Korea

Organized Panel Session

3 - Rejected Sincerity: The False Logic of Becoming Imperial Citizens in the Volunteer Films of Colonial Korea

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Park Tower 8222, Lobby Level

When the volunteer military system was implemented in 1938, some colonial Korean filmmakers imagined the shoestring Korean film industry could survive (and even flourish) by making the volunteer-celebrating films that proved Koreans' loyalty to the empire. The Koreans willingly came forward to make war-mobilization films that sometimes overly expressed their earnestness to gain legitimate Japanese citizenships by joining imperial soldiers. The very desire of Koreans to be equal to the Japanese, however, created the problems of the narrative and consequently hampered the films' success.


My presentation explores the ironic failures of the colonial Korean volunteer films as being produced on the false promise and misbelief. Through the textual analysis of two films, Volunteer (dir. An Sok-yong, 1940) and You and I (dir. Ho Yong, 1941), I delineate the ways in which the films present the young Korean males' frustration and hopes on the sunny facade of the “naisen ittai (Japan and Korea are one)” propaganda. I argue commercial and critical rejection of these films by both the audiences and authorities evince that the sincerity, candor, and ambition of Korean-made volunteer films, in demonstrating that there were promissing possibilities of Koreans’ social mobility in the imperial order, was unconvincing and furthermore unacceptable for both the Koreans and the Japanese.

Hyun Hee Park

Smith College, Massachusetts

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