Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Metz, Walter


This thesis examines the relationship between Korean film and modernity by conducting a survey of the representation of cars, trains, and the city throughout (South) Korean film history. There have been several remarkable changes in these representations over time: the train, first the awe-inspiring symbol of Korean technological advancement in the 1890s, becomes the brutal symbol of Japanese oppression just a few decades later. The city in Korean film is politically and socially charged for most of the 20th century, a place where innocent people are morally corrupted or physically assaulted. But by the 21st century, trains and cars are now toys for action characters to manipulate, and the city is now a neutral backdrop for pure entertainment in blockbuster films such as Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho, 2016), Ashfall (Lee Hae-jun and Kim Byung-seo, 2019), and Peninsula (Yeon Sang-ho, 2020). There are several reasons for this, one of which I propose as the inherently procapitalist and pro-modernity nature of the blockbuster film.




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