South Korean cinema 2000-2010: A masculinity in crisis?
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 15:39 authored by Gareth John James
This thesis provides a cohesive account of the changing face of masculine representations in the cinema of South Korea between 2000 - 2010. During this period, the presentation of male characters in South Korean films went through a period of substantial change. Due to several external factors, including the decline of the Hong Kong film industry following the British hand over to China, the South Korean industry was able to rise to prominence from the compromised position created by the division of the peninsula. Traditionally South Korean masculinity - as analysed in the work of such theorists as Lee Hyangjin and Kim Kyung-hyun - has been considered to be in a state of recession. This condition was thought to reflect the peninsula's inferior position in 20th century world politics. However, in the 21st Century South Korea's image - both on screen and off - has experienced both repair and prosperity. This has been very much reflected in the industry's dramatic shift in masculine iconography. Gone are the traditionally wounded and pathetic masculine characters and in their place are sleek suited male representations portrayed by such internationally acclaimed stars as Song Kang-ho, Choi Min-sik and Lee Byung-hun. Through insight into the trends and dynamics of gender featured in the works of Gender Studies theorists including RW Connell, combined with analysis of numerous films, this thesis provides a fully comprehensive critical analysis of South Korean screen masculinity. The thesis shows how this masculinity has been transformed from a wounded, recessive gender model to one of the most dominant and thriving models on the world stage. It also attempts to provide a global perspective on many of the theories tied to issues of South Korean masculinity through comparison to similar examples in both East-Asian cinema and beyond.