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Stage art pioneer Lee Byeong-bok dies at 90

Posted January. 01, 2018 07:28,   

Updated January. 01, 2018 08:05


Lee Byeong-bok, the first-generation costume and stage artist in South Korea as well as a member of National Academy of Arts, passed away on Friday at the age of 90.

Lee, who was born into a wealthy family as the first of 10 children, in Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang Province in 1927, first stepped into the theatre through her drama club when she was studying English literate at Ewha Womans University. She broke onto the art scene as the first-generation stage artist and costumer in the 1960s when the concept of stage art was barely established, and cofounded a theater company called Liberty with director Kim Jong-ok in 1966.

Lee was recognized as a pioneer who turned the stage art into one of the art genre as she devoted her 40 years of career life to more than 200 works, including “A Feast of Beggars” (1996), “Birds Carrying the Sunset,” “Prince Ho Dong,” “Hamlet” and “Where and What We Will Be to Meet Again.” No wonder she was widely known as the mother of the world of the stage art in the country.

Lee opened the first small theater called “Café-theatre” in Myeongdong, downtown Seoul in 1968, which led to the little theater movement, a shift from profit-oriented, large-scale and commercial theater culture. “Lee broke away from the stage art that was limited to realistic style and created an abstract and symbolic stage,” said director Kim Jong-ok on Sunday in a phone interview with The Dong-A Ilbo.

Lee had also actively introduced Korean theater to the world as the Korean representative for the Organization of International Theater Artists since the early 1970s. Kim said he still remembers how much delighted she was when awarded the Dong-A Theater Award for “A Feast of Beggars” and “Where and What We Will Be to Meet Again.”

Lee served as the president of the Association of Korea and France Culture and the Association of Stage Artists. She received the Hwagwan Order of Culture Merit, the Dong-A Theater Award, the Paeksang Arts Award and the Dongnang Theater Award.

The bereaved family includes her son Kwon Yoo-jin, cellist, and her daughter Ina, Korean-French artist. A funeral home for mourners is at Korea University Anam Hospital and a funeral procession is on Monday. The deceased will be given a national funeral for theatrical people.

Jeong-Eun Kim kimje@donga.com