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Akkŭk Meets Hollywood - The Problems of Colonial Legacy and Post-colonial Modernity in 1950’s South Korean Popular Films

Chung-kang Kim 1

1한양대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper focuses on the problems of colonial legacy and post-colonial modernity in South Korean popular film in the process of making “national film” in post-colonial South Korea. The nation-building was not only a political process but also a process which is much involved with people’s emotions and imagination. Popular films in South Korea took great importance in visually imagining what “nation” is. Thus, male elites selectively chose or constructed the national film category in order to establish what the essense of national film. Often times, these elites discourse defined post-colonial “national” as anti-Japanism, Orientalistic beauty of Korea or the art films. Other films that do not has such quality were regarded as “low-brow” culture. Thus, this paper analyzes how these elites’ discourses excluded the akkŭk-based popular film, when they obviously displayed the traces of colonial popular culture. Despite the fact that many 1950s’ South Korean films were made based on these colonial performances, and received very well by common people, elite discourses strongly blamed these films’ inappropriateness as a national culture. Therefore, this paper will discuss the way in which colonial performances are embeded in postcolonial film, and Hollywood film techniques frame these old culture as a new and modern Korean culture by appropriating Japanese “war-time” entertainment culture into American’s. Through this analysis, I argue that the popularity of 1950s akkŭk-based Korean films reveal the unceasing power of colonial modernity in post-colonial Korean society and culture, and its different reception by elites and common people,which complicates the post-colonial South Korean cultural space.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.