Film and the representation of ideas in Korea during and after Japanese occupation, 1940-1948
This study considers the recurring themes contained in select films exhibited in Korea before and after Japan’s defeat to offer insights into how Japanese and US occupation authorities attempted to capture occupied hearts and minds. In order to show how this theoretically worked, this chapter examines two of the most notable ‘co-productions’ from the early 1940s, Homeless Angels (Choi In-gyu, 1941) and Suicide Squad at the Watchtower (Imai Tadashi, 1943, hereafter Suicide Squad). This investigation also includes a number of Hollywood films exhibited in Korea between 1946 and 1948, such as In Old Chicago (1937) and You Can’t Take It with You (1938). In each case, the occupation authorities screened films to reorient Korean audiences toward their particular social, political and economic worldview. Despite tremendous scope, most histories of the Japanese and US occupation periods lack a rigorous discussion of this significant cultural policy. Furthermore, conventional accounts of cinema in Korea narrowly address the struggles that Korean filmmakers experienced during both eras, highlighting limitations that threatened the expression of local culture. This investigation builds upon these former studies by providing a complementary viewpoint on how such screenings resulted in complex intersections between cinema, culture, and politics before and after Japan’s defeat in 1945.