Argues that although the last two decades of Korean history were a period of progress in political democratization, the country refused to part from a "masculine point of view" which is also mirrored in Korean cinema In one of the first English-language studies of Korean cinema to date, Kyung Hyun Kim shows how the New Korean Cinema of the past two decades has used the trope of masculinity to mirror the profound socio-political changes underway in Korea. Since 1980, the country has transformed from an insular, authoritarian culture into a democratic and cosmopolitan society. The transition has fueled anxiety about male identity and empowerment has been imagined as remasculinization. He argues that the brutality and violence ubiquitous in many Korean films is symptomatic of Korea's ongoing quest for modernity and a post-authoritarian identity. Kim offers in-depth examinations of more than a dozen of the most representative films produced in Korea between roughly 1980 and 2001.
In the process, he draws on the theories of Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek, Gilles Deleuze, Rey Chow, and Kaja Silverman to follow the historical trajectory of screen representations of Korean men from self-loathing beings who desire to be controlled to self-sufficient subjects capable of destroying others. He discusses a range of movies from arthouse films including To the Starry Island (1993) and The Day a Pig Fell into the Well (1996) to higher-grossing, popular films like Whale Hunting (1984) and Shiri (1999). He considers the work of several Korean auteurs - Park Kwang-su, Jung Sun-woo, and Hong Sang-su.
Kyung Hyun Kim is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Irvine.