A Genealogy of Anti-Communist Film in South Korea: Representing and Imagining Cold War


Thursday, April 30, 2015, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Porté Seminar Room (S250), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs

Hyangjin Lee, Professor, College of Intercultural Communication, Rikkyo University; Kim Koo Visiting Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Hyangjin Lee is a Professor at the College of Intercultural Communication at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, where she teaches courses on Korean and Japanese cinema and cultural studies. She received both her B.A. and M.A. in Sociology from Yonsei University, where she also completed her doctoral coursework. Lee completed her dissertation, a comparative study of North and South Korean film, at the University of Leeds in the UK, and earned her Ph.D. in Communication Studies there in 1998. Professor Lee taught at the School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield from 1991 to 2008. In addition to her extensive teaching experience, she has served as the Director of the UK Korean Film Festival (2000-2006), and is currently a member of the editorial boards of New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film and Korea Culture Studies. Since 2013, she has organized the annual Transnational Cinema Symposium in Japan, focusing on East Asia. The 2015 Transnational Cinema Symposium will be held in the UK and Korea with the theme of war memories narrated by women’s voices. Her monograph Contemporary Korean Cinema: Identity, Culture and Politics (Manchester University Press, 2001) is the first book on Korean national cinema written in English, and it has been revised and published in various languages including an extended edition in Spanish in 2012. Lee’s latest book, Sociology of Korean Wave: Fandom, Family and Multiculturalism (Iwanami, 2008), explores the popularity of Korean television dramas and their stars among Japanese consumers of entertainment, and its implications for transnational cultural exchange. More recently, she has contributed chapters to volumes on Korean and Asian Film, focusing on representations of war, death, and family in Korean cinema. Her new book, North, South, and Japanese-Korean Cinemas: From the National to the Post-National will be published by Misuzu Sobo in 2015. In the fall of 2014, Lee taught East Asian Film and Media Studies 121, “Korean Cinema and Transnationality,” a conference course that examines how film reflects and influences power dynamics and inequalities as they pertain to gender, sexuality, class, race, and ethnicity in both national and transnational contexts.

Chaired by Si Nae Park, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

This paper will consider the generic features of anti-Communist drama in South Korea from a perspective of historical development and thematic configurations. The anti-Communist film forms a major genre in South Korea. In order to evaluate the historical legacy of the Cold War in the identity politics of South Korean national cinema, the paper will discuss the oppressive film policy in the pre-democratization era and include a textual analysis of three films that deal with the war and national division, namely The Marines Never Returned (Lee Man-hui, 1963), Rainy Days (Yu Hyun-mok, 1979) and Spring in My Hometown (Lee Kwang-mok, 1998). The national division of Korea in 1945 was a settlement of the Allies at the end of the Second World War. The Korean War (1950-1953) materialized the ideological confrontation between the communist North and the capitalist South into vivid memories of massacre by the opposing forces and created unforgettable hatred between them. Anti-Americanism and anti-Communism became the state ideologies of the North and the South since then. Park Jung Hee’s government (1961-1979), in particular, fully exploited the propaganda role of anti-Communist film to justify the ideological legitimacy of its military regime. Unsurprisingly, anti-Communism was the utmost means to suppress the people’s desire toward to a democratic society. In this sense, the appearance of anti-war and unification dramas that defy the authority of anti-Communism and imply anti-Americanism in the 90s can be seen as an indicator of the radical social and cultural changes in South Korea after the democratization movement of the mid 1980s. This paper will deal with this democratic transformation of South Korea, by discussing the historical legacy of anti-Communist drama. 

The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.