In Korea, damunhwa or multiculturalism is used to indicate cultural
diversities of ethnicities, religions, nationalities, and race, as Korea faces influx of transnational marriage migrants, migrant laborers, and international students. However, the term is employed to include people from Asia, the third world countries, labor, and race and it is apolitical. This paper elaborates how the concept is represented and reconstructed in the musical troupe Salad’s musical Ara and Chi Minh’s plot, theme, music, and performance venue. Salad is composed of various ethnicities and nationalities and creates a new musical every year. I first argue that the racialized and ethnicized multiculturalism is an indefinite and ambivalent term, by examining the troupe stage conflicts and reconciliation between Koreans and transnational migrants. Through juxtaposing traditional and exotic elements for transnational migrant groups and modern and westernized elements for Koreans, I argue that Salad reflects Orientalist’s gaze of damunhwa in Korea, while at the same time maintaining Orientalist stereotype as a theatrical device to protest the hierarchical structure. Lastly, I examine the playwright and the music composer’s roles and their personal background as a way to articulate the ways to represent multiculturalism which is continuously contested, redefined, and negotiated.
* This article was revised and expanded from “Unmixed Salad: The Concept of Multiculturalism in Korea through the Musical Troupe, Salad” which was presented at the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies in Asia, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, in 2016.