Thursday, May 10, 2007

Film History by KOFIC

The Korean Film Council just published KOREAN CINEMA: FROM ORIGINS TO RENAISSANCE, a history of movies in Korea, from 1897-ish to the present. Anyhow, you can download the entire book, chapter by chapter.

(Btw, it was a pain the butt finding that URL, in KOFIC's all-frames website. If the link does not work, go to, and click on "Publications," and then "Korean Film History.")

While I appreciate KOFIC taking the effort to put out a work like that, I must say I found it somewhat disappointing (or at least the parts I have checked out so far). It really is the same old, typical history of Korean film, concentrating on the same old topics, while ignoring some pretty significant, newer research -- for example, Brian Yecies' work on the success of Hollywood in Korea in the 1920s and 30s.

One problem is that the book is basically a translation of a Korean book. The Korean academic writing style is often quite exasperating, especially for people not very well versed in the subject at hand -- oodles of statistics and names and jargon, but not much narrative or overarching ideas. Think of the muddled signs you come across at the entrance to Korea's national parks and major historical sites, but going on for a hundred or so pages.

Also, since the book has no index, its use as a scholarly reference is rather limited, too.

Basically, it reads a lot like a more accessible version of Lee Young-il's THE HISTORY OF KOREAN CINEMA.

Anyhow, while I complain, I am currently struggling to write my own book (and not a terribly successful struggle), so I have some sympathy with anyone who just gets a project finished. So thanks to KOFIC for continuing to publish more information about the local movie industry.


Philip Gowman said...

Thanks for the info.

I picked up a copy of Lee Young-il's book when I was in Seoul in January. On the plus side, it was published, and covers a time period not otherwise covered in English. On the minus side... well, where do I start? I wrote some comments a week or so ago:

I agree with you about the Korean academic writing style (at least what I see of it once it's translated into English / Konglish). Sometimes a bit baffling.

pgowman said...

By the way, how DID you get that URL? Since KOFIC redid its site any links I have to its content have been broken.