Fall Film Series Looks at Apartment-Centered Contemporary Korean Life

film series photo of apartment buildingsThe Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies fall 2014 film series gets under­way Sep­tem­ber 23 with the first of five fea­tures exam­in­ing aspects of apart­ment life in con­tem­po­rary Korea. The series, pro­grammed by Prof. Myungji Yang of the UH Mānoa Depart­ment of Polit­i­cal Sci­ence, is titled “Liv­ing Apart? Apart­ments in Kore­an Cinema.”

Apart­ments are a key to under­stand­ing cur­rent Kore­an soci­ety. As the pro­to­typ­i­cal type of mod­ern hous­ing, high-rise apart­ment build­ings in Kore­an cities both exem­pli­fy and sig­ni­fy afflu­ent and cul­tured lifestyles. Apart­ments are more than a type of hous­ing: They serve as an indi­ca­tor of one’s socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus and they sym­bol­ize Kore­an dreams and aspi­ra­tions. The mas­sive wave of apart­ment con­struc­tion over the past few decades has rapid­ly changed old, dis­or­ga­nized urban land­scapes into high­ly mod­ern, well-ordered envi­ron­ments. Yet this seem­ing­ly pro­gres­sive urban rede­vel­op­ment process was accom­plished by vio­lent and bru­tal means — demol­ish­ing the homes of the urban poor, destroy­ing tra­di­tion­al com­mu­ni­ties, and push­ing the less afflu­ent to the out­skirts of cities with­out any prop­er com­pen­sa­tion. Focus­ing on pri­vate lives in urban spaces, this series of films will show the ways in which apart­ments have shaped the modes of liv­ing and the sense of com­mu­ni­ty among Kore­an urban­ites, high­light­ing the unique char­ac­ter of Kore­an cap­i­tal­ism as rep­re­sent­ed in built environments.

still photo from Barking Dogs Never Bite from fall film seriesThe series opens with Bark­ing Dogs Nev­er Bite (플란다스의 개), Bong Joon-Ho’s 2000 direc­to­r­i­al debut. The film fol­lows the mis­ad­ven­tures of Yun-ju, a part-time lec­tur­er, who becomes hyper-sen­si­tive to the con­stant bark­ing of a dog some­where in the apart­ment com­plex he and his wife call home. One day, he dis­cov­ers his neighbor’s dog sit­ting by the door­way. Con­vinced that this dog is the source of the annoy­ing bark­ing, he locks the ani­mal away in the base­ment. But he returns home only to hear bark­ing again and to dis­cov­er that he has stolen the wrong dog. Soon, one dog after anoth­er dis­ap­pears, and the man­ag­er of the apart­ment build­ing, Hyun-nam, keeps get­ting more and more com­plaints from res­i­dents about pets gone missing. 

Sub­se­quent fea­tures in the series are 301/​302 (Oct. 14), Green Fish (Oct. 28), The Neigh­bors (Nov. 18), and The Ball Shot by a Midget (Dec. 2). For more infor­ma­tion about these films, see the full sched­ule.

Screen­ings take place in the Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies Audi­to­ri­um at 1881 East-West Road on the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai’i Mānoa cam­pus and begin at 6:30 p.m. Kore­an films are shown with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles. The films are free and open to all Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai’i stu­dents, fac­ul­ty, and staff and to the com­mu­ni­ty at large. Lim­it­ed, paid ($6.00) pub­lic park­ing is avail­able in the park­ing lot adja­cent to the Cen­ter and in oth­er vis­i­tor park­ing lots on cam­pus. For more infor­ma­tion about park­ing reg­u­la­tions and loca­tions, con­sult the cam­pus park­ing office Web page.

The series is sup­port­ed by the Tim­o­thy and Miri­am Wee Memo­r­i­al Fund at the Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies. For fur­ther infor­ma­tion about the series, con­tact the Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies at (808) 956‑7041 or Pro­fes­sor Myungji Yang (myang4@hawaii.edu) at (808) 956‑6387.