“Breaking the Dam to Reunify our Country”: Alternate Histories of the Korean War in Contemporary South Korean Cinema

International Journal of Korean History. 2015;20(2):85-120 DOI 10.22372/ijkh.2015.20.2.85


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Journal Title: International Journal of Korean History

ISSN: 1598-2041 (Print); 2508-5921 (Online)

Publisher: Korea University, Center for Korean History

LCC Subject Category: History (General) and history of Europe: History (General)

Country of publisher: Korea, Republic of

Language of fulltext: English

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Kristen Sun


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 12 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

This article analyzes three contemporary South Korean films that (re)present alternate histories of the Korean War: 2009 Lost Memories (2009 Rosŭt’ŭmemorichŭ) (Lee Simyung (I Simyŏng), 2002), Welcome to Dongmakgol (Welk’ŏm t’u Tongmakkol) (Park Kwang-hyun (Pak Kwanghyŏn,) 2005), and Joint Security Area (Park Chan-wook, 2000). Despite focusing on different eras of history, I argue that they rewrite dominant narratives of the Korean War (Cold War logics of anticommunism v. communism) and instead focus on North Korean- South Korean friendships/collaborations. Each film also presents similar situations in which a group of disparate “heroes” (made up of unified Koreans) band together to circumvent the circumstances of division. This article analyzes historical conditions that influence the emergence of these similarly-themed films as well as film content in order to further think through memorial legacies of the Korean War, as well as to take seriously the radical possibilities of a different future that each film presents.