Korean Studies, vol. 33 (2009)

Korean Studies 33 cover

Cultural Change in Korean Films

Transitional Emotions: Boredom and Distraction in Hong Sang-su’s Travel Films
Youngmin Choe, 1

This article explores the cultural significance of boredom and distraction in postmodern Korea by focusing on Hong Sang-su’s holiday films. It posits that Hong’s films about characters attempting to escape from the banalities of urban life can be seen to reveal, stylistically and thematically, the emotions and anxieties unleashed by excessive leisure in neoliberal Korea. By re-casting the absence of events in Hong’s films as an existing affect of lacking, it challenges the adequacy of pre-existing affective paradigms in the understanding of boredom in neoliberal Korea. In recognition of the transient stage in which boredom as emotion finds itself, it proposes categorizing emotions at such historical junctures as ‘‘transitional emotions,’’ drawing on theories that socialize rather than psychologize emotion by locating them as circulating intersubjectively.

Love Your Enemies: Revenge and Forgiveness in Films by Park Chan-wook
Steve Choe, 29

This article discusses the films that make up Park Chan-wook’s ‘‘Revenge Trilogy’’: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003), and Lady Vengeance (2005). It places particular emphasis on the last of the three in order to show how the logic of revenge is pushed to its breaking point. While getting even may be, as Park asserts, ‘‘the most foolish thing in the world to do,’’ the article argues that another possibility is opened up altogether. Forcing audiences to confront the logic of revenge, the article argues that the ‘‘foolishness’’ of retributive justice gives way to the possibility of unconditional forgiveness.

Imagining a Feminine Icon: Multiple Metamorphoses of Hwang Chin-i in Cinema and Television
Hana Lee, 52

This article focuses on how images of Hwang Chin-i, one of the most fascinating characters in Korean literature and media, have evolved over time as well as how she could have maintained her position as a representative feminine icon in cinema and television. Characterizations of Hwang Chin-i have been reinterpreted according to the ethos of different ages, partially conditioned by the public persona of the top actresses of those periods. Despite the many versions of the Hwang Chin-i narrative, none has fully presented all the fascinating facets of her personality such as her artistry, her devastating social critiques, and her sexuality. Each version represents the values pursued by the audiences of those times. This is mainly because the historical dramas have tended to show audiences what they want to see rather than what really happened.


North Korean ‘‘Rural Fiction’’ from the Late 1990s to the Mid-2000s: Permanence and Change
Tatiana Gabroussenko, 69

Today some foreign observers have begun to claim significant changes in the North Korean ‘‘socialist realism’’ literary tradition, such as a broadening of the permissible range of topics and even some concessions to alternative discourses. This article investigates whether the most favored branch of contemporary North Korean literature, namely, ‘‘rural fiction,’’ has indeed become a conduit of political liberalization and, if so, to what extent. The author analyzes the core messages that North Korean creative writings about the countryside are disseminating today and considers these messages in relation to the Party’s recent directives in regard to agricultural or rural development.

Reconsidering Transnational Cultural Flows of Popular Music in East Asia: Transbordering Musicians in Japan and Korea Searching for ‘‘Asia’’
Hyunjoon Shin, 101

After the South Korean government lifted its ban on Japanese culture in 1998, transnational cultural flows between Japan and South Korea entered a third phase of cultural traffic between the two countries. Among the flows, I concentrate on transbordering or translocation of Japanese and Korean musicians and interactions between them. After analyzing cultural interactions between Japanese and Korean music both in contemporary and historical experience, I explain in detail the practices of these transbordering musicians, especially Lee-tzsche (Sang-ŭn Yi) and Hachi (Kasuga Hirofumi). The different types of symbolic representations by different transbordering musicians are critically examined. I argue that analyzing contemporary Asian cultural flows in this conceptual framework has implications for the public debate in Korea in regard to how to go beyond postcolonial relations without erasing the memory of a troubled history.

Thinking Locally, Acting Globally: Redefining Traditions at the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
John Finch and Seung-kyung Kim, 124

Focusing on three distinctive aspects of the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy (KMLA)—its English-only policy, the use of Korean traditions and its success as a college preparatory school—this article examines the ways in which this academically competitive, contemporary high school negotiates the nexus between Korean traditions and globalization. Our research is based on interviews with administrators, faculty, students, and alumni of KMLA and a review of media reports and the school’s own literature. We discuss what ‘‘Korean Traditions’’ mean to the members of the school, why these traditions are so important to them, and how KMLA fits into the larger framework of Korea’s efforts to revitalize Korean culture and identity in the context of globalization.

Book Reviews

Sem Vermeersch
The Power of the Buddhas: The Politics of Buddhism During the Koryŏ Dynasty (918–1392)
reviewed by Richard D. McBride, II, 150

Kirk W. Larsen
Tradition, Treaties, and Trade: Qing Imperialism and Chosŏn Korea, 1850–1910
reviewed by Jungwon Kim, 154

James A. Foley
Korea’s Divided Families: Fifty Years of Separation
reviewed by Hyeon Ju Lee, 157

Theodore Jun Yoo
The Politics of Gender in Colonial Korea: Education, Labor, and Health, 1910–1945
reviewed by Soon Won Park, 159

Charles R. Jenkins
The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea
reviewed by James I. Matray, 161

Grace M. Cho
Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War
reviewed by Hyeon Ju Lee, 164

Contributors, 167