Monday, March 20, 2006

Yodok Story: Musical about North Korean Prison Camp

Many writers have pointed out that the new show that opened in Seoul, South Korea, Yodok Story, takes on an unlikely topic for a musical: prison camps in Stalinist North Korea.

On the side of reality, the director and choreographer are North Korean -- and both were once prisoners in the vast North Korean gulag system.

Kim Young-sun, the show's 70-year-old choreographer, spent eight and a half years at the Yodok prison camp and later found out she'd been imprisoned for knowing too much about the personal lives of North Korean leaders.

The show's director Jung Sung-san, 37, also spent time inside North Korea's prisons: three months in Sariwon camp. Jung was a soldier when he was arrested. His crime?

NPR News reports, "I was caught listening to South Korean radio reports about the death of our leader Kim Il-sung," he recalls.

Choreographer Kim says the reality of life and death for families inside the vast prison camps is much worse than the musical depicts.

"I lost my parents and I lost my son as well. My son drowned. When I heard I about it, I ran about 10 kilometers home, but all I saw was his dead body. My parents starved to death. When I think about such things, what is described in the musical is nothing."

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