03/16/2006, 00.00
South Korea – North Korea

"Yoduk Story", controversial North Korean gulag musical, is on stage

Despite death threats and constant pressures, official ones included, against the producer, the premiere of a musical denouncing torture in North Korea's "re-education camps" opens in Seoul.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Cs) - A controversial musical set in a North Korean gulag has at last been staged, overcoming pressure from powerful circles to bin the production for fear of offending Pyongyang. Wednesday night saw the opening of "Yoduk Story" at the Seoul KyoYuk Munhwa Hoekwan auditorium.

"Yoduk Story" centers on Kang Yeon-hwa, the daughter of a party official and a promising dancer. When her father is falsely accused of being a South Korean spy, she and her family are detained in the notorious Yoduk concentration camp, where she is raped and becomes pregnant.

The audience audibly drew breath when the prisoners describe their camp experiences - which the production says are based on true stories. Characters include a woman who is interned because she failed to take good care of a portrait of Kim Il-sung, and a South Korean prisoner of war who has his tongue cut out.

It has been a difficult road for producer Chung Seong-san, himself a North Korean defector, that saw him reportedly exposed to death threats and official pressure.

After news of the impending production spread last year, the theatre that had booked it pulled out, as did investors who had promised 300,000 dollars. There was persistent official pressure, Chung says, but a story about his efforts in a Korean newspaper motivated many private citizens at home and abroad to offer financial help.

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