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Split Screen Korea

Split Screen Korea: Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Split Screen Korea
    Book Description:

    Shin Sang-ok (1926-2006) was arguably the most important Korean filmmaker of the postwar era. Over seven decades, he directed or produced nearly 200 films, including AFlower in Hell(1958) andPulgasari(1985), and his career took him from late-colonial Korea to postwar South and North Korea to Hollywood. Notoriously crossing over to the North in 1978, Shin made a series of popular films under Kim Jong-il before seeking asylum in 1986 and resuming his career in South Korea and Hollywood.

    InSplit Screen Korea, Steven Chung illuminates the story of postwar Korean film and popular culture through the first in-depth account in English of Shin's remarkable career. Shin's films were shaped by national division and Cold War politics, but Split Screen Korea finds surprising aesthetic and political continuities across not only distinct phases in modern South Korean history but also between South and North Korea. These are unveiled most dramatically in analysis of the films Shin made on opposite sides of the DMZ. Chung explains how a filmmaking sensibility rooted in the South Korean market and the global style of Hollywood could have been viable in the North.Combining close readings of a broad range of films with research on the industrial and political conditions of Korean film production,Split Screen Koreashows how cinematic styles, popular culture, and intellectual discourse bridged the divisions of postwar Korea, raising new questions about the implications of political partition.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4150-9
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION: Visible Ruptures, Invisible Borders
    (pp. 1-20)

    Amid a life saturated with the production of images and exposure within them, one photograph stands out as an exceptionally illuminating window onto Shin Sang-ok’s work and its place in twentieth-century Korea (Figure 1).¹ The picture was taken in the summer of 1984 and Shin, at fifty-eight, is arguably in his prime as a maker of films. He is pictured manipulating the camera, betraying the lust for control of a director who, despite having retained the service of a small army of technicians, had always had little confidence in the skill or professionalism of his employees. His figure is highlighted...

  4. 1 THE CENTURY’S ILLUMINATIONS The Enlightenment Mode in Korean Cinema
    (pp. 21-46)

    I want to begin with what might be called a diachronic para-history of periods of filmmaking in Korea that both describes and exceeds the bounds of Shin Sang-ok’s career. I do so partly because the following chapters in this book treat Shin’s work in synchronic stages, mapping it against a range of contemporaneous discourses and events. While this serves one of the book’s overall aims, the assemblage of a history of postwar Korean film cultures, it also works against one of its core insights, that crucial continuities in form and thought survive otherwise radical transformations in social organization and political...

  5. 2 REGIMES WITHIN REGIMES Film and Fashion in the Korean 1950s
    (pp. 47-82)

    The topos of Im Ŭng-sik’s iconic 1956 photograph “Early Summer, Midopa” is apparently clear: the weight of traditional Korean cultural practice is giving way to the lightness of Western lifestyle (Figure 2). The keenness of what Roland Barthes called the photo’spunctum—that is, the deeply affective register of an image—is driven home by the seeming distress that passes on the face of the woman in the foreground: she is nearest to us, but in the burgeoning consumer culture epitomized in the scene’s Western goods stores (Midopa was at the time Seoul’s largest department store), she has already faded....

  6. 3 AUTHORSHIP AND THE LOCATION OF CINEMA In the Region of Shin Films
    (pp. 83-128)

    One of the predominant themes in Shin Sang-ok’s own writings as well as the published interviews and scholarship on his work is the tension between the concept of the filmmaker as artist and the vicissitudes of the filmmaker as entrepreneur. On the one hand, Shin seems to have granted the existence of creative and independent authorship in Korea. Reflecting on his career in 1997, Shin mused:

    There are two kinds of film authors. The first is the sort that begins with his own stories; the other is a technician who brings other people’s work to life. We can recognize Na...

    (pp. 129-158)

    The political and generic heterogeneity of Shin Sang-ok’s films should be unsurprising when we take into consideration that he was initiated into filmmaking in the tumultuous years of liberation from nearly a half-decade of colonial rule, shot his first films in the throes of a horrific and nearly total war, built his industry-leading studio within the sphere of a militarized developmentalist state, and closed the most productive years of his career precariously straddling the dangerous antimonies of the Cold War. Indeed the resourcefulness reflected in his career finds uncanny resonance with that of the icons of the postwar age of...

  8. 5 “IT’S ALL FAKE” Shin Sang-ok’s North Korean Revisions
    (pp. 159-204)

    Following the collapse of his studios in the late 1970s in the South, Shin Sang-ok crossed over to North Korea in 1978. Until his return in 1986, he established a sprawling studio through which he directed seven films, produced at least ten others, and laid plans for a number of projects, most of which were eventually realized. According to his memoirs and the numerous interviews in which he recorded his experiences, the films themselves were not only wildly successful but also marked a profound shift in North Korean film practices and cultures. These claims are largely supported by the informal...

  9. CONCLUSION: Postdevelopment Pictures
    (pp. 205-212)

    The tumultuous years following his return from North Korea in 1986 saw Shin Sang-ok bring his career to a close in the same way that it had begun: shuttling between nations, embroiled in controversy, living for the thrill of watching, planning, and making films. But before he could again, in the Korean parlance, pick up the megaphone, he would have to pass through a gauntlet of intelligence investigations, bureaucratic adjustments, and public scrutiny. He and Ch’oe Ŭn-hŭi spent most of the late 1980s in the United States, giving testimony to American and Korean agents about their adventures in the North...

    (pp. 213-214)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 215-236)
    (pp. 237-240)
    (pp. 241-252)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 253-262)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-263)