In the News: January 2019

These are some recent English news pieces on performing arts, music, and literature in Korea and the wider world I read over the Winter break. Thanks to aggregator sites such as Arts & Letters Daily, Perlentaucher, and most of all my friends on Facebook and Twitter who shared these articles.

Copyright battle rocks traditional dance world

Debate rages over whether certain styles belong to artists or to the culture

By Yoo Joo-hyun, Korea JoongAng Daily, Jan 14, 2019.

An interesting take on matters of intellectual property in the realm of traditional arts, which are usually collectively transmitted rather than individually authored. The Korean original article (below the English translation) expands on a few points. The petition “Against the privatization of cultural heritage” mentioned in the article has finished but can still found on the Blue House website.

Shut up and write: Art, citizenship and what it means to be “an African writer”

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, New Statesman, Jan. 9th, 2019.

A highly insightful essay on the conditions of post-colonial writing. I suppose that Korean artists, despite the different history, can relate to some of the issues raised.

The untold story behind South Korea’s national anthem

Professor Lee Hae-young reveals national anthem composer Ahn Eak-tai’s pro-Japanese actions and possible Nazi ties

By Kim Ji-hoon, Hankyoreh, Jan.15, 2019.

Ahn Eak-tai (안익태) is an interesting, if controversial agent in Korea’s global history. Frank Hoffmann’s recent book Berlin Koreans and Pictured Koreans (Praesens 2015, reading sample at also devotes a chapter to him. This is the link to Lee Hae-young’s new book (이해영, 안익태 케이스 국가 상징에 대한 한 연구, 삼인 2019) at Naver

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Das Rheingold directed by Achim Freyer

By Seung Hee Lee, scholar of opera, published on her blog “Verdi in Seoul: Historical Musicology”.

A critical review of what was arguably THE opera event in Korean last year, the first part of Achim Freyer’s retake on Wagner’s Ring-cycle, based on his LA version from ten years ago but with many adaptations to the (inter-)Korean context. Lee’s review also provides an introduction to Wagner’s reception in Korea, a theme that I also wrote a while ago (part1, part2).

Why Mandarin Doesn’t Come From Chinese

The name of the world’s most spoken language has a surprising origin story.

By Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, Jan. 4th, 2019.

Interesting take on exonyms, i.e. external names for a place, people, or language.

A Rocker’s Guide to Management

By Ian Leslie, 1843 Magazine, Dec./Jan. 2019.

A categorization of four different ways to run a band (or a start-up): as friends or frenemies, as an autocracy or a democracy. Highly applicable and entertaining…

I also updated the blogroll and links to academic journals (right column). These are some articles I liked from recently published journals:

First, the whole 2018 fall edition of Acta Koreana (Vol. 21, No. 2), which features four papers from the wonderful conference on “Global Korean Studies” (Seoul National University, Sept. 2017), as well as an introduction by anthropologist Olga Fedorenko who hosted the conference — a must-read for anyone doing research on Korea!

  • Olga Fedorenko, “The Insiders and Outsiders of Korean Culture” (introduction). Link
  • Clark W. Sorensen, “Worshiping the Goddesses of P’albong Mountain: Regional Variation, Authenticity, and Tradition”. Link
  • Jenny Wang Medina, “At the Gates of Babel: The Globalization of Korean Literature as World Literature”. Link
  • Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung, “Everywhere and Nowhere: An Ethnomusicologist Living and Working in Korea”. Link
  • CedarBough T. Saeji, “No frame to fit it all: An auto-ethnography on teaching undergraduate Korean Studies, on and off the peninsula”. Link

Other papers of note (to me), in particular the first one about an ensemble of North Korean performers in Seoul, a phenomenon that made we wonder:

Iain Sands, “Performing in the ‘Cultural Borderlands’: Gender, Trauma, and Performance Practices of a North Korean Women’s Musical Troupe in South Korea”, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (e-journal) 29: 31–51. Link

Abstract: North Korean women encounter traumatic experiences escaping from North Korea. Upon arriving in South Korea, despite being officially welcomed as co-ethnics, many North Korean migrants find that their hopes for a better life are not realized. On the one hand, women arriving from the North are ethnic Koreans and speak the same language as South Koreans. On the other hand, they are in a territory whose culture and society are entirely foreign to them. Against this background, women from North Korea experience considerable trauma in South Korea as they struggle to negotiate new identities as gendered, liminal subjects in a cultural borderland. This article discusses a dance performance by an all-female performing arts troupe, P’yŏngyang Minsok Yesultan, to answer the following questions: How does the performance articulate traumatic and gendered migration experiences? To what extent might performance restore agency for North Korean trauma subjects? By closely engaging with North Korean women’s migration experiences and their performance practices in South Korea, the author shows that performance practices represent potentially empowering, affective sites that may open a space for restoration of North Korean women’s agency.

Jae-beom Hong and Seong-kwan Cho, “The Method of Action Analysis and the North Korean Realism Theatre in the 1960s”, Asian Theatre Journal 35.2: 378–94. Link via ProjectMuse

Abstract: A debate about Method of Action Analysis (MAA), derived from the Stanislavski System split older actors and newly trained DPRK theatre artists in the early 1960s. The conflict arose around memorizing lines, which had previously been done during table work. Using the art journal Joseon-yesul (Korean Art) published by the government, two generations debated acting. Eventually MAA was established at the instruction of Kim Il-sung, who stated that all artists must undertake participant observation for realistic portrayals. Yet, MAA as practiced in this case did not necessarily involve psychological expansion, which was the overall objective of the exercises outlined by Stanislavski.

Douglas Eacho, “Serial Nostalgia: Rimini Protokoll’s 100% City and the Numbers We No Longer Are”, Theatre Research International 43.2: 185–200. Link via Cambridge Core

Abstract: Now a decade old, Rimini Protokoll’s 100% City continues to stage civilians as statistical samples. Considering the project as a series, this paper proposes that ‘seriality’ governs not just the project’s touring model, but also its creation of individuals, populations and a homogeneous group of ‘diverse’ metropolises. These serializations are a foundational part of the project of statistical reason. Surveying the nineteenth-century origins of these practices and their early public articulations, and contrasting these practices with the newly emerging regime of ‘big data’, this paper argues that this serial logic is in fact a nostalgic one. 100% City’s celebration of statistics, however troubling, appears as a comforting articulation of a social model now dissolving in favour of algorithmic enumerations of peoples. The statistical project has long been tied to the theatre, while data analysis may articulate a limit to theatrical representation.

— 31. Jan. 2019


About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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