Contemporary Korean cinema

Identity, culture and politics

Author: Hyangjin Lee

Film in Korea has always been under governmental censorship. This book examines the ways in which Korean film reveals the ideological orientation of the society in which it is created and circulated. It examines the social and political milieu in which the Korean film industry developed from its beginning during the Japanese colonial period to its bifurcation into South and North Korean cinemas. The book presents a critical analysis of the selected films, which were all made between 1960 and 1990. It discusses the cultural identity of contemporary Koreans by analysing five films based on a popular traditional folk tale, Ch'unhyangjŏn. Three of the five films were made in South Korea: Shin Sangok's Song Ch'unhyang, Pak T'ae-wŏn's The Tale of Song Ch'unhyang and Han Sanghun's SongCh'unhyang. The significance of gender and class issues in Ch'unhyangjŏn can be glimpsed through the three variants of the film title. The book then examines the notion of nationhood held by contemporary Koreans from two interrelated perspectives, political and cultural. It explores the films in relation to the conflicting ideological orientations of North and South Korea. In the North Korean films, anti-imperialism constitutes the core of their definition of nationhood. Class is one of the foremost factors in the formation of cultural identities of contemporary Koreans living as a divided nation. The book discusses six films in this context: The Untrodden Path, The Brigade Commander's Former Superior, Bellflower, A Nice Windy Day, Kuro Arirang and Black Republic.

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