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J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea and Its Korean Translation*

Won-Jae Jang

Abstract

The first significant modern theatre movement in Korea arose in the early1920s. As already indicated, since the 1920s, modern Irish drama and its theatremovement had been a major field of interest for the Korean intelligentsia anddramatists, who believed that it provided a model for the modern Korean theatre.The importation of Irish drama was systematically conducted by different groupsfrom the Korean intelligentsia in the 1920s and 1930s, during which period many ofthem published articles concerning Irish drama and the modern Irish theatremovement.
In this paper, the process of importation, adaptation and assimilation of Irishdrama into the Korean theatre will be traced. The initial stage of this processrevolved around Irish drama which was translated into Korean. Twenty Irish playswere translated during the 1920s and 1930s and some of them were produced onthe Korean stage. In this chapter, a complete list of the translated Irish plays willbe provided and an analysis of the culturally significant repertories will follow. Afurther area of discussion will focus on which examples of Irish drama were chosenand how they were altered and interpreted from a Korean perspective. The examplesof Irish drama which were translated into Korean reflect the theatrical taste of theKorean intelligentsia. Another important point of this chapter is the quality oftranslation, which reflects the ability of the leaders of the modern Korean theatremovement both as producers and translators. Many parts of the Irish originals weremisinterpreted during the process of translation, either intentionally for politicalreasons, or unintentionally, due to the lack of linguistic skills. As a result, themistranslated parts destroyed the original structure of the plays. Even worse, these 'translator's intention- reflected' versions were not only published but also used asthe script for performances. This meant that the Korean reader and audience werealso subjected to a similar misunderstanding of modern Irish drama. Based on thisobservation, the other main area of discussion in this chapter is a comparison of thedifferences between the Irish original plays and the Korean versions and an analysisof the cultural effect which resulted from the intentional changes.

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