Re-making of Popular Memory
through Historical Documentary Series:
Analysis of of KBS
This paper suggests that the ideology of 'modernity' and 'development' is an important aspect of the historical documentary films in Korea, and further attempts to identify the distinctive characteristics of this particular form of visual representation. In developing the idea that the historical documentary films in Korea can be understood in terms of their capability of enabling the ideological reproduction to emerge and work within this form of visual representation, this presentation suggests that the documentary films can be seen to have its own mode of representation, as well as its own structure of narratives.
Throughout the analysis both of the structure within the narrative and representational style, and of its changing relationship with the economic, political and social spheres, the paradoxical links between cultural practices and power relations can most usefully be explained. A number of different ways of looking at the documentary films are identified with this end in mind, including investigating the history and the definition which the documentaries have made, their own unique means of production, the relations of political and commercial forces within them, and their changing modes of representation.
In particular, this paper focuses on the way how the historical documentary films in Korea perform an important function of 'legislating', or 'constructing', and 'interpreting' the concepts of 'modernity' and 'development' embodying the nation's history, and also the way how the films efficiently mobilize the strategic modes of narratives and representation, so as to fulfill the designated ideological purposes. The modes of representation in particular allows us to consider the field of forces as unstable, and to consider the shifting nature of the relationship between visual production of documentary films and its reception from one historical period to the next.
The presentation suggests that while there are definite limits of a commercial, political and social kind placed upon cultural production of this particular visual form, the mobility of cultural objects made possible by the means of visual communication undermines, to some extent at least, the effectiveness of these restraints and underpins the specificities of the ideology of modernity and development dominating modern cultural life of our own.
This presentation assumes that documentary film is a vehicle for exposition, and is a more expansive form of representation than news, able to develop the values of duration, to stay with upholding action for several minutes, and to carry out an intensive filming of its topic followed by considered and lengthy phases of editing. Between the two poles of full theatricality and observationalism, documentary films have a whole range of options narrativizing its materials, both across the film or program as a whole or locally, within the terms of a specific scene. Given that documentary films do have a level of narrative structure, variously repressed or projected, this presentation would ask how the narrative actually works in this film or program, and with what aesthetic and cognitive consequences for the viewer.
"Imagined Modernity" in Official Documentary Films
Historical documentary is frequently a vehicle for exposition of the ideology of modernity and development. By employing the strategies of their own narratives and representational styles, the television official documentary films play a role of legislating and interpreting the nation's history. This study, however, does not particularly concentrate on the ideology of 'modernity' established by the nation's official documentary films, but more specifically on the ideology of 'imagined modernity' through and in which the Korean's own identity is formulated.
The "imagined modernity" in this presentation is 'the modernity in mental map, manipulatively designated and operated by the media performance. The issue of "imagined modernity" raises the question of the nature of social challenge posed for the ethical project of social theory by modernity. Whatever the arguments about its genesis and its implications, we broadly agree that the transition to 'modernity' involved:
(a) an increased specialization or division of social labor in all social spheres, not just the economic - although economic specialization may have made other forms possible;
(b) the development of generalized structures of social co-ordination;
(c) what is sometimes called secularization but is more accurately described as the rise to dominance of a culture of critical rationalism and its associated scientific world view and the accompanying decline of doxa of tradition, especially the religious world view.
The problems raised for the Enlightenment project were the followings:
(a) first is concerning the question of how to build and rebuild the "imagined community";
(b) second problem is the question of structure and agency, and the dialectical relationship between social specialization and complexity, and the necessary accompanying growth in structurally constraining systems of general social co-ordination.
(c) the third problem is the relationship between the rational moral subject as individual consciousness and self-identity and the subject as socially formed.
This exposition is mostly grounded in to-camera and voice-over speech. And, the combination of presenter speech and images is often interspersed with the accessed voices of interviewees. Since many documentaries are concerned with the character and causality of other than physical events, their visualizations regularly need the support of speech, whether offered directly by a presenter or indirectly by those portrayed. Yet documentary is a more expansive form of representation than news, able to develop values of duration, to stay with unfolding action for several minutes, and to carry out intensive filming of its topic followed by considered and lengthy phases of editing.
The communication researches in the past largely rest upon an ideology as to the historical development of social provisions and their relationship to the development of modernity, and its characteristic structures and practices. They are narratives that make action and critique both possible and necessary. The form of history and the kinds of stories we construct and mobilize will depend upon both the question we are asking in the present and how that question has been framed historically. Such histories must be subject to validation both in the light of historical evidence and in the context of a rational discursive sphere of criticism.
The aim of this study is to analyze the social origins of certain historically specific forms of "modernity" shown in official television documentaries in Korea, ("The Visual Diary" in English, an official television documentary series, edited and produced, and broadcasted by a public broadcasting institution in Korea. The official documentaries themselves are "the systems of identity formation" funded and supervised by the nation's broadcast institutions which provide a universal broadcast service for all the audience groups in the nation. A set of broadcast institutions constitutes a national system when it supplies the majority of the nation's needs in information, and did so through an integrated and coordinated network of institutions. Such systems in Korea were consolidated since the 1960s, and they represented the precursors of modern state broadcasting.
Through analyzing the representational modes of the recent official documentary series, this study suggests that an oscillation of identification have continuously worked since the inception of the western modernity. Hence, the fixed ideal of unitary and coherent identity forced by official documentary films is in some senses invalid at least for the audiences who have passed through radical ruptures in history and experienced the vicissitudes of fate. The visual representation of history in the form of official documentary films presented the ideological foundation for the nation's total structure of governance by influencing the viewers' popular memory, but also reminded the historical wound of 'imagined modernity'.
Themes, key narratives, and codes for representation
(The Visual Diary - 1948, KBS)
Themes Key narratives Styles of representation(OF: official, UOF: unofficial)
1. education expectations for new (western)educational system UOF / LS(pupils) / fast cw / light & amicable atmosphere (schools; roads)
2. S.K.-N.K. relations the involvement of UN (western power) in the relations OF / CU (westerners; UN committee)
3. politics in N.K. establishment of N.K army(against humanism) OF(N.K.) / LS(militant aspects of N.K. people; military industries)
4. S.K.-N.K. relations S.K.-N.K. summit postponed(against humanism; the idea of an Unified nation-state) OF(S.K./N.K.) / LS-BS (political leaders of the both sides; border sketch)
5. S.K.-N.K. relations Jaeju Island Terror (against humanism) OF/UOF / ELS-LS-CU(sites of terrorism; victims; the dead; sketch of the scenery)
6. politics in S.K. The 1st General Election (desiring for the nation-state) OF (Advanced Chosun 10) /LS (voters with white, formal clothes;voting site; election campaign; roads - social and political order)
7. politics in S.K. The 1st National Congress - the survival of the nation (nation- state building) OF / ELS-LS-CU(congressmen; people in the square - survival of the 'nation' and 'people'
8. everyday life out-door market (desiring for western economy; humanism) OF/UOF / LS (street shops and foods; ordinary people - stable and peaceful scenes
9. leisure Sinpa 'The prosecutor and the (female) teacher' (humanism) UOF / LS-CU (theatrical performance; peoples' response - emotional appealing of Han (grudge)
10. sports London Olympic (humanism; national unity) OF / LS (departure; London; people's enthusiasm; national flag)
11. education establishment of a private college(nation-state) UOF / ELS-LS (construction site; student workers - nation building)
12. politics in S.K. The 1st presidential election incongress (nation-state) OF / LS-FS (Kim Koo and Lee Seung Man - the 'nation' being built by the dominant political leader)
13. politics in S.K. The 1st Republic of Korea(nation-state; successful launch of western political system) OF / LS-FS (President Kim; fast historical overview from the order ages, through Japanese rule, to the independent Republic - historical justification of the nation)
14. politics in N.K. Ingong replaces Taegeuk flag(against nation-state) UOF / FS (overlapping of the flags)
15. politics in N.K. establishment of P.R.K. (against nation-state and humanism) OF(N.K.) / LS-CU (Kim Il Sung; people)
16. S.K.-N.K. relations Yeo-soon rebellion (against nation-state and humanism) OF(US army)/UOF/ LS (army; arrested rebels; execution by shooting; the dead - anti-communism
17. politics in S.K. UN's recognition of S.K.government (nation-state; western recognition) OF / LS-FS (UN; dressed-up people in the street - towards the west)
This study suggests that historical documentaries produced by major nationwide television company may perform a kind of ritual function to integrate the divided individual experiences into a framework of collective experience - the "modernity" in history. Thus, the collective experience presents the ideological foundation for the nation's total structure of governance.
Not only by employing the both the quantitative and qualitative research methods to analyze the narrative structure, but by utilizing in-depth interviews with documentary viewers, this study analyzes the both thematic and aesthetic codes of one episode (1948 - Nation-building) of the documentary series. Through the research, the study reveals how the both aesthetic and thematic codes construct a coherent mythological narrative about the shape of modernity in Korean history. The study finds that the mythological narrative about the 'imagined modernity' is established, through a series of codes for visual representation, largely characterized by following three important themes.
(1) The Nation-State
The first theme is towards the construction of modern "nation-state", achieved in each clip more precisely by:
¨ç de-colonialism (Independence) (#4, #6; #7, #10, #11, #12, #13, #17);
¨è anti-communism (#4, #5, #14, #15, #16);
¨é economic development (#8, #12).
The second theme is towards the "westernization", which may include the concepts of:
¨ç Americanization (#8, #11);
¨è internationalization (#2, #10);
¨é western civilization (#1, #2, #11, #17).
And, the final theme is towards the "humanism", which has sub-categories of:
¨ç freedom (#3, #4, #5, #8, #10, #15, #17);
¨è democracy (#3, #4, #6, #7, #12, #13);
¨é the quality of life (#8, #9, #10).
The study implies that the mythological narrative about the modernity represented in documentaries intends to serve a specific need for ideological control over the society. The visual representation of history through the documentaries exerts the political influences over the audience's popular memories.
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(historical) documentary, (imagined) modernity, Korea, History, popular memory, visual forms, representation, textaul and discourse analysis, ethnographic audience research, (cultural formation of ) identity, nation-building
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