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Im Kwon-Taek

The Making of a Korean National Cinema

Edited By David E. James and Kyung Hyun Kim

Publication Year: 2001

Korean cinema was virtually unavailable to the West during the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945), and no film made before 1943 has been recovered even though Korea had an active film-making industry that produced at least 240 films. For a period of forty years, after Korea was liberated from colonialism, a time where Western imports were scarce, Korean cinema became an innovative force reflecting a society whose social and cultural norms were becoming less conservative. Im Kwon-Taek: The Making of a Korean National Cinema is a colleciton of essays written about Im Kwon-Taek, better know as the father of New Korean Cinema, that takes a critical look at the situations of filmmakers in South Korea. Written by leading Koreanists and scholars of Korean film in the United States, Im Kwon-Taek is the first scholarly treatment of Korean cinema. It establishes Im Kwon-Taek as the only major Korean director whose life’s work covers the entire history of South Korea’s military rule (1961-1992). It demonstrates Im’s struggles with Korean cinema’s historical contradictions and also shows how Im rose above political discord. The book includes an interview with Im, a chronology of Korean cinema and Korean history showing major dynastic periods and historical and political events, and a complete filmography. Im Kwon-Taek is timely and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Korean cinema. These essays situate Im Kwon-Taek within Korean filmmaking, placing him in industrial, creative, and social contexts, and closely examine some of his finest films. Im Kwon-Taek will interest students and scholars of film studies, Korean studies, religious studies, postcolonial studies, and Asian studies.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series


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pp. 1-4

Title Page

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pp. 5-6


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pp. 5-8

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pp. 7-8

As detailed in the preface below, this collection of essays originated in a festival of the films of Im Kwon-Taek and a conference about them held concurrently at the University of Southern California in 1996. We would like to thank the many people and agencies who contributed to these events, including the School...

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pp. 9-18

This collection of essays on the work of the film director Im Kwon- Taek is the first English-language scholarly book on South Korean cinema published outside Korea. It originated in a retrospective of twelve of Im's most important films and an accompanying conference, organized by the editors of the present collection and held at the University of Southern California...

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1 Korean Cinema and Im Kwon-Taek: An Overview

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pp. 19-46

Anyone who has tried to locate English-language books, articles, or even encyclopedia entries on Korean cinema must surely have met with great frustration. When I first began my research on Korean cinema in 1992, the lengthiest—and perhaps the only available—treatment of the topic appeared in Roy...

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2 Im Kwon-Taek: Korean National Cinema and Buddhism

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pp. 47-83

In 1926 Han Yong-un, an eminent Buddhist master and leader in the movement to free Korea from Japanese occupation, published a collection of poems, Silence of Love (Nimui chHmmuk) in which he assumed the persona of a woman abandoned by her lover.1 In the title poem, she looks out across the mountains and the path through them by which he left her; but...

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3 The Female Body and Enunciation in Adada and Surrogate Mother

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pp. 84-106

Adada, Im Kwon-Taek's film about a woman who is destroyed by patriarchy, begins with a most unusual scene, a close-up on a hand using sign-language to speak silently on the topic of sick and healthy bodies and minds. As the white hand and its fingers move before a black background, the signifiers they set afloat...

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4 The Politics of Gender, Aestheticism, and Cultural Nationalism in Sopyonje and The Genealogy

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pp. 107-133

In the film Sopyonje {Sop'yonje, 1993), there is a scene where Yubong, the father, sits on the verandah of an ancient, imposing Korean house. Across from him is an old Confucian gentleman, who plays the traditional string instrument komungo. The two men, both swathed in formal white attire, are silent, and komungo music spreads over the solemn air. The komungo<...

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5 Sopyonje: Its Cultural and Historical Meaning

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pp. 134-156

No one involved in making Sopyonje (Sopydnje) imagined that it would become the most popular domestic movie in South Korean history, quickly topping the box-office success of the same director's famed The Generals Son (Chungun ui adul). At the time of its release in April 1993, newspapers were reporting that the nation's...

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6 Sopyonje and the Inner Domain of National Culture

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pp. 157-181

Korean critics and foreign enthusiasts alike have been obliged torecognize that the international success many had predicted forthe 1990s South Korean cinema did not materialize. While a numberof individual titles were acclaimed at major film festivals, few were thenpicked up for wider distribution. Chris Berry, one of the most authorita-tive Western critics of Asian cinema, has suggested two reasons why the...

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7 Fly High, Run Far: Kaeby?ok and Tonghak Ideology

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pp. 182-196

In my judgment, Im is like a weather vane.1 On another occasion—recalling the modernist poet Kim Su-yong's satirical reference to peoplewho neither actively resisted nor entirely surrendered to the effects ofKorea's harsh political climate—-I compared Im to grass, for he often"lies down before the wind, and gets up before the wind." His films have...

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8 Is This How the War Is Remembered?: Deceptive Sex and the Re-masculinized Nation in The Taebaek Mountains

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pp. 197-222

In Land of Exile {Tuhyong ui ttang), a short story by Cho Chong-nae published in 1981, Mansok, the protagonist, has a secret he has been keeping for thirty years. This fragment of his past contains images that juxtapose passionate sex and bloody violence. Just the thought of these images, so haunting and still vivid, freezes him. He has drifted from one construction site to another for decades, and his memories...

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9 In Defense of Continuity: Discourses on Tradition and the Mother in Festival

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pp. 223-246

The process of modernization in South Korea was so enormously extensive, intense, and violent that it became the major constituent core of the nation's collective experience during the latter half of the twentieth century. Like other forms of cultural representation in South Korea, cinema confronted the profound upheavals caused by modernization both directly and indirectiy..

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10 An Interview with Im Kwon-Taek

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pp. 247-266

Interviewers: During the last ten years, following the controversial popularity of Sopyonje, you emerged as the most prominent film director in Korea. There was the Munich retrospective of your films and now the retrospective here. How has this recognition affected your sensibility as a filmmaker...


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pp. 267-271

Selected English Language Bibliography of Korean Cinema

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pp. 275-280

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pp. 279-280

Eunsun Cho is a graduate student in the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California. Her main interests are images of women in Korean cinema, the cinematic representation of Korean modernity, and the intercultural circulation...


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pp. 281-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780814340080
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814328699

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 21
Publication Year: 2001

Series Title: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series