The Korean War (1950–53) changed the material and affective landscape of the Korean peninsula and ushered in a new era ruled by a military dictatorship dependent on US military power. With bases dotting the South Korean peninsula, former agricultural villages became camptowns that catered to the needs of American soldiers. This article focuses on the South Korean melodrama Chiokhwa (Hellflower, 1958), directed by Shin Sang-ok, which narrates a love triangle between two brothers and Sonya, a camptown prostitute or yanggongju. It examines the role of the postwar environment in constructing the spaces of the subject. Using the yanggongju figure as a technology of postwar memory, this work reevaluates the ecology of ruination left in the wake of the Korean War—as portrayed through Sonya, scenes of the city, the camptown, the base, and the surrounding fields and marshes—to explore the sense of loss and displacement of this period.
(Re)mapping the Yanggongju and the Camptown in Shin Sang-ok's Hellflower
Laura Ha Reizman is a PhD candidate in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is completing her dissertation, “Conditions of Containment: Mixed-Race Politics in Cold War Korea.” Her research focuses on the intersection of militarism, visuality, ethnic nationalism, gender, and mixed-race politics in postwar South Korea. She is a Fulbright-Hays fellow, and most recently translated Kong Sŏn-ok's “Single Mother,” published in Azaleas 12 (2019).
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Laura Ha Reizman; (Re)mapping the Yanggongju and the Camptown in Shin Sang-ok's Hellflower. Feminist Media Histories 1 April 2020; 6 (2): 43–66. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2020.6.2.43
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