Japan and Korea in the mirror of Cinema: Selfness and Otherness between mutual understanding and recurrent nationalisms


Korean wave
soft power

How to Cite

Palumbo, F. “Japan and Korea in the Mirror of Cinema: Selfness and Otherness Between Mutual Understanding and Recurrent Nationalisms”. Mutual Images Journal, Vol. 4, June 2018, pp. 34-61, doi:10.32926/2018.4.pal.japan.


The mutual representations and understanding of Korea and Japan can be approached by means of a socio-historical framing of the relationships between the two countries in the last decades, stemming from the tragic turmoil of World War II and the postcolonial heritage, including the ‘comfort women’ issue and the problems of the Korean minority in Japan, to the spreading of Japanese pop culture in South Korea and the ‘Korean Wave’ during the 1980s and the 1990s in Japan. Though nowadays resurgent nationalisms in both countries seem to highlight the limits of soft power in mutual acceptance, popular culture can be used as a privileged resource to investigate reciprocal representations between both societies. This paper aims to retrace the above-mentioned issues in a few selected recent Japanese and Korean movies, whose reception in Japan and Korea is connected to the audience sensitivity to the ‘Self and Other’ representations. The topic of the Korean minority in Japan is addressed through Hiroki Ryūichi’s Sayonara Kabukichō (Kabukicho Love Hotel, 2014), partially shot on locations in Shin-Ōkubo, Tokyo’s Korea Town. On the other hand, the rediscovery of Korea’s colonial past, linked to the ‘comfort women’ issue, is seen through the lens of Choi Dong-hoon’s Amsal (Assassination, 2015) and Cho Jung-rae’s Kwihyang (Spirits’ Homecoming, 2016). Japanese and Korean contemporary filmography seems to reflect people’s present worries about a significant Other, geographically and historically linked to the Self, as well as to portray the ethnic and national identity rebuilding through a retelling of history.


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