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Who has betrayed the Nation? A Cinematographic Perspective of the Collaboration

María del Pilar Álvarez, University of Buenos Aires

Collaboration is still one of the most controversial historical issues of Korean twentieth century. The end of the Japanese domination over Korea did not entail a rectification of the past. During the postliberation, the discourse of collaboration has always reflected ambivalences. Syngman Rhee, the anti-Japanese first president of the Korean Republic, presided over a bureaucracy and a military that was almost entirely trained by Japanese. Even though, many Koreans who served the Japanese government were reinstated in key positions during his presidency, Rhee manipulated anti-Japanese sentiments as a way of mobilizing the populace for his own political interest, especially because memories of the colonization were fresh. Thus, while in the political, economical and ideological structure, the colonial influence remains, official and academic discourses mainly neglect aspects of Japanese colonialism by focusing exclusively on economic domination and political oppression.

Nevertheless, the end of the Korean War frustrated any attempt of looking over the past. The country was economically devastated and ideologically divided; therefore the political agenda threw into reconstructing the nation and reconciling the society under the myth of “resistance.” By 1965 with the Treaty of Normalization of relations between South Korea and Japan, the problem of collaboration became an official taboo.

Recently, groups of memories (movies, newspapers, magazines, academic research, etc) have started to challenge the master narratives. Thus, we can observe a complex scenario of contradictories memories that inquire into the problem of the Koreans that participated, in different ways, in the Japanese government during the colonial period. Films such Fighter in the Wind (바람의파이터, 2004) and Blue Swallow (청연, 2005) go into the problem of Koreans that has worked in Japan under the colonization. On the other hand, movies like 2009 Lost Memories (2009 로스드 메모리스, 2002) and Hanbando (한반도, 2006) portray the ethical problems involved in resistance and forgiveness.

In this ambiguous context in which converge extreme perspectives, we attempt to contribute to the development of empirical and theoretical studies on historical memories on cinema. Likewise, we endeavor to contribute with a better understanding of the dynamics of historical reminiscences in contemporary Korean society.

First of all, we will briefly discuss the theoretical issues of history on cinema. Secondly, we will introduce to the main legal and historical debates on collaboration. Finally, we will analyze the continuities and changes around this issue in the selected movies.

The films will be considered as a core of historical narratives, as a symbolic force, a tool of interpreting the past. Through the deep analysis of movies’ aesthetic, the main goal of our research is to sketch certain features that define the contemporary cinematographic pattern of collaboration

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