Traditions of Japan, Korea to share stage

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Traditions of Japan, Korea to share stage

As part of the Korea-Japan Friendship Year festivities, the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts in southern Seoul is showcasing traditional art forms from each country this weekend: pansori, the Korean style of storytelling through song, and bunraku, the traditional Japanese puppet theater.
Two concerts, to be held Saturday and Sunday, will be split between the art forms. The first half of each show will be a pansori performance of the Korean folk tale “Chunhyangga.” The second half will feature “Tsubosaka-Kannon-Reigenki,” a famous bunraku piece.
“Chunhyangga” is the old story of the love between a young nobleman and a daughter of a gisaeng (the Korean equivalent of Japan’s geisha). On a beautiful day in May, the nobleman Lee Mong-ryong sees a girl, Seong Chun-hyang, on a swing; he sends his servant to bring her to him, but she tells the servant to bring Lee to her. The two finally meet, fall in love and have a secret wedding.
But Lee’s family moves to the capital. Chun-hyang waits for him to come back, but hardship awaits her: The new governor of the town wants her for his own.
“Tsubosaka-Kannon-Reigenki” is about a blind musician named Sawaichi. Osato, his cousin who has taken care of him since he was young, marries him.
One day, Osato hears that a Buddha in Tsubosaka Temple can cure blindness. She begins to go to the temple to pray for her husband on a daily basis; for three years, shegoes every day, come rain or come shine. Sawaichi, though, comes to think that she is cheating on him.
Pansori and bunraku were both named intangible cultural heritage properties in 2003 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

by Choi Sun-young

The performances start at 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Prices range from 20,000 won to 30,000 won. The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts is next to Seoul Arts Center; take a bus from Nambu Express Terminal station, subway line No. 3, exit 5. For more information, call (02) 580-3333 or visit
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