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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  June 14, 2017 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT

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♪ the south korean capital of seoul. within it is a central district called daehangno, an area long known for being a college town.
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♪ in the past, students often held anti-government protests and other activities here. but when a part of the university of seoul's campus was moved out, the atmosphere of the district changed dramatically. ♪ now daehangno is known as an art colony that attracts young people from around the nation. this district has among the highest number of theaters in asia. many famous actors and directors in south korea got their start from one of the more than 150 diverse local theaters. combined, the theaters attract an average of more than 10,000 spectators a day. in addition, the east side of daehangno has numerous murals and works by artists and local residents.
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this area is often used to film korean dramas. it has become a popular sigh e sightseeing spot for fans from around the world. the district offers theater, art, and music. daehangno has become a center, spreading south korea's youth culture. drawn to this, many young people attempt to build a future here. this episode follows the aspiring young performers of daehangno.
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♪ >> marronnier park, it could be called the center of daehangno. the district can be largely divided into four sections. the commercial theater district that offers musicals and other shows. the art village, scattered with street art and murals. a leisure area lined with restaurants and cafes. and a small theater district featuring plays that showcase social issues. every day, many street performances are held in daehangno. some perform alone, while others recruit people into religious groups or promote government related issues. their subjects and purposes are quite diverse. ♪
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daehangno became known as an art town in 1985, when large roads were shut down on weekends, enabling young people to give street performances. after four years, the roads were no longer closed. but many small theaters continue to be built. solidifying the district as a youth center for performing arts. one man has long been giving street performances here. they call him the maestro of daehangno.
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>> kim began performing in the streets in the late 1980s. in those days, everyone looked forward to a bright future from the nation's demockeritization and the hosting of the seoul olympics. [ applause ] the streets were filled with the cheerful voices of young people. he has witnessed changes in the country and incorporated those changes into his comedy shows.
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>> here at the park, a mother and her daughter are filming. >> the mother was making a documentary about her daughter, who switched to homeschooling
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during junior high, and dreams of becoming a designer. during her two years of tuition, they often visited daehangno. this spring, the daughter was accepted into an extremely competitive art high school. >> daehangno exposes countless young people to new culture. many of seoul's 300 or so theater groups rent rehearsal space in daehangno, performing close to 400 new shows a year.
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>> these young artists are from the new world theater group, a troupe that was formed three years ago. its leader, kim su jung, is single handedly in charge of directing, screen writing, and managing the group. ♪ the group currently has 14 members. she launched it in hopes of giving performances which her
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like-minded friends could share their vision. ♪ their policy is to seriously face modern issues, and depict the present in their performances. for that reason, their shows are based on facts and real-life events. exaggerated direction is avoided. members exchange heated opinions until they're all content with the material. recently, their serious nature has won the respect of theatergoers, and expectations for the group are high.
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>> the group rehearses in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of daehangno, where they have a basement studio. >> the rent comes to about $600 u.s. it was the at least expensive place they could find. even with the low rent, the prospect of running a theater company is a challenging one. every member has a day job to support themselves. to the performers, this location is a rehearsal studio, office, and cafeteria all in one.
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all members are treated equally. members who live with their parents actively bring food for the other members. su jung uses most of her earnings from her part-time job on the management of the group. she always relies on the other members for her lunch.
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>> su jung caught the acting bug in high school and dreamed of becoming an actress. she pursued acting as a profession, but encountered the harsh realization of discrimination in the male-dominated acting industry. so she decided to make a new opportunity for herself and switch to directing.
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>> right now, the group is busy preparing a play called "the forgotten dance." the theme is south korean society, and the 2014 disaster that left many dead, most of them high schoolers. it highlighted public distrust toward the government. ♪ the show starts with a swing dance number.
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>> su jung says she has no intention of performing this in a theater.
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>> they practice the swing dance scenes again and again. >> the members rehearse for four hours, just for a three-minute dance scene.
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>> after the dance, the play makes a sudden change.
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>> we asked su jung why she chose this incident as a theme for her play.
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>> su jung believes that the sewol ferry tragedy gave young people a terrible sense of despair about their country.
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♪ >> in the park, a young man sings to an audience of none.
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♪ >> the sun sets between daehangno's buildings. the area has retained its college town look. many young people came here to share their hopes and insecurities about the future. sometimes they felt despair about their nation. and that hasn't changed over the years.
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>> now people talk about politics every day at the bars. >> there's the popular image of south korea being spread to the world. and the true lives ofo live her.
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daehangno can be said to rest somewhere in between. >> su jung and the members of the new world theater group assemble early in the morning and leave daehangno. they head to seongsu bridge, located in southeastern seoul. in october of 1994, part of this bridge suddenly collapsed, killing or injuring 49 people. most of the victims were junior
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high and high school students on their way to classes. the collapse was caused by short cuts taken to reduce construction cost. su jung has decided to debut "the forgotten dance" near the bridge. she makes this trip to survey the area. the forgotten dance is intended to be performed at locations where tragedies occur, based on the greed or insensitivity of the government and people in general. some theater group members opposed, saying it may hurt the affected family's feelings. the members talked at length about whether they should perform at the tragic sites, but unanimously decided to go through with it. ♪
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♪ >> how will people feel about the theater group new world, led by su jung?
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it all begins here. ♪ like any other day, people from all walks of life visit daehangno. everyone enjoys a unique experience here. while the news depicts the instability of south korea, its politics, economics, and diplomacy, young people face their country and struggle each day for a new tomorrow. ♪
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