Publication Details

Yecies, B. & Howson, R. (2014). The Korean “Cinema of Assimilation” and the Construction of Cultural Hegemony in the Final Years of Japanese Rule. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 11 (25), 1-11.

Link to publisher version (URL)

The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus


During the late 1930s, as Japan escalated war preparations with China, and after Governor-General Minami formalized the assimilationist ideology of “Japan and Korea as One Body”, cinema in Korea experienced a fundamental transformation. Korean filmmakers had little choice but to make co-productions that aimed to draw Koreans toward Japanese ways of thinking and living, while promoting a sense of loyalty to the Japanese Empire. Within this colonial context, and especially after the 1940 Korean Film Law facilitated the absorption of the Korean film industry into the Japanese film industry, a particular type of masculine hegemony was encouraged by a comprehensive censorship process. To show how this fluid and dynamic process worked, this article draws on some key theoretical concepts of hegemony to analyze the construction of masculinity in three of the most notable of these wartime co-productions: Angels on the Streets (1941), Spring in the Korean Peninsula (1941), and Suicide Squad at the Watchtower (1943). It analyzes how the colonial authorities sought to reorient Korean audiences toward a particular worldview by means of a process that we call a “cinema of assimilation” – a cultural hegemonic exercise designed to draw Koreans closer to the social, political and economic habits and priorities of their occupiers.