ABSTRACT

It is now commonly argued that South Korea entered the neo-liberal global order with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) crisis in 1997. This financial crisis brought with it a profound sense of fear, panic and anxiety. However, crisis and emergency are not exceptional states in South Korea, one of the last post-cold war zones driven by an export economy. A state of emergency was proclaimed many times during the authoritarian regime of Park Chung Hee (19611980), and this remained a norm of modern statehood after the end of that regime. Ironically, the first golden age of Korean cinema after the Korean War overlaps with a period in which a state of emergency was proclaimed no less than three times: 1960, 1961 and 1964. Subsequently, the state of emergency proclaimed in 1972 was followed under Yushin (the Revitalizing Reforms System, 19731979) by the issuing of the fourth revised film law which introduced censorship of such severity that it rang the death knell of the national cinema of the time. Working intimately within the state of emergency as a mode of public fantasy (Jackson 2005), South Korean films of this period such as Lee Man-hui’s Geomeun meori (Black Hair, 1964) and Hyuil (Holiday, 1967) generated a particular cinematic strategy of appearing nihilistic yet also potentially critical of the legal and political crises imposed by the state of emergency. Today, a lingering legacy of the emergency mode is the way in which the rapid organization of capital, labour, technology and information materializes itself as condensed modernity in the South Korean context. In the

decade since I laughed hard at the government slogan, ‘We were latecomers to industrialization but we can move ahead in the information age’, the highspeed Internet has become a symbol of South Korea. Now Korea Telecom (KT) has a series of TV commercials that turn in a self-parodying style on the short temperedness of Koreans as consumer-catalysts for the fast connection.