Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Savran

Committee Members

Peter Eckersall

Claudia Orenstein

Esther Kim Lee (outside reader)

Subject Categories

Asian Studies | Critical and Cultural Studies | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Race and Ethnicity | Theatre History


Korea, Musical, Popular Culture, Representation of Blackness, Global Racial Projects, National Identity


This dissertation examines contemporary Korean musical theatre as a form of popular culture that has served an important role in reflecting and establishing personal and national identity in Korea, especially as it intersects with the global and local manifestations of race and racial ideologies. I argue that musical theatre has served an important political and economic role, since its beginning as a cultural weapon in the height of the Cold War to more contemporary examples in which Korean musicals serve as a tool to brand Korea as an advanced nation in the world. To make a case for this relationship between musical theatre and race in Korea, and its implications in East Asia, this dissertation begins by briefly introducing the history of musical theatre in Korea and racial representation on Korea’s theatrical stage. By looking at the history of Koreans’ understanding of self and theatrical representation of others, I reveal how Korean theatre makers abstracted the realities of race through the history of modern drama in Korea, and provide the contexts on which the following case studies can be examined. The overview is followed by examples of Korean productions of American musicals, through which I examine what it means when Korean bodies are interpolated into a story that is originally a binary relationship between whites and blacks in the U.S. I also look at a homegrown, original production with non-ethnic Korean characters, and the production history and reception of the musical in the late 2000s, during which time Koreans became more aware of the multicultural heterogeneity of the Korean community. I conclude the dissertation by suggesting ways in which musical theatre as a global popular culture, has become sufficiently glocalized in Korea to complicate, challenge, and expand the definition, implications, and intersections of musical theatre and global racial projects, especially within the sociocultural and historical contexts of East Asia.