Korean Gulag Musical a Surprise Hit

NPR reports that a new show is opening in Seoul, South Korea, “Yodok Story” , takes on an unlikely topic for a musical: prison camps in Stalinist North Korea. Korea Liberator says that despite several challenges and attacks, the musical is off to a splendid start.

Music in Yodok sounds like something you may here in an American Gospel musical, sample HERE.

Yodok Story’s depiction of camp life is underscored by violence and brutality. (NPR)

An important musical is off to a great start in South Korea. NPR did a great review of this historic musical:

The director and choreographer are North Korean — and both were once prisoners in the vast gulag system that holds an estimated 200,000 people.

As the curtain rises, female soldiers in jackboots march forward, wielding flags emblazoned with the hammer and sickle. This is the first sign that Yodok Story is no ordinary musical. Despite its jaunty opening rhythms, the play charts one family’s downfall in Stalinist North Korea: The father was a government minister, his daughter a famous revolutionary dancer.

Yet they run afoul of the revolution. The father is accused of being a South Korean and American spy, and the whole family is sent to Yodok prison camp.


Choreographer Kim Young-sun, 70, spent eight and a half years in Yodok in the 1970s. Before being arrested, she had been a dancer. (NPR)

“I can’t believe I’m here. I’m a daughter of the government,” the dancer sings as the guards whip other inmates. Her psychological shock draws on the real-life experience of Kim Young-sun, the show’s 70-year-old choreographer. She also was a dancer at the time of her arrest in 1970.

However, Korea Liberator explains that this show had a very rocky start. KL claims that the South Korean government may have tried to water down the atrocious stories in the script. Joshua at Korea Liberator has much more.

No word yet if Dick Durbin was requested for his gulag expertise.

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