Korean Cinema: History and Aesthetics
WI 2023: KOREAN 365A / CMS 320B
Instructor: Ungsan Kim (Assistant Professor, he/him/his)
E-mail: email@example.com Course Time: T/Th 12:30-2:20pm
In 2019, Korean cinema celebrated the centennial anniversary of its birth. From the premier of Fight for Justice (의리적 구토) in 1919 to Parasite (기생충)’s winning of Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2019, Korean cinema has continuously developed and innovated itself, while inheriting and revising the legacies and traditions of the past eras. This course surveys the history of Korean cinema with a strong emphasis on film aesthetics and styles. While the course will mostly follow the chronological order of films, its focus will be on textual and formal analysis of representative films of each period.
Topics this course will cover include the Korean War and melodrama, military dictatorship and censorship, democratization and film activism, film festivals, feminist and queer cinema, North Korean cinema, Hallyu, digital cinema, and many others. To better understand the narrative and formal specificities of a wide array of Korean films, students will also learn historical vicissitudes of the Korean nation-states, including the liberation from Japanese colonial rule, the division system, military dictatorship, the democratic movements in 1987, and the emergence of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave. By reading each film along with its historical and cultural backgrounds, students will understand how the historical transformations and human affairs in the region affected thematic and artistic representations on screen.
In addition to surveying the proposed topics, this course also offers opportunities to view and analyze films by understanding cinematic grammar, narrative structures, and directors’ signature styles. By studying thematic and formal heterogeneity of Korean cinema, students will better understand the aesthetic styles each director deploys, as well as the social and cultural commentary each film provides. Throughout the course, we will learn how to rigorously “dissect” cinema’s formal structures, including frame analysis, editing techniques, sound effects, and cinematography. In so doing, students will be able to articulate the critical dimensions and formal structures of each film.