Sejong Center eyes major overhaul under new CEO

Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theatre will stage “Fiddler on the Roof” from April 22 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul. [SEJONG CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS]

The rise of OTT platforms like Netflix has not only been a threat to movie theaters, but also the performing arts venues, says Ahn Ho-sang, the CEO of Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul, especially for the 44–year-old cultural complex that’s showing signs of aging, both internally and externally.

According to Ahn, who took the helm of the center last October, Sejong Center so far has been relying heavily on renting its facilities to outside productions despite having six major resident companies under its wing.

“A total of 42 percent of annual budget and manpower are allocated to the resident companies but they made up only 12.3 percent of the total audience,” said Ahn on Feb. 21 at his first press conference since taking office. “It is inevitable that the companies go through a major overhaul.”

The six companies are: Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Orchestra, Seoul Metropolitan Dance Theatre, Seoul Metropolitan Chorus, Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theatre, Seoul Metropolitan Theatre and Seoul Metropolitan Opera.

Ahn decided to appoint young new heads for the traditional orchestra, musical and opera and said they’ll act as main producers.

For the upcoming spring season’s programming, Ahn reflected his plan to “turn Sejong Center into a ‘theater of original works.’” During the spring season, which will begin on March 26 and end on June 26, the resident companies will stage eight of the nine works.

The season will start with Seoul Metropolitan Theatre’s “Bulgabulga” on March 26, a play written by Lee Hyun-hwa, depicting Korea’s political scene in 1980s. Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theatre will stage “Fiddler on the Roof” from April 22. The dance company will premiere “Ilmu” on May 19, a collaboration work between the new head Jeong Hye-jin and fashion designer Jung Ku-ho, who produced hit works like “Dan” and “Hyangyeon” for the National Dance Company of Korea.

As for the center’s aging exterior, Ahn said the center will go through an extensive renovation if it gets a green light from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which provides 60 percent of the Sejong Center’s annual budget.

Sejong Center currently has a 3,033-seat Grand Theater, M Theater with 609 seats, a box-type S Theater with 300 seats and a chamber hall with 443 seats. It also has two art galleries and a convention center. As the building itself is designated as Seoul’s Future Heritage by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the exterior won’t be getting a major facelift. The renovation may begin after the offices inside the center move to the Sejong Center’s second branch which is scheduled to open in 2026 in Mullae-dong in western Seoul.