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Actors, musicians unite for Hakchon Theater's closing act

33-year-old iconic theater to close next year

Dec. 6, 2023 - 18:19 By Hwang Dong-hee
From left: Singer Park Hak-ki, actors Bae Hae-sun, Jang Hyun-sung, Sol Kyung-gu and Bang Eun-jin, composer Kim Hyeong-seok, musicians Han Kyung-rock, Park Seung-hwa and Luca attend a press conference in Gangseo-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Actors and musicians have come together for a relay performance to bid a heartfelt farewell to the Hakchon Theater, an iconic venue for Korean performing arts in Seoul's Daehangno district.

Established in March 1991, the Hakchon Theater will close its doors on March 15, its 33rd anniversary, due to chronic financial difficulties and CEO Kim Min-gi's health issues.

Upon hearing the news, singer Park Hak-ki gathered fellow artists and created the "Hakchon Again'' project -- a relay performance scheduled to take place at the Hakchon Blue Theater in Jongno-gu from Feb. 28 to March 14. The children's play, "Red Pepper Tteokbokki," will take place from Jan. 12 to Feb. 24.

Actors Sol Kyung-gu, Jang Hyun-sung, Bae Hae-sun, actor-director Bang Eun-jin, star composers Kim Eana and Kim Hyeong-seok, and musicians Park Seung-hwa of the pop ballad duo Yurisangja, Luca of the folk music band Travel Sketch, and Han Kyung-rock of the punk rock band Crying Nut, attended a press conference in Gangseo-gu, Seoul, Tuesday, to show support for CEO Kim and the Hakchon Theater.

More singers and actors are expected to participate in the "Hakchon Again" project. Details of the lineup will be announced later.

Singer-songwriter Kim Min-gi poses for a photo in front of the Kim Kwang-seok memorial stone at the Hakchon Blue Theater in Jongno-gu, Seoul. (Hakchon)

Kim Min-gi, the founder of Hakchon, is a singer-songwriter best known for composing "Morning Dew" (1971). This famous song has become closely associated with student activism and the democratization movement, and was included on Kim's debut album released in 1971 when he was a 20-year-old student at Seoul National University. The song is better known by the version sung by singer Yang Hee-eun in the same year.

Through Hakchon, Kim became an important figure in the history of Korean performing arts.

A pioneer in the realm of small theater musicals, Hakchon introduced live bands to small theater musicals for the first time, and directed many original Korean musicals including “Subway Line No.1,” “Moskito” and “Red Pepper Tteokbokki.”

For over 30 years, Hakchon also worked as a gateway for talented musicians and actors. In its early years, renowned figures like folk singer Kim Kwang-seok, jazz vocalist Na Yoon-sun, rock musician Yoon Do-hyun of YB band, as well as veteran actors Sol Kyung-gu, Kim Yun-seok and Hwang Jung-min, made their debut on its stage.

Singer Park Hak-ki speaks at a press conference in Gangseo-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

"Hakchon was a stepping stone for musicians and actors to take their first steps. I wanted to repay a debt of gratitude to Kim Min-gi and to Hakchon," said Park Hak-ki.

"My musical journey also began here. Like many musicians and actors, I’ve grown into a tree with roots in this place. Whenever I looked back, Kim was always there, like a steadfast rock. I thought he would always be there, but at some point, I noticed he had aged a lot and was enduring challenges on his own.”

Park explained that singer-songwriter Kang San-eh proposed the project title "Hakchon Again" with the idea that even if Hakchon closes its doors, they aspire for its spirit to continue and inspire more artists.

Actor Sol Kyung-gu speaks at a press conference in Gangseo-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Actors and musicians in attendance shared their affection for Hakchon, reminiscing about their memories of the place.

Actor Sol recalled how, while putting up posters at Hakchon, he started his acting career with the musical "Subway Line No.1" at Kim's suggestion. Both Jang and Bae debuted as actors at Hakchon Theater, while duo Yurisangja had its first concert there.

"I practically made my debut playing the piano at Hakchon for Kim Kwang-seok’s concerts,” said composer Kim.

“The project is to conclude well -- like Hakchon with Hakchon’s spirit. (We all hope, along with Kim) that the Kim Kwang-seok memorial stone and just one small side of the theater wall can be preserved for the sake of memories,” said actor-director Bang, who was also one of the starting members of Hakchon. She made her debut with "Subway Line No.1" in 1994.

The proceeds from the project will be used "to help the financial difficulties of Hakchon" and go toward a "new beginning," according to the artists in attendance at the press conference.