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Korean Screen Cultures

Interrogating Cinema, TV, Music and Online Games

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 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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