You are here

KOREAN 365 A: Korean Pop Culture

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
RAI 116

Syllabus Description:

Korean Cinema: Framing Gender and Sexuality on Screen


This course explores the way in which the issue of family, gender, and sexuality shapes cinematic imagination in South Korea. At the same time, the course also examines how the cinema has created cultural space for articulating those issues. Key topics this course will cover include the melodrama and the malfunctioning family, the disruption of idealized middle-class family, wartime sexual slavery, gendered labor, queer kinship, and many others. The course covers a wide range of films including those that came out in the 1950s and the 1960s as well as most contemporary popular films. Choice of films mostly follows chronological order, so that students can understand the cultural elements of each time period and historicize Korean cinema in general.

In addition to the survey of the proposed topics and periods, this course also offers opportunities to view and analyze films following their formal grammars and structures. By studying thematic and formalistic heterogeneity in Korean cinema, students will better understand both cinematic grammar each director deploys and the social and cultural commentary each film provides. Cinema has its own language and style, and we will learn to appreciate the cinematic aesthetics through viewing and analyzing a film shot by shot, or sequence by sequence. Basic terminology for film analysis and its proper usage will be taught throughout the quarter.

There will be eight weekly quizzes, two short film responses, a comprehensive final exam, and a final paper. Find further details of the assignments in the final syllabus you'll receive on the first day of instruction.


WEEK 1:  Introduction & Cinematic Grammar  

WEEK 2:  Post-War Intimacies: Affair, Decadence, and Melodrama

Madame Freedom (자유부인, HAN Hyeong-Mo, 1956)

A Flower in Hell (지옥화, SHIN Sang-ok, 1958) 

WEEK 3:  Stranger, Desire, and the Disruption of Middle Class Family

The Housemaid (하녀, KIM Ki-young, 1960) 

The Pollen of Flowers (화분, HA Gil-jong, 1972) 

WEEK 4:  Nation-State, Suffering Bodies, and Shame: Hostess and “Yankee Whores”

Young-ja’s Heydays (영자의 전성시대, KIM Ho-sun, 1975)

Tour of Duty (거미의 땅, KIM Dong-ryung and PARK Kyung-tae, 2012) 

WEEK 5:  Documenting State Violence: Wartime Sexual Slavery

The Murmuring (낮은 목소리, BYUN Young-joo, 1995)

Red Maria 2 (레드 마리아 2, Kyung Soon, 2015)

WEEK 6: Women’s Cinema

Take Care of My Cat (고양이를 부탁해, JEONG Jae-eun, 2001)

A Girl at My Door (도희야, JUNG July, 2014)

WEEK 7: Queer Korean Cinema

Stateless Things (줄탁동시, KIM Kyung-mook, 2011)

The Handmaiden (아가씨, PARK Chan-wook, 2016)

WEEK 8: Disposable Labor, Gendered Labor

Cart (카트, BOO Ji-young, 2014)

Factory Complex (위로공단, IM Heung-soon, 2014) 

WEEK 9: Aging Bodies, Aging Society, and the Issue of Kinship

Poetry (시, LEE Chang-dong, 2010)

The Bacchus Lady (죽여주는 여자, E J-yong, 2016)

WEEK 10: Murderous Mothers and the Malfunctioning Family

Mother (마더, Dir. BONG Joon-ho, 2009)

The Truth Beneath (비밀은 없다, LEE Kyoung-mi, 2015)


Note 1: Students should be prepared to spend additional four hours weekly watching the assigned films. Failing to watch assigned films will affect your final grades negatively (weekly quizzes are based on both readings and the films you watch). Links to all films are available through the Canvas website (class-restricted) and you are required to watch them before the class day when they are discussed. There will be no in-class screenings. But for some short films, I will arrange screenings during class.

Note 2: The course is taught in English and all the films will be in English subtitles. Prior knowledge of Korean language and culture is thus NOT necessary to pass this course with success.

Note 3: Please be advised that some films taught in this course may contain graphic violence, explicit eroticism, and profanity. You should prepare yourself to think critically about what work these motifs and images do in a particular film, and also to view and analyze speculative and arthouse cinemas.


Catalog Description: 
Focuses on Korean popular culture in modern and contemporary Korea and beyond.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:30pm