Jeffrey LewisSpringtime for Kim Jong Il

Barbara Demick swaps her column inches as ace international reporter for the Los Angeles Times for a turn as theater critic … sort of:

Perhaps not since Mel Brooks conceived “Springtime for Hitler” in the comedy “The Producers” has there been such an unlikely premise for a musical.

Chorus lines of goose-stepping soldiers and emaciated political prisoners will prance across the stage when “Yoduk Story,” a tear-jerker about a North Korean concentration camp whose name has the resonance of Auschwitz for some Koreans, opens here next month.

Among the catchy tunes that South Korean theatergoers might soon be humming are “If I Could Walk Freely” and “All I Want Is Rice.”

The tragedy of the divided peninsula is, not surprisingly, a familiar theme in South Korean popular culture. But the most successful offerings have been thrillers and spy flicks, an occasional shoot-’em-up war movie or a syrupy drama about separated families. Few have dared tackle the harsher realities of North Korea, such as starvation or human rights abuses.

And certainly not in the form of a musical.

Check out the play’s website (which doesn’t seem to like my Firefox browser).

My favorite quote is from one of the performers, who said: “Koreans … come [to musicals] to enjoy themselves and to relax. This one is kind of heavy.”

The Chosun Ilbo has more.


  1. dan (History)

    maybe this is why the ratings for South Korean Idol have been so poor

  2. dan (History)

    “But Chung is determined to plough on. When Seoul KyoYuk Munhwa Hoekwan promised to show the musical in its theater last December, Chung borrowed W20 million against a contract to sell his left kidney.”

    talk about suffering for your art!