The implantation of Western theatre in Korea: Hong Hae-sǒng (1894-1957), Korea's first director
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
While Korea experienced the threats of imperialist powers in the 19th century, and Japanese colonial rule in the early part of the 20th century, many Korean intellectuals expressed their nationalism through efforts to implant Western culture for the modernization of the Korean nation. They believed such activities would help to realize enlightenment and industrial development, the major conditions for assuring the independence of Korea and the survival of the nation. This attitude became known as Cultural Nationalism. The establishment of modern Korean theatre participated in the movement of Cultural Nationalism. Many leaders of Korean theatre tried to implant Western modern theatre, calling it the New Theatre (sin’gŭk), believing it could help to enlighten the Korean people and modernize the nation. Hong Hae-sŏng proved one of the leading figures in this effort through his activities in the Theatrical Arts Society and the Tsukiji Little Theatre in the 1920s, and the Dramatic Art Study Association in the 1930s. By practicing the function of director for the first time in Korea, he became the most distinguished theatre artist of that time. As Cultural Nationalism in Korea declined in the 1930s, however, Hong Hae-sŏng left the New Theatre movement and converted to popular theatre by joining the Tongyang Theatre. Although the rhetoric of Cultural Nationalism receded in his work at the Tongyang Theatre, he did not lose his love for his nation and maintained his pride as an artist. While almost every other leading figure in Korean theatre collaborated with Japan in the 1940s, he did not serve Japan with his art. Also, when Korean society underwent great social change after being liberated from Japan in 1945, Hong Hae-sŏng, remaining faithful to his artistic ideals, did not endorse or serve a specific political faction to secure his career. With his love for his nation and reverence for art, Hong Hae-sŏng became the most distinctive and exemplary theatre artist in the modern history of Korean theatre.
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Oh, Saejoon, "The implantation of Western theatre in Korea: Hong Hae-sǒng (1894-1957), Korea's first director" (2007). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 3160.