The Center for Korean Studies is pleased to join with the Asia Forum in presenting one performance of the Theatre Gagaŭihoe production of Pumba April 29, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. in Kennedy Theatre on the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa campus.
This is the thirty-fifth anniversary year of the play Pumba, which was written and first presented in 1981 by Si-ra Kim (1945–2001), an activist, poet, and playwright. Kim staged more than four thousand performances in his lifetime. Since his death, his wife, Jung-jae Park, has led the performance group.
Pumba comes from a word repeated in certain songs of street singers and beggars from the early twentieth century. It is an onomatopoeic word for passing gas. Beggars would knock on the doors of rich people and sing and dance until they were given food. If they got no food, they would chant “pumba, pumba” and yell that the rich person deserved to “eat their farts.”
In synopsis, the play’s central character is Gaksul, who claims to be an angel from heaven. He falls asleep starving from the world’s indifference and inhospitality. He dreams of knocking on a rich person’s door and asking for food. Because of Gaksul’s volubility and skilled performance of a Korean ballad, the rich person offers him food, and Gaksul eats. He wakes up, however, and realizes that it was only a dream. Despondent, he misses his wife Soojeby. He recollects the time of the Japanese occupation. He was jailed for fighting the Japanese but escaped and went to Angel’s Village. After liberation from Japan, he hears a confession of love from a village girl, Soojeby. They get married, but after a short period of happiness, he loses his wife during the Korean war. His sadness and anger go to the extreme. The time returns to the present, and he misses Soojeby’s noble love, which was like salvation for him. He realizes that life is about giving everything we have. He leaves as heaven’s message brings down the curtain ending the play.
The co-sponsoring organization, the Asia Forum, is a nonprofit private nongovernmental organization in Korea. Its members include many University of Hawai‘i and East-West Center graduates.
Admission to this single performance of Pumba is free, but space in the theater is limited. Telephone the Center for Korean Studies at (808) 956‑7041 for further information.