First glimpses into musical ‘Woyzeck’

By Korea Herald

Local guru’s first global project to premiere here in October

  • Published : Jul 22, 2014 - 20:37
  • Updated : Jul 22, 2014 - 20:37

Yun Ho-jin, the man behind Korea’s two most successful original musicals “Last Empress” and “Hero,” has offered a sneak preview of the musical “Woyzeck,” his most ambitious undertaking in a more than 20-year career in theater.

The cast performed five of the songs ― composed by an obscure British band called The Singing Loins ― at the LG Arts Center in Seoul, Monday, giving a glimpse into the much-anticipated show slated for a world premiere here in October.

If Monday’s sampling is any indication, the upcoming musical differs from the pack of loud, spectacular and highly entertaining musicals now in vogue. The story is about a poor, downtrodden solider, Woyzeck, who kills his unfaithful lover, Marie, and faces tragic consequences. Its music sounds distinctively different ― somewhat acoustic and punk folk.

“I wanted it to be something more than just the immediate spectacle and entertainment,” Yun said of his soon-to-be-unveiled work. “I wanted it to be something that audiences would ponder afterwards.” 
Yun Ho-jin (left), producer and director of musical “Woyzeck,” speaks alongside cast members in a press conference at LG Arts Center in Seoul on Monday. (LG Arts Center)

The original play of the same name is far from light entertainment.

Written by German playwright Georg Buchner from 1836-37, it holds an important place in the history of Western theater. It is the first modern drama with an antihero and the first to delve into the exploitation and socioeconomic alienation of the working man in the 19th century.

It has been performed in various forms ― opera, film and even a puppet show. American avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson made it into a stage musical in 2000.

Yun claims that he is the first to adapt the theatrical masterpiece into a large-scale stage musical.

“Ever since I saw the play mounted by a German group in Seoul back in the ’70s, I wanted to do it myself someday,” he said.

“In a theater play, the emotions that the characters go through can be expressed only through the acting by the actors or actresses who play the roles. I thought that a much more powerful delivery would be possible if it was backed by music,” he explained.

Yun launched the project in 2005, with a global stage in mind.

He has teamed up with U.K.-based Greenwich Theater and put together a multinational creative team, including The Singing Loins duo ― Chris Broderick and Rob Shepherd ― through an audition process. Later on, LG Arts Center decided to join the production as a partner.

“I realized through my experience with ‘Last Empress’ that with a Korean story, it is very hard to crack the global stage. So, I wanted to make something universal ― something that people, regardless of their cultural and historic backgrounds, can relate to.”

“Last Empress,” which in 1995 was the first original Korean musical to debut, is about the assassination of Empress Myeongseong by the Japanese in the last days of the Joseon era (1392-1910).

After a one-month run in Seoul, which starts on Oct. 9, Yun plans to take the production to theaters in the U.K. and Germany.

Musical actors Kim Soo-yong and Kim Dae-hyun will play the troubled protagonist, opposite Sophie Kim as Marie.

Tickets run from 40,000 won to 80,000 won. For details, visit

By Lee Sun-young (