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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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Jake Bevan - 5 ‘Arirang’: Addressing the Nation in South and North Korea


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5 ‘Arirang’: Addressing the Nation in South and North Korea


Since the early twentieth century, the folk song ‘Arirang’ has been used by individuals in cultural, scientific and political arenas to invoke a sense of Korean national unity. Despite decades of national division, this chapter demonstrates how ‘Arirang’ has been deployed in both North and South Korean contexts to achieve this aim by drawing on a historical legacy which bridges generations of Cold War hostility. To accomplish this, I will conduct a comparative process akin to that undertaken by Hyangjin Lee (2000) in her analysis of contemporary Korean cinema. In her book, Lee picks a single culturally significant icon – in this case Ch’unhyang-jŏn, a traditional folk-tale – and examines its significance in Colonial Korean cinema, as well as within the two national cinemas which emerged following the division of the Korean peninsula (Lee 2000: 67–100). In place of Ch’unhyang-jŏn, this chapter explores the significance of ‘Arirang’ as a cultural commodity that has likewise endured colonialism and national division, and which similarly invokes a Korean folk culture.

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