The Melbourne Metropolitan Korean Studies Seminar Series:
‘Creating an Anti-Communist Motion Picture Producers’ Network in Korea: The Asia Foundation and the Korean Motion Picture Cultural Association (KMPCA)’
Dr Sangjoon Lee (Nanyang Technological University)
Date: Wednesday 9 May 2018, 2-2:30pm
Venue: Deakin University, Burwood Corporate Centre
Under the leadership of its first president Robert Blum (1953-1962), The Asia Foundation, a private non-profit organization which was established in 1951, was actively involved in the motion picture industries in Asia since its first feature film project The People Win Through, based on a play written by a Burmese Prime Minister U Nu, came out in 1953. Roughly from 1953 to 1959, to win the battle for hearts and minds in Asia, The Asia Foundation had clandestinely supported anti-Communist motion picture industry personnel, ranging from producers, directors, and technicians to critics, writers, and general intellectuals in Japan, Hong Kong, Burma, Korea, as well as American and British producers in Malaya and Thailand in mostly indirect ways. Nagata Masaichi-initiated Federation of Motion Picture Producers in Southeast Asia (FPA) and its annual Southeast Asian Film Festival had been the Foundation’s core venture and other motion picture operations in Asia, Chang Kuo-sin’s Asia Pictures in Hong Kong and Korean Motion Picture Cultural Association (KMPCA) in Korea, were more or less related outcomes of FPA. What The Asia Foundation’s motion picture project team had hoped for was the construction of the league of anti-Communist motion picture producers in Asia in order to win the psychological war against Communism. Although It was, in the end, a failed project, but it should be noted that The Asia Foundation had played a significant role in the formation of the inter-Asian motion picture industry network in Cold War Asia, which had ultimately redrawn the imaginary and geo-political map of Asia. Drawing archival materials from Asia Foundation Records and Robert Blum Papers, this presentation is primarily concerned with the origins of the Foundation’s motion picture project in Japan and Korea, with a view to explore the ways in which the U.S. government-led cold war cultural policies had influenced the regional film industry.
Sangjoon Lee is Assistant Professor of Asian Cinema at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Lee is the editor of Hallyu 2.0: The Korean Wave in the Age of Social Media (University of Michigan Press, 2015) and is currently editing Rediscovering Korean Cinema for University of Michigan Press (forthcoming 2020). His writing has appeared in such journals as Film History, Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Journal of Korean Studies, Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, and Transnational Cinemas. He is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled The Asian Cinema Network: The Asian Film Festival and the Cultural Cold War in Asia.