chapter  7
14 Pages

“The Ghost Remembers Only What It Wants To”: Traumas of Girlhood as a Metonym for the Nation in the South Korean Whispering Corridors (Yeogo Goedam) Series

BySUNG-AE LEE AND JOHN STEPHENS

Such motifs recur because a particularly signifi cant aspect of the Whispering Corridors (Yeogo goedam) series is that it is what Rick Altman refers to as a producers’ genre (38-44). That is, a producer identifi es a successful fi lm and produces one or more further fi lms that seek to capitalize on an identifi ed formula for success.4 Thus there is no continuity of story elements or cast in this series-in short, no sequels-but they are all ghost stories set in a girls’ school, pivot on the social forces that preclude or destroy close friendships, and thematically use the setting to comment on repression, violence, and exploitation in the education system, and to suggest that this setting and its attributes are metonymic of South Korean society more generally. Different aspects of social repression may be accentuated from fi lm to fi lm. For example, the fi fth fi lm, Blood Pledge,

abandons the presupposition that the supernatural presence which is the event catalyst already inhabits the school (a presupposition which, underlying the fi rst four fi lms, points to the importance of suppressed cultural memories), and instead focuses on the propensity for Korean Christianity to be more concerned with power and networks than with faith and spirituality. Or again, the fourth fi lm, Voice (Yeogo goedam 4: Moksori), offers a contrast between the immaculate, modern school buildings of the setting (“New on the outside, but rotten on the inside,” according to the caretaker) and the somewhat dilapidated buildings of the fi rst fi lm, with its abandoned, forgotten, and haunted rooms. The two fi lms thus offer differing angles on a common concept, and arguably allude to Korea’s materialistic and mammonistic economic growth, with its focus on appearances rather than on the cultivation of a good society and inner beauty.