

“It is like proving who I am to myself. I wanted to have presence as a writer. I belatedly entered the Playwriting Department at the age of 28 as I wanted to write. It felt that as I have been working as an actor, it might be difficult for me to be called a writer.”

He said what made him happier than anything was that his “lifetime teacher,” Oh Tae-seok, called him “Joo the writer” right after hearing the news of his winning the contest.



sjkang@donga.com