Beyond binaries: Globalization, the Korean film industry, and Hollywood hegemony
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The Korean film industry has undergone a dramatic change in the past decade. While it had seemed to be almost dead amid the onslaught of Hollywood films for most of the 1990s, since the late 1990s the Korean film industry has come not only to successfully challenge Hollywood's dominance in Korea, but also to garner critical and commercial success abroad. In this dissertation, I critically examine how and why this change in the Korean film industry happened and what it implies for our general understanding of transnational cultural flows, globalization, and hegemony. By looking at the transformation of the Korean film industry, I aim to rethink some of the conventional assumptions concerning transnational cultural flows and globalization, and to expand our understanding of them. In this regard, I emphasize the critical role of the government in the production of culture by locating the underlying dynamics of change in the film industry in the Korean government's policies. I also examine how global-local encounters can create unintended outcomes, not just homogenization, and how the hegemony of globalization operates in this context. In critically examining the industrial structure and practices of the Korean film industry and Hollywood's recent embrace of local film industries, my study problematizes binary approaches to the global-local relationship. While recognizing the significance of the achievement of the Korean film industry, I challenge the uncritical celebration that sees this primarily in terms of local resistance or a challenge to Hollywood's hegemony. In contrast, I show that this success involves conformity as much as challenge to Hollywood's global power. I examine how the context of globalization has affected Hollywood and brought it closer to various other film industries. While this has not undermined Hollywood's hegemony, I examine how Hollywood and local film industries increasingly constitute each other, and how this complicates any clear-cut distinction between domination and resistance. In dealing with these questions, this dissertation aims to offer an analysis of the political economy of cultural production in Korea, the transnational flows of culture, and their particular intersections in this context. But I argue that this story demonstrates the more general inadequacy of a binary perspective to address the intricate relationships between the global and the local, showing how the questions of hegemony and resistance become complicated and are reconfigured in and by this process.