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Korea(n) divided: Third space existence in Kim Ki Duk's Wild Animals
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Oriental Languages.
2004 (English)In: Graduate Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, ISSN 1176-2152, Vol. 2, no 2, 18-29 p.18-29 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

International adoption from Korea constitutes the background to this study. The forced migration of Korean children has by now continued for over half a century, resulting in a diaspora of more than 150,000 adopted Koreans dispersed among 15 main host countries on the continents of Europe, North America and Oceania. Both the demographic scope, the time span and the geographic spread are absolutely unique in a comparative historical child migratory perspective, and still over 2,000 children leave Korea annually. This massive intercontinental displacement and dispersal of Korean children was for many years silently taking place in the shadow of Korea’s transformation from a war-torn and poverty-stricken country to a formidable economic success story in the postcolonial world. Even if the subject of international adoption and adopted Koreans turned up now and then in the political debate throughout the years, it was not until the end of the 1980s that a comprehensive discussion started. Ever since the adoption issue (ibyang munjê) has been haunting Korea as a recurrent subject in Korean media and popular culture. This paper is a reading of world-famous Korean director Kim Ki-duk’s feature film Wild Animals from 1997, related to theories of hybridity, third space and passing. With the background of Korean nationalism with its notion of the nation as family and its strong emphasis on homogeneity and continuity, the point of departure is the very existence of the adopted Koreans as a delicate threat to nationalist ideology, causing anxieties of disrupting a supposedly fixed and unified national identity, and calling in question what it means to be Korean and who belongs to the Korean nation. Wild Animals is set in Paris and deals with the issue of hybridity and the relationship between Koreanness and Whiteness, played out between three ethnic Koreans: South Korean Ch’ông-hae, a failed painter and petty criminal, North Korean Hong-san, a defector and martial arts expert, and adopted Korean Laura, a self-destructive young woman working as a striptease dancer. In the course of the film, the trio repeatedly and coincidentally encounters each other in the French capital. The South and North Koreans soon become friends and together they experience an odyssey through the underground world of the French mafia. In the film, Laura on the other hand is both abused by her adoptive father and her French boyfriend as well as being occidentalised by the South and North Korean men. While the South and North Koreans at least are able to acknowledge each other’s Korean identities while dying, the film ends with the adopted Korean left alone situated in a limbo in-between Koreanness and Whiteness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
University of Auckland, Faculty of Arts , 2004. Vol. 2, no 2, 18-29 p.18-29 p.
Keyword [en]
international adoption, popular culture, Korea
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1326OAI: diva2:189887
Available from: 2006-10-25 Created: 2006-10-25 Last updated: 2009-06-29Bibliographically approved

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