The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Chong Wishing
Chong Wishing
Born in 1957, Chong is a writer and director. Quitting the Literature Dept. of Doshisha Univ., he studied in the Art Dept. of the Yokohama School of Broadcasting and Cinema (present Japan Academy of Moving Images). After working as an art assistant at the Shochiku studios, he switched to theater. After a period with the Black Tent Theater company he joined in the founding of the “Shinjuku Ryozanpaku” company in 1987. As the company’s playwright he turned out numerous, often spectacular plays. He became active not only in Japan but also in various parts of Asia. In 1996 he left Shinjuku Ryozanpaku. Today, he enjoys popularity writing scripts for movies and TV, while at the same time presenting sadly comical plays about the nuances of life as writer and director of the production group “Umi no Circus” that he founded in 1992. In 1994 he won the Kishida Drama Award for The Terayama. He won the Kinema Junpo Film Award for the screenplay Tsuki wa Docchi ni Deteiru and Chi to Hone with the director Yoichi Sai.
Yakiniku Dragon
Written by Chong Wishing
Directed by Yang Jung Ung/Chong Wishing
Produced by the New National Theatre, Tokyo
Tokyo: 17 -27 April, 2008 at the New National Theatre, Tokyo
Seoul: May, 2008 at the Seoul Arts Center
With a collaboration between playwright Chong Wishing and Yang Jung Ung, Korea’s most noteworthy young director, Yakiniku Dragon as the name of a Korean barbecue restaurant in Japan depicts the daily life of the Korean family that runs it. This production will offer a look at Japanese-Korean relations past, present, and future with a blend of humor and pathos in a play that also incorporates music.
Tatoeba No ni Saku Hana no Yo ni
(Like a Flower Blooming on the Moor)

Premiere: 2007
Tatoeba No ni Saku Hana no Yo ni
Tatoeba No ni Saku Hana no Yo ni
Tatoeba No ni Saku Hana no Yo ni
Tatoeba No ni Saku Hana no Yo ni
Photo: Masahiko Yako
an overview
Play of the Month
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Portraying the tough but humor-filled lives of an ethnic minority   An interview with the Japan-resident Korean writer Chong Wishing
Chong Wishing is a prolific creator active in both theater and film as a playwright and screenwriter. The grandson of immigrants who came to Japan from the Korean Peninsula, Chong was born in Japan as a 3rd-generation “Zainichi [Japan-resident] Korean,” and that life experience is reflected in the groups of characters appearing in his plays and the fortitude they show in their lives, smattered with laughter and collective memories of a people.
Among the Japan-resident Koreans are a group whose nationality is still North Korean, a group who are still South Korean in citizenship and another group who have been granted Japanese citizenship by changing their nationality to Japanese. Together, these three groups residing in Japan total approximately 620,000 (2002 census figure). Among this population are many figures who contribute an important portion of contemporary Japanese culture. Among contemporary playwrights, in addition to Chong Wishing, there are Kohei Tsuka and Yu Miri (presently active as a novelist).
In Japan’s Imperial era before World War II, there was a period when the Korean Peninsula was annexed as a part of the Empire and many Koreans were forcibly brought to Japan and impressed into labor corps and the military where they were exploited as laborers or sent to fight in the War. In addition to these, there were also many Koreans who emigrated to Japan in search of work and a chance for better lives, and the descendants of these immigrants account for a large part of the Japan-resident Korean population today. These people have endured prevailing discrimination and many have sought to assimilate and avoid the discrimination by means such as changing to Japanese names.
More then 60 years after the War that discrimination has by no means disappeared completely, but there is an increasing large number of young people who know nothing of the Japan’s imperialist era. At the same time the “historical facts” are being forgotten and there are movements by some in Japan who would distort those facts. On the other hand, there has been a rapid acceleration of cultural exchange between Japan and South Korea since their joint holding of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and things like the boom in popularity mainly among Japanese housewives of Korean TV dramas on Japanese television is changing the long-troubled relationship between these two countries. Also, it has become common for the Japanese media to use the Korean reading of Korean names instead of the former practice of using a Japanese reading of the Chinese characters of In 2007 Chong wrote four new works, and the announcement was made that his new of these names. As a popular playwright and screenwriter of this new age, Chong wrote four new works In 2007, and the announcement was made that his new play Yakiniku Dragon (Korean Barbeque Dragon) about the strength of a family running a Korean barbeque restaurant in the face of adversities will be performed in May of 2008 in a joint production by Seoul Arts Center and Japan’s New National Theatre, Tokyo (director: Yang Jung Ung and Chong Wishing). In this interview Chong talks about these and other developments in his career and his art.

(Interviewer: Jun Kobori)

A playwright anchored in a vivid cultural background

I have heard that the Chong family used to live inside the Himeji Castle.
It wasn’t actually inside but in shack built on top of the wall of the outer moat. It was a place where people without land just built their own shacks and lived as squatters just after the War. Most of them were poor Japan-resident Koreans and Japanese. My father built a house there and moved the rocks of the old moat wall to make a garden for it. My father said that it was land he bought, but that doesn’t seem likely considering that it had to be nationally owned land (laughs). Since the Himeji Castle is a National Treasure now registered under the World Heritage program, it means that my family used to live in a World Heritage site (laughs).

There must have been a lot of interesting people living there.
There were people like the ones we called “Mouse Man” who lived in a junked cars and there were spongers we called “gichu” (parasites). There were lots of these kinds of spaced out, strange characters that appear sometimes in my plays living around us there. Poor people who were poor and could also be clever or deceitful. I didn’t like them when I was a child, but now I think there were some interesting characters among them, strange but lovable people who in their own way were trying hard to live and get along. There was a nursery school, an elementary school and a middle school right in front of our house, and that is where I went to school. I am the fourth child in our family of five boys and for some reason I was the only one who lived away from the family with my grandmother. My grandmother’s house was in a shantytown where only Koreans lived on a hill a little higher than my father’s house on the moat wall. From that hill I could see the white walls of the Japan Red Cross Hospital, the chimney of the crematorium and the red brick wall of a prison. In one view there was life and death and crime and punishment in my neighbor.

Like a microcosm of the world …
Yes. It was a wonderful shantytown. I got twisted sense of the world from living there with my grandmother, and while all my brothers were good in math and the sciences, I was the only one who pursued literature and the arts (laughs). Eventually my grandmother and I went back to live at my family’s house in the other shantytown on the moat wall. By that time I had become a grandmother’s child and I slept in the same room with her until I was in middle school and before sleep at night she would tell me stories about her hometown in Korea. And then she would say over and over, “I wish I could die.” Thanks to her, I got the idea from childhood that there wasn’t much to life, that life was pitiless.
My father had come to Japan [from Korea] at the age of 15. He wanted to get an education and make a living as an educated man, so he went to the Hiroshima Teacher’s School (present Hiroshima University). But he was drafted under the wartime student mobilization program in his second year there, and since he had good grades he was sent to the army’s Nakano Military [officers] School. I remember when I was a child there was a saber in our house and thought it strange that my father should have one. Later I learned that he had been a military policeman during the War. In my recent play Tatoeba No ni Saku Hana no Yo ni (Like a Flower Blooming on the Moor) there is a part about a Japan-resident Korean man who is a military policeman. That was an episode borrowed from my father.

What did he do after the War?
After the War he tried to go back to Korea with my grandmother and aunt, but the boat he had sent our belongings ahead on sank and our family lost everything we had. Deciding that it would then be impossible to return to Korea, my father started a refuse collection and salvaging business in Himeji.
Our house was full of lots of things he had salvaged, like a 8mm film camera and lots of books and magazines. I was always reading those books. One I remember in particular was Cuore’s Diary, an Italian children’s book about that I read when I was in elementary school. It is a story about children living in a dormitory, and I loved it.
My father used to collect the empty cans and cardboard from movie theaters, and once a month when he went to collect the fees from the theaters the whole family would go along and watch a movie from the second-floor gallery. We would bring a lunch along and eat as we watched. It was my mother who got to choose the films we saw, so they were always films about daily life or dramas about youth. Because of those childhood memories, I have a soft spot for old movie theaters. In fact, the old movie theater that is used as the setting for my new work Boku to Kare to Musume no Iru Basho (Me and Him and the Place that Daughter Is) is actually modeled after the old movie theater in Himeji. Sadly, it’s been torn down now.

You went through high school in Himeji and then entered Kyoto’s Doshisha University. What department did you study in?
I majored in the Aesthetics and Art Theory Course of the Literature Department. At Doshisha you have to choose your major at the time of the entrance exam. The author Yasutaka Tsutsui was a graduate of Doshisha’s Aesthetics and Art Theory Course and all the students around me were big fans of his. But I was into Russian literature and the Japanese authors Sho Shibata and Kazumi Takahashi. I hadn’t read any of Tsutsui, so I didn’t really fit in. Although my parents were strongly against it, I dropped out of the university after my second year.

Were you thinking of becoming a writer at that time?
No. I’ve always just gone with the flow in my life and I never had any strong desire to become a writer or a playwright. I’m a bit embarrassed to say it, but I’ve never been the type to have ambitions of dreams (laughs).

What did you do after dropping out of university?
I worked part-time and just watched movies all the time. When I was off work on the weekends I would watch a triple feature in Kyoto and then go down to Osaka to watch another triple feature. After that was over I would go back to Kyoto for an all-night five-feature run. Then the next day it was to Osaka again for another triple feature. I watch so many movies that sometimes the stories would get jumbled together. I guess it was a time when I was trying desperately to fill an emptiness in my life with movies. Visconti’s movie Rocco and His Brothers is a story about five brothers, which is the same as my family. So. I have an especially strong identification with it. When I wrote Ningyo Densetsu (the story of the fate of a family with six brothers that crossed the sea to live in a small town named Uchiumi and a woman named Kingyo who comes to the town) it was in part an homage to Rocco and His Brothers.
I am told that I had two older sisters who died before when I was an infant, and I’m sure that my parents wanted another girl. But, all that were born were boys (laughs).
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