HomeStoriesThe Korean Dancer Who Fell Tragically In Love With A Foreigner

The Korean Dancer Who Fell Tragically In Love With A Foreigner

A Korean dancer fell in love with a foreigner, but it ended in tragedy. The musical Lee Jin: The Woman of Light depicted this tragic love story on stage.

Played by Jeon Hae Joo, protagonist Yi is a court dancer who meets French envoy Victor Collin de Plancy (played by Park Gun Hyung) in the palace. They quickly take an interest in one another, waltzing together and giving impromptu language lessons.

They fall in love all the while battling external peer pressure, notably from Yi’s childhood friend Byun Woo Jin, a fictional character who is in love with her.

As a court lady, Yi was tied to the palace from the moment she entered until what would be her final days. She was isolated from the rest of the world and was not allowed to contact other men or women. By meeting Collin, she began to question the restrictions placed on herself even more.

Playwright Jung Ho Yoon based Lee Jin: The Woman of Light on the historical accounts of Yi. According to the 1904 book In Korea (En Coree), she tragically ended up taking her own life.

In an account from the 1904 book ‘In Korea (En Coree),’ co-authored by de Plancy’s successor, Hippolyte Frandin, it is recorded that Yi swallowed a piece of gold and took her own life.

— Playwright Jung Ho Yoon

The goal of this play was to “imagine alternative futures” for the protagonist and to reflect on her original intentions. It was suspected that Yi did this as a result of the pressures and limitations of being a court dancer.

I wanted to imagine alternative futures for Yi. ‘Why would she swallow a piece of gold? Did she want to convey a message through her death?’ These thoughts lingered in my mind.

— Playwright Jung Ho Yoon



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