Korean Drama in Translation

(c) Columbia University Press

(c) Columbia University Press

No, this is not about that kind of drama. The anthology Modern Korean Drama, edited by Richard Nichols (Columbia UP, 2009), is all about original stage plays by Korean authors (창작극). As such, it is the most recent and up-to-date collection of English-language translations, covering the era from the 1960s until 2004 with a strong focus on the 1990s.

While I was writing a review for the latest issue of Acta Koreana (Vol. 14, No. 2, click on the last item for a pdf-file that includes all the book reviews), I did some extra research on the plays featured in this volume as well as other anthologies of translated Korean plays.

What follows, is a bibliographical addendum: The detailed contents of Modern Korean Drama as well as some other worthwhile books for drama geeks. These recent English-language books tend to concentrate on single playwrights or the colonial period, but older publications, as well as a French and a German anthology, offer a broader overview on dramatic literature in Korea, albeit restricted to works predating the time of publishing. (I might compile a list of these for a later post)

I provide original titles and date of publishing, as far as I could get hold of them. All names appear in the transliteration found in the respective publication. For further references to translations of single plays published in mostly-prose anthologies or literature journals, see the extended bibliography at the end of Modern Korean Drama. As always, missing or wrong references will be gladly added!

(c) Columbia University Press

(c) Columbia University Press

Modern Korean Drama: An Anthology, ed. Richard Nichols, New York 2009: Columbia University Press (paperback 2011). Publisher’s homepage, see also reviews by Suk-Young Kim, Journal of Asian Studies, and Kathy Foley, Asian Theatre Journal)

  • Ch’a Pŏmsŏk (차범석), »Burning Mountain« 〈산불〉, 1962, transl. by Janet Poole. (reprint from Korean Literature Today Vol. 4, No. 4 (1999) and Vol. 5, No.1 (2000), part one in English, full text in Korean)
  • Pak Choyŏl (박조열), »O Chang-gun’s Toenail« 〈오장군의 발톱〉, 1974, transl. Bruce Fulton and Ju-Chan Fulton. (an earlier version appeared in Korea Journal Vol. 30, No. 6 (1990): 56-72 and Vol. 30, No. 7 (1990): 49-59, free download)
  • Yi Manhŭi (이만희), »Please Turn Off the Lights« 〈불 좀 꺼주세요〉, 1992, transl. Kim Chinhŭi.
  • O T’aesŏk (오태석), »Bellflower« 〈도라지〉, 1994, transl. Yi Hyŏngjin and Richard Nichols.
  • Yi Kangbaek (이강백), »A Feeling, Like Nirvana« 〈느낌, 극락같은〉, 1998, transl. Alyssa Kim.
  • Pak Kŭnhyŏng (박근형), »In Praise of Youth« 〈청춘 예찬〉, 1999, transl. Yi Hyekyŏng. (full text in Korean)
  • Pae Samshik (배삼식), »Ch’oe Sŭnghŭi« 〈최승희〉, 2004, transl. Alyssa Kim.

(c) Cambria

Allegory of Survival: The Theater of Kang-baek Lee, transl. Alyssa Kim and Hyung-jin Lee, Youngstown/NY 2007: Cambria Press. Publisher’s homepage.

  • Kang-baek Lee (이강백 / 李康白, 1947~), »Five« 〈다섯〉, 1971.
  • »Watchman« 〈파수꾼〉, 1973.
  • »Wedding« 〈결혼〉, 1974.
  • »Chaos and Order at a Gallery« 〈미술관에서의 혼돈과 정리〉, 1975.
  • »Spring Day« 〈봄날〉, 1984.


(c) University Press of America

Four Contemporary Plays by Lee Yun-Taek, transl. Dongwook Kim and Richard Nichols, Lanham/MD 2007: University Press of America. Publisher’s homepage.

  • Lee Yun-Taek (이윤택, 1952~), »Citizen K« 〈시민K〉, 1989.
  • »O-Gu: A Ceremony of Death« 〈오구-죽음의 형식〉, 1989.
  • »Mask of Fire: A Ceremony of Power« 〈불의 가면-권력의 형식〉, 1993.
  • »The Dummy Bride: A Ceremony of Love« 〈바보각시-사랑의 형식〉, 1993.

(c) EastBridge Books

Plays of Colonial Korea: Se-dŏk Ham, transl. Jinhee Kim, Norwalk/CT 2006: EastBridge. Publisher’s homepage.

  • Se-dŏk Ham (함세덕 / 咸世德, 1915~1950), »Mountain Cove« 〈산허구리〉, 1936.
  • »Child Monk« 〈도념(道念), 1939; reprinted as 〈동승(童僧)〉, 1947.
  • »Potatoes, a Weasel, and the Schoolmistress« 〈감자와 쪽제비와 여교원〉, 1940.
  • Critical Essay by the translator: “Mountain Cove as National Allegory”

(c) Colin Smythe

(c) Colin Smythe

Three Plays by Chi-Jin Yoo, transl. Won-Jae Jang, Gerrards Cross/Buckinghamshire 2005: Colin Smythe. Publisher’s homepage.

  • Chi-Jin Yoo (유치진 / 柳致眞, 1905~1974), »The Cow« 〈소〉, 1935. (Korean full text)
  • »The Mud Hut« 〈토막(土幕)〉, 1931/33?
  • »The Donkey« 〈당나귀〉, 1935

(c) Homa & Sekey Books

Korean Drama Under Japanese Occupation: Plays by Ch’i-jin Yu and Man-sik Ch’ae, transl. Jinhee Kim, Paramus/NJ 2004: Homa & Sekey Books. Publisher’s homepage, see also google books.

  • Ch’i-jin Yu (유치진 / 柳致眞, 1905~1974) »The Shack» 〈토막(土幕)〉, 1931/33?.
  • Ch’i-jin Yu, »The Ox« 〈소〉, 1935.
  • Man-sik Ch’ae (채만식 / 蔡萬植, 1902~1950), »Memorial Day« 〈제향날〉, 1937.

(c) University of Hawai’i Press

The Metacultural Theater of Oh T’ae-sok: Five Plays from the Korean Avant-Garde, transl. Ah-Jeong Kim and R. B. Graves, Honolulu 1999: University of Hawai’i Press. Publisher’s homepage.

  • Oh T’ae-sok (오태석, 1940~), »Bicycle« 〈자전거〉, 1983.
  • »Intimacy between Father and Son« 〈부자유친〉, 1987.
  • »Lifecord« 〈태〉, 1974.
  • »Ch’un-p’ung’s Wife« 〈충풍의 처〉, 1976.
  • »Why Did Shim Ch’ông Plunge into the Sea Twice?« 〈심청이는 왜 두번 인당수에 몸을 던졌는가〉, 1990.

— 1 Dec. 2010 (木)


About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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5 Responses to Korean Drama in Translation

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