You For Me For You




Minjee and Junhee live in a country side of North Korea. Minjee, the older sister, has been sick for years, but a proper medical treatment is not available. Tired of hunger and their incompetent country, Junhee, the younger sister, pays a smuggler to help her and Minjee flee North Korea. However, Minjee is too sick and unwilling to make it across the border. Instructed by the smuggler, Junhee races escapes to New York City and promises to come back for her sister. Captivated by the new life in a freer world, however, Minjee becomes forgetful of her promise…

Without giving away too much, above is a summary of a play that I went to see this month. In late October, a close professor introduced me to a play making its world premiere in downtown D.C. Although I was unaccustomed with the idea of watching stage plays, this particular play was based on a topic that is very familiar to me, so I was intrigued to see it. You For Me For You, written by Mia Chung, is a “moving comic fantasy”[1] about two North Korean sisters trying to escape to the United States. This particular topic was familiar to me, but it was surprising to see such an unknown and perhaps an uncomfortable subject being played on the American stage. I did not know what to expect even as I was walking into the theatre.


Upon entering the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, I was first presented with an opportunity to look at Song Byeok’s art exhibition. I had heard him speak in the city before, but I never had the chance to look at his works up close until that day. Some of his famous works were displayed throughout the waiting area of the theatre. His satiric paintings of North Korean regime went well with certain elements of the play: the suffering of North Korean citizens for the regime’s survival and their struggle for a better life.

To be honest, I was nervous at the beginning of the show. While I trusted that much research and consideration were dedicated in order to portray this sensitive subject, I was worried for possible misrepresentation or over-dramatization of North Korean defectors, especially since most of the audience was Americans. To many Americans, North Korea is still a mysterious country. Personal testimonies and terrifying stories from North Korean defectors or experts only add to the existent fear towards North Korea. Even Mia Chung, the writer of You For Me For You admits that people know little about life in North Korea. In a playbill, she writes, “there is so much [the outside world does not know] that we have no choice but to imagine.”[2] Hence, this play strives to portray somewhat imaginative and unrealistic depiction of what North Korean refugees face.

Overall, this new experience was worthwhile. Combined with artistic and theatrical elements, the play delivered a miraculous story of ordinary people having no other choice but to leave their beloved country. Furthermore, I think this dark and whimsical play was successful in leaving the audience with questions, and perhaps increased interest in the mysterious country and its people.


3 elly name card


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