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Korean Screen Cultures

Interrogating Cinema, TV, Music and Online Games

Edited By Andrew David Jackson and Colette Balmain

The «Korean Wave», or Hallyu phenomenon, has brought South Korean popular culture to the global population. Studies on Korean visual culture have therefore often focused on this aspect, leaving North Korea sidelined and often considered in a negative light because of its political regime. Korean Screen Cultures sets out to redress this imbalance with a broad selection of essays spanning both North and South as well as different methodological approaches, from ethnographic and audience studies to cultural materialist readings. The first section of the book, «The South», highlights popular media – including online gaming and television drama – and concentrates on the margins, in which the very nature of «The South» is contested. «The South and the North» examines North Korea as an ideological other in South Korean popular culture as well as discussing North Korean cinema itself. «The Global» offers new approaches to Korean popular culture beyond national borders and includes work on K-pop and Korean television drama. This book is a vital addition to existing scholarship on Korean popular culture, offering a unique view by providing an imaginary unification of the two Koreas negotiated through local and transnational popular culture flows.
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Introduction to Part I

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South Korea’s democratic liberalism is posited as the opposite to the autocratic and despotic regime of DPRK, with Kim Jong-un represented as a figure of fun and fear in the West. It is no surprise that North Korean villains have superseded Russian ones in US action films. From Hallyu to Hallyu 2.0, South Korean culture has cemented its global position, with South Korean film on the festival circuit, K-pop dominating YouTube and winning international accolades, K-drama inviting the contemplation of South Korea as a place of tradition, exoticism, multiculturalism and modernity, whilst also leading the online gaming market.

Tied to discourses of nationalism, South Korea’s cultural product evokes a masculinist cultural image of homogeneity and heterosexuality. However, all this part’s chapters raise important debates surrounding marginality tied to ethnicity, sexuality or gender and depict long-standing fractures within the construction of national identity. By so doing, local boundaries and borders are redefined. The ‘South’ in this section is diverse, multicultural and vibrant, as demonstrated by the focus on the voices of those on society’s margins, which are part of the cultural tapestry of South Korea but are silenced in representation and reality. The first chapter by Jacob Ki Nielsen explores interracial and intergenerational fraternity, situating it within a wider trend for dramas about multicultural family reconstruction, focusing on male bonding across marginalised mixed race ethnic identities and highlighting ideological frictions and hierarchies embedded in a new multicultural Korea. Here Buddhist ontology, situated against Christianity as a feminine...

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