Center Supports Publication of New Book on South Korean Film Industry

photo: Young-a ParkProfessor Young-a Park of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Asian Studies Program is the first recipient of the Center for Korean Studies Min Kwan-Shik Faculty Enhancement Award. The $3,000 award will go toward supporting the publication of Park’s new book, Unexpected Alliances: Independent Filmmakers, the State, and the Film Industry in Postauthoritarian South Korea. The book will be published in November by Stanford University Press.

The Min Kwan-Shik Faculty Enhancement Award draws on the proceeds of an endowment created in 2011 by a gift of $50,000 from the Min Kwan-Shik Scholarship Foundation. The purpose of the award is to develop and encourage Korean studies and Korea-related research through support of the publication of Korea-related research completed by the faculty of the Center for Korean Studies. The award honors the memory of Dr. Min Kwan-Shik, who as minister of education of the Republic of Korea (1971–1974), played an important role in securing Korean government financial and material support for the construction of the Center for Korean Studies building and programs.

An anthropologist, Park joined the UH faculty in the fall of 2011. Her research and teaching concentrate on social movements, the film industry, and North Korean refugees. In her forthcoming book, she addresses questions surrounding the process by which, since 1999, South Korean films have come to dominate 40 to 60 percent of the Korean domestic box-office, matching or even surpassing Hollywood films in popularity.

image: Park book coverShe seeks answers by exploring the cultural and institutional roots of the Korean film industry’s phenomenal success in the context of Korea’s political transition in the late 1990s. The book investigates the interplay between independent filmmakers, the state, and the mainstream film industry under the post-authoritarian administrations of Kim Dae Jung (1998–2003) and Roh Moo Hyun (2003–2008) and shows how these alliances were critical in the making of today’s Korean film industry.

According to Park, during the post-authoritarian/reform era, independent filmmakers with activist backgrounds were able to mobilize and transform themselves into important players in state cultural institutions and in negotiations with the purveyors of capital. Instead of simply labeling the alliances “selling out” or “co-optation,” Park explores the new spaces, institutions, and conversations that emerged and shows how independent filmmakers played a key role in national protests against trade liberalization, actively contributing to the creation of the very idea of a “Korean national cinema” worthy of protection. Independent filmmakers changed not only the film institutions and policies but the ways in which people produce, consume, and think about film in South Korea—blurring the rigid boundaries that separated the state and political activism, corporate conglomerates and independent artists, and local and global cultural realms.

For additional details about the book, see the Stanford University Press Web site.