A Joseon-era "gisaeng" or courtesan
By Kwon Mee-yoo
History has never ceased to inspire.
Folk painters like Kim Hong-do and Shin Yun-bok have left works depicting the customs of the late Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), and the two have become protagonists in the popular novel-turned-TV drama "Painter of the Wind", starring high-profile actors Park Shin-yang and Moon Geun-yeong. Popular TV dramas continue to feature the era in such epic stories as "Jejoongwon" (2010) and "Dong Yi" (2010).
A new documentary on EBS sheds light on the life of commoners on the gritty streets during the period.
"The Beauty on the Backstreet of Old Capital Seoul" adopts the format of a docudrama to reveal the daily lives of "gisaeng" (courtesan), gangsters and beggars, rather than aloof Confucian scholars normally featured in stories of political intrigue.
The documentary focuses on the reign of King Yeongjo around the early 18th century. The market economy started to develop around that time and it created many cultural cues which still exist to this day.
The most important people on the streets of the late Joseon era were "byeolgam", who planned entertainment and owned "gibang", or the house of gisaeng, according to the documentary.
"Byeolgam practically dominated the female entertainers and organized events such as parties. In other words, they were much like party planners or entertainment agents of the modern day", an official at EBS explained.
The three-episode documentary will air from Monday through Wednesday at 9:50 p.m.
The first episode on Monday features Joseon's unique "gibang" culture, where scholars to high-ranking officials sought the company of female artist-entertainers for drunken feasts, as well as Podocheong, the police bureau. It also introduces "geomgye", a Joseon criminal organization, and "jeolchojeon", similar to modern-day coffee shops.
Tuesday's show will introduce slang used by the police, venues for gambling and gisaeng's costumes and makeup, while the last part on Wednesday will portray investigation techniques and various aspects of life on the streets.
The narration is in the style of "pansori", traditional Korean opera, to add some fun to the docudrama.
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