Publication Details

Yecies, BM, Systematization of Film Censorship in Colonial Korea: Profiteering from Hollywood's First Golden Age, 1926-1936, Journal of Korean Studies, 2005, 10(1), 59-83. It also appears in Korean in The Studies in Korean Literature: Han Guk Mun Hak Yeon Gu, June 2006, 30, 203-237. The title of this downloadable version is taken from the later publication. This version includes a corrected use of currency values for the period of study. According to exchange rates published in July 1966 by the Bank of Japan, 100 Yen traded for an average of $46.875 US dollar in New York in 1926 and $28.951 in 1936.


Between 1926 and 1936, cinema in colonial Korea was a vibrant business, involving the production of domestic films and the distribution and exhibition of American, British, Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Russian films. During this decade, the first golden age of American cinema in Korea, Hollywood films overwhelmingly dominated the Korean market. Korea was an important territory that Hollywood used in its overall global expansion campaign. Amid this globalization operation, the Government-General of Chosen’s film censorship apparatus was a financially self-sustaining operation. It paid for its operation by profiteering from the application of more than 6,700 American and 630 other countries’ feature and non-feature films, a vast majority of which were approved with minor, if any, censorship changes. The Government-General’s systematization of film censorship policies was intended to obstruct Communist, revolutionary, and later, socialist themes rather than “Western” themes—at least until the late 1930s, when the Japanese Department of Home Affairs began banning the import of American films and the Government-General intensified the suppression of Korean culture.