Document Type

Journal Article


Conventional reports often hint at how Koreans gained film industry experience and training in Korea and Japan during the 1920s and early 1930s under Cultural Policy reforms. Yet, few studies consider the full range of influences that motivated their contributions to a local vibrant popular entertainment industry and to the global transition to sound. This article attempts to recast the story of cinema in colonial Korea by offering new insights into the productive and destructive characteristics of colonial modernity. The exhibition of talkies from Japan and the West (primarily the United States)—as early as in 1925 and more regularly after 1930—inspired Korean filmmakers and technicians to experiment with sound technology in a way similar to others around the world. Producing a small number of talkies on “locally-made” equipment enabled them to reach out to millions of cinemagoers and to contribute to a “golden-age” of cinema—rather than simply “collaborating” with the Japanese. In the process, they constructed new spaces for the expression of Korean language and culture within and despite the political and cultural boundaries of colonialism. Colonialism involved entangled degrees of entrepreneurialism, nationalism, and modernity—particularly for those who dreamt of bringing modernity to Korea and sought the type of cosmopolitan lifestyle found in a film production center such as Seoul, Tokyo, Kyoto, Shanghai, Los Angeles, as well as Harbin and Darien in Manchuria.