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Title:Whoring the mermaid: the study of South Korean hostess film (1974-1982)
Author(s):Kim, Hyojung
Director of Research:Projansky, Sarah
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Cole, Cheryl
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Projansky, Sarah; An, Jinsoo; Abelmann, Nancy A.; Capino, J.B
Department / Program:Inst of Communications Rsch
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
film censorship
hostess films
female representation
prostitute films
Abstract:This dissertation focuses on cinematic representations of prostitute women in South Korean Hostess (ho-sŭ-t'e-sŭ’: a euphemism for prostitutes or bar girls in the Korean context of the 1970s and 1980s) films. This body of films is not only characterized for the exploitive employment of female sexuality but more importantly for the theme of women’s extreme and perpetual sacrificial. Previous South Korean film scholarship has argued that the Park’s state censorship operation critically influenced the formation and thriving of these hostess films, because the state censors condoned sexual materials in films to drive away the public attention from politics as well as to please producers and directors who were increasingly becoming critical with strict military censorship (Chung, H.,2005; Yu, S.,2004; Kim, S.,2000; Park, J.,2008). While this scholarly account seems to be coherent that the genre is affected by the force of the state censorship, it does not fully explain how these films of, particularly, ‘prostitutes’ and their recurring theme of female sacrifice were constructed and canonized. My dissertation necessarily delves into this detail because hostess films were pioneered and thrived by some key directors of the 1970s. These directors founded a film movement, The Era of Image (1975) through which they committed to rejuvenate Korean cinema by delivering socially relevant issues combined with commercially viable aesthetics of cinema. The thematic and visual conventions of hostess films particularly involving with sexualized, working class female protagonists correspond to these artistic premises of this film movement. While this research historically overviews the genesis of these films, it particularly focuses on previously under investigated roles of hostess directors and media industry that critically provoked popularization of the films by aestheticizing and commercializing ‘female [sexual] sacrifice’ respectively. In doing so, I hope to read the South Korean hostess films more as culturally complex texts rather than by-products of the state power. At the same time, this research will illuminate cinematic representation of hostess women, or hostess sexuality which became a cultural epitome of women, during the 1970s and beyond.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Hyojung Kim
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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