The Stranglehold of Foreign Films in Korea 1948

The impact of foreign films on the Korean movie industry is frequently addressed in the Korean media. The Korean government, media, and the industry itself have long debated how many foreign films should be shown in domestic cinemas and the degree to which Korea should or should not open up to cultural products from Japan.

These concerns go back further than I had imagined, as you can see from this cartoon found in The Korean Free Press (자유신문 自由新聞) from Christmas Day, 1948:


In the cartoon the Korean film and theatrical industry is being strangled by “Foreign Movies” and stepped upon by a 10% tax rate.

On the day before this cartoon was published, in the Christmas Eve issue, you can see an advertisement for one of the offending foreign films, the 1946 English movie “The Captive Heart” which opened on that day.


On the day after this cartoon was published, December 26th, the following advertisement for the Korean play “임 오시는 길”, opening at 동양극장 on that day is found alongside a smaller advertisement for the Universal pictures movie, “독개비騷動” (독깨비 소동) which I think is the 1948 film “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein


The same page of the Christmas Day issue which carried the initial cartoon also has two other articles more representative of the kinds of issues of the day:

拷問致死事件證人尋問繼續 (Questioning of Witness Continues in the Incident of a Death Resulting from Torture) – Articles on police torture of suspects are found frequently in both conservative and more moderate newspapers in 1948, and are also common throughout the newspapers of the 1945-1949 period I have been looking at.

暴動未然防止:市民은警察信賴하라 (Prevent Violence Before it Happens: Citizens, Trust the Police!) – Articles pleading for people to trust the police are very often found on the same page as articles covering police torture, police corruption, or other problems of police quality (악질경찰 惡質警察).

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