Negotiating Colonial Korean Cinema in the Japanese Empire: From the Silent Era to the Talkies, 1923-1939

Chonghwa Chung, Korean Film Archive (KOFA)
Kim Haksŏng and Yang Se-ung filming "Spring Wind" (春風, 1936). Source: Korean Film Archive.
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Abstract: 

This article examines what I call a “system of cooperation” (K. hyŏp’ŏp, J. kyōgyō, 協業) in the colonial Korean film industry from 1923, when silent films appeared, to the late 1930s, when colonial cinema was restructured within an imperial wartime system. In other words, this article examines the interworking of colonial Korean and imperial Japanese cinema from Yun Hae-dong’s “colonial modern” perspective in order to go beyond the long established lens on colonial Korean film and film historiography that merely focused on the contributions of colonial Korean filmmakers. Here the author rather focuses on the cooperation or collaboration between Japan and Korea: Japanese directors and cinematographers working in Korea, Korean filmmakers with experience in the Japanese apprenticeship system, and filmmakers working together and independently during the silent film era. During the transition from the silent to the early talkie eras, second-generation filmmakers, especially those who trained in film studios in Japan, were significant. They dreamed of the corporatization of the colonial Korean film industry and took the lead in coproductions between Japanese film companies and their colonial Korean counterparts. Korean filmmakers were not unilaterally suppressed by imperial Japan, nor did they independently operate within the Korean film industry during the colonial period. The Japanese in colonial Korea did not take the lead in forming the colonial Korean film scene, either. The core formation of colonial Korean / Korean film was a process of Korean and Japanese filmmakers in competition and negotiation with one another within a complex film sphere launched with Japanese capital and technology.