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[Opinion] Ground Zero

Posted July. 10, 2007 03:05,   


Many will remember the 1977 play, “Island.” For six months it ran, breaking the record for the longest-running show of its time. Yoon Ho-jin (producer of musical “The Last Empress”) directed the show, and he reminisces, “I was surprised when the people started pouring in because it was a foreign piece that dealt with the unfamiliar topic of civil rights in South Africa.” The script was saturated with strong satire on the oppression of human rights. The audience response was enthusiastic, remembering the reality of Korea during the oppressive government rule, and their yearning for democracy. Two years later, the system finally broke down.

The charm of the play lay in its satire. The audience experienced catharsis watching the sharp criticism of power and injustice. For a long time after Korea achieved democracy, satire plays disappeared and light, easy plays were in vogue. “Ground Zero”, however, which finished on July 8, is a sign that the age of satirical plays is making a comeback. Although the scene is set in 29th century on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, anyone can tell you the play is themed on the North Korean nuclear crisis.

The plot starts out with the human race, which emigrated to Ganymede, being split into east and west. The leader of West Ganymede, standing for democratic socialism, is reminiscent of Kim Jong-il of North Korea. The president of East Ganymede, which chooses the free democratic system, is obsessed over approval ratings and pursues a populism policy. The west says “Everything’s working out fine except for the economy,” and goes on to rip money off the east for its nuclear development. Finally, the nuclear weapon explodes and the whole country becomes “Ground Zero.”

The play was produced by Bok Geo-il, one of the few right-wing writers in a strongly leftist writers’ community. The piece was made to raise awareness of the dangers of the nuclear bomb to a society that has become numb to its devastating capabilities. He worries about writers turning their backs on the human rights and the nuclear problems in North Korea. Meanwhile, the “Seshil” theater will show its new satirical play, “Real Injustice”, next month, which will criticize President Roh as a leisurely president who has time to study history and post replies on the Internet. Seeing that satirical plays are coming out of hibernation, it seems true that the incumbent administration has become the forces obsessed with their privileges and power.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com