A popular character from a Joseon-era novel is the source of the latest musical in production. "Hong Gil-dong" will hit the stage Feb. 18-April 18 at Woori Arts Hall at the Olympic Park in Bangi-dong, Eastern Seoul.
The show, based on "The Tale of Hong Gildong," by Joseon dynasty author Heo Gyun, carries on the recent trend by the local musical industry of turning to historical figures for story materials.
Born an illegitimate child in strict Confucian Joseon society, Hong Gil-dong is rejected by his father and step-family. He goes on to become a bandit leader who steals from the rich to help the poor.
Hong Gil-dong is a household name in Korea, much like Robin Hood in England. The musical is the first to be produced by a government-private joint venture - Jangseong, South Jeolla Province, where the classic literature is set in and Seoul Symphony Orchestra collaborated on the project. Jangseong plans to fund around 60 percent of an estimated 2.5 billion of the production costs, according to a county official.
Over the years, Jangseong has tried to make Hong a brand or an icon of the region and promote it domestically and internationally. The county has been annually hosting the Hong Gil-dong Festival since 1989.
Along with the musical, the county plans to launch a number of new projects including releasing an online game and animated film about the historical figure this year, Jangseong Mayor Lee Cheong said.
"Musicals are a rising cultural industry, along with films, that are also competitive overseas. Through the musical, we think we can make profits while widely publicizing the brand Hong Gil-dong," Lee said at a press conference in downtown Seoul Tuesday.
In addition to traditional Korean music and dance, the musical will feature martial arts.
With respect to the story, the show will not only highlight Hong`s adventures but try to portray his inner agony and love relationships, said an official for Seoul Symphony Orchestra.
Ye-sung and Sung-min of boy band Super Junior star in the leading role as Hong.
After its Korean performances, the musical will move abroad to countries including China, Japan and the United States.
For more information, call (02) 523-3935 or go to www.musicalhonggildong.kr
By Koh Young-aah