By: Muziah Kargbo
I have returned to issue a part two to the Transnational Korean Conference to give an overview of the second day of the conference. On this day, various professors from across the US sacrificed their time to come to UNC to present their respective talks on aspects related to Korean culture with a focus on media.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t be present for all the panels but the ones I was able to attend were all interesting in their own right. For instance, my favorite panel was the second one with Professors Heekyoung Cho and Haerin Shin who presented on their own respective forms of media.
Professor Cho did how webtoons, Korean web comics, function as a new cultural medium while exploring the relationships and ecology of webtoons amongst other global platforms in comparison. For instance, in 2016, a study showed that the majority of Korean elementary students wanted to be a webtoon artist in the future. So who knows? Perhaps just as Japanese manga has become globally distributed and accepted, Korean webtoons will rise in popularity around the world?
On the other hand, Professor Shin presented on the post-IMF cinema focusing on the popular 2016 zombie flick, Train to Busan, to highlight how South Korean cinema can allude to reality because, yes, even a zombie movie can be seen as a political critique on the state of a country. Significant events in recent Korean history were also highlighted during the talk including former South Korean president, Park Geun-Hye’s impeachment and the 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster which some people believe was alluded to in Train to Busan though the director of the movie denied this was his intention. In either case, Professor Shin’s talk reiterated how important creative outlets like movies can still present a thoughtful critique and representation of current and past world affairs while still providing entertainment for the general public.
After another stimulating panel focused on Cold War media, the conference ended with closing remarks from our very own Professors Ji-yeon Jo and I. Jonathan Kief. I would personally like to thank them and everyone else who had a hand in organizing this conference. Thank you to the speakers who took their time to travel all the way to UNC Chapel Hill to present their papers and topics to our student body and professors who I’m sure enjoyed their talks and left with a more thoughtful mindset to the topics presented at the conference.