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Forthcoming Papers on Korean SF, “Good Night,” and a Summary of “Another Undiscovered Country”

This entry is part 44 of 70 in the series SF in South Korea

Well, I have submitted the final corrected version of my paper on Korean SF films in the 21st century to Acta Koreana: it’s been approved for publication, pending those edits, so I figure that’s one more paper in the can, to bring my current total of pending academic publications to two:

  1. “Politics, Ecology on the Korean Left: Anti-Americanism and Environmental Dystopia in The Host” supposedly forthcoming in the Arena Journal.
  2. “Another Undiscovered Country: Culture and the Reception and Adoption of the Science Fiction Genre in 21st-Century South Korean Cinema,” which if all goes well should be appearing in Acta Koreana sometime this year.

Along the way, I was introduced (by Miss Jiwaku) to a site that hosts a bunch of Korean short films, including SF films, and to one film in particular on that site, by Che Mingi, and titled 좋은 밤 되세요 (Good Night, 2008). Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available for this film, or for many others — at least, for the ones I clicked on — but it’s still pretty impressive even if you’re struggling with understanding the dialog. The plot, essentially, is something like Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain meets, well, the Korean educational system: imagine a treatment that mothers could give to their children, which would allow the kids to go without sleep so they can study harder for their University Entrance Exams, and get more done thereafter too. There are touches of great humor, such as in the (familiar) faces that turn up in the list of people who’ve received this treatment in the past. You can see the film here (click on the little color TV beneath the film poster on the left), and if you want to see other short Korean SF movies, here’s where to look.

I figured I’d write up a summary of the latter paper, while it’s fresh in my mind, for anyone interested. It goes a little something like this:

Summary of “Another Undiscovered Country: Culture and the Reception and Adoption of the Science Fiction Genre in 21st-Century South Korean Cinema”:

Judging by films, the creation of a native form of SF in Korea is a task that is lagging severely behind the nativization of other fantastical genres like horror and fantasy. This does not seem to be the case in neighboring societies like Japan and China, nor does it seem to be related to the degree of technological development in a given society, as a number of people have suggested in the past. (India, for example, has had an SFnal literary tradition for a long time, long before its current, if uneven, boom in development. In Korea, SF remains marginal.) Why?

Part of it seems to be that SF is, both in terms of its tropes and its cultural implications, SF is unlike horror and fantasy, in displaying fewer universal tropes — less of the stuff that is universal in mythic or ghost-story narratives, and more of the particularly culturally specific philosophical and sociocultural preoccupations — historical experiences such as the colonization by Anglophones of much of the planet, the philosophical preoccupations of Western Europeans, and so on. It seems SF must be “acquired” like a foreign language, and foreign culture, and metabolized in order to be successfully nativized. In Korea, there seem to be interesting problems with the acquisition and internalization of SF:

That, as they say, is it in a nutshell. When the paper is published, I’ll try make sure those who want to will be able to find a way to get at it.

Series Navigation<< More About Korean SF, and Some Dougal Dixon LinksVampires, Confucianism, Christianity’s Latent Monarchism, and the Translation of Sociohorror >>
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