Book Release – Understanding Korean Film: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

Posted by: Lauren Barnes  |  Posted on: February 25th, 2022

Jieun Kiaer and Loli Kim are pleased to announce the publication of Understanding Korean Film: A Cultural Perspective (2021).

Many of you will have undoubtably heard the recent rumblings in the media about the gap between the English subtitle and the Korean dialogue in Korean films, stimulated by fans of South Korean popular culture online; the most recent buzz being about the English subtitles in Netflix’s hit television show Squid Game, and before that in Bong Joon-ho’s film Parasite. This subject didn’t receive a lot of attention before because Korean was considered somewhat of a minority language in the past. However, the Korean Wave has generated a lot of interest in the Korean language, and as such the untranslatability that English-speakers face has become a popular topic.

When anyone sits down to watch a foreign film, they are unwittingly taking up the role of a multimodal translator. They are entirely responsible for interpreting multifaceted meanings, using their own repertoire, which simply isn’t equipped for the task. This doesn’t mean that viewers won’t be able to enjoy foreign films. However, if they want to get more out of these films, the good news is there is ‘more’ to them – more than the subtitles let on. This is certainly the case when English-speakers view Korean films. In every translation invisibility is inevitable, but because Korean and English are so different, translating between them poses much greater difficulty. The problem isn’t purely linguistic either, it is cultural too. Korean culture is very different from Western cultures, and these languages are set within their cultural contexts.

The book breaks new ground by addressing the ‘invisibility’ that English-speakers face when viewing South Korean films and provides them with a toolbox for interpreting it. The book consists of a combination of formal analysis, and in-depth discursive deconstructions of verbal and non-verbal expressions, within a range of narrative contexts, set within the cultural context of South Korea’s Confucian traditions.

The book challenges Eurocentric and Anglocentric tradition, bringing diversity to these perspectives, and attempting to achieve ‘translational justice’. With the increasing number of fans of Korean popular culture making less need for localisation, and the increasing involvement of fandom in the translation of Korean popular culture, perhaps there has never been a better time for the development of materials like this.

Leave a Comment