Korean Mask Dance Drama: An Example for Cultural Self-Assertion

Dr. Moon-Hwan Kim

Seoul National University, Korea

This paper can be regarded as research on the tendency to assert or reassert a sense of local identity dearly demarcated from that of the West, especially in present-day Korea. In this paper, I would like to mention the mask dance drama as an example of self-assertion in Korea, especially during the era of so-called modernization. As for critical forces, a series of performances using traditional mask dance drama or shamanic ritual on the basis of an episodic drama are defined as: a cultural movement, centered on the struggle for survival, not just a new drama movement; a social movement to find hidden reality and to propose common solutions; and a joint movement to soothe people at home and in the third world through their cultural momentum.

As will be made clear from the presentation, this study can be regarded as one of the post-colonialist studies which have opened new approaches to the study of power, collective identity, culture, and mode of presentation.

For those focusing on the Korean post-colony, however, the fact that theory runs ahead of our basic historical, core historical period hampers scholarly progress. Among East Asian societies, core historical, social, and cultural knowledge of Korea in the West lags considerably behind research on Japan or China. This fact is particularly troublesome for post-colonial studies, because in order to examine the post-colony it is necessary to have some historical grounding on the forces that shaped the “pre-colonial” period. In this sense, I would like to start with a very short introduction to the historical confrontation between Korean and Western culture.