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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

Tradition and/of Bastards in the Korean Wave

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2006, v.46 no.3, pp.129-154
Ma Sheng-mi
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Abstract

On the threshold of the twenty-first century, the Korean Wave can bedefined as Asias wave of nostalgia for an essentialized tradition. Notonly does the Korean Wave reiterate notions of older traditions, but italso constructs a new one in terms of bastardy. Tellingly, many Kore-an television dramas revolve around protagonists of lowly origin caughtin the hierarchy of premodern Korea. In the case of recent art-house andcertain popular films, we are witnessing a transgressiveness thatswings to both ends of the pendulum, from tradition to bastardy. Tra-dition lives in the fear of the symbolic bastards who might usurppower, such as through the contamination of the bloodline throughincest. Yet, as a result of foreign invasions and suffering, the hermitKingdom resembles a circle that tries to keep itself intact, impervious tooutside forces. Translated into the Korean Waves domestic televisiondrama, this drive inward turns into the tease of forbidden love, usuallybetween lovers who mistake each other for half-sibling, such as in Win-ter Sonata. Not until the bastard art house film Old Boy does the tra-ditional tease of incest dare to manifest itself nakedly. Indeed, eventhat which causes pain in the Korean consciousness is not instinctivelydemonized as the Other. Rather, it is internalized, opposite in valenceto the Western tendency of outward projection. This duality of traditionand/of bastardy in the Korean Wave attracts Asian audiences allaround the globe, which find themselves ambivalently wedged betweena lost tradition and a modernity of the Other.

keywords
Korean wave Seopyeonje Old Boy Korean film Koreantelevision drama tradition bastards (bastardy)Sheng-mei Ma is Professor of English at Michigan State University. Ma received thePh.D. from Indiana University. Mas research interests are Asian di Korean wave Seopyeonje Old Boy Korean film Koreantelevision drama tradition bastards (bastardy)Sheng-mei Ma is Professor of English at Michigan State University. Ma received thePh.D. from Indiana University. Mas research interests are Asian di

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153 Tradition and/of Bastards in the Korean Wave,

Korea Journal