Stray Bullet Film Discussion I have uploaded the reading you need for the citations.
Movie selections: PICK ONE of Angels on the Streets, Coachman (Coach Driver), Stray Bullet
Discuss ONE of the following topics below, based on your viewing of the films, lectures, and the readings we have done so far. Your essay doesn’t have to address every question in a given topic as they are guidelines for your thoughts. Instead, focus on one or two questions in a topic. Pick one of the screened films we watched in their entirety, but you can also refer to the films we have viewed in excerpts in class. Your reaction paper should be an analytical essay, 2 pages in length, double-spaced. It should contain 2 citations from relevant course readings and 2 short, analytical passages about 2 film techniques.
1. Discuss one film in its depiction of modernization and modernity. What are the visual images associated with modernity? What are the ideas, places, professions, experiences, characters, etc., that seemed to be associated with being modern? What seems to be the attitude towards modernization and modernity in the film you’re analyzing? What is the film’s attitude towards the foreign, especially the West? Is this attitude clear or ambivalent? What are the film techniques that you have noticed in the film, such as panning, tracking shots, close-ups, reaction shots, or the use of music, to name a few, that express a certain attitude towards modernity?
2. Discuss the central conflict or crisis in one film. What is the source of the conflict, tension or crisis? How is this crisis related to the character’s socio-economic situation, and how does it reflect (or not) Korea that is outside the fictional world of the film’s narrative? How is the central conflict related to the issues of family, gender, class, or sexuality? How is it related to larger issues and national crisis, such as colonialism or the Korean War? How is music used to express climax or moments of crisis? What seems to be the message for the audience at the end of the film? Does it or should it have a message for the audience?
Directors’ and Characters’ Names (1/8 – 1/31)
*Last name is written down first, according to the Korean norm
1/8 “Cinema on the Road” dir., Jang Sunwoo, 1995
“Homeless Angels”/ “Angels on the Streets” dir., Choe Ingyu, 1941
Older sister: Myongja
Teacher: Mr. Bang
Benefactor: Dr. Ahn
Island Orphanage: Hyangrinwon
1/10 “Sweet Dream” dir., Yang Junam, 1936
1/15 “Coachman” / “Coach Driver” dir., Kang Daejin, 1961
Son 1: Sueop; Daughter 1: Okrye; Daughter 2: Okhee ;Son 2: Daeeop
“Madame Freedom” dir., Han Hyongmo, 1956
Wife: Madame O or Sunyoung; Husband: Professor Jang
Neighbor: Choonho; Choonho’s Girlfriend and Sunyoung’s Niece: Myongok
1/17 “Bitter but Once Again” / “Love Me Once Again” dir., Jeong Soyoung, 1968
Woman: Hyeyoung; Man: Sinho
1/22 “Barefoot Youth” / “Youth of Naked Feet” dir., Kim Kideok, 1964
Dusu’s crony: Twist Kim
1/22“Stray Bullet” / “Aimless Bullet” dir., Yu Hyonmok, 1961
Younger Brother 1: Youngho; Younger Brother 2: Minho; Younger Sister: Myongok
1/24 TBD: Lee Man Hee’s film
1/29 “A Flower in Hell” dir., Shin Sangok, 1958
Older Brother: Youngsik
Younger Brother: Dongsik
Young Prostitute: Judy
Reaction Paper Guide / Winter 2019 / K/AST/MCS47 / Professor Jeong
Pick a film and one or two questions from a paper topic that you feel confident about.
To select the readings and the film material for your paper, ask yourself whether they are the best examples to support your thesis. Direct relevance is important, and so is the ability to not just cite but taking the most salient part of the written or film text for your short paper. “Citation” can be paraphrased, rather than verbatim, word-for-word quote.
In the title, mention a keyword or phrase from the essay prompt that you chose and the film title that will be your main focus.
The first paragraph is a miniature of the paper: It must have the problematic (topic) and your conclusion (thesis/argument), and the middle part of the thesis should be the “how” or “why” you reached this conclusion.
To avoid plot summary, never begin at the beginning of the film narrative. State your thesis first and say which scenes you will focus on, to show your understanding of the written or film text.
The exact number of paragraphs is not important, but having a topic sentence per paragraph is. Each paragraph should make a point and as the paper progresses, should build up to a coherent whole that leads to your conclusion/argument/thesis.
Avoid citing dictionary or Wikipedia as they generally don’t help the quality of the paper.
Following are some examples of correct citations of a film or text:
Finally, make sure to edit, proofread, and upload the paper on SafeAssign by February 1 to complete the assignment.
Then narrowly focus on the two readings and two scenes that you want to cite and analyze in your paper. If it’s helpful, think about a single character in the film that best exemplifies what you want to say about the topic.
Ex 1: In Im Kwon-taek’s 1993 film “Sop’yonje” he uses the main character Yubong to illustrate obsession with art.
Ex 2: In “Sop’yonje” we see a man obsessed with art (Dir. Im Kwon-taek, 1993).
Ex 3: In Chon Il-song’s “His Thoughts II” on the director Im Kwon-taek, he argues that “Sop’yonje” has the same structure as “Citizen Kane” (Chong, p. 45). Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South
Korean Cinema: The Coachman and
The Stray Bullet
This paper examines two remarkable films from the Golden Age of South Korean cinema (1955–72) against the larger sociocultural backdrop of postwar South Korea.
The films Mabu (The Coachman, Kang Taejin, director 1961) and Obalt’an (The
Stray Bullet, Yu Hyônmok, director 1961) came out at a crucial historical moment for
South Korea’s nation rebuilding and postwar industrialization efforts, and reveal
much about Korea’s nationhood, its masculine character, and its responses to postwar chaos and America’s quasi-colonial presence. Through their reaffirmation of
patriarchy, construction of a modern masculine national subject, and vilification of
women, who are visually and otherwise associated with modernity and Westernization, the films offer insight into postwar Korean life and values—and betray Korea’s
deeply ambiguous feelings toward modernity. Hence this paper seeks to illustrate
the connection between popular movies and the government ideology of this period,
and more specifically, how the issues of family, masculinity, and modernity are connected to the nation rebuilding project that the South Korean state proposed during
the early 1960s.
Ever since the late Chosôn dynasty period, Korea has consistently endured
various threats to its nationhood. The twentieth century in particular was
punctuated by a series of social and political upheavals. Given Korea’s strong
tradition of patriarchy, it could be said that the state perceives the nation as
a collective, universally male subject. As such, a threat to the nationhood of
Korea can also, by extension, be interpreted as a threat to the Korean masculine subject. Ernest Renan articulated centuries earlier that a nation that
Kelly Jeong teaches in the Department of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City
University of New York. She received her PhD from the Department of Comparative Literature,
University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include modern Korean literature,
film, and popular culture.
The Journal of Korean Studies 11, no. 1 (Fall 2006): 129–62
9/27/2006 7:59:15 AM
conceives of itself as a nation is a “soul, a spiritual principle.”1 The sheer
impossibility of a universal national subjectivity does not diminish the
power of that narrative and national longing for cohesion. The postwar South
Korean state responded to the threats on its nationhood, both imagined and
otherwise, by overmilitarizing the nation, and by constructing a masculine
national subject in monolithic, exclusive, and specific ways.
This paper examines two remarkable films from the Golden Age of South
Korean cinema (1955–72)—Mabu (The Coachman, Kang Taejin, director,
1961) and Obalt’an (The Stray Bullet, Yu Hyônmok, director, 1961)—against
the larger sociocultural backdrop of postwar South Korea.2 In terms of both
the number and the quality of films produced, South Korean cinema reached
its peak during this Golden Age, the period between the end of the Korean
War and before the wide availability of television. The star system in South
Korean cinema was also established during this period, after the government
announced a huge tax break for the film industry in 1954, which abolished
the tax on movie theater ticket sales. There was very little else in the way of
mass entertainment in South Korea during this period—television became a
household fixture for the middle class only around the late 1960s—and audiences therefore flocked to the movie theaters. Both The Coachman and The
Stray Bullet were released during a shift in the national leadership from the
Syngman Rhee (Yi Sûngman) regime (1948–60) to the equally repressive,
and arguably even more violent, Park Chung Hee (Pak Chônghûi) regime
(1961–79). Therefore, the two films serve as cinematic texts filled with sociocultural and historical significance.
These two films, born in a crucial historical moment for South Korea’s
nation rebuilding and postwar industrialization efforts, reveal much about
Korea’s nationhood, its masculine character, and its responses to postwar
chaos and America’s quasi-colonial presence. Through their reaffirmation
of patriarchy, construction of a modern masculine national subject, and vilification of women—who are visually and otherwise associated with modernity and Westernization—the films offer insight into postwar Korean life
and values, and betray Korea’s deeply ambiguous feelings toward modernity.
This paper seeks to illustrate the connection between popular movies and the
government ideology of this period, and, more specifically, how the issues
of family, masculinity, and modernity are connected to the nation rebuilding
project that the South Korean state proposed during the early 1960s.
In The Coachman, the protagonist’s son represents state-sponsored masculinity, and in turn suggests a model that the new national leadership might
follow in rebuilding the nation.3 By contrast, The Stray Bullet depicts a kind
of liminal masculine figure that hovers around the edges of two worlds and
does not fit into the state agenda of building a consumerist society. This film’s
9/27/2006 7:59:15 AM
Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema
protagonist is never quite able to make clear choices, and his angst is revealed
as a painful physical symptom. However, even though the two films have
fundamentally different messages, they are both thoroughly masculinist in
tone and point of view. The women’s stories of suffering are either completely
elided or, shown only as men’s symptoms.
THE HISTORICAL BACKDROP TO SOUTH
KOREAN CINEMA’S GOLDEN AGE
By first revisiting colonial Korea, we can better examine the historical events
and contexts that shaped the nation in the postcolonial period. Korea’s industrial revolution began around 1935, with such attendant problems as rapid and
uneven urbanization, the emergence of a working class, and, of particular
importance for this discussion, the massive uprooting of the peasant population.
The effects of industrialization were tremendous. They included, especially in
the last decade of Korea’s colonization, phenomenal and massive shifts and
dislocations of people.4 The 1930s ushered in the earnest beginnings of modern Korea, but it was also the same decade that saw many of the modern state’s
most intractable problems. The dislocation of the Korean population after the
Korean War had already begun in the 1930s: “[w]hat the Japanese had begun
with their massive shifts of Korean population in 1935–45, what the national
division had intensified, the Korean War completed: Koreans of all classes
were now thoroughly displaced from their local roots.”5 Given that Korea’s
population was largely agrarian at the time and thus strongly connected to
their local roots, one can imagine the chaos as modern Korea emerged from
colonial rule, only to go through a devastating fratricidal war.
The concept of nation rebuilding is embedded in this historical context.
Postcolonial South Korea was far from being a cohesive, well-organized
“nation,” even after the First Republic was established in 1948. Beginning in
the 1950s, the state led a national reconstruction project and sought to build
a modern, sovereign nation by mimicking other national models, including
Japan, Germany, and the United States. Even though the government inherited a massive—and oppressive—colonial bureaucracy, postwar South Korea
lacked both infrastructure and superstructure.6 Many saw these weaknesses
as a threat to the national sovereignty.7 Korea had freed itself from colonization, but the chaotic events that ensued gave the nation no time to recover,
reorganize, nor indeed to rebuild. But from the very beginning of the republic, South Korea suffered from patterns of corruption in which the politically
and economically powerful helped one another and sacrificed fairness and
9/27/2006 7:59:16 AM
Throughout the 1950s the Syngman Rhee administration perpetuated the
chaos and instability in the South—culturally, socially, economically, and
politically. For example, the administration’s majority party unilaterally
passed newly revised national security laws in January 1959. These laws
expanded the perimeter of treasonous acts to a ridiculous degree, in order to
preempt progressives and anyone who dissented from the administration’s
practices. The laws were passed over fierce protests from the minority party
members, who were physically dragged out of the National Assembly building by policemen trained in martial arts.9 All of this turmoil came to a head
and erupted in the April 19 Student Revolution in 1960. The revolution created a power vacuum that allowed another charismatic, dictatorial leader,
Park Chung Hee, to seize power in a military coup d’état on May 16, 1961. It is
worth noting that Park immediately created the national reconstruction committee (kukka chaegôn wiwônhôe) after his successful coup and appointed
himself as chair. Searching for an effective way to reach the masses, Park’s
regime wanted to use the mass media in their “modernization of the motherland” project (choguk kûndaehwa). The regime actively set up amplifiers and
distributed speakers and radio sets to even the remotest villages. Under Park’s
rule, the state’s broadcast network eventually reached the entire country, and
so, therefore, did the administration’s anticommunist propaganda and educational messages to the citizens of the republic.10
Although I use the descriptive phrase “nation rebuilding,” I will also problematize the content of this project, the eventual economic success that was
called the “Miracle of the Han River.” The nation worked to reconstruct itself
during a succession of repressive regimes and a state-led modernization plan,
and in so doing, excluded many of the people who must necessarily make up
a modern nation. The Park administration attempted to garner legitimacy by
adopting the “modernization of the motherland” as its motto, but the major
problem of unequal distribution of wealth persisted, and the administration
ultimately failed to gain the people’s consent.11 Among those left out of postwar, modernized South Korea were the workers, who were never adequately
compensated for their labor; the poor, who stayed poor and became even
more marginalized as the state sought to hide their existence within the newly
industrializing nation; women, whose gender-based oppression never fundamentally changed; and even some men who did not fit the state-sponsored
ideal of the new Korean masculinity.
Syngman Rhee’s dictatorial leadership determined the cultural atmosphere
of South Korea in the 1950s. The literary critic Kim Hyôn observes that writers
during that decade faced a particular predicament, which he terms as a “closed
openness.”12 This means that, in addition to the ideologically inclined works
deemed “friendly” to North Korea or Communist philosophy, the writers of
9/27/2006 7:59:16 AM
Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema
this decade were exposed to every other kind of work that was freely imported
to South Korea. Hence, the era’s ideological rigidity and the Cold War mentality penetrated the intelligentsia and even affected the assessment and the
historiography of Korean literature. The critic Cho Yônhyôn, for example,
wrote History of Modern Korean Literature (Han’guk munhaksa) from 1955
to 1958, with the express intent to justify and lend support to South Korea’s
political legitimacy after the Korean War.13 This work criticized the leftist literary tradition in modern Korean literature in an extremely politicized manner. At the same time, the author argued, ironically, for “pure literature” or
sunsu munhak that was untainted by politics.
Although the Rhee government was actually a civilian leadership, since
Rhee was not then and never had been a military leader, his regime utilized
the South Korean national police, the military, the notorious youth groups,
the “political thugs,” and other violent terror organizations with chilling
efficacy to disseminate progovernment propaganda and to eliminate oppositional political forces. Some of the better-organized political thugs had names
like “The White Skulls” (paekkoltan) and were mobilized to threaten and
terrorize dissenters within the National Assembly, as well as anyone who
vocally opposed the Rhee administration’s policies. As a result, Rhee and his
political party held virtually dictatorial power even though South Korea was
nominally a republic.14 As part of the progovernment propaganda after he
became South Korea’s first president, Rhee’s followers touted him as kukpu
(the nation’s father).15 This title of “nation’s father” illustrates the way in
which Korea’s Confucian patriarchal tradition still held sway in the national
imagination. Given these conditions, South Korean society experienced rampant corruption and violence during the 1950s, from the highest levels of the
national leadership down to the black marketers and smugglers.16
Meanwhile, the South Korean military had swelled from 100,000 in 1950
to over 600,000 by 1953. In the immediate postwar period, it was “the strongest, most cohesive, best-organized institution in Korean life.”17 One significant impact of the overdeveloped military was that it normalized military-style
authoritarian practices for the whole society. In other words, as the military
became South Korea’s most influential institution, elements of military culture—such as hierarchy, unconditional obedience, and nationalism—also penetrated the everyday, civilian society. This penetration, in turn, engendered a
kind of masculine ideal in postwar South Korea, which is prominently displayed
in the films I discuss in this paper. Needless to say, this ideal differs greatly
from the gentle Confucian scholar-official ideal of the Chosôn dynasty.
The person most responsible for the Rhee regime’s state ideology was An
Hosang, the country’s first minister of culture and education.18 An played a
major role in creating postwar Korea’s educational system, which educated
9/27/2006 7:59:17 AM
every student in anticommunist propaganda, ethics, and nationalism, and
made military-style drills in school mandatory for all male students. He called
this military ideology ilminjuûi (ideology of one people); together with anticommunism, it served as the state ideology throughout the Rhee regime.19
While the nation was being thoroughly militarized, there was an equally
strong counter-push toward democratic government, or at least the appearance thereof. Postwar Korea appeared to be, and to some degree was, a democratic republic modeled on the American system.20 The Rhee regime was
closer to a dictatorship than to a democratic administration, but Rhee and
his hand-picked followers wanted it both ways: they remained in control, and
yet they sought to appear democratic. To this end, they did in fact implement
some elements of democracy, such as holding elections. In typical paternalistic and patronizing fashion, Rhee called this system kyodo minjujuûi (guided
democracy): “ignorant” Koreans did not comprehend democracy and therefore needed to learn it from their leadership.21 However, scholars like Ch’ôe
Changjip have pointed out that modernization never happens in a vacuum.
As we see in South Korea, change has occurred because it has tapped into the
traditional elements of people’s lives, such as their neo-Confucian mindset.
Hence it would seem natural for people to see their elected officials (and the
president) as their teacher and moral guide.22
The Coachman and The Stray Bullet came out of a nation marked by massive dislocation and displacement of the population, extreme political and
social chaos and the resulting elision of ethical boundaries, overgrowth of the
military forces, and a widespread defeatist and fatalistic attitude. On the one
hand, the state-sponsored subjectivity in postwar South Korea was heavily
associated with militarism. The military was the most powerful organization in Korea, and the mandatory conscription of all males into the already
overly developed forces affected the psyche of the general population. Militaristic discipline and education extended to the male students in schools,
and the nation’s leaders envisioned a country that adhered to a specific kind
of masculine ideal. The ideal subject was disciplined, obedient, and respectful of hierarchy and nationalism. On the other hand, and with the help of its
greatest ally, the United States, the government also created and fostered a
class of elites—such as professors, journalists, legal professionals, and other
members of the intelligentsia, nearly all of them men—who could claim
legitimacy without the use of violence or coercion. They were the legitimate
“face” of the democratic South. The implication of such a narrowly defined
masculine ideal—militaristic or elite—seems clear: the nation had no room
for other masculine subjects who did not meet these criteria. Not surprisingly, women were handed the conservatively prescribed role of proverbial
hyônmo yangch’ô (wise mother and good wife).23
9/27/2006 7:59:17 AM
Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema
IDEAL KOREAN MASCULINITY AND THE COACHMAN
In the following discussion, I posit that The Coachman is a representative
film text that illustrates the connection between the postwar South Korean
patriarchy and the national rebuilding project. In the film, the protagonist,
Ha Ch’unsam, is set up as a sympathetic everyman in postwar Seoul, where
thousands of uprooted poor urban working-class people live. While life presents Ch’unsam with a series of difficulties, he never loses his humanity and
decency. Ch’unsam’s ultimate triumph explicitly addressed the audience’s
need for the film’s happy ending, because it strongly identified with his character and his very plausible struggle to make ends meet until his son, Suôp,
transforms himself socioculturally by becoming a prosecutor.24 The film’s
deus ex machina ending is nothing short of a modern-day fairy tale, in which
the son of an impoverished but morally righteous family becomes a prince
(or at least a modern-day aristocrat) by passing the bar examination, a rite
of passage marking the individual’s successful transformation into a modern
(nationalized, masculine) subject.25 At the end of the film, the audience could
appropriate and internalize the family’s triumph for themselves. This narrative
teleology of the family that pulls itself up by its bootstraps showed the audience that they too could make such dreams come true. As I discuss later in this
paper, the character Suôp typifies the masculine ideal of this period, but not in
militaristic style. Rather, he is a modern subject, a member of the national elite
that American aid and “guidance” created after the Korean War.
The Coachman follows the lives of a poor widower and coach driver,
Ch’unsam, and his children, who live in postwar Seoul. The patriarch of the
family lives with his oldest son, Suôp, who is studying to become a prosecutor, and a daughter, Okhûi, who is experiencing a tumultuous coming-of-age.
Ch’unsam’s youngest child, Taeôp, is a teenager who is fast turning into a juvenile delinquent. His eldest daughter, a deaf mute named Ongnye, is married to a
man her father rescued during the war from a certain death, but he is an abusive
philanderer and eventually drives her to commit suicide. The coachman’s fondest wish is for Suôp’s s…
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