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Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
A genealogy of South Korean cinema: From the 50s cosmopolitan style to global Korean blockbusters

My presentation offers a genealogy of South Korean (hereafter Korean) cinema in the light of its paradoxical role of building and unsettling national narratives since the Korean War armistice in 1953. Throughout the dizzy history of rapid industrialization and modernization, the Korean government used national cinema in a way to create an array of positive national images and identities. While nationalist narratives pervaded Korean cinema, a number of filmmakers developed internationalist film styles which, rather than remaining ancillary to narrative, generated compelling aesthetics that belies and debunks nationalism.

To rephrase, postwar Korean cinema portrays the clash of the two opposite desires of a young nation: constructing national identity founded upon traditional values, on the one hand, and breaking with the war-ridden past to become a land of the free and affluent, on the other hand. This tension between the national and the global often translates to the division of male and female, narrative and style, and tradition and Americanization. Remembering these gaps and ironies, this presentation briefly looks at each decade since the 1950s and its representative films in relation to genre, narrative, style, national/sexual ideologies, reception, and industry.


Soo Kim is Professor of English Literature & Culture at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, South Korea. Kim’s research and teaching interests include contemporary Anglophone fiction, film, and sexuality studies. Kim has been published in English and Korean about post-2000 British and American novels, theorists such as Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière, and Korean queer cinema and other Korean films directed by Chan-wook Park and Joon-ho Bong.

Zoom Details

Zoom link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/94503912243?pwd=RzFYOGNnV1pvSkREWG5FRVI5eDA4Zz09

Meeting ID: 945 0391 2243
Password: 788541

Livestream will be available at Room CRT-7.45, 7/F, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU