During the last few decades South Korean cinema has taken center stage in world cinema with the phenomenal success of its film industry and critical acclaim in the global context. However, Korea has boasted a thriving film culture and aesthetics since the "golden age" of the 1950s, of which renowned contemporary directors such as Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook have claimed they are the inheritors. This course introduces Korean cinema from its beginnings in the colonial era to its recent achievements. While learning the concepts and theories of film studies as well as the cultural and political contexts to which Korean film culture has responded, students will explore films by key directors that constitute the crucial "moments" of South Korean cinema. We will examine the main topics in Korean cinema, including colonial production, the liberation and Western influence, nation and nationalism, modernity and women, gender politics, realist and modernist cinema, popular cinema and cultural depression, the Korean New Wave, democratization and political cinema, the Korean blockbuster, the questions of "Koreanness," and the "Korean Wave" in the global film market.
The course also seeks to establish a balance between understanding Korean cinema as both a reservoir of historical memory and as an example of evolving world cinema. Through engagement with methodological issues from film studies in each week's readings, including the question of archives, national cinema discourse, feminist film theory, auteurism, and genre studies, students in this course will learn to analyze Korean filmic texts not only as a way to understand the particularity of Korean cinema but also as a frontier of cinematic language in the broader history of film.