Oct 21, 2015 | 10:51 AM EDT

Understanding K-Movies: Why Suzy Bae Was Impressed By Pansori

BY Julie Jones

In the film "Dorihwaga" aka "The Sound of the Flower," miss A's Suzy Bae plays a gifted female pansori artist. Her character Jin Chae Sun is based on a real person, the first female pansori artist. Jin trained under the famous pansori teacher Shin Jae Hyo.

But what exactly is pansori, you may wonder?  Pansori is a traditional form of storytelling that originated in the 17th century during the Joseon dynasty. It is sometimes referred to as Korean opera.

Pansori is traditionally performed by a vocalist, who tells the story, and a drummer, who provides the beat and encourages the singer. The name derives from the words "pan" for place where people gather and the word "sori" for sound. It may have originated from the songs performed by shamans and started out as entertainment for poor people.  Pansori became a more sophisticated art form during the 18th and 19th century, incorporating various vocal techniques, and was eventually performed at court. The popularity of pansori declined in the 20th century, but it is now considered an important part of Korea's cultural heritage. In 2003 UNESCO recognized it as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

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Shin Jae Hyo lived during the 19th century and was the first pansori teacher to train female singers. When Jin Chae Sun first asked Shin Jae Hyo to be her mentor, he turned her down because women were not allowed to perform pansori. So she returned, disguised as a boy. He still did not accept her. But when he learned there would be a national competition for the best pansori performer he decided to train her. That training endangered both their lives. If anyone found out that she was a woman they would be killed.

When Suzy was studying for the role of Jin Chae Sun she became intrigued by the art of pansori.

"I pray to learn more about pansori and was impressed for weeks," she said in an interview in the October issue of Korea's Elle magazine. "Many of the actors who were in the film became interested in traditional music like me."

The title "Dorihwaga" refers to a particular type of short song that the pansori artists use to warm up before singing. Some pansori were four or five hours long. That's impressive.

Ryu Seung Ryung, who appeared in the film "The Admiral: Roaring Currents," plays Shin Jae Hyo in"Dorihwaga." Kim Nam Gil, last seen in the award-winning film "Shameless," plays Heungseon Daewongun, the man who organizes the competition and falls in love with Jin Chae Sun.

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