Korean cinema has made significant progress over the years. Two of the greatest Korean movies are A Stray Bullet (Obaltan) directed by Yu Hyun-mok (1960) and The Coachman directed by Kang Dae-jin (1961). A Stray Bullet is about a man named Chul-ho who leads a life of honesty and morality. Despite poor living circumstances and suffering experienced by both him and his family, he chooses to work hard instead of looking for an easy way out. The Coachman is about a father, Ha Choonsam, who makes a living through a horse-drawn carriage and suffers from the poverty that plagues his family. Despite physical injuries and his old age, he refuses to allow his eldest son to assist him in walking the horses; the father is determined to be the provider for the family and wants his son to focus his energy on studying to pass the bar exam. Though the father figures from the films, A Stray Bullet and The Coachman, come from different backgrounds, they both demonstrate dogmatic devotion to their families, sometimes at the detriment of themselves.
[...] There is a stark contrast between Korean society's definition of masculinity and that of Western society. In modern films, it seems that there is a general theme of heroes and masculine figures portrayed as big, strong, and immune to violence and pain. However, it is necessary that film viewers have the ability to identify with characters such as Chul-ho and Ha Choonsam and recognize the masculinity that they represent as well. Figures such as Chul-ho and Ha Choonsam who willingly endure pain for the sake of their family highlight values that are being forgotten in modern day Western societies. [...]
[...] The poet is physically frail and weak compared to strong figures that represent masculinity in Western society. David Scott Diffrient highlights this point in his article: “Like the poet in the aforementioned The Stray Bullet, who has a hang-up on part-time student Sol- hui (who, like Myong-hui, imitates Hollywood star images), Ch'oe, a lovelorn reader of French existentialist philosophy, is the flip side of Korean masculinity-an emasculated alternative to military figures who are physically strong and morally uncompromising” (Diffrient 36). [...]
[...] The main relationship that consistently appears in both films is the one of fathers and sons. In traditional patriarchal Korean families, the fathers are the heads of the household and are responsible for children (Clark 91). Clark articulates upon this point: “Fathers and grandfathers are the main authority figures in Korean families. This has been true since the official adoption of neo-Confucianism as the state philosophy at the beginning of the Choson period, around A.D and it reflects the historic pattern of patriarchy in East Asian culture” (Clark 91). [...]
[...] Though this movie portrays masculinity through this light of self-sacrifice for others, the father in the film uses violence through the form of a gun to take the hospital full of patients hostage, which again highlights the use of violence and force as a mean to define masculinity in Western films. It seems that even to this day, people in Western society are much more inclined to characterize a figure as masculine if they embody the traits of figures like Schwarzenegger and Eastwood. [...]
[...] There are stark contrasts between the Western ideal of masculinity and the father figures from the Korean films. As shown by the characters played by Schwarzenegger and Eastwood, figures who embody this Western ideal, this form of masculinity is defined by physical strength and an ability to endure extreme physical violence. Chul-ho and Ha Choonsam differ from this ideal in that they are both physically emasculated. In addition, they are in no way portrayed as warriors or fighters who seek out unnecessary violence. [...]
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