From its first productions during the colonial period to contemporary mainstream hits, South Korean cinema has been a contested sphere of the popular imagination regarding gender politics, modern Korean history, and political change. This course explores the films by the main directors of Korea to interrogate key problematic subjects in South Korean cinema, which include the discourse of modernity, the representation of historical and political trauma, the problems surrounding gender roles, and practices of film culture and industry. The film texts examined in this course include not only the breakthough masterpieces of prominent film auteurs but also popular genre films that enjoyed box-office success. Through these examples, students will examine how the most influential popular art form in South Korea has recognized, interpreted, and represented the Korean societal issues on screen.
This course also seeks to establish a balance between understanding South Korean cinema as both a reservoir of historical memory and as an example of evolving East Asian films and 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 will learn how to analyze Korean filmic texts not only as a way to understand the particularity of South Korean cinema and history but also as a frontier of cinematic language in the broader history of film. In addition, students in this class will be encouraged to perform the comparative studies with other East Asian cinema in their short papers or the final projects.