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Western Influences

The introduction of Western-style productions on the classic scene became a definite trend in 1908, when the Wongaksa Company (1908-1909) began using the Huidae Theater, the first national theater, which had opened in 1902. It eventually became known as the Wongaksa Theater. Until that time, entertainers had been without a theater and had to present their works either on a makeshift stage or in any village square large enough to accommodate a crowd.

The introduction of Western-style shows produced increasing interest in the "new drama" which, in contrast to the traditional "old drama" with its stress on music and dancing, relied almost exclusively on spoken dialogue. Less serious in its artistic standards but more popular with less sophisticated audiences were the "new-school plays", with their romantic stories of handsome heroes and beautiful heroines.

Drama became so popular in the 1930s that many amateur groups competed with the professionals. Especially noteworthy was the contribution of college groups.

World War II caused a temporary setback, followed by the Korean War, which proved even more disastrous for all segments of Korean society. A postwar boom in the motion picture industry brought further discouragement to attempts by theater performers to stage a comeback. The rapid spread of television and its popular appeal followed. As a result, dramatic works for the most part have recently featured performances in small theaters or restaurants with a limited following. In the 1980s, however, experimental drama has made a comeback and has been highly popular, especially among young people.

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