Tag Archives: seoul

The best Japanese ramen in Seoul at Ittengo

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The Tonkotsu Ramen at Ittengo, a Japanese ramen restaurant in Hapjeong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

For months, my friends and I have been obsessing over Ittengo, a small Japanese ramen shop located in a hip dining neighborhood near Hapjeong station. Day after day, rain or shine, the line of customers waiting to dine at Ittengo never seemed to get shorter. We pressed our faces up against the restaurant’s small windows like stray cats trying to see what made this food so special.

After watching dozens of people brave Seoul’s humid summer nights and, later, the freezing winter ones just to eat some of this ramen… We knew we had to try it. And, finally, we did.

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The minimalist facade of Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

There was, of course, a long wait when we eventually made it to Ittengo. And, of course, it was extremely cold out. But, at this restaurant, you write your name and your full order on the list out front, so you can kill some of that wait time deciding what to eat.

Ittengo is known for its special basil-based broth that comes out a kind of algae green color, but this was unfortunately all sold out when we dined there. There are three types of ramen served at Ittengo, all given animal names in Japanese depending on the broth’s color. Kitsune (wolf) is the lightest, a traditional tonkotsu ramen (7,000 KRW). Next on the list is the Midori Kame (green turtle), which is the aforementioned basil pesto-infused ramen (10,000 KRW). And last is the Kayomasa (red tiger), which is the spicy ramen (8,000 KRW).

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Ittengo’s Kitsune (wolf) ramen, named after its light-colored broth. SCREAMfmLondon

Once your party is taken inside and seated, the ramen is served almost immediately. The restaurant’s intimate set-up is, I’m sure, a main reason for the lengthy wait. The dining room is comprised of just one central table around which all of the customers sit and eat together. The room is dimly lit, and the counter is sprinkled with candles and small knick-knacks.

Another reason for the wait is, obviously, because the ramen is delicious. It’s absolutely the best Japanese ramen I’ve had in Seoul. The pork bone broth is beautifully rich and flavorful. The noodles are thin and mixed with green onions, served with tasty slices of braised pork belly on top. Every bite is excellent, and every element of this dish is done perfectly. Peppers covered in yuzu juice are served on the side to contrast the strong savory flavors of the ramen.

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Amazing thin ramen noodles at Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

Ittengo
11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu
Hours: daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Capsule film reviews: Four horror movies from 2016

‘The Invitation’
Release Date: April 8, 2016
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard and Michiel Huisman
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: B+

Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films.

In “The Invitation,” Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) drive deep into the Hollywood Hills to attend a dinner party hosted by Will’s ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) at the house Will and Eden used to share. The party is the first time any of their friends have seen them in two years — Will and Eden divorced following the accidental death of their son, and Eden left to join a grief support group in Mexico, where she met David. Throughout the course of the evening, Will becomes increasingly disturbed being back in the house he once shared with a happy family that is no more, and he also begins to grow suspicious of Eden and David, who try to share with the group their new spiritual philosophies that have helped them overcome grief. I like how “The Invitation” slowly turns up the suspense and leaves the audience unsure if there is really something sinister behind Eden’s cultish white dress and David’s calm demeanor, or if it’s just Will suffering from a mental breakdown when confronted with his past. It’s sufficiently creepy and even a bit thoughtful. All-in-all, “The Invitation” is a pretty good thriller.

‘The Neon Demon’
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone and Bella Heathcote
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rating: R for disturbing violent content, bloody images, graphic nudity, a scene of aberrant sexuality, and language.
Grade: B

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Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios, Broad Green Pictures, Scanbox Entertainment and The Jokers.

“The Neon Demon” is the most talked-about and most polarizing horror movie of the year. For the most part, I really liked it. Kind of a tired story: Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a young girl from a small town hoping to make it big as a model in Hollywood, but Hollywood is, unfortunately, full of Illuminati and lesbian necrophiliacs. It’s a higher budget version of 2014’s “Starry Eyes,” which is a much better film, plot-wise. But don’t come to “The Neon Demon” for the plot: come for the artistic visuals, evil female leads and the always excellent Jena Malone who steals the show as Jesse’s eerily too nice, there’s-gotta-be-something-wrong-with-her mentor Ruby. My main issue with “The Neon Demon” is the weird casting of Elle Fanning as the lead — she’s not charismatic enough to propel the movie on her own, and she’s cute, but the very embodiment of natural beauty? Eh. At least the costumes are fabulous.

‘Train to Busan’
Release Date: July 20, 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an and Jung Yu-mi
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A+

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Photo courtesy of Next Entertainment World.

“Train to Busan” is one of the best zombie movies I’ve seen in a long while. The Korean horror film expertly showcases comedic moments, high tension, family drama, romance and truly frightening zombie shots. It’s an excellent movie and one of the best horror films of the year. The story follows Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), an absentee father whose focus on his business has crippled his relationship with his 9-year-old daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an). For her birthday, all Su-an wants is to be reunited with her estranged mother, so Seok-woo begrudgingly agrees to accompany her on the high-speed KTX ride from Seoul to Busan. Unfortunately, the train departs just as the country begins to deteriorate into a zombie apocalypse. Only Busan, the country’s southern port city, is safe, and the survivors must fight to get the train to its final destination. The intense zombie action scenes are top tier (my favorite is a stop in Daejeon where the passengers are faced with a horde of zombie soldiers in military uniform charging up the stairs), but where “Train to Busan” really got me is with its heart. The evolving father-daughter dynamic will suck you in, and the supporting characters are all so compelling. “Train to Busan” is not to be missed.

‘31’
Release Date: Sept. 16, 2016
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell and Meg Foster
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Rating: R for strong bloody horror violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use.
Grade: B-

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Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

As a diehard Rob Zombie fan, I enjoyed “31” and was pleased to find it more straightforward and accessible than Zombie’s last release, 2012’s “The Lords of Salem.” “31” follows a group of carnival workers who are kidnapped on Halloween 1976 and told by three strangers that they will be entered into a game called 31. During the game, they will have 12 hours to escape from a maze-like warehouse of rooms while various clowns will be sent to torture and kill them. The plot isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking, but Zombie’s characterizations are always the most entertaining. His villains are excellent, particularly Malcolm McDowell as Father Murder, an aristocrat in a powdered wig who oversees the proceedings and announces the carnies’ odds for survival over a loudspeaker, and Richard Brake as Doom-Head, the final and most effective obstacle in the gang’s way of survival. As always, Sheri Moon Zombie is a badass and a delight, and I love that she’s still the ultimate scream queen, wielding chainsaws in barely-there crop tops at 46.

Food: Pho Vietnamese Rice Noodles in Hapjeong

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A large bowl of pho on a cold winter morning. SCREAMfmLondon

In the hipster enclave of Hapjeong, there are many hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafés and bars that serve interesting dishes and minimalist décor. One such spot is simply identified as “Pho.” This intimate restaurant can only seat a few parties but has nice hardwood tables, clean decorations and tasty Vietnamese food.

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Love the fresh vegetables in these rice paper-wrapped spring rolls. SCREAMfmLondon

We were sitting so close to the couple at the next table that I kept shooting glances at their delicious-looking food and ordering exactly what they had. We started by splitting an order of spring rolls. They’re rice paper stuffed with cabbage, carrots, cucumber and other fresh vegetables, served alongside a peanut dipping sauce.

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Chili shrimp stir-fried rice. SCREAMfmLondon

For my main course, I ordered the chili shrimp stir-fried rice. The stylish bowls make this dish look deceptively small, but it’s actually really filling. The rice is mixed with seafood like shrimp and baby octopus as well as a variety of vegetables. It’s not overpoweringly spicy but does pack a good punch. It also came with a nice, small bowl of soup on the side.

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Pho Vietnamese Rice Noodles. SCREAMfmLondon

But the trip would not have been a complete if we didn’t try the pho. This serving was also very generous, and the dish included a fair amount of meat. Perfect antidote for the freezing cold wind in Seoul these days.

RPDR’s Kim Chi slays Seoul debut at SKRT in Itaewon

“One day, I would love to be able to perform in South Korea and actually have people come out to see me.”

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Kim Chi performs at SKRT in Itaewon, Seoul on Sept. 24. SCREAMfmLondon

About an hour before doors opened at the Itaewon nightclub SKRT for Mad Bambi’s third drag ball in Seoul, the line already stretched down the block and around the corner. By 11 p.m., the line had grown beyond the fire station at the nearby intersection, down the street and out of sight. Forty-five minutes after the doors opened, tickets were sold out.

Seoulites walking past would stop and stare at the huge crowd. “What is the line for?” they would ask.

“We’re waiting for Kim Chi,” we’d respond. They would continue to stare.

“All these people are waiting in line for some kimchi?”

“No, this person on the poster is Kim Chi, a man who dresses as a woman.”

“…That’s a man?”

The attraction of the evening was, of course, Kim Chi — an anime-inspired, conceptual drag queen and runner-up on season eight of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Born in the USA but raised in South Korea, Kim Chi has a special place in the hearts of Korean fans who turned up en masse to support her debut on the Seoul drag scene.

I’ve never been to such a crowded drag show. I missed half the voguing waiting in line out front, and strained to see over the crowd during the opening performances of local queens Nikki Ashes, Charlotte Goodenough and Cha Cha.

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Kim Chi performs for fans at SKRT in Itaewon, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Finally, Kim Chi arrived onstage to the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon,” twirling her red skirt and tipping a wide-brimmed hat. Kim is a queen known for her incredible looks and makeup talent, so it was a thrill to see her work up close as we all sweated and danced together to the DJ’s tunes that ranged from Lady Gaga and Beyoncé to their K-pop equivalents HyunA and CL.

Kim Chi spoke to the audience in both English and Korean, expressing her joy and gratitude for the warm reception. During her set, Kim performed English and Korean lipsyncs, as well as her RPDR trademark song, “Fat, Fem & Asian,” which is a tongue-in-cheek response to the marginalization of anyone fat, femme or Asian in the gay community.

It was very exciting to see Kim Chi’s triumphant return to Seoul after her rise to stardom on RPDR. It was exciting to see such an excellent turnout despite South Korea’s less-than-accepting stance on homosexuality.

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Seoul’s gay pride parade this June. SCREAMfmLondon

At the annual gay pride parade in Seoul every summer, religious protesters surround the event, preach over loudspeakers and occasionally try to put a stop to the Pride events. In previous years, Christian groups have laid down in the street to stop the parade and, last year, attempted to prevent the event from even receiving its permits from the city.

But the Korean LGBT community carries on, with role models like Kim Chi paving the way. Her drag is captivating and cutting-edge, and she never shies away from her Korean heritage. On “Drag Race,” Kim Chi stood out from previous Asian contestants for not simply joking about racial stereotypes but instead embracing her Korean roots and using that connection to her full advantage. One standout moment came when Kim appeared on the main stage in a beautiful traditional hanbok as a tribute to her mother.

Kim Chi’s sold-out performance at SKRT is hopefully a sign of more good things to come.

K-beauty review: moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX

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YG Entertainment’s cosmetics brand Moonshot presents its special Lucky Box event for Big Bang’s 10th anniversary. SCREAMfmLondon

As K-pop’s greatest boyband, Big Bang, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, its label, YG Entertainment, has pulled out all the stops so fans can make the most of the occasion. From concerts and an art exhibition to an in-theater movie and a line of makeup and skincare products, there is no end to the festivities.

I picked up the moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX for 70,000 KRW (about $62.70) at the BIGBANG10 concert in Seoul. The box features about six products from the cosmetics brand Moonshot (also owned by YG Entertainment) that are advertised by Big Bang’s G-Dragon and 2NE2’s Dara. Here is my rundown of the box’s contents:

All in One Moisturizer ($21.40)

First of all, this is a men’s product intended to keep your face soothed and moisturized after shaving your beard. Although this is not a problem I really have, I’m sure I’ll get some use out of this product anyway. It’s supposed to contain the qualities of a toner, lotion and an essence combined, and it’s said to even out the skin tone. If I never use it, at least I’ll have it on hand in case GD wants to spend the night.

Moonshot's Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Moonshot’s Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Microfit Cushion SPF 50+ PA+++ ($23.05)

This product is one I really love! It’s a layerable foundation with a light formula, and it really creates a smooth, poreless look. The Microfit cushion has become my go-to cushion compact for traveling and for going out. It makes the skin look flawless, and I really highly recommend it.

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Moonshot Cream Paint in 104 Pink Punch. SCREAMfmLondon

Cream Paint ($20.58)

This cream paint is a multipurpose lip and cheek tint with a creamy texture and a powdery finish. I received the cream paint in color no. 104, pink punch, which is a bright magenta color that I quite like. I don’t normally wear lip or cheek products, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to experiment with this one and see how it turns out for me.

Line Performer Pencil ($14.82)

This is a waterproof pencil eyeliner that I received in color no. 01, deep black. Most intriguing is the included blending applicator and sharpener. This pencil is supposed to be great for both smokey eyes and sharp cat eyes, but I’ve pretty much transitioned to exclusively using eyeliner pens, so I haven’t taken the time to try this out yet.

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G-Dragon’s signature scent by Moonshot: GD Eu De Toilette. SCREAMfmLondon

GD Eu De Toilette (65,000 // ~$58.22)

The Lucky Box came with a small sample of G-Dragon’s signature scent, but I actually purchased the full-size, 50 mL thing because I really dig the scent. It’s advertised as a unisex fragrance, so it’s a bit more subtle. A breakdown of the perfume shows three different groups of scent: the top layer being grapefruit, lemon, tangerine and cottonwood; the middle layer is sage, seaweed, jasmine and bamboo; and the base layer is ambrette, cedarwood, musk and patchouli. I really enjoy this fragrance, and I’m really happy with the purchase. It doesn’t even give me a headache after wearing it for a while — the true test of any perfume.

Multi Protection UV Bouncer ($28.81)

This is kind of a base product that moisturizes the skin while providing protection from UV rays. It can be used as a primer under foundation, and the gelly formula can be cooling, soothing and refreshing. I imagine this would be a nice product to use during the heat of the summer, but as it’s moving into fall now, maybe it’ll have to wait until next year.

Everything Else

The rest of the Lucky Box is filled with postcards and pictures of GD and Sandara Park, Moonshot’s two main YG models, as well as a commemorative BIGBANG10 sticker. Some Lucky Boxes allegedly contained signed Big Bang CDs or tickets to the art exhibit, but I had no such luck. All-in-all, I’m happy with my Lucky Box and I’m glad I had the opportunity to pick one up and participate in all the Big Bang 10th anniversary madness. Keep it coming, YG. I’ll probably buy anything G-Dragon is trying to sell me.

Live: WAPOP [Collaboration of K-Drama and K-Pop]

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Dance performance team Blue Whale Brothers performs in the WAPOP concert at Children’s Grand Park. SCREAMfmLondon

When a friend offered me free tickets to a “k-drama k-pop concert thing” called WAPOP, I, of course, just had to go see the live combination of these forms of entertainment.

WAPOP is an ongoing event that takes place at 8 p.m. every single Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The name comes from some strange combination of “Wow Pop” and “World & Asia,” and the event is clearly marketed toward tourists specifically from China. The website is offered in Chinese, Korean and Japanese, but a lot of the pre-show content deals with the relationship between South Korea and China, and a lot of the dialogue is in Mandarin.

The performers change from night to night, but the current players frequently include 24K (my favorite rookie group from last year’s Dream Concert!), A.Cian (my favorite rookie group from this year’s Dream Concert!), Bloomy and Minx.

In addition to the k-pop concert, WAPOP also offers live k-drama performances, b-boy dancing, and wild laser light tricks. The whole thing is virtually hosted by actor Lee Byung-hun, who escorts the audience on a train ride through space and time via incredibly deluxe 260-degree panorama video projection.

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The duo Meivley performs a song from the original soundtrack of the popular drama “Descendants of the Sun.” SCREAMfmLondon

When I imagined “live k-drama,” I basically just figured they’d show an episode of “Boys Over Flowers” on the big screen and be done with it. However, the k-drama bits are, in fact, very cool. The big screen is used to show key scenes from popular shows like “My Love From Another Star” and “Descendants of the Sun” while live musicians and dancers perform dramatic scenes on the stage.

When Lee Byung-hun first drops us off in the Joseon Dynasty for some Korean culture, the historical drama is augmented with hip-hop dancing to the tune of a traditional Korean stringed instrument, the gayaguem. The k-drama scenes make great use of the stage and the theater’s technology.

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Minx performs T-ara’s “Roly Poly” onstage at the WAPOP concert. SCREAMfmLondon

In between each k-drama performance, a different rookie idol group takes the stage to perform a few songs — usually two original songs and one cover.

On the night I attended, girl group Bloomy performed first, introducing original songs “흥칫뿡” and “Because of You,” which are both surprisingly excellent. The group is really new (they debuted in February), but the performance was legit. The second girl group, Minx, was less impressive, but they performed a fun cover of T-ara’s hit song “Roly Poly,” so that was something.

A.Cian, the only boy group that night, closed the event. I remember loving their catchy single “Touch” the last time I saw them live, and they delivered again at the WAPOP concert. Their dancing is over-the-top cute, their outfits are over-the-top stupid, and they are overflowing with fanservice. The perfect combination. They, naturally, closed the show with a cover of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” because that’s what you do when you’re targeting an audience of tourists.

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A.Cian performs their single “Touch” at the WAPOP concert. SCREAMfmLondon

I actually really enjoyed the whole show, and I ended up downloading both A.Cian’s and Bloomy’s albums when I got home. Loved it and would totally do it again.

That being said, I have no idea who the hell would pay $70 for this experience. There are a million opportunities to see huge k-pop stars perform for free. So why would anyone pay this price to see some random rookie acts perform two songs alongside a video projection of Lee Byung-hun? If they sell any tickets at all, that blows my mind.

But WAPOP is a cool experience, really. I would pay, like… five bucks to see it again.

WAPOP
238 Neungdong-ro Gwangjin-gu
8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
Tickets range from 50,000 to 70,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.wapophall.com.

Theater: Arts Council Korea presents ‘Save the Green Planet’

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“Save the Green Planet” at Daehakro Arts Theater in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Ever felt that Stephen King’s “Misery” was lacking in aliens? Director Jang Joon-hwan thought so too. So, he devised the 2003 genre-bending film “Save the Green Planet!” inspired by the aforementioned psychological thriller as well as the exciting internet theory that Leonardo DiCaprio is an alien.

The resulting film contains elements of horror, comedy, science fiction and thrillers, and has gained a cult fanbase following its success at several international film festivals.

This April, “Save the Green Planet” made its official debut as a stage drama at the Daehakro Arts Theater in Seoul’s most famous theater district, Daehangno. The script was adapted for the stage by playwright Jo Yong-shin and directed by Lee Ji-na.

The story centers on Lee Byeong-gu, who believes only he can keep aliens from destroying the Earth. In order to get in touch with the Prince of Andromeda, Byeong-gu kidnaps the man he perceives to be the highest-ranking incognito alien in Seoul: pharmaceutical executive Kang Man-shik. Once he has Man-shik secured in his basement dungeon, the torture begins to get the answers he’s looking for before local detectives can find him.

It’s a very good movie: a beautiful combination of goofy, disturbing and titillating. Definitely one to check out for fans of black comedy and zany sci-fi.

The stage adaptation is quite a bit different — everything about the production is scaled down, which is intriguing. The set is very, very minimal and relies heavily on lighting, video projection and sound to create the scenes. The theater itself is small, holding only 500 seats with little space between the audience and stage. And the cast is comprised of only four actors.

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Shin Ha-kyun and Baek Yoon-sik star as Byeong-gu and Man-shik in the 2003 film “Save the Green Planet!” Photo courtesy of CJ Entertainment and Koch-Lorber Films.

Like the film, the play is character-driven, relying on the actors’ performances to sell the story. As is customary, “Save the Green Planet” features a rotating cast for its characters. The show I attended featured SHINee’s Key as Byeong-gu, Kim Do-bin as Man-shik, Ham Yeon-ji as Byeong-gu’s henchman/girlfriend Su-ni, and Yuk Hyun-wook as literally everyone else.

Hyun-wook is excellent onstage, and I was super impressed with his ability to make each of his many characters seem different in such a short period of time. He keeps the play’s momentum going and even interacts with the audience and improvises well.

Key and Do-bin have great chemistry during the torture sequences, and all of the actors had good comedic timing. I was often amused by the perfectly choreographed, slow-motion fight sequences and chunks of dialogue delivered in the language of Andromeda.

The play really excels in its comedy, and it is super entertaining. The best thing about “Save the Green Planet” is its ability to garner so many laughs despite the gruesome and weird plot progression.

However, the play was not as successful as the movie at achieving the truly dark, twisted and emotional side of the story.

I was very curious to see Key take on the role of Byeong-gu because he’s such a cute boybander, and he’s so different from the older, grittier actors who also star as Byeong-gu (as well as the film’s excellent Shin Ha-kyun). I would have loved to see him go all out into the addled mind of the character, but I get that he’s a pop star, he’s got other stuff to do, and he can’t fully dedicate himself to such method acting. But if they ever want to film a remake, I’m still curious.

Overall, I really enjoy both the “Save the Green Planet!” film and play, and I would definitely see the stage production again. I appreciate how the actors work with the set-up onstage, as well as the source material. Ultimately, it’s a cool story about humanity.

Now who will save the Earth?

‘Save the Green Planet’
110-809 Daehak-ro 10-gil 17, Jongno-gu
8 p.m. Tuesday – Friday, 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through May 29
Tickets range from 45,000 to 55,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.koreapac.kr.