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Gay Korean Films

The LGBT representation in South Korean media has evolved and changed throughout time. Efforts from groups such as the Rainbow Foundation or Chingusai, not only changed the atmosphere and attitudes from the public, but also changed the media industry in South Korea.[3] According to Pil Ho Kim and C.Colin Singer, the history and progression of the LGBT representation in South Korean films and dramas can be divided into three separate waves. The first period is the Invisible Age (1945 to 1997) that is followed by the Camouflage Age (1998 to 2004) and the last period is known as the Blockbuster Age (2005 to 2010).[5] Pil Ho Kim is currently an assistant professor at Ohio State University who specializes in Korean society and culture.[6] C. Colin Singer was an academic at Ewha Womans University during the process of this literature.

gay korean films

Kim and Singer describe the period between 1945 and 1997 as the Invisible Age.[5] The word invisible does not necessary translate to the lack of queer films; there were a few films that incorporated LGBT themes to varying levels. The films that were released during this time period are The Pollen of Flowers (1972), Ascetic: Women and Women (1976), Sabangji (1988) and Broken Branches (1995).

These films used different approaches and displayed various levels of LGBT representation, but they all fall under the Invisible Age because of their lack of publicity and fame.[5] For example, The Pollen of Flowers is composed of many unprecedented elements such as violence, which steered the conversation away from homosexuality themes in the films.[5] In a different light, Ascetic: Women and Women showcased erotic and sexual elements that featured lesbian storyline under a more simplistic or basic narratives.[5] A Korean LGBT magazine named Buddy later categorized Ascetic: Women and Women as the first lesbian film, but this effort was still "invisible" to the larger public sphere due to the fact that Ascetic was seen as an erotic film.[5] Around this time, "Ero" has evolved to a prominent genre where films that embraced sexuality and intimacy fell under this genre that was associated with words like underground or unofficial.

Sabangji is another example of the genre of "ero" powerfully overshadowing or masking the LGBT themes in films.[5] Lastly, Broken Branches was the first out of these films to gather some fame out of the invisibility.[5] However, this film was denied from the main activists of the LGBT movement due to its overarching narrative of portraying queerness a consequential result of patriarchy and Confucianism.[5] For all these reasons above, these films were invisiblized by South Korean society as a whole and therefore symbolized the Invisible Age of LGBT representation in South Korean media.

Continuing with Kim and Singer's categorizing, the time period between 1998 and 2004 is referred to as the Camouflage Age. During this time period, the cinematic representation of LGBT communities increased in general. The films of this era mostly portrayed queerness in the background while main themes overshadowed queerness of the film. This was used as a strategy to strike a balance between making the film enticing while not entirely controversial. Some examples of these successful films include Memento Mori (1999) and Bungee Jumping of Their Own (2001).[5]

The conversation of the Camouflage Age becomes more complex with the voices of Korean gay activists in Korea under organizations such as Chingusai or Handonghyop.[5] During this era, some activists have called out against the masking and promoted the message that a gay man is no different than a straight man. These activists have stated that these masking perpetuates a message that deems heterosexuality as the "normal" while any deviance would be seen evil.[5] These activists partnered with smaller film companies to produce films that portrayed LGBT relationships just like any other relationships that are portrayed in genres of romance comedy. Others voiced more in favor of the masking strategy under the Camouflage Age stating that this act of "masking" allowed queerness to become depoliticized and therefore allowed in the public sphere.[5] Just like this, the Camouflage Age was a time when films were at the center of these crucial conversations among the LGBT movement in South Korea. Some other films during this time period included Bongja (2000), Flower Island (2001), Desire (2002), Wanee and Junah (2002) and Road Movie (2002).[5]

Helmed by Kuang- Hui Liu, this is a stunning masterpiece made in Taiwan. Released shortly after the country legalised same-sex marriage, Your Name Engraved Herein became one of the highest-grossing and critically acclaimed films in the country.

The film screened at Sundance, and went to all of these festivals, but the main goal was really just to show it to my parents. If I did that, that was a success for me. So the fact that it did even more, and made me come out to the world, because I was getting press, that was really liberating. It gave me a lot of confidence and direction. Like, yes, I want to make LGBTQ Korean-American films. This is where I'm meant to be.

I don't actually think my films are "message films," at least not in a direct way. They're political in that I'm thrusting upon an audience a human that they have to deal with, and in understanding these characters as people, as human beings, you're made to look at the world in a slightly different way. It's never my goal to force a point of view, but to show one.

It also made me angry, and sad, that these are the challenges of being a queer Korean-American filmmaker, trying to make a queer Korean-American film. I understand why there are so many films about straight white people. No one will complain or take issues. You want a location, you can have it. I lost actors because they were uncomfortable with the subject matter. These are the problems you face when you're making a film like this. This is probably the case with any kind of diverse cinema. There's something at stake, and there's going to be challenges.

Film can be a reflection of reality, demonstrating various interpretations of the good and the bad. The medium has the magical capability to touch on taboo subjects by enveloping them with metaphors and symbolism, subjects such as the acknowledgment and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.RELATED:Underrated Queer Cinema Gems and Where To Find ThemWestern audiences are probably more familiar with the martial arts genre in the East, not to mention action stars such as Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh. However, Asian Cinema has so much more to offer movie-goers. As the LGBTQ+ community is mostly shunned in Asian countries, a handful of films act as an extension of the actuality, exploring this pressurized community and demonstrating how all love is made equal.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Taiwan in 2019 and became the first in Asia to recognize LGTBQ+ rights. In addition, Taiwan has been releasing great films about the marginalized group since the 20th century, one of them being Netflix's original movie Dear Ex (2018).

A recent Monash University graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Media Communication and a Specialisation in Film Studies.She's fresh freelance writer with a passion for international cinema.Her favorite directors are, but definitely not limited to, Martin Scorsese, Wong Kar-Wai, Krzysztof Kieślowski and Juzo Itami.When she's not busy writing or daydreaming, Jia Yee Bridgette enjoys spending her free time watching whatever films she could rummage up, listening to songs mostly released in the pre-2010s era and the ocassional indulgence in the act of beer-drinking.Follow her on Letterboxd for personal reflections and rants:

Kim has directed a handful of films well received by domestic audiences and came out in 2005 during a screening. He co-founded a production company "Rainbow Factory" with his partner that specialises in LGBT-themed movies.

In order to make money, two clowns named Jang Saeng and Gong Gil create a play mocking the King, but are soon arrested for treason. Betting their lives they can make the king laugh with their play, the two clowns eventually succeed. They soon join the palace staff and perform plays for the King, and his majesty quickly falls in love with Gong Gil. The two clowns are drawn into a series of conspiracies that include desire, power and blood. In South Korea, 12.3 million people saw the film, and it grossed $85 million, making it one of the highest-grossing South Korean films of all time, and was very successful across multiple Asian markets. Lee Jun Ki became one of the hottest male stars due to his breath-taking face and excellent performance in this film.

Transgender characters have also appeared in Korean films, including Man on High Heels (2014), in which actor Cha Seung-won played a detective who wants to transition. Ahn Yon-joon plays a transgender character in Half (2016) and Lee Ha-na played a trans woman in Lady Daddy (2010).

I love exploring the how and why of films, their impact on society and their business; and the artists behind the films. Bollywood and Indian entertainment. Exploring the business, art and craft of showbiz apart, I wish to facilitate a better understanding between the audience and the artists.

Kim has directed a handful of films well received by domestic audiences and came out in 2005 during a screening. He co-founded a production company "Rainbow Factory" with his partner that specializes in LGBT-themed movies.

I realize this is a huge generalization, but one of the things Asian cinema is known for is the abundance of disturbing films, even in decades where other regions were ruled by the strains of conservatism and were shocked by even the smallest amount of nudity on cinema. This element applies particularly to Southeast Asia, with Japan and Hong Kong producing an abundance of films that broke any kind of taboos human ever conceived.

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