‘Godfather’ of Korea’s musicals asked to put on a big show

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‘Godfather’ of Korea’s musicals asked to put on a big show

Yun Ho-jin, the head of the Graduate School of Performing Art at Hongik University, is deemed the “godfather” of Korea’s musical scene.

He produced a number of Korean musicals such as “The Last Empress,” “The Hero” and “Arang” since the mid-1990s, back when Korean musicals were extremely rare and not that popular.

In particular, “The Last Empress,” which revolves around the life of Queen Min (Empress Myeongseong, 1851-95) of the Joseon Dynasty who was assassinated by the Japanese in her palace, was the first Korean production of a musical to attract more than 1 million audience members.

Now, instead of a queen who lived a tragic life, the veteran director’s latest muse is Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, and instead of a musical, he has been working in a slightly different genre.

He was tapped by the President-elect’s power transition committee to oversee the production of the inauguration ceremony of Park, the 18th president of Korea.

“The key is how we would convey Park’s philosophies and values,” Yun told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Park likes things modest and humble, so I’d reflect those elements [in the inauguration ceremony] as well as her emphasis on communication and integration.”

He also added that it has to be teamwork. “It has to be a moving experience for more than 60,000 people. So I believe it’s not something that should be done according to my ideas only.”

Asked about the setting - the area in front of the National Assembly - Yun said the cold weather and the outdoor venue will be challenging.

“More than 60,000 people will come in advance and wait for the ceremony to start. All together, they will be outdoors for two to three hours.” Yun said. “I hope with passion and warm hearts, people won’t be shivering in the cold.”

In total, Yun was given 3.1 billion won ($2.9 million) to design and construct the inauguration ceremony. He admitted that it is not quite enough. “For the production of the musical ‘Hero,’ I spent 4 billion won and had five years to do it. But for the inauguration ceremony, I’ve had 40 days. So I had to work to create maximum effects with minimum resources.”

Asked if he has special ties with Park, Yun said not really. “To be frank, I’m not sure why Park chose me. I did hear once that Park saw ‘Last Empress’ in the past,” he said. “When I was given the offer, I felt, for some reason, that I have to do this, that this is my duty and obligation as a citizen of Korea.”

He smiled and said “I wish I was a great magician.”

By Kim Gyeong-jin, Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

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