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Research on the Cultural History of Movie Theater after the Korean War and the Use of Oral History as a Research Method

  • The Journal of Korean drama and theatre
  • 2018, (59), pp.85-114
  • DOI : 10.17938/tjkdat.2018..59.85
  • Publisher : The Learned Society Of Korean Drama And Theatre
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Received : February 7, 2018
  • Accepted : March 12, 2018

Wee Gyeong-hae 1

1순천향대학교 인문학연구소

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This study reviews the usefulness and significance of using oral history as a method to conduct research on the cultural landscape of movie theaters in “non-Seoul areas” following the Korean War. Many studies on the history of Korean films have focused on film production and the aesthetics of individual movies; however, they fail to document the culture of embracing movies such as in the cultural landscape of movie theaters. However, cinema history has directed the focus of study toward movie theaters—where audiences encounter movies—by putting audiences at the center of the historical narrative. As a result, studies on the cultural history of movie theater started to be conducted in the mid-2000s as part of film studies. However, most of these focused on movie theaters in Seoul and employed empirical research methodologies that rely on written records, such as newspaper articles. When it comes to studying the culture of movie theaters in areas outside of Seoul, researchers have been forced to rely on the oral testimony of those who were involved in theater management and movie-goers, as there are not many written records available about movie theaters in those areas. Oral history, as a research method for this field of study, made its contribution in discovering historical facts that were little-known to the public. In particular, the use of oral history is meaningful in that the method allows for the vivid description of the cultural landscape of movie theaters, the place where movies are shown and where audiences watch movies. The method is also significant in that researchers can examine the culture of movie-goers—who embrace movies—as ordinary people living in non-Seoul areas. This study defines the culture of movie theaters as an array of cultural practices adopted in places where movies are played and watched, and it outlines movie-goers’ interpretation and understanding of movie theaters. Researchers encounter many problems studying the cultural history of movie theaters in non-Seoul areas, when based on oral history; the most critical issue is the problem of the researcher’s positionality. Oral history is the collaborative work of interviewees and interviewers and, therefore, the content of oral testimony hinges on the question of who is giving oral testimony to whom. In particular, the gender of interviewees and interviewers is of crucial importance because most film industry professionals, including those who work in movie theaters after the Korean War, are men. Furthermore, meticulous attention should be paid to “how” interviewees provide oral testimony, in addition to “what” is being told, because oral history is the product of remembering. In other words, the characters of the interviewees and interviewers play a key role in oral history. Oral history is useful in that history is re-created by the interviewees and interviewers.

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.