Stray Bullet Film Discussion

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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

Brother: Yong’gil

Teacher: Mr. Bang

Benefactor: Dr. Ahn

Island Orphanage: Hyangrinwon

1/10 “Sweet Dream” dir., Yang Junam, 1936

wife: Aesoon

daughter: Junghee

1/15 “Coachman” / “Coach Driver” dir., Kang Daejin, 1961

Man: Choonsam

Woman: Suwondaek

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

Man: Dusu

Woman: Johanna

Dusu’s crony: Twist Kim

1/22“Stray Bullet” / “Aimless Bullet” dir., Yu Hyonmok, 1961

Man: Cheolho

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

Woman: Sonya

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).

Unformatted Attachment Preview

Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema: The Coachman and The Stray Bullet Kelly Jeong 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): 129–62 129 06-jeong.indd 129 9/27/2006 7:59:15 AM 130 Kelly Jeong 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 06-jeong.indd 130 9/27/2006 7:59:15 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 131 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 democracy.8 06-jeong.indd 131 9/27/2006 7:59:16 AM 132 Kelly Jeong 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 06-jeong.indd 132 9/27/2006 7:59:16 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 133 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 06-jeong.indd 133 9/27/2006 7:59:17 AM 134 Kelly Jeong 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 06-jeong.indd 134 9/27/2006 7:59:17 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 135 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 success, for it is a sure path to financial security and high social status for the entire family. During the film’s lighter moments, Ch’unsam courts his employer’s maid, Suwôn taek, who warmly reciprocates his affection.26 This relationship is juxtaposed with the daughter Okhûi’s relationship with a man, which she enters in hopes of escaping her poverty-stricken life. Her reckless romantic adventure results in disappointment, but her brother’s decent, hardworking friend rescues her and she finally accepts his love. At the film’s climactic ending, the wayward daughter Okhûi returns home, Ch’unsam and Suwôn taek are united as a couple, and most significantly, Suôp finally passes the bar examination, thus validating all of his father’s sacrifice. 06-jeong.indd 135 9/27/2006 7:59:18 AM 136 Kelly Jeong The Coachman’s director, Kang Taejin, typified postwar South Korean film directors in that he was most comfortable with what is known in Korean narrative tradition in film and literature as the sinp’a (new wave) style, which uses tear-jerking melodramatic conventions.27 The popularity of the sinp’a drama continued long after the colonial period; most South Korean films of the 1950s belong in this category.28 In terms of genre conventions, The Coachman is a melodrama with sinp’a undertones. It does not feature the exaggeratedly emotional acting style typical of the genre, but it does include some typical sinp’a elements, such as clearly defined “good” versus “evil” characters who function as each other’s foils; the poor but morally righteous protagonist (Ch’unsam) versus his wealthy and morally corrupt adversary (Ch’unsam’s employer, Mr. Hwang); a tragic love story; numerous coincidences; and the ultimate triumph of the good (the coachman becomes the father of a prosecutor, positioning him socially higher than his evil boss). Such victory restores order to the characters’ moral universe, and by extension, to that of the audience as well. The coachman, Ch’unsam, seems powerless and unsure of himself at times when he faces overwhelming problems. Both literally and metaphorically, he loses his footing in the narrative, first when he gets pushed out of the way by his employer’s car, and again when he discovers the happy result of his son’s examination. The first incident leads to a sequence of crises, as Ch’unsam not only is injured but also loses his job and is led to believe that Suwôn taek has left the city, presumably never to return. Being sideswiped by a car occupied by none other than his ruthless capitalist boss, Hwang, signals Ch’unsam’s surplus status in the industrializing, capitalist South Korean economic landscape. And although the emotional tone of Ch’unsam’s second fall at the end of the film is comic rather than tragic, it also underscores that the coachman no longer needs to support his family; that burden has been lifted and transferred to the shoulders of his son Suôp. Suôp represents all that was positive about the next generation of South Korean patriarchs. He is every hardworking father’s dream; he is intelligent, polite to his elders, and unfailingly moral, and he is always providing guidance for his younger siblings. When his father is out of commission, Suôp gladly shoulders the burden of providing for his family by taking over his father’s horse-drawn cart. Unlike his father, however, Suôp has been educated in modern schools and can successfully function as the bridge between the inexperienced new, represented by his younger sister, and the old, represented by his father. In a nation that was hurriedly entering a period of stateled modernization and rebuilding, those who bridged the gap between these two were no doubt crucial. Suôp’s chosen profession, as a prosecutor in the newly democratized, constitutional South Korea, is another significant narrative facet that dovetails at 06-jeong.indd 136 9/27/2006 7:59:19 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 137 various points in the film with the larger national rebuilding project. Suôp’s connection to modernity—the state of grace toward which the newly emerging nation was striving—is evident in his association with modern education and the rule of law. Visually, this connection is driven home because he wears a school uniform in some of the scenes. He wears it (even at home) for the same reason his father wears a military-issue bomber jacket over his traditional Korean clothes: because such clothing happened to be cheaply and widely available in the postwar period. When Suôp finally passes the bar examination, it is as if he symbolically takes off his uniform, signaling his passage from the role of student, with its boyhood associations, to manhood. His success in the modern system of meritocracy confirms both his masculinity, and for the audience, the supposition that even a coachman’s son can become an elite member of the society. On the one hand, by showing Suôp in his school uniform, the film directs the Korean viewers’ attention to the Japanese colonial education, which dictated that all male students wear some variation of the black school uniform, itself modeled after the nineteenth-century Prussian military uniform. Due to Korea’s colonial education experience, this image of the school uniform functions as a visual code that conjures up the ghosts of Japanese colonial discipline, hierarchy, authority, and finally, the empire’s militarism. Indeed, many young male students wearing such uniforms were forcibly conscripted to serve the Japanese empire in the Pacific War in the early 1940s. On the other hand, this young, future patriarch’s school uniform also signals that he is a beneficiary of the modern educational system, which is in turn part of the mixed postliberation legacy of the American neo-colonial presence in Korea.29 In one sequence, Suôp goes to meet his father’s employer, Mr. Hwang, after his father’s injury and loss of job. When he asks to work in his father’s place, Mr. Hwang and his mistress refuse, and try to put him in his place by remarking that he is only a coachman’s son and thus should not aspire to be anything better. This positively feudal statement reflects their belief in the traditional hereditary class system. It also signals to the audience that Mr. Hwang’s era is waning, while Suôp’s era—that of the modern, self-made elite—is just beginning. Suôp replies it is only right that the strong should help the weak, and points out the unfairness of Mr. Hwang’s arbitrary decision to lay off his father, who is not to blame for his accident. Suôp’s righteous speech brings to mind the new, postwar South Korea that was heavily influenced by America. The United States played a crucial role, first as a superpower military presence and powerful ally during the Korean War, and later as a dominant cultural force in the war’s aftermath. In 1959, for example, more than three out of four foreign movies screened in Korea were American.30 The cultural atmosphere of postwar South Korea was such 06-jeong.indd 137 9/27/2006 7:59:19 AM 138 Kelly Jeong that many saw America as the national savior and indiscriminately accepted its culture. If something was made in America or was even associated with America, it immediately gained a caché that was beyond calculable currency. A certain metropolis-periphery relationship was also established between the United States and South Korea, and Korean masses longed to experience America in some way, doing so mostly through their contact with American consumer goods, available during this era through both legal and illegal markets. Such fetishization of all things American—at its height between the 1950s and the 1970s31—stemmed from South Korea’s introduction to its culture through its popular songs, through the mostly young American soldiers stationed in Korea, and especially through the Hollywood movies that filled many of the nation’s movie theaters. These films featured modern and hightech consumer goods that dazzled the people of the then poverty-stricken nation. The content of Suôp’s remarks in The Coachman does not derive from the part of his education that recalls the Japanese colonial past in Korea, but rather, from the American influence that popularized concepts like democracy and equality among all people. In many ways, the character of Suôp embodies Korea’s mixed heritage of Japanese colonialism on the one hand, and postwar American influence on the other. The streets of Seoul as captured in The Coachman share this quality of postcolonial pastiche. In the film, Seoul is a place of layered temporality, in which traces of colonial influence compete with Korean tradition.32 The capital city is disorganized and disjointed at this historical moment in time. Dirt roads coexist with paved ones, and the coexistence of several temporalities is represented by corresponding modes of transportation. There are automobiles, American military Jeeps, horse-drawn carriages, and handcarts, as well as truck-motorcycle hybrids used for deliveries. The visual images of these machines in Seoul streets attest to the hybrid time and space that was postcolonial, postwar South Korea. The chaotic atmosphere is not limited to the landscape of Seoul. It also spills into the characters’ moral landscape, which still displays deep-rooted Confucian patriarchal tradition. This moral universe is both pure and dignified on the one hand, and hopelessly outdated on the other: the ideal of a gentle world of wise, morally impeccable scholar-official rulers had long passed. The Seoul captured in The Coachman aspires to be urban and industrialized, reflecting changes that bring with them a new kind of morality, where one tries to get ahead by acquiring as much of the ultimate prize, money, as possible, by whatever means possible. It is a place where “rough people . . . prospered at the nexus of human despair.”33 The Coachman depicts how, in the harsh postwar society, human relationships, and even romance, have become economic transactions. The film also 06-jeong.indd 138 9/27/2006 7:59:20 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 139 reveals the overmilitarized postwar South Korea as a ruthless marketplace. Some of the characters, such as the coachman’s young daughter Okhûi and her suitor, embody this new kind of morality; they try to use each other to gain access to wealth and higher social status. In this capitalist society, one’s virtues appear worthless unless they can be translated into hard currency. In the narrative, Okhûi’s innocence and, perhaps, virginity (which the film only hints at) function as her bargaining chips with her suitor, who is supposedly rich and socially prestigious. In one scene in the film, a girlfriend who introduces Okhûi to the suitor helps her prepare for her first date. To appear wealthy and sophisticated, Okhûi abandons her own traditional Korean clothes and borrows Western clothes, a scarf, a handbag, and a pair of high heels from her friend. The persona of this girlfriend is depicted in a way that spells trouble to the contemporary audience; she wears risqué Western clothes with heavy makeup, and smokes cigarettes. In other words, she is not the demure, chaste Korean woman who retains traditional values and morality. Okhûi is thus transformed, with this friend’s help, into a modern woman, hiding her true identity as a povertystricken coachman’s daughter behind borrowed clothes. Predictably, she is punished for this transgression when her suitor, who has the same ulterior motive as she, abandons her upon discovering her true identity. Okhûi’s actions follow a familiar pattern of the era’s films, in which young women leave the domestic sphere, taste the freedom of spending money and having romantic relationships, and then return home after paying dearly for their experience.34 In this case, it is hinted that the loss of her virginity was the price she paid. Okhûi’s union with her rescuer (her brother’s hardworking friend) at the end of the film reassures the audience by restoring order to the moral universe that both the characters and the audience inhabit. The young woman and her dangerous sexuality are returned to the safe sphere of family and marriage. Interestingly, The Coachman’s most emblematic representations of gender are actually captured in its silences and gaps; that is, in the diegetic amnesia about the deaf mute eldest daughter’s tragic life and suicide. After Ongnye kills herself, it is as if the whole family—and the film’s narrative itself—forgets she ever existed. Ongnye’s suicide expresses both her absolute despair and her resolve never to return to the house that she must share with her relentlessly abusive husband and his mistress, nor to her father’s house, from which he always drives her away, he believes, for her own good. The film’s narrative presents Ongnye as the ultimate outsider, a metaphorical and in some ways real figure who cannot find a place in the new nation. Significantly, the mise-en-scène associated with Ongnye is the claustrophobic, domestic milieu of her home and that of her father, and especially the 06-jeong.indd 139 9/27/2006 7:59:21 AM 140 Kelly Jeong traditional woman’s sphere, the kitchen. In fact, the only time Ongnye is seen outside of either home is when she wanders the street in despair and visits her mother’s gravesite before committing suicide in the most public of all spaces, by jumping into the Han River. She is a victim of both patriarchy and tradition, because it is not only her husband’s abuse but also her father’s paternalistic, Confucian desire to return her to her home, to her husband’s house, where tradition dictates she belongs, that drives her to commit suicide. The father’s desire for order ultimately corners her, and Ongnye, finding no place of her own, kills herself in a final act of desperation, defiance, and rejection of the status quo that had oppressed her in life. The lacunae surrounding the issue of gender inequalities that the character of Ongnye embodies are never filled up in The Coachman; afterward, the narrative seems to forget her completely. She is never mentioned again, and the film simply returns all the characters to their traditional positions, as we see with the example of her younger sister Okhûi, who returns home. The climactic ending sequence only confirms this suspicion of a convenient masculinist storytelling when women appear as peripheral characters. Suwôn taek suddenly reappears to reunite with the coachman, and young Okhûi likewise returns to complete the happy family portrait, although this seems to be only an afterthought. At the film’s end, all is well with the world: the family is together again, as the once-wayward daughter returns home, and romantic couples—not just one, but two—are born. The Coachman’s last sequence shows Ch’unsam’s family happily reuniting in a snowy landscape after discovering Suôp’s successful examination results. According to the film scholar Kim Soyông (Soyoung Kim), this final sequence had a special resonance for the contemporary audience watching it in light of the historical events that followed the film’s release. As she points out, the film was released in the same year that the repressive Park Chung Hee regime came to power in South Korea. Watching the film’s climactic, happy ending of the film was actually an ironic, and even a depressing experience, given that it was shot against the backdrop of the famous central government building (chung’angch’ông) and that it shows the reconstituted family marching toward a brighter future.35 In 1961, while the film industry enjoyed an apparent Golden Age—the audience went to the movies in record numbers, numerous film stars were born, and the general technical quality of films improved—Park Chung Hee’s dictatorship was only just beginning its eighteen-year stretch. The visual image of Chungangch’ông, one of the most famous colonial-era structures, awakened viewers of The Coachman to Park’s original power base—the Japanese colonial rulers. Park served in the Japanese imperial army, and his early military training and familiarity with militaristic discipline served him 06-jeong.indd 140 9/27/2006 7:59:21 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 141 well when he later established himself as an ardent Korean nationalist leader in the postcolonial, postwar period. Thus, reading the filmic text against the grain yields a picture of the intimate and enduring association between colonialism, militarism, and state-sponsored masculinity, which unfolds in The Coachman as a saga of the triumph of the nation’s patriarchy, both young and old. The last, and lasting, visual image in the film—of the euphoric reconstituted family under patriarchy, in front of the storied government building, about to march off together into a glorious future—reminds the viewer of the real story, of sociocultural inconsistencies and political repression. LIMINAL MASCULINITY AND THE STRAY BULLET The second film I examine in this paper, Obalt’an (The Stray Bullet, Yu Hyônmok, director, 1961), differs from The Coachman in a variety of ways. Many consider its director, Yu Hyônmok, to be one of the best filmmakers of postwar South Korean cinema. Whether or not one agrees with this assessment, it is clear that he is a self-aware intellectual who is self-conscious about filmmaking as a form of controlled artistic expression.36 He made his first film in 1949 as a college student,37 and soon got a chance to work with the legendary director Sin Sangok on the film Agya (Evil Night, 1950), but the Korean War erupted during production.38 Also around this time, Yu watched Vittorio de Sica’s post–World War II Italian neo-realist classic The Bicycle Thief (1948), which made a profound impression on the budding filmmaker. Later, he recollected that he wanted to make such films when he became a director.39 Indeed, this black-and-white film includes some striking street sequences whose virtuoso lighting and stark beauty recall the Italian classic.40 After working as an assistant director on many films, Yu made his directorial debut in 1956 with Kyoch’aro (Crossroads).41 The foregoing key moments in his life are noteworthy because they show his pedigree as a rare cerebral director in postwar Korean cinema, and explain why The Stray Bullet stands the test of time, both intellectually and technically. Yu Hyônmok began filming The Stray Bullet in 1959, toward the end of the Rhee regime, when the government’s censorship practices severely restricted artistic expressions in all media. Scholars today and the film makers who were working at the time largely agree that there seemed to be few or no clear guidelines for materials appropriate for censorship. Rather, the government bureaucrats involved in film censorship were overzealous and paranoid, which resulted in arbitrary censoring of films, and of Korean films in particular. For example, Korean film historian Lee Young Il (Yi Yôngil) writes that various Korean films were censored for nudity, social criticism, and political content, 06-jeong.indd 141 9/27/2006 7:59:22 AM 142 Kelly Jeong including procommunist propaganda.42 Korean films during this period frequently lost ten to twenty minutes of both sound and visuals, which virtually ruined some films. The arbitrary film censorship was only one element of the anticommunist paranoia on which Syngman Rhee’s corrupt regime was built. Rhee’s own paranoia was not limited to actual communist groups; he used totalitarian tactics to control, destroy, and terrorize other groups that dared to oppose him. During this time, South Korea’s mostly agrarian economy was left destitute, because much of the agrarian population had left rural areas for urban centers in search of livelihood. As a result, the number of urban poor was also growing rapidly. Amid these changes, the refugees from North Korea, along with many thousands of people whom the war uprooted, displaced, and separated from their villages and families, faced abject poverty, unemployment, economic inflation, and the loss of their former status and identity. The society at this time, in short, was in extreme moral, economic, and political chaos, and the social circumstances were ripe for a democratic revolution. The revolution did arrive. Syngman Rhee’s regime finally toppled in 1960, following a student-led revolution on April 19 (commonly known as sailgu or 4.19). Even before 1960, though, changes were happening in South Korea. Between 1948 and 1960, college and high school enrollments nearly quadrupled. By the late 1950s the number of newspapers and reporters had soared, with one survey counting some 100,000 people who claimed to be journalists in the period immediately after Syngman Rhee’s exile to Hawaii.43 And just as the Korean War defined a generation of Koreans and their sensibility, so did the 4.19 Revolution. In the aftermath of the student-led revolution, popular culture—and especially youth culture—bloomed in South Korea, and a generation of cultural consumers and producers would come to identify themselves as the “April 19 generation” (sailgu sedae). Aside from its political significance, the revolution and all it symbolized for South Korea’s democratic possibility had become a cultural and social barometer for possible change and progress. The shared sensibility of the April 19 generation was more Westernized, modern, and democratic.44 This timely shift in political atmosphere was crucial to the making of the film The Stray Bullet, as Yu himself mentions in his memoir: the film’s gloomy plot and dark atmosphere meant a virtual guarantee at the time that it would not be finished, and almost the entire staff and stars worked on it without pay.45 In terms of pure content, The Stray Bullet would have been a different film altogether had the 4.19 Revolution not erupted. The film opened in March 1961, immediately after the fall of the Rhee regime. During this window of time, when the government (briefly) shut down its film censorship organization, The Stray Bullet could honestly and completely depict the 06-jeong.indd 142 9/27/2006 7:59:22 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 143 hopelessness that pervaded the postwar South Korean society.46 It seems that Yu had precensored the story’s dark ending in order to earn the censorship board’s approval. But after the revolution, he rewrote the script as he originally had intended it, and refilmed some of the sequences. The end result is a canonical, poetic postwar film that reflects the gloomy reality of the period and that also earned a lasting fame for its director. The Stray Bullet, in which Yu tried to realize his personal vision of neorealist cinema, took one year and two scripts to finish. Other films produced during this period typically took only a month.47 The Stray Bullet is based on a short story of the same title written in 1959 by Yi Pômsôn, a well-known writer of the Korean War generation. In his essay on this famous short story, Ha Chôngil observes that it is based on the author’s principle of “no longer.” Yi creates main characters that represent the majority of the postwar South Korean population: the downtrodden and destitute masses who can no longer maintain their miserable existence. Ha reads the protagonist’s repetition of his mother’s cry (“Let’s go!”) as a metaphorical representation of the South Korean predicament, in which a societal integration and “suture” (ponghap) are no longer possible.48 The relentlessly gloomy short story clearly touched a nerve in postwar Korean national consciousness.49 Though the point is debatable, many consider The Stray Bullet to be the very first South Korean film with modernist sensibility. The story begins with the protagonist Song Ch’ôrho suffering from a severe toothache. He is an accountant in his mid-thirties, a war refugee who fled with his family from the North to the South to avoid communist persecution. He belonged to the landlord class in the North and was thus considered a reactionary. The Song family— Ch’ôrho’s pregnant wife, young daughter, two younger brothers, younger sister Myôngsuk, and elderly mother who went insane from the shock of her war experiences—settle in the Liberation Village (Haebangch’on), in one of the shantytowns that sprouted up throughout the South after the war. The family lives in dire poverty. Myôngsuk’s lover, a veteran who has returned from the war emotionally and physically wounded, rejects her. Driven to desperation, she becomes a prostitute for American soldiers. Ch’ôrho’s younger brother, Yôngho, also a wounded veteran, is equally desperate and bitter about the war that took everything from his life—his love, status, and (he believes) his future. He rejects an offer to be in a movie after discovering he was hired to display his “authentic” war wounds, and he eventually robs a bank, believing that rules no longer exist in the world. Meanwhile, Ch’ôrho’s wife dies after childbirth, from a prolonged malnutrition. The insane mother’s cries—“Let’s go!” she continually shouts—punctuate the film and heighten its desperate atmosphere.50 At the film’s powerful end, Ch’ôrho’s world collapses as he learns of his brother’s bank robbery and subsequent arrest, and hears the news 06-jeong.indd 143 9/27/2006 7:59:23 AM 144 Kelly Jeong of his wife’s death at the hospital. Contemplating which of the numerous family crises to handle first, he suddenly decides at last to have a dentist pull out the teeth that have been tormenting him night and day. Ch’ôrho insists on a dangerous surgery and leaves the dentist’s office bleeding profusely. Finally, he gets into a taxi and cries out “Let’s go!” as he slowly loses consciousness. In The Coachman, postcolonial, postwar Korea is a site of chaos, where several temporalities seem simultaneously present. The Coachman celebrates modernity, its exciting possibilities, and its new values, including democratic ideals and meritocracy for the recovering nation, underscored by the film’s masculine subjectivity. The Stray Bullet, by contrast, paints a darker, more ambivalent picture of modernity in postwar Korea. The film shows that the signs of modernity’s postwar collapse are everywhere, side by side with the trappings of modernity. The film addresses the difficulty of Korea’s postcolonial situation, and suggests that far from embracing modernity, the nation has merely moved from one unequal relationship (with Japan) to another (with the United States). It is to be expected, then, that modernity should surface in The Stray Bullet in mostly negative contexts. Many of South Korea’s pervasive social ills and postwar devastation manifest themselves in the Song family, which might be seen as a microcosm of the nation. Given postwar Korea’s anxiety about the national rebuilding project, through An Hosang’s realization of the ilminjuûi (ideology of one people), for instance, the film’s plot and characterization clearly ran counter to the state’s ideal of new Korean masculine subjectivity and rebuilt nation. The Coachman portrays a positive, accessible patriarch who ultimately overcomes adversity. But the patriarch in The Stray Bullet does not summon the hopeful—and quite unrealistic—dream of economic success and harmonious family life despite poverty. Instead, the film presents a defeated patriarch who loses everything by the end of the narrative, including his will to continue his struggle. Furthermore, the nation is not presented as a space of harmony, nor as one that permits any semblance of a family life. The family’s matriarch is insane, the pregnant wife dies from malnutrition, the sister resorts to prostitution, the brother robs a bank, and even the young daughter suffers from near starvation. In addition, other characters in the film seem to exist only as individuals, divorced from the idyllic connotations of home and family, of support, warmth, stability, and moral foundation. Not coincidentally, given the South Korean political and social backdrop of the 1950s, many young intellectuals during this period found affinity with the writings of Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and other proponents of the French existentialist philosophy. The contemporary popularity of existentialism surfaces in the characterization of the younger brother, Yôngho, who embodies this philosophy more than any other character in the film. 06-jeong.indd 144 9/27/2006 7:59:23 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 145 In an essay on modernity in Korean cinema, particularly about the liminal characters that live in kijich’on—a name that literally means military base town, but actually refers to the red-light districts around U.S. military bases in Korea in existence since the Korean War—film scholar Kim discusses the film Chiok hwa (Flower of Hell, Sin Sangok, director, 1958).51 She describes two of the main characters as liminal because they struggle with the decision about whether to return to their rural hometown, which they imagine as a pristine paradise of their innocent past, or remain in Seoul, set up in the film as a depraved, corrupt place emblematized by kijich’on, a “wasteland” where “Baudelaire and existentialism bed each other.”52 The concept of liminality here refers to a state of being in which the subjects are acutely aware of being caught between two worlds, whether literal or metaphorical. The subjects are tormented not only by their dilemma of living in two worlds, but also by their consciousness of it. This concept offers a point of departure for my reading of The Stray Bullet, a film which the protagonist and his home also represent a liminal subjectivity and space within the rebuilding nation of postwar South Korea. Song Ch’ôrho is a mild-mannered man defeated by the overwhelming circumstances of his present life. Throughout the film he seems unable to make decisions or act upon his wishes. The horrible toothache he endures until the end of the film functions as a metaphor for his liminal subjectivity: he is well aware of his problem (the toothache is terrible, but he cannot afford to see a dentist), and yet his consciousness of it seems to paralyze him. All he can do is endure the blinding pain. Song Ch’ôrho is no less sympathetic for his lack of action. In fact, as a dialogue with his brother Yôngho illustrates, Ch’ôrho possesses considerable fortitude of character to endure his harsh reality and resist the urge to escape it through violence or crime. Ch’ôrho chooses to endure his predicament while Yôngho commits a robbery out of desperation. The film presents a refugee family whose dire poverty and displacement from their home in the North lead to their psychological displacement as well. Along with the war’s more tangible aftermath, they suffer from other, intangible effects, including their loss of identity and sense of belonging. The sense of loss renders them even more inconsolable because, as Koreans, their identity is firmly attached to their home village, or kohyang. When people become rootless they lose their ontological bearings. Ch’ôrho and his family fled to the South, but they do not firmly belong in the nation being newly constructed all around them. The tragedy that unfolds for the characters in the film is a layered one, but the common cause that underpins it is their failure and/or unwillingness to be integrated and co-opted by the nation’s rhetoric of nationalism and hope (however false) for a better future. The characters’ liminal subjectivity dooms them, for they see all too clearly the fallacy of the state’s rhetoric of patriotism and progress. 06-jeong.indd 145 9/27/2006 7:59:24 AM 146 Kelly Jeong The Stray Bullet’s mise-en-scène also directs one’s attention to the characters’ liminal masculinity. The code for the female characters seems clear: their attire visually signals their moral and sexual compromises or passive, long-suffering feminine “virtues.” For the male characters, the code is more complicated, as particular spaces and visual cues in the narrative focus our attention on given masculinist elements of their plight. For example, Yôngho is often seen in a run-down bar, drinking and raging against the unfairness of life and keeping company with cronies from his glorious army days, who look up to him as their leader. The shabby bar is a masculine space filled with drunken, impotent despair, yet it is also the stage for hatching his reckless plan to rob a bank, fueled by his resentment, anger, and the courage he draws from his admiring friends. Ch’ôrho’s liminal masculinity likewise comes across through his physical, geographical situation as he sits working in his claustrophobic office, walks along the crowded streets of postwar Seoul, or makes his daily grim ascent to his home in the Liberation Village, looking like a martyr. The disparity between his home and the Seoul streets around his office is striking. His house presents a surreal vision of extreme poverty, while the streets are full of cars and bustling with crowds. This stark contrast visually underlines his alienation. He is left out of the consumerist culture despite his seemingly middle-class occupation as an accountant. His guilt feelings about his inability to provide for his family, especially for his wife and sister, reveal the emasculating power of poverty in a capitalist patriarchal social context.53 His lack of financial prowess and, more significantly, his recognition that he is not a reliable wage earner, seem to make him less of a man. As if to illustrate this point, a young female co-worker tells him as much when he repeatedly refuses to dine out with her. Audiences, especially the intelligentsia, responded enthusiastically to The Stray Bullet; people even held spontaneous discussions after viewing, in bars and restaurants around theaters.54 However, the interim phase that allowed for the uncensored production and screening of this film did not last long. The 4.19 Revolution permitted only a glimpse of democratic possibilities and civil liberties. In this sense, it was an unfinished revolution.55 Another dictator soon rose to power, this time through a military coup d’état on May 16, 1961 (commonly know as oillyuk or 5.16). South Korean Army Brigadier General Park Chung Hee, one of the leaders of the coup, proclaimed a national state of emergency and became the next president shortly thereafter. The United States was hoping for an oppositional leader strong enough to defeat Syngman Rhee’s system, but Park Chung Hee’s military credentials—which included his tenure in the Japanese colonial army—made the U.S. uncomfortable. Never theless, his staunch anticommunist stance and agenda to modernize Korea allowed him to come to power with the tacit approval of Korea’s biggest ally. Indeed, 06-jeong.indd 146 9/27/2006 7:59:24 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 147 as Seungsook Moon argues, Park’s “nationalist themes as the mainstay of official nationalism share certain elements with earlier forms of nationalism of the colonial period as well as the turn of the century.”56 Park fostered the national common interest in “restoring history and tradition as the essence of the nation,” and deployed the “themes of ‘reconstruction’ and ‘self-reliance,’ first made current by the Protestant nationalist intellectuals such as Yun Ch’iho and An Ch’angho.”57 Meanwhile, encouraged by critical acclaim it had received, Yu Hyônmok applied to reopen the film, but it was banned by the same government organization that had temporarily stopped censoring films after the 4.19 Revolution. The Stray Bullet was banned for what the censors considered its suspicious ideological content, as revealed (they argued) in the insane mother’s repeated cry, which the censors believed showed her wish to go back to the communist North.58 The degree to which anticommunist paranoia penetrated every facet of postwar South Korean society is apparent in the very setting of the film: Ch’ôrho and his family live in “Liberation Village,” a “squatters’ town” inhabited by war refugees.59 As noted earlier, the military culture’s penetration into the everyday life of postwar South Korea engendered a particular kind of masculine ideal. Those who did not fit the new ideal of Korean masculinity, such as the defeated characters in The Stray Bullet, were relegated to the margins of the society. The character Yôngho’s story is especially interesting—and ironic—in this context, because he is a victim of the state-sponsored masculine ideal of the patriotic young man/soldier. He volunteers for military service during the war, but subsequently comes to believe that he lost everything because of it. He comes to regret his decision bitterly, along with the “foolish patriotism” that drove him to it.60 In an action that sets a disastrous chain of events in motion, Yôngho steals a pistol from his lover’s apartment, which she confiscated as a joke from one of her suitors she calls “cowboy.” Significantly, the “cowboy” is actually a military officer, drunk on his own power, who enjoys waving the pistol around. It is the pistol, easily rendered as the ultimate phallic symbol of destruction and masculine power, which leads to Yôngho’s reckless bank robbery and eventual demise. Ultimately, however, it is not only Yôngho’s fundamental marginalization, but also his crucial consciousness of his status as a young man who refuses to buy into the patriotic propaganda, that makes him a true outsider and a liminal figure in the context of this discussion. It is equally important to consider the postwar nation’s construction of ideal femininity. In The Stray Bullet, women seem to be worse off than even the miserable men. Of course, the film’s sympathy lies firmly with the men, and especially with the protagonist Ch’ôrho. The women’s suffering registers 06-jeong.indd 147 9/27/2006 7:59:25 AM 148 Kelly Jeong on the screen only as a symptom of the men’s suffering. The camera does not capture the images of women’s suffering directly, but instead expresses it by showing its impact on the men responsible for the (suffering) women’s well-being. Visual codes signify two distinct kinds of femininity in The Stray Bullet. The first is located in the female characters’ clothes. For the first half of the film, Myôngsuk’s character wears hanbok (traditional Korean dress), but when she begins to work as a prostitute, she wears Western dresses. In one telling sequence, Ch’ôrho sees, from inside a bus, his sister Myôngsuk sitting in a military Jeep with an American soldier, who is probably her customer. She does not see her brother. The male passengers on the bus literally look down on and contemptuously laugh at her, immediately assuming her to be the worst kind of Korean prostitute, yanggongju or “Western princess,” who caters exclusively to American soldiers.61 In this sequence the audience sees, on the one hand, the impassive face of Myôngsuk, whose eyes are hidden behind a pair of dark sunglasses, and on the other, a close-up shot of Ch’ôrho’s face, which registers humiliation and agony. The Stray Bullet depicts the brother’s witnessing of his sister’s prostitution as more painful than his sister’s own experience as a prostitute. The female character’s dark sunglasses effectively block the viewer’s emotional identification with her, while the close-up of the male character’s face facilitates identification and sympathy. This is a revealing cinematic moment, a glimpse at the way in which this masculinist film pushes women’s pain and misery out of the frame. At the same time, this moment reflects the nation’s miserable condition better than most films of the era. While the film presents the nation’s postwar predicament metaphorically, in the form of Ch’ôrho’s toothache, his wife’s postpartum death from malnutrition and his sister’s prostitution occur outside the visual frame.62 The women’s experiences make an impact on the narrative only insofar as they weigh on the male protagonist’s already tortured psyche. Women in the story are thereby further marginalized and broadly represent the truly precarious position of Korea’s women during this period. The bus sequence also shows how the film deploys the familiar trope of the woman as the nation. While the bus passengers gaze at Myôngsuk in the Jeep, two kinds of music compete in the background. One is a Western popular song coming from the Jeep, and the other, playing on the radio in the bus, is a traditional Korean opera, p’ansori. The effect here, achieved through a series of metonymic associations, is both subliminal and ideological. The traditional Korean music seems equated with Myôngsuk, the native woman, and the native woman with the nation of Korea, the nation thus feminized under the threat of the highly sexualized foreign masculinity, represented 06-jeong.indd 148 9/27/2006 7:59:25 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 149 in the scene by the anonymous American soldier in the Jeep. The sequence implies that the dignity of the feminized nation of postwar Korea has indeed been compromised. The new nation relates to woman in a once-removed way; she is recruited to represent the nation only at critical moments. Woman’s pain serves the film’s rhetorical purpose insofar as it is mediated by the man’s tortured condition, rendered more real because it is projected on a screen. The characters of Myôngsuk and Ch’ôrho’s wife clearly illustrate this point in the film: the pain belongs to the sister and the wife as well as to the male protagonist, yet the consciousness of it belongs only to him. The women’s pain materializes in this masculinist film text only as a symptom of the male protagonist’s masochism, as when Ch’ôrho insists on dangerous surgery.63 It is these unspoken associations in The Stray Bullet, as opposed to what is conveyed through dialogue in the less subtle The Coachman, that make the former such an interesting text.64 The female characters who wear Western dress are encoded as fallen and/or promiscuous, while those attired in traditional Korean dress are associated with the traditional feminine virtues such as patience, domestic service, self-effacement, and deference to the men of the family. We can read these associations along the same lines as the scene on the bus that captures the male subject’s pain and humiliation while glossing over the woman’s suffering, with which the audience cannot identify. At the same time, The Stray Bullet almost irrepressibly highlights women’s sacrifice, seemingly despite its male-centered narrative. The protagonist Ch’ôrho is defeated by poverty, and its brutal, humiliating effects have turned his and his family’s world upside down. But because he seems so weak at first glance, the story can be read against the grain, with the suffering of the women at the core of the narrative. Indeed, in this film, we see another death of a wife/mother/woman. But unlike the suicide in The Coachman, which is never referred to again, the death of Ch’ôrho’s wife reverberates in the narrative and acts as the catalyst that sends him off into the self-destructive tailspin and literally bloody climax that ends the film. Finally, through a metonymical process, Myôngsuk is again associated with the troubled nation of Korea vis-à-vis America that dominates her/ Korea. A poignant scene depicts Myôngsuk standing in front of the massive traditional-style gates of Choson Bando (Chosôn Pando) Hotel, soliciting American soldiers, when she runs into her former lover. The name Bando, or peninsula, evokes Korea’s colonial past, because the country was often referred to as a peninsula, just as Japan was referred to as naeji, or inland, identifying it as the colonial motherland, or mainland, in relation to Korea. Choson Bando was the most famous Korean hotel at this time, and the film shows how the nation must again cater to another quasicolonial presence in 06-jeong.indd 149 9/27/2006 7:59:26 AM 150 Kelly Jeong the nation, represented by American soldiers. The encounter between Myôngsuk, her former lover—whose physical condition as a wounded veteran on crutches hints at his emotional and sexual impotence—and a drunken American soldier illustrates the power dynamics among the neocolonial master, the colonized native, and the native woman, who is doubly oppressed through her race and gender. On the one hand, the American GI’s leering presence in the scene signifies the powerful, neo-imperialist masculinity that had already become part of postwar South Korea’s contemporary culture. On the other hand, Myôngsuk’s wounded lover stumbles onto the scene in a manner that represents the lack of masculinity, both physical and psychological, in the native men. The mise-en-scène of the hotel’s elegant traditional door, now used as a backdrop for the sex trade between Korean women and American soldiers, adds irony and pathos to the scene, and the focus on Myôngsuk’s shame at encountering her former lover turns her into an emblem of the ravaged postwar Korean womanhood.65 As in the scene on the bus when Myôngsuk’s mortified brother spots her in a military Jeep with an American soldier, she stands in for her downtrodden nation. Another female character in The Stray Bullet, Myôngsuk’s friend Miri, serves a different cinematic purpose. A caricature of a vain movie actress, Miri usually appears on the screen in the middle of a film set, with its unrealistic, idealized props of gaudy modern consumer goods, such as a parasol and a vanity chest set. Her ostentatious Western dress and hairstyle add to the impression of her as existing outside the reality of the rest of the film’s characters. The paraphernalia of film production strewn around Miri’s film studio also bring to mind accounts of the early years of the film-viewing experience in Korea, which was nothing short of a magic show. Korea’s first filmgoers thought the movies (moving-photograph show, or hwaltong sajin) showed people who came out of the little box to play, and thus endowed it with an array of incomprehensible, magical powers, as many did to other trappings of modernity, including trains, the telegraph, and the telephone.66 Ch’ôrho’s house looks just as unrealistic as Miri’s film set, but its unreal, stagy quality comes not from a lack of reality, but rather from the hyperreality of the cluttered hovel that serves as a family home in the context of postwar South Korea. Today’s audience may view this scene with the skepticism of those who have never experienced such widespread dire poverty and despair. The unreality of Miri’s life on the film set coexists in the narrative with the unreality of the squalid poverty of Ch’ôrho’s family and that of many thousands who lived that life in the postwar era. The Stray Bullet shows both the glamour of modernity, represented by the character Miri and the modern consumer goods that surround her, and its collapse after the Korean War, as shown by the protagonist’s dilapidated home. 06-jeong.indd 150 9/27/2006 7:59:27 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 151 MODERNITY AND PATRIARCHAL TRADITION IN THE COACHMAN AND THE STRAY BULLET In The Stray Bullet, characters that are associated with modernity, such as the film industry people and American soldiers, are depicted as deplorable. For instance, the scene of Miri on the film set portrays the film producer and the director as shallow and callous; they ask Yôngho to show his “authentic war wounds,” letting him know it is the only reason for putting him in the movie. The incident enrages him, and indeed functions as a critical turning point for this character. Thereafter, he decides to live life on his own terms, whatever the consequences. The dizzying landscape of postwar Seoul is full of modernity’s recognizable trappings—replete with cars, tall Western-style buildings, and a bustling crowd of people dressed in Western-style clothes. However, the imposing tall buildings are in fact the remnants of Korea’s Japanese colonial past, and the women busily walking around the city just may be looking for their next meal ticket in the form of an American GI. Amid all this, cars speed by—and through—the crowds of people, for there are modern cars but no modern roadways to separate people from machines. In the same vein, the tall buildings and the cars mingle in the film with premodern materiality, such as the Liberation Village and the protagonist’s ramshackle house situated there. The American influence in South Korea was at its height during this era, and the visual and aural codes for cheap “Yankee” culture—unwelcome signs of modernity—are everywhere: American soldiers chase prostitutes on streets, loud American popular songs blare from passing military vehicles and from shops catering to the soldiers, and people are eager to use what few English words they know, only adding to the general atmosphere of stilted affectation of being “modern” or, in this context, Americanized. The corrupting yet also immensely compelling influence of the new, powerful, and wealthy Other testifies to the power of the modern, which hypnotized and then stung the postwar Korean population with its phantasmagoric powers. And yet for the characters in The Stray Bullet—and the kind of real people they represent—the primary experience of modernity is despair. The kind of moral bankruptcy we saw in The Coachman surfaces again in The Stray Bullet, most notably in the character Yôngho. To be sure, his sister, Myôngsuk, also transgresses the society’s law when she becomes a prostitute, but a self-destructive impulse, rather than greed, motivates her transgression. This film depicts how the historical rupture brought on by the Korean War also comes to signify a personal rupture in time, space, and indeed, selfidentity for the characters. During this period, French existentialist thought became popular among intellectual South Koreans.67 They embraced it out 06-jeong.indd 151 9/27/2006 7:59:27 AM 152 Kelly Jeong of necessity and intellectual curiosity as they sought to respond to the overwhelming experiences of fratricidal war and its aftermath, the militarization of their country, and its repressive, ideologically rigid atmosphere. In the film, the character Yôngho espouses such a philosophy; he believes that every man is ultimately responsible for his own actions and that no one can judge those of another. At the same time, his desperate act of violence in robbing the bank reveals him to be a coward, one who is defeated by life, though at first glance his brother seems the more hopeless and defeated of the two. Yôngho justifies his transgression on existentialist grounds: that he is responsible for his own actions and that he cannot be judged according to some external normative measure, such as society’s laws. Instead, one should be judged according to his own subjective psychological structure. For example, feeling a subjective sense of shame and guilt for an act of transgression is one’s “judgment,” rather than formal legal prosecution. Interestingly, Yôngho’s capacity to feel shame and guilt—to be a part of humanity—dooms him, and his bank robbery eventually fails. He could ignore the law’s claim on his individual desire, but he could not silence his own humanity, and he surrenders to the law rather than kill an innocent bystander to escape punishment. This existentialist attitude also underpins the male protagonists’ masochistic behavior. Masochism in The Coachman and The Stray Bullet does not occur in a context of sexual perversion (though it is related), but is framed instead in social and gender discourse of postwar Korea. In the two films, the male protagonists’/patriarchs’ loss of power seems only temporary. This issue is fruitful to investigate as it points to the hidden male desire to lose power, knowing it is only a temporary condition, in the face of overwhelming adversity. In other words, as desperate as they are at certain moments, these men’s struggles can be read as a masquerade of powerlessness. The male characters allow women to usurp their power position, creating a temporary vacuum. This arises both with the surrogate mother/maid in The Coachman, and with the prostitute sister Myôngsuk and Ch’ôrho, who provide money for the family at times of crisis—but after the crisis, the men return to reclaim their power. Tania Modleski quotes Christopher Newfield’s argument that one must consider the “extent to which male power is actually consolidated through cycles of crises and resolution, whereby men ultimately deal with the threat of female power by incorporating it.”68 Further, male power often works “to efface female subjectivity by occupying the site of femininity.”69 In The Stray Bullet, this manifests in the depiction of men’s struggle and their loss of social standing amid the postwar chaos. Men “occupy the site of femininity” when the narrative emphasizes their lack of masculinity via some physical and psychological defect/defeat, such as Yôngho and his wounded army buddies who incessantly grumble about losing “everything” in the war, 06-jeong.indd 152 9/27/2006 7:59:28 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 153 not to mention their lack of financial power to protect the women in their lives from dishonor and even death. Their talk is actually about the war having stripped them of their most vital characteristic: their masculinity. The women in the film, by contrast, are completely silent on the subject of loss of social position and wealth, and the narrative elides their glorious past. In her analysis of the gendering of melancholia, Juliana Schiesari posits this as the precise scenario through which the male thinker is culturally empowered to represent his “losses” at the expense of the female subject. Schiesari’s concept of the “ideology of melancholia” argues that men can temporarily appropriate women’s real sense of loss and later compensate for it as a “privileged form of male expression.”70 However, the hidden, masochistic male desire is culturally constructed as weak and shameful, because ultimately it is regarded as effeminate. This “effeminate” desire is an urge to stay down for the count, rather than get up again only to be repeatedly beaten down by circumstances. In the last scene of The Stray Bullet, the protagonist bleeds so much that he passes out, a clear example of the masochistic male desire to forfeit control over a given situation. Sitting in a taxi he cannot afford, Ch’ôrho finally repeats his insane mother’s plea, “Let’s go!” He too is losing his true self. This loss of control actually marks a liberating moment for the protagonist, in a narrative that held nothing but overwhelming adversity until now. It is not a moment of complete dejection and pessimism, as others have argued, because it is still possible that he, and the new patriarchy he represents, will triumph in the end. What is also interesting is that, when the patriarchy’s loss of control becomes apparent in both films, they reveal too much, disclosing how patriarchy’s main players harbor a self-contradictory, masochistic desire for a temporary loss of control. This desire is repressed, of course, and the status quo is restored at the end, in an especially spectacular fashion in The Coachman, as the younger-generation patriarch passes the bar exam and thus becomes the law for the rebuilding Korean society. The Stray Bullet reveals a different kind of nation under reconstruction from the one depicted in The Coachman. Unlike The Coachman’s hopeful portrayal of postwar South Korea and its cheerful people looking toward a bright future, The Stray Bullet shows people filled with despair and impotent rage, living in a present so painful that they cannot imagine a better tomorrow. In The Coachman, two couples eventually come together to create new families and rebuild lives once blighted by war. In The Stray Bullet, many couples are either unable to create families together or to protect or sustain their existing ones.71 The obstacles to these family-building objectives are practically insurmountable: poverty shatters romantic and familial bonds, and self-destructive impulses lead to crime, violence, prostitution, and death. 06-jeong.indd 153 9/27/2006 7:59:28 AM 154 Kelly Jeong In short, the characters in The Stray Bullet represent precisely the part of the nation that the postwar South Korean state wanted to make invisible. The Coachman and The Stray Bullet are conventional texts that served the cause of modern Korea’s Confucian patriarchal status quo, not least because they were shot from a perspective of a typical male gaze. However, both films exhibit ideological struggles that belie their otherwise mainstream messages. Both present critical views of the newly emerging social hierarchy and crass materialism that were intertwined with the nation’s militarization and modernization/Westernization and with its quasi-colonial relations with America. For example, The Stray Bullet, which is essentially a story of suffering, uses woman as a trope for the degraded nation, even as it signally fails to acknowledge women’s suffering. Both films show the postwar Korean patriarchy’s efforts to confine women’s sexuality to the conventional spheres of family and marriage. Both also reveal projections of Korean masculinity that reflect the social and cultural concerns of a difficult and transitional time. These projections—manifest, significantly, both in the portrayals made visible on the screen (presence) and through those that are withheld (absence)— illuminate how Korea’s nationhood and its masculine subjects responded to the social, moral, sexual, and cultural challenges of the postwar period. They answered the chaos by reaffirming patriarchal values and vilifying women, whose association with modernity, imagined or otherwise, made them suspect in the eyes of their fathers, husbands, brothers, and their nation. NOTES 1. Ernest Renan, “Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?” in Nationalism, ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 17–18. 2. “Coach” is actually a misnomer for the horse-drawn cart that protagonist Ch’unsam drives for a living in the film. Nevertheless, I use the better-known title The Coachman to avoid confusion. Officially released DVDs of The Coachman and The Stray Bullet are now available from various Internet sellers in Korea and the United States. For a detailed examination of the period designation of the Golden Age of South Korean cinema, see Nancy Abelmann and Kathleen McHugh, eds., South Korean Golden Age Melodrama: Gender, Genre, and National Cinema (Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 2005), especially pp. 1–15. 3. In his discussion of Christianity in Korean melodrama, Jinsoo An also argues that Korean melodrama movies show that the nation itself becomes the virtuous hero(ine) who eventually triumphs over hostile circumstances. Many such narratives appear in this period’s film melodramas. See Jinsoo An, “Screening the Redemption: Christianity in Korean Melodrama,” in South Korean Golden Age Melodrama: 06-jeong.indd 154 9/27/2006 7:59:29 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 155 Gender, Genre, and National Cinema, ed. Nancy Abelmann and Kathleen McHugh (Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 2005), 65–97. 4. Bruce Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), 175. 5. Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun, 301. 6. O Myôngho, Han’guk kûndae chôngch’isa ûi ihae (An Understanding of Modern Korean Political History), (Seoul: Orŭm Publishing House, 1999), 175–8. 7. Postwar South Korea depended heavily on foreign aid and was especially reliant on the United States. Along with the military aid that gave the United States decision-making power, this economic dependency essentially meant that South Korea and the United States were bound in a neocolonial relationship. See Im Yôngt’ae, Taehan min’guk 50-nyônsa (History of South Korea’s Fifty Years). (Seoul: Tûllyôk, 1998), 195. 8. This pattern of symbiotic relationships between South Korea’s political and economic powers-that-be is called chônggyông yuch’ak in Korean. It has appeared repeatedly in the country’s history since 1945. Many historians see chônggyông yuch’ak partially as a result of the republic’s inauspicious beginnings, when power positions were still occupied by those who had collaborated with the Japanese during the colonial era. See Im Yôngt’ae, Taehanmin’guk 50-nyônsa, 193–4. 9. Kim Samung, ed., Saryo ro ponûn 20-segi Han’guksa: Hwalbindang sônôn esô Chôn, No hangsosim p’an’gyôl kk’aji (Perspective on the Twentieth-Century History of Korea through Documents: From the Declaration of Hwalbin Party to the Appeals of the Ex-Presidents Chun and Roh) (Seoul: Karam Kihoek, 1997), 237–8. 10. On the one hand, scholars have pointed out that Park Chung Hee might have learned this practice from Japanese colonizers, who had built an effective surveillance grid through the police boxes scattered all over the peninsula. On the other hand, this kind of policymaking and execution seems to typify Park’s repressive regime, and interestingly, left a legacy of unexpected side-benefits from the forced march toward “progress” and “modernization.” See Han’guk chôngsin munhwa yôn’guhôe, ed., Han’guk hyôndaesa ûi chae insik 9: 1960-nyôndae sahôe pyônhwa yôn’gu, 1963–1970 (Rethinking Modern Korean History, vol. 9—The Study of the Social Change in 1960s: 1963–1970) (Seoul: Paeksan Sôdang, 1999), 158–62. 11. Minjok munhaksa yôn’guso hyôndae munhak punkwa, 1960-nyôndae munhak yôn’gu (Study of 1960s Literature) (Seoul: Kip’ûnsaem, 1998), 255. 12. Hyôn Kim, Sahôe wa yulli (Society and Ethics) (Seoul: Munhak Kwa Chisôngsa, 1991), 243. The Korean phrase is p’yeswaejôk kaebangsông. 13. Munhak kwa sasang yôn’guhôe, 20-segi Han’guk munhak ûi pansông kwa chaengchôm (The Reflection and Prospect on Korean Literature in the Twentieth Century) (Seoul: Somyông Ch’ulp’an, 1999), 45–8. 14. See, for example, Han’guk yôksa yôn’guhôe, Han’guk hyôndaesa 2: 1950nyôndae Han’guk sahôe wa sawôl minjung hangjaeng (Modern Korean History II: Korean Society in the 1950s and the April Revolution) (Seoul: P’ulpit, 1991), 89–123; and Yôksahak yôn’guso, Hamkke ponûn Han’guk kûnhyôndaesa (A Look at Modern Korean History) (Seoul: Sôhae Munjip, 2004), 317–18. 06-jeong.indd 155 9/27/2006 7:59:30 AM 156 Kelly Jeong 15. Im, Taehan min’guk 50-nyônsa, 176. 16. Han’guk yôksa yôn’guhôe, Han’guk hyôndaesa 2: 1950-nyôndae Han’guk sahôe wa sawôl minjung hangjaeng, 89–123. 17. Cumings, 303. The national conscription “sent every male who could not bribe his way out through its brand of education: boot camps, drills, discipline, patriotism, anticommunism, and an authoritarian practice that chilled even the most hard-bitten American officers.” 18. Im, Taehan min’guk 50-nyônsa, 216. An Hosang studied in Germany and had already been actively involved with the establishment of the nascent postcolonial educational system during the American military rule in South Korea (1945–48). 19. When the First Republic was established, leftist political and cultural leaders were coerced to declare their allegiance to the new democratic republic. Many among them chose to defect to North Korea between 1948 and 1953. See Im, Taehan min’guk 50-nyônsa, 215. 20. Han’guk yôksa yôn’guhôe, 83–6. 21. Han’guk yôksa yôn’guhôe, 115. 22. Ch’oe Changjip, Han’guksa 17 (Korean History, vol. 17) (Seoul: Han’gilsa, 1994), 107. 23. Hyônmo yangch’ô is a Sino-Korean expression that denotes “wise mother and good wife,” and connotes the paragon of female virtue according to the Confucian worldview. Confucian philosophy argues that all beings and all things have their proper place in the world, and that a society is harmonious when people, including women and children, know and respect their own and others’ place in the society. 24. Ho Hyônch’an, et al., Korean Filmstars Retrospective Catalogue (Seoul: Korean Film Archive, 1998), 7. Ho writes that, during the crucial period of nation rebuilding, Kim embodied the poor everyman of postwar Korea better than any other actor of his generation. 25. Im, Taehan min’guk 50-nyônsa, 210. It is ironic that the 1950s also saw the rapid growth of the big South Korean conglomerates (chaebôl). Many started out during the colonial period as members of the landlord class, but during the Syngman Rhee regime they were awarded unfair advantages over smaller businesses, in the form of large loans from the newly established Industrial Bank. 26. Suwôn taek means “a woman from Suwôn,” which is not extraordinary, given her social position and Korea’s cultural norm at the time. 27. Yu China, et al., “Sinp’a wa Han’guk mellodûrama” (Sinp’a and Korean Melodrama), in Mellodûrama ran muôsin’ga: ‘Chayu puin’esô ‘Chôpsok’ kk’aji (What Is Melodrama: From Madame Freedom to Contact) (Seoul: Minûmsa, 1999), 16–21. Since he was not a critically acclaimed director, I could not find any significant material on Kang Taejin. But he was one of many prolific film directors who made popular movies during the Golden Age of South Korean cinema. Sinp’a originated in Japan during the Meiji Era, roughly between 1887 and 1896. It was at first an innovative challenge to the Kabuki tradition, but popularity soon corrupted it, and by the time it arrived in colonial Korea in the 1910s, it was associated with lowbrow stories of 06-jeong.indd 156 9/27/2006 7:59:30 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 157 love triangles and macabre crime stories. Thereafter, it had a tremendous influence on Korean melodrama tradition. 28. The actor in the leading role of The Coachman was one of the legendary actors of the Golden Age of Korean cinema. In 1960, a year before he starred in The Coachman, he had already made another film with the same director, Kang Taejin, titled Pak sôbang (Mr. Park). Mr. Park was a successful example of a “new wave” melodrama, one of the top-grossing films of 1960, and indeed one of the decade’s most popular films. Kim Sûngho’s role in Mr. Park was essentially revived numerous times during his film career, because his natural acting style and physicality matched well with the benign but slightly bumbling patriarch type of the middle, or more often, lower middle class. 29. Han’guk yôksa yôn’guhôe, 84–5. The historian Chông Ch’anghyôn persuasively argues that the hegemonic ideology of postwar Korea was largely a product of American policy, whose goal was to further the American interest in South Korea through anticommunist, pro-American propaganda. The postwar education system, which the United States strongly influenced, was the most significant and effective tool for disseminating propaganda. Chông also cites specific examples of U.S.funded overseas study programs, such as the Smith-Mundt Program, which in the 1960s expanded into the Fulbright-Hayes Program. 30. Of the foreign films screened in South Korean theaters in 1959, 78.8 percent were from the United States/Hollywood. See Im, 230, and Chu Yusin, ed., Han’guk yônghwa wa kûndaesông (Korean Cinema and Modernity) (Seoul: Sodo), 127–9. 31. Cumings, 255. “American influence in the South had reached new heights by 1950 . . . Americans kept the government, the army, the economy, the railroads, the airports, the mines, and the factories going, supplying money, electricity, expertise, and psychological succor. . . . ‘America is the dream-land’ to thousands if not millions of Koreans.” (British Foreign Office, FO317, piece no. 84053, Holt to FO, May 1, 1950). 32. Chungmoo Choi et al., Post-Colonial Classics of Korean Cinema Film Festival Catalogue (Irvine: Korean Film Festival Committee at UCI, 1998), 5. In her essay introducing the film, Choi describes The Coachman as follows: “[Picture] a man in a dyed military jacket over traditional pants with ankle ties and flat rubber shoes delivering goods on his horse-drawn carriage through the city that is strewn with buildings of Korean, Japanese, and Western architectural styles.” 33. Cumings, 303. 34. Kim Soyông, Ssinema, t’ek’ûno munhwa ûi p’urûn kk’ot (Cinema, The Blue Flower in the Land of Technology) (Seoul: Yôrhwadang, 1996), 111. Kim writes in her study of Madame Freedom (Chayu puin, Han Hyôngmo, dir., 1955), that the society’s resentment and anxiety about postwar Korea’s sudden sexual chaos and freedom are projected onto the figure of a young woman, who goes out of the domestic sphere for the first time and tastes freedom, sexual and otherwise. 35. Kim Soyông, Ssinema, t’ek’ûno munhwa ûi p’urûn kk’ot, 115–16. 36. Yu was born in 1925 in Hwanghae Province in the northern part of Korea to a wealthy family. He came to the South for education in 1946. In other words, his 06-jeong.indd 157 9/27/2006 7:59:31 AM 158 Kelly Jeong socioeconomic background is similar to that of the protagonist in The Stray Bullet. See Yi Yôngil’s Han’guk yônghwasa kangûirok (Lectures on Korean Film History) (Seoul: Sodo, 2002), especially 88, 90–97, 194–96. 37. The film was a sound film that was 47 minutes long, which was considered a great achievement, given the lack of systematic film education, technical knowledge, and equipment at the time. See Kim Hwa, Saerossûn Han’guk yônghwa chônsa (Korean Film History) (Seoul: Tain midiô, 2003), 244–50. 38. Kim Hwa, Saerossûn Han’guk yônghwa chônsa, 250. During this period, Yu wrote a script for Ch’oehu ûi yuhok (The Last Temptation, Chông Ch’anghwa, dir., 1953) that featured a psychiatrist, reflecting his interest in Freudian psychoanalytic theories. 39. “Yu Hyônmok Memoir 14,” Cine 21 (Ssine 21),Feb. 2, 2001, (Jul. 18, 2006). 40. Eunsun Cho considers The Stray Bullet to be fractured, due to its mimicry of noir and gangster movies in the Hollywood style, and reads the character Yôngho and the film’s stylization as essentially embodying Homi Bhabha’s notion of “cultural hybridity.” Although Cho otherwise presents a compelling argument about the male characters’ scopophobia (fear of the gaze), I would argue that she dismisses too easily the fractured quality of the film’s “realism,” which functions as a crucial filmic and narrative tool for storytelling. See McHugh and Abelmann, South Korean Golden Age Melodrama, 99–116. 41. Yi Yôngil, Han’guk yôngh wa chônsa (History of Korean Cinema) (Seoul: Sodo, 2004), 255. 42. Yi, Han’guk yônghwa chônsa, 321–23. 43. Cumings, 303. A far higher percentage of the population attended college in Korea than in England, for example. By 1965, one of every 280 Koreans was in college, compared to one in 425 in England. This high rate of secondary education led to general sociopolitical awareness and critical thinking in the Korean population. 44. See Han’guk chôngsin munhwa yôn’guhôe, vol. 7., 295–99. 45. Yu’s memoir is a biased account of his working life as a film director and must be understood as such. In it, he addresses the political message of The Stray Bullet, which gives the impression that he is a very politically involved filmmaker. In fact, he is an apolitical, experimental artist whose works often became mired in controversy. What is interesting is not the question of whether he is a political director, but rather his desire to be seen as one, which clearly illustrates the politically charged atmosphere of Cold War–era South Korea. 46. This timeline is significant because Park Chung Hee’s administration—which established itself in the next year, 1962—was no more lenient than Rhee’s in its absolute anticommunist stance. The administration changed the motion picture laws four times between 1962 and 1972 to better control the ideological content of South Korean films. See Im, 424–26. 47. The apparent reasons for such a rapid film production schedule were twofold. First, film production companies operating in this era were almost guaranteed an audience for every movie they produced, and so they produced a great many. Second, 06-jeong.indd 158 9/27/2006 7:59:31 AM Nation Rebuilding and Postwar South Korean Cinema 159 the Korean film industry of the time lacked skilled staff and even equipment, such as sound or lighting engineers and movie cameras. All film directors of this era were under tremendous pressure to produce movies as quickly and as cheaply possible. 48. Ha Chôngil, Pundan chabonjuûi sidae ûi minjok munhak saron (Essays on the History of Korean National Literature in the Period of Division Capitalism) (Seoul: Somyông Ch’ulp’an, 2002), 187–206. Ha borrows this concept of “no longer” from Georg Lukacs, Solzhenitsyn (New York: MIT Press, 1971), 7–26. 49. Unlike the film version, the original short story was not censored. One might conjecture that literature was not censored as harshly as films during the 1950s. In addition, the censorship of the film version was due partly to the unfortunate timing of the re-edited film’s release, which came after the military coup led by Park Chung Hee. 50. The anticommunist paranoia of the era was clearly reflected in the censorship that the film underwent. The censors believed that the mother’s repeated “Let’s go!” indicated the film’s pro–North Korean politics and that it pointed to the character’s desire to go back to North Korea. The film was banned partly because this element of its narrative was considered friendly to North Korea and its communist propaganda. 51. Kim, Ssinema, t’ek’ûno munhwa ûi p’urûn kk’ot, 131. The social and psychological space of a military base town is a clear example of a liminal space. A base town serves as a kind of demi-monde centered on Korean women’s prostitution to American soldiers stationed in Korea. The Americans’ presence is itself embarrassing and shameful for Koreans to acknowledge, and as such, a base town does not truly belong in Korea or America. Rather, it stands isolated, tenuously connected to both countries, a symbol of the unequal power relations between the two. 52. Kim, Ssinema, t’ek’ûno munhwa ûi p’urûn kk’ot, 131. 53. The film does not explain why Ch’ôrho was so poor, since he had a whitecollar job as an accountant. According to the director’s memoir, the Berlin Film Festival judges could not understand this situation, and Yu cites it as one of the reasons the film did not receive an award. In general, however, it was received very enthusiastically. 54. Kim Haksu, Sûk’ûrin pak ûi Han’guk yônghwasa I (Off-Screen History of Korean Cinema I) (Seoul: Inmul Kwa Sasangsa, 2002), 197. 55. Ha, Pundan chabonjuûi sidae ûi minjok munhak saron, 219. 56. Seungsook Moon, “Begetting the Nation: The Androcentric Discourse of National History and Tradition in South Korea,” in Dangerous Women: Gender and Korean Nationalism, ed. Elaine H. Kim and Chungmoo Choi (New York: Routledge, 1998), 36. 57. Moon, “Begetting the Nation” in Dangerous Women, 36. 58. Moon, “Begetting the Nation” in Dangerous Women, 36. 59. Choi, Post-Colonial Classics of Korean Cinema Film Festival Catalogue, 8. Choi observes that the name of the village itself suggests that “its residents have been liberated from the grips of the ‘evil’ Communist North. In the film the name of this shantytown is utilized as a shorthand for the Cold War ideology that had been naturalized in the consciousness of the South Korean people. Liberation Village actually 06-jeong.indd 159 9/27/2006 7:59:32 AM 160 Kelly Jeong existed behind the 8th U.S. Army Headquarters in the Yongsan area of Seoul within view of the U.S. military authorities.” 60. More than his older brother, Yôngho seems to represent the new “lost” generation. The critic Ha Chôngil reads the literature of the 1960s as a “narrative of reflection,” regardless of the authors’ political leanings in the very politicized postwar era. In Ha’s view, authors most wanted to reflect on the modernization of South Korea. See Ha, Pundan chabonjuûi sidae ûi minjok munhak saron, 238. 61. In the essay “Yanggongju as an Allegory of the Nation” in Dangerous Women: Gender and Korean Nationalism, Hyun Sook Kim says, “Historically, the term yanggongju has referred to Korean women who engage in sexual labor for foreign soldiers. . . . Used derogatorily, it means ‘Yankee whore,’ ‘Yankee wife,’ ‘UN lady,’ and/or ‘Western princess.’ This epithet . . . relegates Korean women working in militarized prostitution with foreign men to the lowest status within the hierarchy of prostitution. Since the end of the Korean War, this category has been extended to include Korean women who marry American servicemen (pejoratively called ‘GI Brides’). In postwar Korea, the epithet . . . has become synonymous with ‘GI Brides,’ so that Korean women in interracial marriages are also viewed as yanggongju.” See Kim in Dangerous Women, 178. 62. In her reading of The Stray Bullet, Eunsun Cho posits that instead of scopophilia (the desire to look, usually at female body, a concept that she borrows from Laura Mulvey’s famous 1975 article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen 16, no. 3 [Autumn 1975]: 6–18), the male characters have scopophobia (the fear of looking) due to their colonized and emasculated subject position. Cho sees this as a symptom of masculinity in crisis. While I agree with her assessment that the male characters’ refusal to look stems from some kind of pain, I think this pain is metaphysical and existential, rather than phobic in nature. See McHugh and Abelmann, 100–5. 63. After his teeth are pulled, Ch’ôrho passes out in a taxi from massive loss of blood. His masochistic decision, the bloody mouth, and his hysterical “swooning” offer fertile ground for psychoanalytic interpretation. 64. The coachman’s son lectures his younger sister for wearing fancy (read: Western) dresses that do not belong to her, and warns her that her head is as empty as her borrowed handbag. 65. It is not an accident that this humiliating episode for Myôngsuk takes place in the most public of spaces, in front of a famous hotel in downtown Seoul. Recently, there have been many suggestive studies of women’s place in South Korean melodrama of the 1950s and 1960s. Pak Hyônsôn, for example, writes that although many films from the sixties show various female characters who leave home to find work, love, and public ident...
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Introduction: The Stray Bullet

I believe that the elitein South Korea used false depictions of modernization and a false
depiction of happiness in the post-conflict period. The depiction of a prosperous and Westernized
South Korea was met with grief and negative perception of American influence of their culture
and way of life. It is a classic manifestation of the great suffering of the South Koreans during
the post-war period, which was covered by visible signs of westernized prosperity (Chahrour,
2016). The new, powerful and wealthy classes were met with clear signs of poverty, violence,
prostitution, and death. In this article, I analyze that prosperity propaganda was used to oppress
the South Koreans in the Post-conflict era unfairly and it depicts the greed, undue influence, and
materialism in search of portraying capitalism in good light for p...

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