Interrogating Cinema, TV, Music and Online Games
Introduction to Part II
In her pioneering study of Korean film, Hyangjin Lee applied Andrew Heywood’s distinction between the nation as a ‘cultural entity, a collection of people bound together by shared values and tradition,’ and the state as a ‘political association’. She argued that Koreans do not question ‘fundamental cultural unity’ even after political division, viewing it as a temporary ‘arrangement forced upon them by superpowers’ (2000: 104 and 142). Lee was writing during and about a very different period in Korean relations following the 1990s ‘Nordpolitik’ policy of South Korean President Roh Tae Woo that sought to reduce tensions on the peninsula and her book appeared around the time of Kim Dae Jung’s Sunshine Policy of greater North–South cooperation. For many Koreans, it must have seemed that cultural commonality could overcome political barriers. In light of regime continuity in the DPRK, right-wing governments in Seoul and sporadic acts of violence against the South, it would be interesting to speculate whether the optimism described by Lee is still common.
This part explores these understandings of cultural commonality in South and North Korean cinema, examines South Korean attitudes towards their northern neighbours and takes a closer look at DPRK film. The section begins with a chapter linking South Korea and the DPRK by focusing on the traditional folk song Arirang – a cultural icon with strong resonance to both nations. The chapter investigates the different North/South interpretations of Arirang which still manage to signify a common national identity. Stephen...
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