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Korean Film Archive Sheds Light on Colonial Era of Korean Cinema

Dec 25, 2020
  • Writerby Pierce Conran
  • View1133
KOFA Stages Academic Conference on Japanese Colonial Era of K-Film
 

The Korean Film Archive recently staged a conference designed to shed light on the origins of the Korean film industry, specifically its nascent period during the Japanese occupation of Korea, often known simply as the Colonial Era. 

Presented by Professor NAM Ki-woong, the December 12 virtual conference included a presentation by professors LEE Min-young, AHN Se-jung and LEE Hwa-jin on diverse topics. NAM examined the existence of printed advertising materials from the era that could offer clues as to the contemporaneous film culture. Materials of the time would include both more detailed texts about new releases and simpler image-and-text leaflets for those of lower literacy.

Professor LEE Min-young went on further to document the existence of special hybrid performances that incorporated Korean and Japanese dramas styles as well as Hollywood action films. Professor AHN Se-jung examined the competition between Korean theaters for prestige Hollywood content, among them Dansungsa, first established in 1907, Woomi-kwan and Joseon Theater, which all targeted Korean viewers in the 1920s and 30s. Then Professor LEE Hwa-jin explored the cultural and colonial influence of Japanese migrants who imprinted their own culture on Korea during their stays, with Japanese films becoming a source of nostalgia for their home country. 

The Colonial Era stretched from 1910 until the end of World War II in 1945, and during this period it is estimated that some 150 Korean films were produced. Unfortunately only 16 of those are known to be in circulation today, including Crossroads of Youth from 1934, the oldest surviving Korean film. 
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