Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea

Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom's Frontier

Theodore Hughes
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea
    Book Description:

    Korean writers and filmmakers crossed literary and visual cultures in multilayered ways under Japanese colonial rule (1910--1945). Taking advantage of new modes and media that emerged in the early twentieth century, these artists sought subtle strategies for representing the realities of colonialism and global modernity. Theodore Hughes begins by unpacking the relations among literature, film, and art in Korea's colonial period, paying particular attention to the emerging proletarian movement, literary modernism, nativism, and wartime mobilization. He then demonstrates how these developments informed the efforts of post-1945 writers and filmmakers as they confronted the aftershocks of colonialism and the formation of separate regimes in North and South Korea.

    Hughes puts neglected Korean literary texts, art, and film into conversation with studies on Japanese imperialism and Korea's colonial history. At the same time, he locates post-1945 South Korean cultural production within the transnational circulation of texts, ideas, and images that took place in the first three decades of the Cold War. The incorporation of the Korean Peninsula into the global Cold War order, Hughes argues, must be understood through the politics of the visual. In Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea, he identifies ways of seeing that are central to the organization of a postcolonial culture of division, authoritarianism, and modernization.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50071-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History, Art & Art History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-18)

    The end of the Greater East Asian and Pacific War in 1945 brought about a new geopolitics. In Asia, this meant that the formerly colonized or semicolonized states (China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam) would now have to address the emerging U.S./Soviet bifurcation. Relations with these new Cold War powers often took the form of simultaneous alignment and contestation coupled with different degrees of subordination. The post-1945 U.S. occupation of South Korea, along with that of Japan, can be thought of in terms of a closing off of borders. The U.S./Soviet enforcement of division was accompanied by the removal of Korea from...

  6. 1 VISUALITY AND THE COLONIAL MODERN: The Technics of Proletarian Culture, Nativism, Modernism, and Mobilization
    (pp. 19-60)

    The evacuation of former Korea Artista Proleta Federatio (the original Esperanto title of what is commonly known as KAPF) writers, artists, and filmmakers to the north during the 1945–1948 U.S. military occupation of the southern half of the Korean peninsula was followed by the anticommunist South Korean state’s 1948 censorship of all of their colonial-period works. Along with the ban on all contemporary North Korean cultural production, these moves formalized the boundaries of what would become the South Korean cultural field.¹ It was only following the 1988 lifting of the ban in South Korea on the works of cultural...

  7. 2 VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE STATES: Liberation, Occupation, Division
    (pp. 61-90)

    The end of Japanese rule in 1945 was immediately followed by U.S. and Soviet military occupations in the southern and northern halves of the Korean peninsula. The occupations set in motion the formation of rival polities that would soon enter into a state of war. Given the continuing division of the peninsula, it should come as no surprise that scholars find themselves returning to the period of occupation between the end of colonial rule and the inauguration of separate regimes in 1948 in an effort to sift through the welter of postcolonial possibilities opened up and denied. There is a...

  8. 3 AMBIVALENT ANTICOMMUNISM: The Politics of Despair and the Erotics of Language
    (pp. 91-128)

    Koreans were deployed as laborers and soldiers to locations throughout the imaginary of Greater East Asia during the late 1930s and the first half of the 1940s. The 1945–1948 Soviet and U.S. military occupations in the northern and southern halves of the peninsula set in motion a second displacement of peoples, this time within Korea itself. This movement from north to south and, in lesser numbers, south to north across the new internal border would last until the end of the Korean War in 1953. The post-1945 formation of a new state in the geopolitical space south of the...

  9. 4 DEVELOPMENT AS DEVOLUTION: Overcoming Communism and the “Land of Excrement” Incident
    (pp. 129-164)

    In the early 1960s, South Korea emerged as one of the most important sites for the articulation of U.S. Cold War developmentalism. If postwar Japan became a non-Western junior partner, continuously cited as a success story and model for the “underdeveloped” free world to follow, South Korea was to follow in its wake as a junior-junior partner.¹ Arturo Escobar has detailed the ways in which post-1945 developmentalism relies upon the placing of peoples on an economistic register that produces a “politics of poverty,” one that transforms “society by turning the poor into objects of knowledge and management.” The economistic creation...

  10. 5 RETURN TO THE COLONIAL PRESENT: Translation, Collaboration, Pan-Asianism
    (pp. 165-204)

    Beginning with The Square (Kwangjang, 1960) and moving through The Tempest (T’aep’ung, 1973), Ch’oe Inhun engaged in a series of attempts to write a performative history that would unpack what he saw as a multilayered coloniality informing the Cold War Koreas: the intersection of statist authoritarianisms and free-world developmentalism with an earlier, pre-1945 colonial history of ethnonational, classed, and pan-Asian identifications.¹ Ch’oe’s well-known concern with North/South division (The Square is considered a founding text of “division literature”) occurs as part of this attempt to address a colonial modernity that extends itself beyond the period of Japanese rule (1910–1945) and...

    (pp. 205-210)

    The cultural history I offer in this book locates literary texts as part and parcel of a visual modernity. While I follow representations of an array of concerns—including the proletarian body, the colonial city, commodity circulation, technology, militarism, national division, developmentalism, race—across media such as literature, art, and film, my focus has been less on thematics as they appear in these different media than on the literary-visual relation itself. The visual inhabits the literary in multilayered ways. As we have seen, literary texts often explicitly incorporate filmic techniques. We also do not have to look far to find...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 211-244)
    (pp. 245-258)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 259-272)