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‘King of Maritime Commerce’ to be portrayed in musical

‘King of Maritime Commerce’ to be portrayed in musical

Posted August. 24, 2022 07:47,   

Updated August. 24, 2022 07:47


Jang Bogo, a key historical figure in the Later Silla period of the 8th century, who dominated the maritime trade among the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and China, was from the lowest class. Nevertheless, Jang Bogo defied the restraints of the social status and went to Tang China, where he rose to government power and earned huge fortune. Having returned to his home, Jang Bogo constructed trade port in Wando, South Jeolla Province, and he gets into politics that select people, not by status but by their abilities.

A musical “Oceans,” which portrays Jang Bogo premieres on Sept. 1 to 4 at COEX Artium in southern Seoul. The work is produced by director Choo Jeong-hwa and music director Heo Soo-hyun, another in series of their musicals together since the previous work “Frida.” The Dong-A Ilbo met the two at the EMK Musical Company in Gangnam-gu, Seoul.

“As a mother of a 20-year-old daughter myself, I felt sad that young people who do not have parental support and wealthy background had to settle for a realistic goal because of environmental constraints, instead of dreaming big, as much as their ability and their willpower allow,” said director Choo. “I was looking for a story that can give hope to these young people, and found out that Jang Bogo, who achieved an unprecedentedly miraculous result, was in fact the ‘dirt spoon,’ who was born with nothing.”

The musical portrays a journey of a young boy, who was born from a lowly family, without a proper name, went to Tang China, where he got a job as an archer called Hwal-bo in Korean, and became Jang Bogo as we know him. This is a show musical where five actors play Jang Bogo and surrounding characters, telling a story to the audience, about Jang Bogo’s old friend Jeong-yeon, and his destiny, which is also recorded in The Chronicles of the Three States.

As the musical is targeted for young adults, script and songs are easy to sing along and remember. “Rather than precisely depicting the history, the show is concentrated on conveying vividly how Jang Bogo runs toward his goal without hesitation,” said Choo. “I took reference from the songs of Korean signer PSY and of Elvis Presley, as well as Korean folk song ‘Arirang’ and ‘Kwaejina Ching Ching Nane,’” said Heo, the musical’s composer.

Meeting first as an actress and composer of the musical ‘Werther,’ Choo and Heo became a couple and got married. Celebrating the 21st wedding anniversary, the couple has produced their 13th creative musical ‘Oceans,’ following the previous works, including ‘Frida,’ ‘Secretly, Greatly,’ and ‘Ludwig.’ “Heo is the only composer who can create music that I want,” said Choo. “She is an amazing woman who has extraordinary sense when it comes to musical,” said Heo.

Ji-Hoon Lee easyhoon@donga.com