Silencing the Yoduk Story

I am not often openly critical of my host country and try to avoid being overtly political, but I cannot remain silent on this issue.  Organized attempts in Korea to shut down "Yoduk Story" are absolutely appalling.  It is a story that should not be silenced, and it is an affront to free speech if "Yoduk Story" is shut down before it reaches the small stage.  "Yoduk Story" is a musical by North Korean Director Jung Sung San, who defected to South Korea in 1994.  The somber musical chronicles the brutality of life at Yoduk, North Korea’s largest concentration camp.  Although he was never imprisoned at Yoduk, Jung’s life was profoundly impacted by Yoduk.  In 1994 he escaped from North Korea while on his way to the camp, where he was scheduled to serve a 13-year prison term for listening to a South Korean radio broadcast.  Jung also claims that his father was executed in 2002 to punish the family for his own defection.
Attempts to silence this musical are very unfortunate.  The Chosun Ilbo is reporting that significant efforts have been made to keep the musical from opening in order to avoid offending North Korea.  Other than the Chosun Ilbo, not one single newspaper of the Korean media has picked up the story.  The Korean media assiduously reports on virtually anything happening in Korea, yet it is eerily silent on this issue.  When I visited today to see when and where I could attend a performance, I found an HTTP 404 error message indicating the official web site could not be found.  (Dear Reader, can you view this web site from outside Korea?  If so, let me know.)  If you can view it from outside Korea, then very likely it means that Korean Internet service providers have agreed to either censor or shut down the web site, as they occasionally do at the government’s behest.  When I called the "Yoduk Story" phone number (02-569-4483 inside Korea, +82-2-569-4483 outside Korea), I could not reach anyone.   According to the Chosun Ilbo, government officials have invoked Korea’s National Security Law in order to water down the use of North Korean symbolism and propaganda in the production, and half of the musical’s budget has dried up under official pressure.  One theater even pulled out of its commitment to run the show.
This concerted effort to stop "Yoduk Story" from opening in Korean theaters is appalling.  Let Korean audiences decide with their hearts and wallets whether they want to support this musical.  After all, Korea seems to have no trouble airing a Korean version of "The Producers," a Broadway musical that includes Nazi imagery.  Imagine if the French had tried to suppress "Les Miserables" because of its serious theme and dark imagery of the French Revolution.
I plan to find out more about what is happening with "Yoduk Story" and will lend my full support to make sure "Yoduk Story" gets a fair hearing in the Korean court of public opinion.  If you’re interested in lending your support, let me know.  So often, Koreans pay very close attention to the U.S.’ actions and react whenever they disagree.  In this case, Americans are–or should be–concerned about what is happening here to "Yoduk Story."  Take note, Korea.  We noticed.
  1. Chuck

    Thought you’d want to know that here in Ohio the Yoduk Story website loads an intro page with music but then I get the 404 error message as it tries to access the actual content on the site. Unfortunate,but not surprising given the example set by the current administration in Washingon. The message to the rest of the world’s governments is that it is quite alright to censor what citizens see. I really enjoy your blog and do intend to comment further on it when I have a bit more time and clarity of my own. 

  2. Unknown

    Contents : The factual story of political prisoners in  North Korea
    Type of the play:creative musical
    Length of the play:Appx.170min
    Date:Marth 15~April 2,2006
    Time:Tuesday,Wednesday-8:00 PM/Thirthday,Friday,Saturday-4:00 PM,8:00 PM/Sunday 2:00 PM,6:00PM(Exception:at April 2nd,only opens at 2:00,Sundays off)
    Place:Seoul Kyo Yuk Munhwa Hoekwan Theater
    Planning/Production:Big Dipper Cheater Company
    (Nam Kyung Building.B2 fl.Yuk Sam 2Dong,769-6,Kang Nan Goo,Seoul,Korea)

  3. Unknown

    I am very interested in the story of the musical. In Germany I get full access to the mentioned website.
    Yesterday, there was an article in a newspaper describing how the producer tries to finance the musical: loan-shark, kidney-sale etc.
    Finally, a Norwegian foundation was mentioned to support the musical.
    Link to the article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (sorry, only German):

  4. Rishikesh

    Hi, I’m am from India. I cannot access the website from my blackberry?
    I know I’m a few years late so I guess that that may be the reason.
    I would seriously like to play a part in helping getting this story out to millions of people in India that have no clue about North Korea.

    It is suprising that Indian people often think of “Samsung” when I say Korea. Becuase North Korea is even know to them.

    I was appalled that my country is an exporter to North Korea, it is something that needs to be conveyed to the general public to pressurise the government. Certain regimes in the past like Burma have turned to countrys like India and China when the west applies sanctions on them.

    • mgedwards

      Hi Rishikesh, thanks for your comment and for reading my blog. I’m not sure why it’s not accessible on Blackberry; WordPress is available on most smartphones, including the iPhone. But I’m glad you were able to read the post. I’m surprised by the staying power of some of my posts because I wrote them over five years ago. The story of “Yoduk” is just as relevant today as it was when I saw it years ago because the situation hasn’t changed much in North Korea. I encourage you to pursue your idea to get the story out. It looks like the director has a new movie called “Ryanggangdo Children” based on the Yoduk Story” (visit It might be something that you might want to bring to India. Read the article to see what you can do to promote it in India. Thanks again for your commment! Sincerely, Mike (

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