Publication Details

Yecies, B and Shim, A, Disarming Japan’s cannons with Hollywood’s cameras: cinema in Korea under U.S. occupation, 1945-1948, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus, 44-3-10, 2010,1-20.


Reorienting the southern half of the Korean Peninsula away from the former Japanese colonial government's anti-democratic, anti-American and militaristic ideology while establishing orderly government was among the goals of the U.S. Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK, 1945-1948). To help achieve this aim on a wide front and as quickly as possible, USAMGIK’s Motion Picture Section in the Department of Public Information arranged the exhibition of hundreds of Hollywood films to promote themes of democracy, capitalism, gender equality and popular American culture and values. While U.S. troops in the field enjoyed the increased availability and calibre of American feature films, the Korean government-in-waiting was affronted by their perceived immorality. Standard Korean film histories focus on the hardships endured by Korean filmmakers, and the conflicts among them, and on Hollywood’s monopoly of the screen in the era, a situation which USAMGIK film policy – strikingly similar to the ordinances previously set in place by the Japanese – assisted. This study demonstrates how many of these ‘spectacle’ films, which have hitherto largely gone unlisted, were designed to inculcate Western notions of liberty among Koreans, while distracting them from a tumultuous political scene. However, the films exhibited did not always live up to this lofty purpose. Along with positive portrayals of the ‘American way of life’, representations of violent, anti-social and misogynistic behavior were foreign to Korean cultural and aesthetic traditions, and often provoked negative responses from local audiences.

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Japan Focus