I’ve heard of people travelling to South Korea to watch K-pop concerts, or to experience the annual Waterbomb festival. Some of my friends booked a trip there to get cosmetic procedures done, while most others yearn for a Seoul trip to snag up cult-status beauty products.
For me, I was headed to Seoul last December for a slightly different purpose. I caught a theatre play, titled Realise Happiness (2023), which happens to star my favourite actor, Kim Seon-ho.
Up to this moment, everything seems to be going smoothly. I booked flight tickets and accommodations, and then the ticketing process hit.
Getting tickets for a play in South Korea
While tickets are available on global sites, chances of securing a ticket are slim. They are usually gone in the blink of an eye.
So getting tickets on official Korean ticketing sites (like Interpark or Melon Ticket) is likely to be your best bet, but another obstacle awaits. You’ll need a Korean number, address and bank account details to purchase the ticket. This makes it almost impossible to buy a ticket from Korean sites without these particulars; unless you know someone who resides in Korea.
As a casual K-pop fan, I’ve had been through several ticketing battles for concerts and fan meetings. But never have I encountered such a strenuous ticketing war for a theatre play. The struggle doubles if you don’t read or speak Korean.
Fortunately, lady luck was on my side, and I managed to snag a ticket.
Watching the play itself
Unlike concerts, these theatre plays are smaller in scale and they feel relatively more intimate.
It’s D-day, and I’m headed to TOM Theatre 2 in the artsy Daehak-ro district, kicking off my intimate journey of witnessing Kim Seon-ho up close in his element.
Since there are no redos or playbacks in theatre, this makes the viewing a lot more personable and authentic. Throughout the play, you truly get a taste of the actors’ abilities to accentuate details; project their voices clearly and express the finest of emotions.
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What I picked up during the play were the minute details in their body language, small changes in facial expression, movements, and messages behind the pauses they (occasionally) make in between their dialogues. These are things I would probably not have caught onto or intently observed when watching K-dramas.
The subtleties may not be obvious on screen nor easy to convey, but the cast magnifies them effortlessly, enabling me to better appreciate and understand their characters deeply.
If you rely heavily on subtitles, you might feel discouraged by the fact that plays in Korea are in, well, Korean.
The audience cannot scroll back or rewind if they missed out or failed to catch specific lines. Still, I think it’s worth it to give it a go nevertheless.
The thespian scene is a whole other world away from the comforts of watching dramas at home. Perhaps even challenging. Catching a theatric production is an eye-opening adventure, one that’s surreal, transcending the screens.
Plays make for immersive, interactive and intimate moments between the actors and fans. And it brought me a step closer to their world and gave me insight into their craft. I walked away from the two-hour show having realised my happiness, and left with a full heart and some comfort food for my Seoul that cold winter night.