The Current State of Korean Movies by Prof. AKIA

The Current State of Korean Movies

Hello. This Prof. AKIA with some thoughts on the Korean movies Industry now.

Korean popular culture experienced a renaissance starting in about the mid-90s. This renaissance first started in music but quickly spread over to movies, TV dramas, and etc. If I look back, it is not surprising the phenomenon happened at that moment in time. Not only did the long ruling military government silently fade away into history but the Korean economy was riding high for about a decade prior to that moment. Thus, it was the time for a cultural blossoming to happen like never before.

However, you cannot have a renaissance come out of nowhere. In the case of the Korean pop cultural renaissance, it fed off the nourishment of 70s and early 80s American popular culture and of Japanese culture which was the leader of modern pop culture in the region. I would actually say the Korean pop cultural renaissance liberally copied off from Japanese culture. Others may use the term “stole”.  In fact, compared to these sources, traditional Korean culture had far less to do with the renaissance.

It was more like a pinch or two.
You know … for flavor!

The resulting cultural output of the renaissance was and is not particularly deep but it did not really need to be deep. As the first wave of its kind to happen in Korea, it just needed to give an outlet for the creative energies of those in Korea and create a platform for future waves. And it succeeded!

I mean it is the reason you are here reading this article now.

About 2 decades separated from its birth, we are currently living in the aftermath of that first wave Korean pop cultural renaissance. It had a good 15 year or so run. And now, we are left to wander the desolate dried out lakebed which was once filled with the waters of the renaissance. You see this in many areas but it is more evident with Korean movies at the moment.

So, now Korean movies are rummaging through its old bag of tricks to find a new direction, a new well of inspiration. Some try to recreate 70s and 80s Hollywood movies. Some focus on nostalgia. Some see Korean traditional culture as an untapped source of inspiration. Others… dip back into the well of getting “inspired” by Japanese pop culture.

All interesting attempts!

However, I do not think these attempts will lead to a new renascence. Ultimately Korean movies have to explore an avenue that has been ignored until now. I am talking about actually telling stories about Koreans beyond the superficial “the rich are bad” or “communism will save us” propaganda stories. These stories do not need to be “High Art” or highly intellectual.

We have been down that trap already.

The point here is to be self-reflective and sincere about who Koreans are with all of their flaws, pains, mistakes, accomplishments, and joys. These elements are totally absent in Korean movies.  Is it not odd that I cannot find a Korean movie that defines what it was like to grow up in the 80s and 90s? This is mostly the same for other Korean generations also. Last year’s “Ode to my father” was one of the few successful mainstream attempts of this. In comparison, every generation of the US has their own generation defining movie or movies.

I would even like to see the story that sincerely explores the internal conflict Korea is still having about communism since it is part of Korean history even if many wish it was not.


This was prof. AKIA and I just gave out some thoughts about the current state of Korean movies.

1 comment:

  1. If you go away from the mainstream output you get a a lot of really good movies which have the elements that you claim are not present in Korean films. Watch movies by Kim ki-duk and Lee Chang-dong over the last 20 years

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