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

Hallyu and Film Adaptation: Maids of Decolonization in Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2020, v.60 no.1, pp.128-151
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2020.60.1.128


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Abstract

This paper offers an intermedial and intercultural reading of The Handmaiden (2016), a film adapted from Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith (2002) by Park Chan-wook. Park’s transcultural screen adaptation, representative of a post-colonial, hybridizing trend in Hallyu, transfers Waters’ Victorian setting to the Japanese-colonized Korea during the 1930s, expanding the novel’s focus on class and gender to issues of race, equality, and power. Park prompts his two female protagonists, a Japanese lady and a Korean handmaiden, to decolonize the psychic and social structures of a pro Japanese mansion in the process of becoming-maids that effectively decouples the predominant power/class relationships in its closed environment. Through their successful performance as equal participants in a satiric, self-reflexive pastiche of the Hollywood aesthetic, Park dramatizes the politics of hybridity and the politics of gender, class, and colonialism, providing a hybrid third space in the final scene of the film when the heroines sail to Shanghai. The Handmaiden demonstrates the dynamic force of Hallyu through its symbolic decolonization of Western cultural hegemony, its depiction of global and personal power shifts, and its new vision of the hybrid space.

keywords
The Handmaiden Hallyu Park Chan-wook film adaptation hybridity pastiche decolonization postcolonialism

Korea Journal