Destination Hong Kong : The geopolitics of south Korean espionage films in the 1960s

Sangjoon LEE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

As the apparent progeny of Cold War politics in the West, espionage films witnessed unprecedented popularity around the globe in the 1960s. With the success of Dr. No (1962) and Goldfinger (1964)-along with French, Italian, and German copycats-in Asia, film industries in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea recognized the market potential and embarked on churning out their own James Bond-mimetic espionage films in the late 1960s. Since the regional political sphere has always been multifaceted, however, each country approached genre conventions with its own interpretation. In the US-driven Cold War political, ideological, and economic sphere, developmental states in the region, particularly South Korea and Taiwan, vigorously adopted anti-communist doctrine to guard and uphold their militant dictatorships. Under this political atmosphere in the regional sphere, cultural sectors in each nation-state, including cinema, voluntarily or compulsorily served as an apparatus to strengthen the state's ideological principles. While the Cold War politics that drive the narrative in the American and European films is conspicuously absent in Hong Kong espionage films, South Korea and Taiwan, on the other hand, explicitly promulgated the ideological principles of their apparent enemies, North Korea and the People's Republic of China (PRC), in their representative espionage films. This article casts a critical eye over South Korea-initiated inter-Asian coproduction of espionage films produced during the time, with particular reference to South Korea-Hong Kong coproduction of SOS Hong Kong (SOS Hongk'ong) and Special Agent X-7 (Sun'gan un yongwonhi), both produced and released in 1966.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-364
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Korean Studies
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank Steven Chung, Hyun Seon Park, Christina Klein, Jinsoo An, Moonim Baek, Han Sang Kim, Yoshimi Shunya, Hyunjung Lee, Ting Chun Chun, Hye-Joon Yoon, Michael Baskett, and anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Affects of Border Crossing in Urban Asia Workshop at Nanyang Technological University, April 1, 2016; Cold War in Korean Cinema Workshop at Princeton University, May 7, 2016; and Cultural Typhoon 2016, Tokyo University of the Arts, July 2, 2016. This research was made possible by funding from Nanyang Technological University’s Start-Up Grant (2015–2018).

Keywords

  • Coproduction
  • Espionage films
  • Hong Kong cinema
  • James Bond
  • Korean cinema

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