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Betting on the appeal of Korean musicals

Aug 31,2005
Following the success of Korean television dramas and movies in Japan, Korean producers are now hoping to do the same with musicals.
Seensee Musical Company, a Seoul-based performing group, was overjoyed when it recently watched Tokyo spectators shout “Gakkoi” (“wonderful!”) while watching the Korean actor Huh Joon-ho dance in the Korean musical, “Gambler.” Seensee said the reservation rate hit 85 percent before the actual release in Japan, adding that it received a 1.2-million dollar guarantee from the Japanese theater.
One domestic musical company said some Japanese viewers appreciate the fact that the Korean actors and actresses perform in their native language, regardless of the play’s original language.
OD Musical Company made Korean-language versions of the musicals “Grease” and “Jekyll & Hyde.” It said the performances were so popular among people from Asian countries that the two are being planned for a “reverse export” to China and Japan by next May.
“Many Japanese tourists came to watch our shows during their visit to Korea,” said Shin Chun-su, president of OD Musical Company. “I think they find the energy of Korean performers to be powerful and very attractive.”
Some domestic producers even considered adopting a Japanese musical, making it into a Korean version, and then showcasing it in Japan again.
Yellow Film and Hanyang Repertoire are currently working on “The Convoy Show,” a Japanese musical that has been playing in Tokyo for 18 years. They say they are confident it will succeed.
As more Japanese become fans of Korean shows, musicals that target a Japanese audience are being created.
One of them is “Winter Sonata,” a musical adopted from a Korean hit television drama that was was very popular in Japan. Actor Bae Yong-joon, better known in Japan as Yonsama, became famous across Asia due to his role in the drama. In December, the musical version will begin showing in Sapporo.
“Everyone’s interested in who will be casted for the Yonsama role,” said Lee Yu-ri, producer of the musical.


by Park Jee-young


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