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A Cultural History of the City in Korea

The Hidden Door, the Unclimbable Stairs, and the Broken Lightbulb:A Cultural History of the City in Korea.

The wild success enjoyed by Bong Joon Ho and his recent film Parasite (2019) and also Park Chan Wook and his vengeance trilogy Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Old Boy (2003), and Lady Vengeance (2005) can be attributed to a variety of different factors: creative storytelling, persuasive and powerful acting by a skillful cast, and the development of a distinctive mis-en-scène to name a few. But what also makes these films so enjoyable is arguably their ability to provide a way for the audience—a domestic and international audience—to vicariously experience the subtle tensions that quietly disturb the idealized image of the everyday in industrialized, urban Korea. What these tensions reveal is a complex society fraught with fissures created by, among other things, class conflict, police-state violence, racism, sexism, and split loyalties. To explain how this works, this talk will treat these and other related Korean films as palimpsests and show how doors, stairs, and even lightbulbs are hidden, exposed, and redefined to bring the unique experience of Korea as a city-written-over-a-city to life.

Thursday, 11/18 at 1pm via Zoom meeting. All students interested in modern Korea are welcome. Please register for the event at https://rutgers.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIofumqpjgrEtJaCq2KK7OWsdlLDs7TZAr_