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

Postmemory Generation and Family Tragedies in South Korea: My Father’s Emails (2014) and Dear Pyongyang (2006)

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2019, v.59 no.2, pp.35-60
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2019.59.2.35

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Abstract

This essay applies Marianne Hirsch’s theory of the postmemory generation to Jaehee Hong’s My Father’s Emails (2014) and Yonghi Yang’s Dear Pyongyang (2006), personal documentaries on their father’s traumatic experiences during the Korean War as seen from the daughters’ perspectives. Both documentaries underscore the father’s absence and silence and the lack of direct knowledge of the Korean War and subsequent ideological conflicts, two important traits of the experiences of the postmemory generation. First, inspired by feminist discourses on historical accounts and Hirsch’s theory of postmemory, I focus on how these female filmmakers utilize personal memories of their fathers to question the official historical narrative, dominated by frustrated and violent manhood, in postwar South Korean cinema. Second, this essay also deals with My Father’s Emails and Dear Pyongyang as important examples that challenge traditional definitions of documentary; both films consist of archival photography as well as fictional and interpretative elements—fluctuating between remembrance and oblivion or between understanding and confusion. The unsettled relations between the fathers and daughters, in a way, well reflect the ambiguous role of personal documentaries in resolving the gap between the war survivors and the postmemory and postwar generation in South Korea.

keywords
Korean War Cold War personal documentary generation of postmemory Marianne Hirsch Jaehee Hong Yonghi Yang My Father’s Emails Dear Pyongyang

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