The unending Korean war in film: From the bridges at Toko-Ri to welcome to Dongmakgol

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Korean War films from the US and South Korea provide one cultural site through which scholar-teachers working in American studies, and the humanities in general, can intervene in the unending Korean War. An emergent peace movement has organized around term unending Korean War in order to educate the public both about the history of the three-year period of active combat, and about the repercussions of the fact that the Armistice Agreement, signed on 27 July 1953, stopped the shooting but did not end the war. In the US context, the Korean War is described as a forgotten war. When the war is remembered, it has often been interpreted as a limited, defensive, or static war- A war fought in the trenches- A perspective that tends to occlude the air war. Through a comparative study of the Hollywood film The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Mark Robson, 1954) and the South Korean film Welcome to Dongmakgol (Park Kwang-hyun, 2005), I explore conflicting ways of representing and remembering the air war: As limited to an interdiction campaign in the former, as the cause of civilian casualties in the latter. The friction that results from viewing Welcome to Dongmakgol against the grain of The Bridges at Toko-Ri provides one starting point for a discussion of the unending Korean War, a discussion which has yet to appear in the field of transnational American studies. My hope is that greater understanding of the devastating air war can contribute to the struggle for peace on the Korean peninsula.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-809
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of American Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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