Journal article Open Access

The Power of Cinema on the Korean Peninsula

Samyel Lee

Abstract: The Korean peninsula is constantly in a dynamic discussion of identity and direction. For South Korean society, it is no surprise that the Korean War and the existential threat that North Korea poses loom large over its collective conscience. Although mostly disregarded within scholarly discussions in international relations, cinema has always been, and continues to be, an insightful, powerful, and transformative forum. This essay discusses the ways in which cinema as an art form has been able to impact the way that South Korean society evolves, especially as an interpretative medium that argues for the ways in which the Korean demos should understand its own history as well as the the ongoing struggle with the enigma that is North Korea. In particular, the essay examines two movies in detail – Brotherhood and Welcome to Dongmakgol – to reveal how the same socio-political discussions are going on beneath the surface of two seemingly completely different genres of Korean War movies. Led by these persuasive works of art, the essay argues, Korean society is already moving in a post-modern and humanist direction and suggests that as a democracy, Korean society should embrace the power of cinema in both internal and external affairs.


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