- Tourist Distractions: Traveling and Feeling in Transnational Hallyu Cinema by Youngmin Choe
Korean cinema alongside television programs played a role in the early emergence of the Korean Wave (Hallyu in Korean) and consequently the diversification of the Hallyu phenomenon toward tourism, fashion, [End Page 282] and food. Since the mid-1990s when the Korean government initiated the resurrection of the dying film industry, Korean cinema has become one of the major cultural forms leading the Korean Wave phenomenon. By selecting about a dozen Korean films created in the boom era of motion pictures between the late 1990s and early 2000s, Tourist Distractions uniquely analyzes the crucial relationships between Hallyu cinema—with a focus on the impact of Hallyu's emerging core characteristics, like its attempt to convert economic interests into affective feeling—and tourism. Tourist Distractions dexterously intermingles several major components consisting of Korean cinema, such as history, economics, and politics through the historical nexus of transnational collaboration with several East Asian countries, including Japan, China, and North Korea. After textually and historically analyzing domestic films, the author identifies several key characteristics and delves into the ways in which Hallyu cinema inspired both domestic and global tourists to visit Hallyu movie sets, filming sites, and theme parks developed for and inspired by these motion pictures.
Tourist Distractions consists of three parts after its introduction, talking about distracted attractions, each part juxtaposing two chapters as they primarily raise and answer three focal points: intimacy, amity, and remembrance. Among these, part I primarily discusses ''the reformation of transnational intimacy in the course of postcolonial reconciliation'' and affective sites, attracting an unprecedented number of tourists. By analyzing co-production films between Korea and Japan, such as Kazoku Cinema and Asoko in Ruby Shoes, Choe argues that tourism stimulated by these films helps ease regional political differences, which has potentially resulted in the growth of pan-Asian commonalities.
Part II turns its emphasis on to the emerging relationships between Korea and China. After carefully reviewing several films, including Musa, Sonagi, and Daisy, the author develops the notion of amity implicit in the films' intercultural mode of production, while advancing the possibility of building new transnational affectivities. What she continues to argue in a well-articulated way is that Korea's relationships with Japan and now China, and later North Korea, blur the lines between history, memory, affect, and consumerism.
Meanwhile, the focus of part III is rather domestic, but still trans-national in that it explores the political relationships between South and North Korea. By discussing the DMZ embedded in two movies—Joint Security Area and Taegukgi—alongside others, it underscores remembrance. This part also explores ''a contemporary representation ofthedefiningevent of the Korean 20th century along with its oddly commercial brand of [End Page 283] historicism through looking at material traces of the film's depiction of the Korean War.''
Admitting that this book has several major strengths, I would like to compliment two primary features. On the one hand, the most significant asset of this monograph is its well-structured organization. Without interviews and empirical observations about the practices of specific tourists and moviegoers, Choe identifies and discusses three major key terms—again, intimacy, amity, and remembrance—through articulation of film texts, film sites, and historical and political contexts of the era portrayed in the movies analyzed. These terms are later embedded in regional foci, from the relationships between Korea and three countries, including Japan, China, and North Korea, one after another, which eventually connect to tourism. This stylish structure not only proves the author's mastery of film tourism, but also her dexterity in delving into Korean films.
Furthermore, this book is easily accessible, with rich information and concrete discussions. With this well-written monograph, Choe provides detailed explanations of all kinds of terminologies and ideas when they first appear, helping readers to better understand the complexities, anxieties, and tensions of East Asia's new affective commercialism as well as Korea's shifting culture industry, its relation to its past, and its role...