CULS30002 Lecture 9: Beating Hollywood at its own Game? The Korean Blockbuster
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Department
Cultural Studies
Course
CULS30002
Professor
Dr.Dan Edwards
Semester
Fall

Description
CULS30002 02/05/16 Lecture 9 Beating Hollywood at its Own Game? The Korean Blockbuster Role in helping constitute (South East) Asian culture Regional popular culture Last 2 decades, major player in Asian film and media market Blockbuster as response to global dominance of Hollywood blockbusters and indigenization of blockbuster form History of Korean peninsular over past 60 years Overview of South Korean Cinema (end of Korean War 1953 – late 1990s) Term ‘blockbuster’ – origins in 1970s Hollywood Blockbuster aesthetics – ‘spectacle’ Korean blockbuster as localization of particular form of transnational cinema Indigenization 1910 Japan forcibly annexed whole Korean peninsula Declared it as part of Japan Brutal rule – resettled Japanese on the peninsula th 1945 Americans and Soviets divided Korea – 38 parallel Occupation meant to be temporary Rise of Cold War – permanent divide th Korea in the first half of 20 c Borne in traumatic moment of rupture Emerged from half a century of Japanese colonial rule Trauma intensified by Korean War 1950 Communist forces invaded south (1950 – 1953) US intervention Every city destroyed in north and South Korea Korean War left 1 m dead Country permanently divided between comm unist north and capitalist south along one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world Truce Treaty never signed North has maintained state -owned and state run film industry since 1949 – heavily controlled Nationalistic, pro-Communist films that glorify Korean Workers Party, Korean Revolution and Korean leaders Similar to Chinese socialist cinema under Mao E.g. Flower Girl – Circulated very widely in China during Cultural Revolution Some interaction between Chinese and Nth Korean industry in Maois t Era Not a lot of cinema at the moment – cash strapped South Korea also established industry in 1950s Large numbers of films produced for the domestic market by late 1950s For South Korean market Brief period of liberalization around 1960 saw flowering o f realist cinema depicting bleak life in south in yars following Korean War Gritty realist cinema – dealt with aftermath/ trauma of war E.g. Aimless Bullet 1961 Military coup Draconian 2 decade rule of Park Chung -hee Built country economically but regime obsessively anti-Communist and tightly control cultural life Import of foreign films strictly controlled and state closely supervised local industry Sth Korea had one of the strictest censorship regimes in the world Number of films made each year dropped dramatically; rarely seen outside Sout Korea 1979 Park assassinated 1980s Marked political and social instability in Sth Korea Increasingly resistant political and cultural activity – esp. university campuses Proliferation of film clubs New democratic constitution promulgated in 1987 1993 Kim Young Sam – Korea’s first civilian president since 1961 Liberalization, cine clubs, and an interest in world cinema led to “Korean New Wave” Characterized by strong culture of cinephilia and auteurist films Important part of democratization Films being made for first time since late 50s that looked at troubled past and contemporary issues and relationship with North Renaissance Ironically also led to economic crisis for film industry – as country opened up, more Hollywood/ foreign films allowed in Sharp drop in ticket sales of Korean films Asian Financial Crisis 1997 Hit Sth Korea very hard Had to be bailed out by IMF Sowed seeds for recovery Helped local film industry Collapse of won made film production cheaper than acquiring foreign titles Collapse of stock market meant venture capital needed to go somewhere In midst of financial crisis, domestic market share of Korean films rose to 25% in 1997 New directors emerged, who favored popular genres lie horror, come dy and action instead of art-house products of Korean New Wave Shiri Kang Jegyu 1999 First “Korean blockbuster” – could finally compete with Hollywood Cost 2.3m USD (expensive) Box Office 27.6m USD Extremely successful commercially Long-term effect on Korean film industry Caused such a sensation in Sth Korea because it did not try to resist Adapted Hollywood aesthetics for South Korean story and audience Simultaneously release Trailer No dialogue – all spectacle High impact Blockbuster in a Hollywood c ontext Origins Early 1970s, Hollywood studies were in sharp decline, faced bankruptcy Rise of TV Two films produced in mid -70s saved Hollywood financially – Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977) Generally credited with being the first Hollywood blockbusters What is a blockbuster? Primarily aimed at teenagers & young adults –
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