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New-girl or Saeron-Sonyeo, The Cultural Politics of Kim Saeon

Sim, Hye-Kyong 1

1순천향대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Generally girls on screen are non-personsin the family and society whose futures are protected and decided by their parents. However, girls in recent Korean films have become highly sensitive to the ethics and morals of a falling nation, including its society and institutions. These girls are not merely building their own world at the center of a film, but also serve as leaders of the future, like in Hyojin (Kim Wanhee) The Wailing (2016). This essay examines Kim Saeron’s performance in A Brand New Life (2009). Saeron is used as a starting point to discuss the “new-girl” or “saeron-sonyeo” in recent Korean films, a figure with strong subjectivity who frequently challenges the patriarchal system and its capitalist cultural markets. Saeron plays a girl who is branded a “little monster” and thrown out of the patriarchal system. While she portrays pain and despair, as an actress, Saeron presents a strong and tough-girl image. She has been positioned by herself as an irreplaceable actress, establishing motives for turning point of special perception as subject at each phase of her physical growth. In her films Saeron-Sonyeo secures her own sense of identity, refusing to fall into the pitfalls of the male-centered pornographic eroticism pursued in the mass culture economy of “girl-products.” The origin of the Saeron-Sonyeo character, Saeron deconstructs myths of girl-ness and refreshes them with a “macho” feminine quality in relation to civil society. Saeron-Sonyeo serves to disrupt patriarchal systems and for the sake of social equality. This essay interprets the Saeron-Sonyeo character as a feminist warrior that speaks to feminist and democratic values, such as human rights, love, freedom, and (gender) equality.

Citation status

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