In 1916, a group of Korean farmers and their children gathered to watch a film depicting the enthronement of the Japanese emperor. For this screening, a unit of the colonial government’s news agency brought a projector and generator by train to their remote rural town. Before the formation of commercial moviegoing culture for colonial audiences in rural Korean towns, many films were sent to such towns and villages as propaganda. The colonial authorities, as well as later South Korean postcolonial state authorities, saw film as the most effective medium for disseminating their political messages. In Cine-Mobility, Han Sang Kim argues that the force of propaganda films in Korea was derived primarily not from their messages but from the new mobility of the viewing position.
From the first film shot in Korea in 1901 through early internet screen cultures in late 1990s South Korea, Cine-Mobility explores the association between cinematic media and transportation mobility, not only in diverse and discrete forms such as railroads, motorways, automobiles, automation, and digital technologies, but also in connection with the newly established rules and restrictions and the new culture of mobility, including changes in gender dynamics, that accompanied it.
Perhaps the best academic book produced on the subject of Korean literature, film, and culture over the past twenty years…Han Sang Kim has achieved a feat in the English language that no one outside Korea has yet to match—that of telling a fascinating story about the intimate relationship between Korean socioeconomic phenomena (transportation) and media (screen) throughout the twentieth century.
[Kim] offers critical interventions and counterpoints to established modes of understanding visuality, vision, and technology, underlining the necessity of distinguishing the post/colonial world’s historical experiences from that of the West.
Its breath of research is impressive—from Korean, American, and Japanese original sources, the subject of the visual mobility of Korea during the past century is groundbreaking and innovative, and the overall historical narrative is brilliant and unique. I can’t think of another book that takes this approach in understanding Korea during the twentieth century. I read it from the beginning to end in about two or three sittings, and each and every chapter read as if there were more truth to be told about the author’s unorthodox approach at examining the history of Korean development.
Han Sang Kim’s wonderful new book offers a vivid exploration of South Korea’s twentieth-century experience of modernity, focusing on technologies and representations of mobility within a political-economic framework. Admirably broad in scope, it covers trains, automobiles, and planes as they appear in feature films, documentaries, and TV shows. Kim fluidly combines a transnational perspective with deep dives into national history, and his exceptional knowledge of Korean visual culture enables him to trace continuities and ruptures across the colonial divide. Filled with nuanced textual interpretations, this book expands our understanding of Korean modernity immeasurably. A major contribution to the field of Korean studies.
- 270 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
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