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In Session: Mediated Identities: Re-framing the Korean Subject Through Text, Screen, and Stage
3: The Gray Zone of the Japanese Empire: Variations of the Korean Folktale Ch’unhyangjŏn by Murayama Tomoyoshi
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Eun Young Seong
Williams College, United States
This paper focuses on Murayama Tomoyoshi’s varied strategies to adapt the Korean folktale Ch’unhyangjŏn for a wide range of cultural productions during the colonial period. Murayama was a Japanese figure who led the proletarian theater movement. The analysis of Murayama’s enormous efforts to produce multiple pieces of the folktale presents the gray zone that shows his contradictory collaborations with both Koreans and the Japanese empire. He worked with Korean writers, artists, and staff in order to make plays, operas, a dance piece and a film which variously interpreted Ch’unhyangjŏn. Murayama published a novel which vividly shows his sensitivity to the uneasiness of Korean audience members at his Japanese-language theatrical version of the folktale. As his “sincere” response to Korean audiences, Murayama tried to produce a Korean-language film in 1939. However, his script embodied the risk of enhancing Japanese colonization while contradictorily containing a scene which could imply the grief of Koreans because of their separation from their country. Despite Murayama’s close and broad connection with Korean artists, his adaptations of Ch’unhyangjŏn was not completely separated from the colonial practices of the Japanese empire. His plans for different adaptations of the folktale which often failed due to political, financial, and social circumstances. Even though the failures of the productions buried the complexity of Murayama’s activity in oblivion, the incomplete projects left legacies to the postcolonial transnational flow of culture between the two nations.