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‘Nation Brand’ musical: Can it live up to its name?

The National Theater of Korea will stage “Kim Hong-do,” an original musical including Korean traditional music, songs and dance, as the new “Nation Brand” performance next month.

The musical will be staged from July 8-16 at NTOK’s Haeoreum Theater in Jangchung-dong, central Seoul. It is a fantasy story about two young men’s journey into the paintings by the legendary Joseon-period painter Kim Hong-do.

NTOK produced five “Nation Brand” performances from 2006 to 2008 by receiving an extra budget of 1.4 billion won ($1,293,000) from The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The shows include The National Dance Company of Korea’s “Dance, Chunhyang” and The National Changgeuk Company of Korea’s show “Cheong.” 
A scene from The National Theater of Korea’s musical “Kim Hong-do” (NTOK)
A scene from The National Theater of Korea’s musical “Kim Hong-do” (NTOK)

“At first, NTOK planned to make something that embodies all of the genres, like ‘Kim Hong-do.’ But due to several reasons, our dance, changgeuk, and orchestra companies each made their own. After facing severe criticism, we decided never to do that again, even if that means we have to return the budget. All three companies participated in this piece which contains all the genres,” said Lim Youn-churl, President of NTOK, at a press conference on Tuesday.

This year, NTOK spent 1.4 billion won for this single show. It gathered an impressive crew such as Sohn Jin-chaek, a veteran director of Korean traditional plays, writer Bae Sam-sik, music composer Kim Dae-seong, choreographer Guk Su-ho and stage designer Yun Jeong-seob.

“Over 100 staff and actors are making the musical and we are spending about three times more in comparison to when the affiliates each made their piece. The musical features Korean traditional dance, music and songs and is expected to be great,” said Lim.

Sohn said that the musical will be nothing like an ordinary biography of the artist. “It is a story about people who love Kim’s paintings who start on a journey to find him and his paintings. The composition of the work which crosses reality and the ideal world is its charm,” said Sohn.

“The most difficult thing was keeping the balance, not turning it into something like a changgeuk, a Korean traditional opera, or a (Western) musical. We spent a lot of time to find just the right music and dance to meet the expectations.”

NTOK, however, did not announce specific plans on how the musical will live up to its name as a “Nation Brand” performance to promote Korean traditional culture to the world. “Kim Hong-do” currently does not have any plans for overseas staging, according to NTOK officials. After the July show, it will be staged once more as the closing performance at “The World Festival of National Theater 2011” which will be held at NTOK in October.

“Kim Hong-do” will run from July 8-16 at the National Theater of Korea’s Haeoreum Theater in Jangchung-dong, central Seoul. Tickets range from 20,000 won to 70,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2280-4115~6 or visit

By Park Min-young  (