Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Always, Blind, and Silenced

Disability Discourses in Contemporary South Korean Cinema

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2017), 11, (3), 249–270.

Abstract

The article examines three feature-length films produced in South Korea—director Hwang Dong-hyeok’s Silenced (2011), Song Il-gon’s Always (2011), and An Sang-hun’s Blind (2011)—that highlight a problem in contemporary disability rights cinema. While privileging individuals and groups that challenge normative understandings of character-based drama or documentary filmmaking, these motion pictures reflect an infantilizing tendency in popular culture more generally. The representations align with the standard medical approach to the topic, which sees disability as a sickness, a childlike helplessness (regardless of the person’s age) that results from an inability, a marked deficit in one’s physical or mental performance. However, it is argued that Silenced, a film that provoked legislative changes strengthening the protection of minors in South Korea, at least gestures toward the social model of disability.

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You, Hyun-Kyung, and Lori A. McGraw. “The Intersection of Motherhood and Disability: Being a ‘Good’ Korean Mother to an ‘Imperfect Child.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 42 (2011): 579–98. Print. The Intersection of Motherhood and Disability: Being a ‘Good’ Korean Mother to an ‘Imperfect Child Journal of Comparative Family Studies 42 579 98 Google Scholar

Anon. KCM Blog. “Always Film Review.” KCM. 6 May 2012. Web. Always Film Review Always Google Scholar

Bérubé, Michael. Foreword, Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. Ed. Simi Linton. New York: New York University Press, 1998. xii. Print. Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. New York: Verso, 1995. Print. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body Google Scholar

Degener, Theresia. “Disability as a Subject of International Human Rights Law and Comparative Discrimination Law.” The Human Rights of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities: Different But Equal. Ed. Stanley S. Herr, Lawrence O. Gostin, and Harold Hongju Koh. Oxford University Press, 2003. 151–84. Print. Disability as a Subject of International Human Rights Law and Comparative Discrimination Law The Human Rights of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities: Different But Equal 151 84 Google Scholar

Erin, Jane. “Individual and Societal Responses to Diversity and Visual Impairment.” Diversity and Visual Impairment: The Influence of Race, Gender, Religion, and Ethnicity on the Individual. Ed. Madeline Milian and Jane Erin. New York: AFB Press, 2001. 3–34. Print. Individual and Societal Responses to Diversity and Visual Impairment Diversity and Visual Impairment: The Influence of Race, Gender, Religion, and Ethnicity on the Individual 3 34 Google Scholar

Gong, Ji-yeong. Dogani [The Crucible]. Seoul: Changbi, 2009. Print. Dogani [The Crucible] Google Scholar

Grue, Jan. Disability and Discourse Analysis. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015. Print. Disability and Discourse Analysis Google Scholar

Heyer, Katharina. Rights Enabled: The Disability Revolution, from the US, to Germany and Japan, to the United Nations. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2015. Print. Rights Enabled: The Disability Revolution, from the US, to Germany and Japan, to the United Nations Google Scholar

Honeycutt, Kirk. “Always: Busan Film Review.” Hollywood Reporter. 6 October 2011. Web. Always: Busan Film Review Always Google Scholar

Karna, G. N. United Nations and the Rights of Disabled Persons: A Study in Indian Perspective. New Delhi: APH Publishing, 1999. Print. United Nations and the Rights of Disabled Persons: A Study in Indian Perspective Google Scholar

Kim, Kyung Hyun. Virtual Hallyu: Korean Cinema of the Global Era. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. Print. Virtual Hallyu: Korean Cinema of the Global Era Google Scholar

Kim, Shin Jeong, and Kyung Ah Kang. “Meaning of Life for Adolescents with a Physical Disability in Korea.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 43.2 (2003): 145–57. Print. Meaning of Life for Adolescents with a Physical Disability in Korea Journal of Advanced Nursing 43.2 145 57 Google Scholar

Kim, Wan Ho, Yoon Ghil Park, Hyung-Ik Shin, and Sang Hee Im. “The World Report on Disability and Recent Developments in South Korea.” American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 93.1 [supplement] (2014): 58–62. Print. The World Report on Disability and Recent Developments in South Korea American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 93.1 58 62 Google Scholar

Kim-Rupnow, Weol Soon. “Disability and Korean Culture.” Culture and Disability: Providing Culturally Competent Services. Ed. John H. Stone. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2004. 115–38. Print. Disability and Korean Culture Culture and Disability: Providing Culturally Competent Services 115 38 Google Scholar

Lee, Claire. “‘Barrier-Free’ films offer universal experience.” The Korea Herald. 31 October 2011. Web. ‘Barrier-Free’ films offer universal experience The Korea Herald Google Scholar

Lord, Janet E. “Persons with Disabilities in International Humanitarian Law—Paternalism, Protectionism or Rights?” Disability, Human Rights and the Limits of Humanitarianism. Ed. Cathy Schlund-Vials and Michael Gill. London: Routledge/Ashgate, 2014. 155–78. Print. Persons with Disabilities in International Humanitarian Law—Paternalism, Protectionism or Rights? Disability, Human Rights and the Limits of Humanitarianism 155 78 Google Scholar

Mimiko, Nahzeem Oluwafemi. “From Insularity to Segyehwa: The Political Economy of Globalization in Korea.” Korea and Globalization: Politics, Economics and Culture. Ed. James B. Lewis and Amadu Sesay. London: Routledge, 2002. 61–78. Print. From Insularity to Segyehwa: The Political Economy of Globalization in Korea Segyehwa 61 78 Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. “Introduction: Disability Studies and the Double Bind of Representation.” The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability. Ed. David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1997. 1–34. Print. Introduction: Disability Studies and the Double Bind of Representation The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability 1 34 Google Scholar

Mogk, Marja Evelyn. “Introduction.” Different Bodies: Essays on Disability in Film and Television. Ed. Marja Evelyn. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013. 1–16. Print. Introduction Different Bodies: Essays on Disability in Film and Television 1 16 Google Scholar

Ramstad, Evan, and Soo-ah Shin. “South Korea Toughens Penalties for Abusers of Disabled.” Wall Street Journal. 28 October 2011. Web. South Korea Toughens Penalties for Abusers of Disabled Wall Street Journal Google Scholar

Robey, Kenneth L., Linda Beckley, and Matthew Kirschner. “Implicit Infantilizing Attitudes about Disability.” Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 18.4 (2006): 441–53. Print. Implicit Infantilizing Attitudes about Disability Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities 18.4 441 53 Google Scholar

Robinson, Michael. “Contemporary Cultural Production in South Korea: Vanishing Meta-Narratives of Nation.” New Korean Cinema. Ed. Chi-Yun Shin and Julian Stringer. New York: New York University Press, 2005. 15–31. Print. Contemporary Cultural Production in South Korea: Vanishing Meta-Narratives of Nation New Korean Cinema 15 31 Google Scholar

Ryan, Ellen, and Karen A. Bannister. Ability Speaks: Talking with a Person with Disability. Madrid: Editorial Aresta, 2009. Print. Ability Speaks: Talking with a Person with Disability Google Scholar

Woo, Chung Wan. “‘Seeing Another/Seeing Oneself’: Nondisabled Audiences’ Perspectives on Disability in Two South Korean Films.” PhD Dissertation. Syracuse, NY: University of Syracuse (December 2012). Print. ‘Seeing Another/Seeing Oneself’: Nondisabled Audiences’ Perspectives on Disability in Two South Korean Films Google Scholar

You, Hyun-Kyung, and Lori A. McGraw. “The Intersection of Motherhood and Disability: Being a ‘Good’ Korean Mother to an ‘Imperfect Child.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 42 (2011): 579–98. Print. The Intersection of Motherhood and Disability: Being a ‘Good’ Korean Mother to an ‘Imperfect Child Journal of Comparative Family Studies 42 579 98 Google Scholar

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Diffrient, David Scott