Hieyoon Kim Visiting Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies

My work focuses on the cultural dimensions of modern and contemporary Korea, with an emphasis on the ways transnational dynamics affect the formation of media and public space.

My dissertation, which I am developing into a book manuscript titled Celluloid Democracy: Cinema and Its Archives in Cold War South Korea, rethinks nation-building and Cold War geopolitics via cinema and its archives. From the U.S. occupation through the authoritarian rule that controlled the nation until the 1980s, political regimes appropriated film as a state apparatus. I explore the shifting understanding of film among American and international policymakers and Korean leaders, and provide a firsthand look at how local actors such as filmmakers and elites worked to reclaim the state apparatus as a tool for building civil society. Tracing the history of film archives as they were transformed from implements of social control to sites of public empowerment, this study sheds light on the country’s fraught transition from postcolony to nation-state. In so doing, it reveals that archives were not merely institutions, but also sites of battle among contesting notions of cinema, citizenship, and society in South Korea.

My research challenges the preeminence of the national unit as the focus of historical analysis by giving new prominence to transnational ideas of liberal democracy and capitalism, non-state actors such as UNESCO, and cultural exchanges between South Korea and its allies, most specifically the United States. It draws upon a range of sources from two years of research in East Asia, Europe, and North America. By combining political and cultural history, my research contributes not only to the scholarship on post-1945 Korean society, but also to transnational and interdisciplinary studies of the Cold War. 

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