Overcome multicultural discrimination through art, theater company ‘Salad’

The underprivileged migrants are the main agents of creative activities… Publicize tragedy and spread Asian culture through plays

Kim Soo-Kyung (Prime Economy News Reporter, 2015)

[The Prime Economy News] As the influx of foreign workers and international marriages have increased, Korea has also entered a ‘multicultural society’. However, prejudice and discrimination against these immigrants is a serious social problem and a big task that our society needs to solve. Criminal discrimination, which is happening all the time, sometimes leads to tragic events. However, there is a troupe that has set out to publicize this fact and overcome discrimination. This is the multicultural theater company ‘Salad’ (CEO Park Kyong Ju).

“You shouldn’t use the word ‘multiculturalism’ to differentiate between friends. It’s just a language of discrimination that adults thoughtlessly created.”

A song with a cheerful rhythm that anyone can sing along to resonated in the Salad office of a multicultural theater company. This is the title song ‘Multicultural’, the title song of her first creative musical album, produced by Park Park Kyong Ju, CEO of Salad.

CEO Park said, “The finished copy of the Musical album was delivered today, so it’s the first time I’ve seen it myself.” This album is all the more meaningful as CEO Park, a ‘principalist’, directly stepped forward to encourage migrant artists to participate in everything from songwriting and composition to stylish album design.

Salad started as an internet multilingual alternative media in 2005 and switched to multicultural broadcasting station Salad TV and theater company Salad in 2009. Now, only the theater troupe Salad remains and continues its existence. Recognized for creating jobs for immigrants in Korea, they were selected as a preliminary social enterprise business development support company in 2012 and acquired social enterprise certification from the Ministry of Labor in May of last year, establishing themselves as a workplace for immigrants in name and reality.

◆Racism experienced while studying abroad… The driving force in the fight against discrimination

“At the time of the publication of the media, I went to the reporting site with the mindset that ‘I will remain until other media outlets disappear’. At first, it was supposed to be done for one or two years, but as it was converted to a theater company, 10 years have passed before I know it.“

CEO Park, who went to Germany to study film in 1993, recalled that if she hadn’t seen a group of neo-Nazis, she would have been living as a film director, which she wanted to do.

“I’ve seen many incidents of racial discrimination by real neo-Nazis. I also heard swear words when I went out on the street just for being ‘Asian’.”

This experience served as the driving force behind CEO Park. At the time running a multicultural media, CEO Park uncovered migrant-related issues based on ‘close coverage’. In particular, during the Yeosu foreigner shelter disaster in 2007, she stayed at the funeral home for over a month to report the pain of the victims and inform the world.

◆Salad, switch to the Theater… ‘Sublimation’ of the Pain of migrants through art

“The media wasn’t easy to run, and I liked writing, so I started a theater company.”

Park completely changed the route to the theater, but she did not forget the ‘basics’. She built a theater company without abandoning the title of ‘multicultural’. Here, CEO Park wanted the migrants artist to direct everything from actors to lighting and music, and express their pain through plays.

The first play, ‘Immigration Women Challenge Life in Korea,’ was produced based on the true story of female immigrants who were at the theater academy. Because of this, salad received a huge spotlight at the time, and many immigrants came to audition.

“Salad was a difficult day for most of the days. This is because a theater group is difficult to make a profit. After the first play, most of the actors quit, and even threw away the multi-million won stage.”

Since then, CEO Park has done everything herself, including script writing and directing, without outside staff to generate even a little profit. Sometimes she overworked herself and ended up in the hospital.

There were always and everywhere people who cast a cold gaze on ‘multicultural migrants’. Even though we returned the device intact, we received countless criticisms that the migrants used it and damaged it.

“Even after a lot of practice and on stage, the audience was dissatisfied with the actors’ pronunciation. However, these are professional immigrant actors who have been working for several years. I think such protests are not because of pronunciation problems, but because the audience’s ears are blocked.”

Based on these experiences, the salad regular members who have been running so far are all people who want to do art. Currently, some migrant members are in charge of directing.

◆Information of the truth that no one has told in the Yeosu Shelter Disaster

Park’s favorite salad play is the ‘Unrespected Death’ series. Among them, she says her second play, ‘Yeosu, Beginning, Middle and the End’, is the most impressive.

“I didn’t go out to report at the time of the Yeosu Shelter Disaster, but there were so many stories I knew. I made a script by gathering the stories that I had kept silent.”

She rejected directing like a common form of drama. So she turned it into an experimental play. The play created in this way does not say what the truth is but naturally makes the audience look at the truth.

“The most impressive performance was the one I went to after being invited by the Gyeonggi-do Northern Office of Education. After the end of the performance, the audience shed silent tears, but it is still impressive. In another performance, some people ran out of the theater while hiding their tears. When we saw it, we shed tears as well.”

This is why Salad insists on immigrant actors. This is because the effect of the parties is much greater. CEO Park did the same play as a Korean actor last February, but emphasized that the impression was different, saying that the feeling was much missing.

◆”Salad, to be a social enterprise recognized as a creative group“

“In 10 years, I am dreaming of a social enterprise salad that is recognized by the audience as a creative group free from prejudice and is operating.”

At one time, Salad dealt with works dealing with dark themes, but it was difficult to make a profit because there were not many places to go to perform this work. While thinking about other profitable plays, CEO Park received the sponsorship of Shinhan Bank and produced 4 musicals with a bright atmosphere in 2011.

Salad introduces Asian culture to children through these musicals. Currently, Nepalese, Chinese, Filipino, and Mongolian cultures have been introduced, and an Indian version will be produced in 2016.

In addition to musical performances, we are selecting works that can be long-running for a full-fledged profit structure. Some works have been upgraded in the process. The original ‘Ara and Jimin’ had only 3 or 4 musical songs, but it was upgraded and reborn as a musical with a total of 7 songs.

“It’s not easy to go on a road that no one else has taken, but it’s fun. Salad has become my life, so I can’t easily quit until there is a beautiful finish.” At the end of the interview, Park revealed her aspirations in a voice full of passion. ( ⒸPrime Economy News, 2015)

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