Inspired by the idea that Korean films during the colonial and post-liberation periods (1919–1948) constantly question the boundaries of Korean national cinema, this article suggests that those films produced during the periods be designated as “Joseon film” (Joseon yeonghwa) and aims to examine the backdrops and potential effects of the nomenclature. In doing so, this paper reexamines the boundaries of Korean film history. At the center of this discourse are ten Joseon films the Korea Film Archive has rediscovered over the past decade, of which this article focuses on three Tuition (1940), Angels on the Streets (1941), and Seagull (1948); all discovered at overseas film archives. These three films constantly evoke and prompt questions on the conceptual definition of Korean film, even though they have been included in the historiography of early Korean cinema and been preserved materially in the Korean Film Archive. Tuition and Angels on the Streets, dating from the Japanese colonial period, and Seagull, dating from the post-liberation period. I examine their production and distribution on the boundaries between Joseon and Korean cinema and between colonial and nation-state cinema. Although the former two films aimed at becoming imperial Japan’s state (Gukka) films, they came to be categorized as Joseon (Minjok, ethnic) cinema by imperial Japan since the colonial realities reflected in the film were problematic to mainland Japan. The nationbuilding propaganda film Seagull, which was produced and distributed in 1948, had to start negotiating with the state to become South Korean film. It could not be legitimated as a South Korean film as it was filmed, since the print was confiscated by the authorities due to the actors who defected to North Korea. Reviewing the designations of and the boundaries between Joseon and Korean cinema, this article takes a critical approach to Korean film historiography of the Japanese colonial and post-liberation periods in Korea.
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A Ferry Boat that Has No Owner (Imja-eomneun narutbae). Directed by Gyu-hwan Lee. Gyeongseong: Yusin kinema. 1932.
A National Referendum (Gugmin tupyo). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Seoul: U.S. Information Service (U.S.I.S.). 1948.
Angels on the Streets (Jip eomneun cheonsa). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Gyeongseong:Goryeo yeonghwa hyeophoe. 1941.
A Seagull (Haeyeon). Directed by Gyu-hwan Lee. Seoul: Yesul yeonghwasa. 1948.
An Innocent Criminal (Joe-eobneun joe-in). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Seoul: Goryeo yeonghwasa. 1948.
Arirang Pass (Alilang gogae). Directed by Gae-myeong Hong. Gyeongseong:Gyeongseong chwaryeongso (Gyeongseong Studios). 1935.
Boys Town. Directed by Norman Taurog. Beverly Hills: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 1938.
Byeongjeongnim (Dear Soldier). Directed by Han-joon Bang. Gyeongseong: Joseon Military Press Bureau. 1944.
Children of the Sun (Taiyo no kodomodachi). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Gyeongseong:Sadan beobin joseon yeonghwasa (Joseon Film Corporation). 1944.
Chocolate and Soldiers (Chokoreto to heitai). Directed by Takeshi Sato. Tokyo: Toho eiga. 1938.
Dance of Jang Chu-hwa (Jangchuhwa muyong). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Seoul: U.S. Information Service (U.S.I.S.). 1948.
Dawn of the Nation (Minjok-ui saebyeok). Directed by Gyu-hwan Lee. Seoul: Daegwang yeonghwasa. 1947.
Ex-Convict (Jeongwaja). Directed by So-bong Kim. Gyeongseong: Gyeongseong chwaryeongso. 1934.
Fisherman’s Fire (Eohwa). Directed by Cheol-young Ahn. Gyeongseong: Keukgwang yeonghwasa. 1938.
Happiness (Geudeul-ui haengbok). Directed by Gyu-hwan Lee. Seoul: Lee gyu-hwan Production. 1947.
Hurrah For Freedom (Jayu manse). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Seoul: Goryeo yeonghwa jusikhoesa (Goryeo Film Company). 1946.
I Will Die Under the National Flag (Gukgi mit-e na-neun jugeuri). Directed by Ik Lee. Gyeongseong: Joseon munhwa yeonghwa hyeopoe. 1939.
Look up at the Blue Sky (Uleuleola changgong). Directed by Yeong-hwa Kim. Gyeongseong: Jonseon yeonghwa jejak jusikhoesa (Joseon Film Production Company). 1943.
Love and the Vow (Ai to chikai). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Gyeongseong: Sadan beobin Joseon yeonghwasa. 1945.
Miles Away from Happiness (Bokji malli). Directed by Chang-geun Jeon. Gyeongseong:Goryeo yeonghwa hyeopoe. 1941.
Military Train (Gunyong yeolcha). Directed by Gwang-je Seo. Sungbong Film Productions (Sungbong yeonghwawon). 1938.
My Hometown Village (Nae gohyang). Directed by Hong-sik Gang. Pyeongyang:Joseon yesul yeonghwa chwaryeongso. 1949.
Shim Cheong. Directed by Seok-young Ahn. Gyeongseong: Kishin yanghaeng, 1937.
Spring of Korean Peninsula (Bando-ui bom). Directed by Byeong-il Lee. Gyeongseong:Myeongbo yeonghwasa. 1941.
Straits of Joseon (Joseon haehyeop). Directed by Gi-chae Park. Gyeongseong: Jonseon yeonghwa jejak jusikhoesa. 1943.
Suicide Squad of the Watchtower (Boro no kesshitai). Directed by Tadashi Imai. Tokyo: Toho eiga. 1943.
Sweet Dream (Mimong). Directed by Ju-nam Yang and Fujie Yamazaki. Gyeongseong chwaryeongso.1936.
The Adventure of Ttolttori (Ttolttori-ui moheom). Directed by Gyu-hwan Lee. Seoul:Nam-il yeonghwasa. 1946.
The Night before Independence Day (Dongnip jeonya). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Seoul: Goryeo yeonghwa jusikhoesa. 1948.
The neighbor’s Wife and Mine (Madamu to nyobo). Directed by Heinosuke Gosho. Tokyo: Shochiku kinema. 1931.
The Sprinkler (Salsucha). Directed by Han-joon Bang. Gyeongseong: Joseon jungang yeonghwasa. 1935.
The Story of Chun-hyang (Chunhyangjeon). Directed by Myung-woo Lee. Gyeongseong: Gyeongseong chwaryeongso. 1935.
The Town of Hope (Huimang-ui maeul). Directed by In-gyu Choi. Seoul: U.S. Information Service (U.S.I.S.). 1948.
Tuition (Sueomnyo). Directed by In-gyu Choi and Han-jun Bang. Gyeongseong:Goryeo yeonghwa hyeopoe. 1940.
Wanderer (Nageune). Directed by Gyu-hwan Lee. Gyeongseong: Sungbong Film Productions. 1937.