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Blue Square: Space behind Korea’s musical boom

The Blue Square building (Interpark Group)
The Blue Square building (Interpark Group)

In 2011, when a sprawling 29,492-square-meter, eight-story building opened its doors near Itaewon, Seoul’s vibrant nightlife district, not many could have imagined what was in store for Korea’s musical scene.

Fast forward to a decade later, the building, Blue Square, has welcomed more than 10 million visitors coming to see 7,743 performances of 1,031 musicals, according to Interpark Group, which operates a major ticketing platform. Interpark built and runs the cultural complex, which is home to a main hall that accommodates up to 1,766 people, another 1,373-seater concert hall, as well as two grand theaters.

Interpark on Tuesday released the statistics to celebrate the complex’s 10-year anniversary this year.

The CEO of EMK, one of the top musical production firms in the country, told The Korea Herald that the sheer number of visitors and musical performances that have gone on stage is testimony that a space, like Blue Square, can help foster talent and interest in a country that was once an insignificant player when it came to musicals.

“Blue Square is specialized in staging musicals and provides the best settings especially for large scale productions,” EMK CEO Eum Hong-hyeon said Thursday.

“It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Blue Square contributed to the realization of domestic performance of internationally renowned musical originals,” said Eum, whose company has imported internationally renowned musicals and also created several original musicals such as “Mata Hari” and “The Man Who Laughs.”

In 2012, spectacular musicals such as “Wicked,” a Broadway hit that features a complex and expensive set, and “Les Miserables,” came to South Korea for the first time via Blue Square.

“The emergence of singer-turned-musical actors combined with well-equipped stages like ones Blue Square provides have contributed to South Korea’s heyday for musicals, which unfortunately is experiencing a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he noted. 

Interpark’s statistics also highlighted some other notable achievements that took place at Blue Square.

Ok Joo-hyun, a former member of now-disbanded girl group Fin.K.L, who appeared on several hit works such as “Rebecca” and “Wicked,” was Blue Square’s most prolific performer, having taken to the stage 359 times. She was followed by musical actor Jung Sung-hwa, who performed 352 times.

From 2011 through last month, 41 large-scale musicals went on stage in the Shinhan Card Hall. Four musicals attracted more than 200,000 people, with 2014’s “Jekyll & Hyde” drawing the largest cumulative audience of 242,000, followed by “Wicked” in 2012 with attendance of 235,000.

Two diehard musical fans -- a 57-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man -- each attended 300 performances. The two were among 10 people, varying widely in age, who attended more than 100 performances, watching multiple performances of the same show.

In addition to Blue Square, South Korea has several more concert halls dedicated to musicals, including Charlotte Theater, D-Cube, Chungmu Art Center among others. Next year, LG Art Center will be added to musical lovers’ go-to list once it relocates to Magok, western Seoul, with a fresh and bigger space.

By Park Ga-young (