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.