Bringing out the creativity in students who have yet to decide what path in life they want to take is precisely what Hanyang University aims to do, especially for international students trying to take that first step into the world of arts and entertainment.
One Korean actor from Hanyang University is Lee Byung-hun. Lee has been featured in many movies and shows, from Korea’s 2021 hit show “Squid Game” on Netflix and 2018 TV drama “Mr. Sunshine” to Hollywood movies like the 2013 film “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” 2009 film “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and 2015 movie “Terminator Genisys.”
Lee’s life as an actor started when he was studying for his undergraduate degree. He applied to be an actor affiliated with the state-run TV channel KBS in 1991 and was accepted while still an undergrad studying French and French literature at Hanyang University’s Erica Campus, a branch located in Ansan, Gyeonggi. The university’s Seoul campus is in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul.
Another big-name global star, Lee Young-ae of MBC drama “Dae Jang Geum,” or “Jewel in the Palace,” is also a graduate of Hanyang University, having studied German and German Literature. She also debuted while in school, in 1990, through a TV commercial for a chocolate brand.
Actor Ha Seok-jin, perhaps best known for his witty personality on tvN’s talk show “Problematic Men” (2015-20), in which TV personalities try to answer riddles or complicated math problems, is also a graduate of Hanyang University who studied mechanical engineering. He featured in TV commercials as a part-time job while attending the university and eventually received opportunities to take part in music videos for top singers like SG Wannabe.
With such aforementioned celebrities, alongside other graduates of the university’s department of theater and film under its College of Performing Arts and Sport, the school continues to spread its name as one of Korea’s top schools for anyone who wants to refine their artsy talents.
Singer and actor Jang Keun-suk, of 2012 drama “Love Rain” and 2009 drama “You’re Beautiful,” continued to pursue arts as a career after having already spent years in the entertainment scene as a child actor and chose to get his undergraduate degree at Hanyang University.
Actor Lee Jung-eun of the 2019 film “Parasite” and actor Kim Min-ha of the 2022 show “Pachinko” on Apple TV+ also completed their studies at Hanyang.
Majoring in performing arts or not, Hanyang University helps its students keep an open and creative mind for other career options in the arts and entertainment industry. The diverse backgrounds the celebrities of Hanyang University carry inspired 33-year-old Chinese national Piao Tingyao to consider Hanyang University.
After studying business at Yonsei University for his bachelor’s degree, Piao chose to attend Hanyang University’s department of theater and film for his master’s and doctorate’s degree.
“I wanted to know what the source of power was that made Korea one of the fastest growing countries in many different industries, especially those related to producing creative content that strengthened Korea’s cultural influence to such a degree,” said Piao, who graduated with his Ph.D. in 2019.
At Hanyang, he was trained to do much more than just acting: Besides auditioning to be in front of the camera, he plans and directs with professors of his alma mater to make theater pieces; he supervises the proper use of Chinese language and content within Korean dramas and movies; he translates between Korean and Chinese; and he teaches acting in Chinese, to name just a few of the things he does in Korea now, with his education. He currently works as a liaison between Chinese students and Hanyang University and the Chinese Embassy to create a special performance to celebrate the 30 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and China.
“Because I was tasked to do so much in my class and made it work, I was excited to get out of school after all my programs were completed and see what diverse opportunities await,” Piao said. “I wanted to be part of the powerhouse that makes the world’s top content, and collaborate with others to make globally competitive content.”
To help Korean productions be more inclusive of different cultures all across the world, the faculty members of Hanyang University try to make opportunities in which international students make creative works that reflect their own cultural elements.
The university is currently working on a new theater production to be unveiled in October at the National Theater of Korea along with the Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange, which includes both Chinese students studying in Korea and students studying in China. The story of the production revolves around food from Korea and China, and the official title has yet to be announced. The collaborative work comes after the school performed an adaptation of the classic “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare onstage last year with the same institute, as a series of events to celebrate the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
The school continues to develop opportunities for its international students to show off their creativity. The Seoul campus has 4,816 students that came from overseas as of April 2022, including short-term students such as exchange students. Of those, 130 are majoring in theater.
Out of the international theater majors, 103 are from mainland China, two from Taiwan, and two from Hong Kong. The rest come from the United States, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Switzerland, Indonesia, Croatia, Turkey, Portugal, France, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, and Kazakhstan.
“Many of these students came to Korea as they were influenced in some way by Hallyu, the Korean wave, but due to the language barrier, many of them get either a very small part or don’t get a chance to be onstage at all,” said Hanyang University Prof. Kim Joon-hee.
But that doesn’t stop international students. In a special program offered by the school, they write scripts that carry both universal values and cultural elements from their home country, creating unique stories yet to be seen in the industry.
The university runs a series of workshops in which both local and international students can participate to make their own content. The ideas students bring forth in class are often further developed in a separate workshop.
Most recently, Turkish student Melissa Tan put her work “Taboo” onstage in June through a workshop she led outside the classroom throughout the first semester this year. The piece is developed from the stories she presented reflecting Turkish culture in class in the second semester last year, and she proposed her idea be further developed in a workshop in the following semester after her professor Woo Jong-hee suggested doing so during class. Students from Croatia, France, Belgium, China and more participated to make her idea a reality for onstage performance.
“Merdeka,” which tells of how Malaysia was liberated from British rule in the 1950s, was another multicultural and multinational student production. Students choose what language to use to write the script.
“We are trying to inspire students to make the most of what they can bring from their home country as well as their own personality when it comes to making creative content,” said theater and film Prof. Woo Jong-hee.
Any student can propose their idea to be further developed in a workshop so that they can experience how productions are made from scratch in the real world. Students write the script, hold auditions, cast suitable actors, and choose technical experts. These student productions are also open to the public. The theater and film department shares news on new performances through its social media @hyu_theatre and YouTube channel HDT Media.
“The current trend is to intertwine all the traditional theatrical elements with new technology and ideas so that artistic performances can be shown in many different new and not before seen forms,” said theater and film Prof. Kwon Yong.
Focusing on theatrical values in human studies is another way Hanyang University readies its students for the unpredictable future.
“To help students and future talents be more resilient and easily adapt to any changes they may face in the industry of performing arts, we teach students the very core theatrical values seen in human studies,” said Prof. Cho Han-jun. “With such core values, students can use their own imagination and creativity to come up with something completely new.”
BY LEE SUN-MIN [email@example.com]