Colonial Era Korean Cinema

Although my specialty is Japanese cinema, I teach and do research in many other fields, such as animation, television, comic books, or the Western. I also work on other Asian cinemas, but have not had much of an occasion to publish on them.

I am thus glad to report that I’ve finally published my first article on Korean cinema: a piece entitled “Colonial Era Korean Cinema and the Problem of Internalization” in the journal Trans-Humanities, published by Ewha Womens University (number 20 [volume 8, number 1]: pp. 27–46). The origins of this piece are in a talk I gave as part of a panel discussion called “Korea’s Rediscovered Colonial Films" at Harvard in December 2010, a great session organized by Carter Eckert that also featured John Dower, Michael Robinson, and Franziska Seraphim. I am thankful to Prof. Eckert for giving me the opportunity to talk about Korean film, as well as to Ewha, which let me expand on that talk for the conference "Korean Literature, Art, and Film from 1910 to 1945" held at Ewha in July 2014. Ewha invited us to submit to their journal, which I did, in part to support the growing relationship between Ewha and Yale. My colleague, John Treat, who helped organize the conference, also has a piece in the same issue: “Im Hwa Before and After Japan.”

Here is the abstract for my article:

This paper analyzes several films produced in Korea during the era of its colonization by Japan that pose interesting questions about the problem of internalization, or colonization of the mind. While on the one hand, these works can seem to present examples of Korean characters quite literally internalizing the voices or visions of Japanese authority, they can also problematize the assumption that there is a distinct subject with an established “inside” open to absorbing such commands. This is further complicated, I will argue, by the fact that the cinema of the Japanese metropole was itself often contradictory, despite and sometimes because of its place in a colonial empire. These Korean films offer multiple examples of complex subjectivities crisscrossed by split subjectivities and intersubjective relations that render it difficult to clearly demarcate “internal” and “external.” This paper will be one step in an effort to use close stylistic and film analysis to consider the questions of colonial film and cultural colonization on the level of the cinematic text.

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