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Union problems resolved, National Theater to start afresh

Having recently resolved its labor-management problem, the National Theater of Korea plans to stage four new performances in 2011, the president of the state-run theater said.

Mired in labor union problems, the theater failed to premier any shows last year.

“We felt very sorry that we had to delay or cancel some performances a couple of times last year due to the labor union’s long-term strike. But we signed management-labor deals quite successfully late last year,” Lim Youn-churl, President of the National Theater of Korea, told reporters in Seoul.

“With what happened last year in mind, I believe all of the artist members of the theater will do their best for new works,” he said.
Lim Youn-churl, President of the National Theater of Korea, speaks during a press conference in Seoul. (The National Theater of Korea)
Lim Youn-churl, President of the National Theater of Korea, speaks during a press conference in Seoul. (The National Theater of Korea)

Starting March 2010, the labor union protested against the management’s plan to adopt a merit-based salary payment system. Last September, for the first time in its 60-year history, a dance performance, “Soul, Sunflower,” abruptly ended in the middle of the show after labor union member artists refused to perform. The performance was the opening show for the annual World Festival of National Theaters.

In a fresh start for 2011, the theater plans to showcase four new performances from three affiliated companies, the National Changgeuk Company of Korea, the National Dance Company of Korea and the National Orchestra of Korea, as well as the theater’s own national brand performance “Hwaseon Kim Hong-do.”

The National Changgeuk Company is to premier “Sugungga, Mr. Rabbit and Dragon King” in September as the opening show for the World Festival of National Theaters.

The company’s artistic director Yoo Young-dai said “Sugungga” will be a starting point to promote “changgeuk,” or traditional Korean opera, for the global audience, as the show will be performed in Germany and Switzerland after the premier in Seoul. The company has invited German stage director Achim Freyer to direct as well as offer stage and lighting design for the show.

The National Dance Company of Korea’s new work is “Princess Kongji,” a family show to be staged in early May to target Children’s Day on May 5.

The National Orchestra of Korea is to premier “Part of Nature” in September which will be composed in the form of concerto grosso by Jeong Il-yeon. Concerto grosso refers to a form of baroque music written for a small group of soloists and full orchestra together.

The national brand performance “Hwaseon Kim Hong-do,” to be staged in July, is a comprehensive performing arts show, portraying the Joseon-era painter’s life through his artworks, contemporary dance and multimedia.

The National Theater of Korea is also preparing a special performance series this year. The first part of the special performance series will be “Nam Sang-ill 100 Minute Show” on Feb. 25-26, in which young Korean traditional musician Nam will sing with the orchestra and perform a jazz fusion with Korean folk songs, alongside humorous talks.

By Kim Yoon-mi (