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An Essay On Korean Film History. Describes Different Time Frames And The Differences Between The Eras Of Korean Films

2277 words - 10 pages

1903-1945: Korea Under Japanese RuleOnly fragments remain of Korea's early film history. The vast majority of Korea's early film footage was destroyed in the 1950s during the Korean War, and not a single feature produced before 1945 survives in complete form today. Nonetheless, historical records paint a picture of a lively and creative industry that produced over 160 features from the early twenties until Japan's surrender to Allied forces in 1945.From 1909 to 1920, a series of theaters were built in Seoul and in regional cities such as Pusan and Pyongyang. Most of these theaters were owned by Japanese businessmen, but a few Korean theater owners built up a significant amount of capital ...view middle of the document...

The Japanese government required all foreign and domestic features to be submitted to a government censorship board for approval before being screened, and police were present at theaters for all screenings. Although a few works extolling Korean nationalism reached audiences in the late 1920s, from 1930 censorship became much more strict, such that melodramas, costume dramas, and pro-Japanese films were the only genres approved by the government. Many features were banned outright and subsequently destroyed.By 1935 the first sound feature, Ch'unhyang-jun, was directed by Lee Myung-woo with financing from the Japanese government. The film, based on Korea's most famous folk tale (which has been filmed over a dozen times), proved to be quite popular with audiences. Nonetheless, local filmmakers found it difficult to raise enough money to produce sound features, and Korean-language films faced much harsher criticism than the silent films which preceded them. Within two years, Japan had invaded China, and the Korean film industry would become transformed into an instrument of the Japanese propaganda effort. In 1942, Korean-language films were banned outright by the government.1945-1955Only five films have survived from the period between the U.S. occupation of Korea and the end of the Korean War. Of them, the most famous is Choi Un-gyu's Chayu Manse! ("Hooray for Freedom"), released in 1946. An ode to patriotism with strong anti-Japanese sentiments, the film proved to be a hit with audiences.During the Korean civil war, much of Korea's film equipment was destroyed. Following the armistice agreement in 1953, President Rhee Syngman declared cinema to be exempt from all tax, in hopes of reviving the industry. Foreign aid programs provided South Korea with film technology and equipment, setting the stage for the rebirth of Korean cinema in the late-fifties and sixties.1955-1969: A Golden Age for Korean CinemaThe latter half of the 1950s can be considered a period of revival for the Korean film industry, as the number of domestic productions increased from 8 in 1954 to 108 in 1959. The public also returned to the theaters, embracing such features as the 1955 remake of Ch'unhyang-jon, which drew 200,000 viewers in Seoul (over a tenth of the city's population). Melodramas and action films make up the majority of the work produced in this era.The early 1960s saw the emergence of some of Korea's most talented directors. These filmmakers worked during a time when the domestic film industry enjoyed an unprecedented surge in box office receipts. In 1962, military dictator Park Chung Hee instituted a Motion Picture Law which stated that all production companies must produce at least 15 films per year, and that the films should be commercial in nature. Despite this, art films with a high degree of realism continued to be made up until the end of the decade.Without question, Korea's most shockingly original director is the late Kim Ki-young. Kim, renowned for his...

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