Place Maketh Man: Gangnam as the Locus of Social Evil in South Korean Cinema

Discipline : Arts & Media
Speaker(s) : Pil Ho Kim (Ohio State U)

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Original time zone : 2022-04-06 4:30 Eastern Standard Time(EST) (America/New_York)
My local time zone : 2022-04-06 4:30 ()
posted by Jooyeon Rhee


File1 : Place Maketh Man.pdf


In contemporary South Korea, Gangnam is widely regarded as a breeding ground for ‘social evil’ (sahoeak). After all, since the early 1980s Gangnam has firmly established itself as the shrine of the unholy trinity of Korean capitalism: real estate speculation, adult entertainment/sex industry, and private education ‘fever’. Such a foul ‘sense of place’ has helped create a series of cinematic villains associated with Gangnam. There are particularly memorable ones in this century, including the atrocious teacher/kidnapper Mr. Paek in Lady Vengeance (2005), the obnoxious ‘male host’ Chaehyŏn in Beastie Boys(2008), and most recently, the enigmatic playboy Ben in Burning (2018). While the power of such villain characters is strong and unmistakable, it is Gangnam’s sense of place beyond all personality traits that make their villainy compelling by connecting the individual dots to the larger ‘social evil’. In so doing, moreover, Gangnam often makes the evil contagious to other characters, who become complicit either in evil acts perpetrated by villains or in corrupt social institutions. I will draw on the concept of ‘sense of place’ from human geography to construct Gangnam as the locus of social evil in South Korean cinema. 

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