Organized Panel Session
Ch'oe Inho’s Pyŏltŭl ŭi Kohyang is one of the greatest commercial success stories of the 1970s; after it was serialized in Chosŏn ilbo, it was published in book form in 1973, becoming an instant bestseller; it was then made into a movie the following year, bringing 464,000 people to its single-plex theater within 105 days. Such groundbreaking success was largely indebted to Kyŏnga’s popular appeal.
Kyŏnga, the immortal beloved of Ch'oe’s sensational novel, is for sure, a female character to be remembered, but problematically so to its author – she brought Ch'oe popular fame and commercial success but cost him the critical acclaim that he had previously been enjoying. The characterization of Kyŏnga in fact, marks a distinct break from the femme fatale figures of his earlier works, paralleling the turn of the tide for the author. Kyŏnga’s success on the screen further paved the way for Ch'oe’s crossover into the movie business as a scenario writer and movie director.
“Women are always the problem,” a doctor says to Kim, in the very first dialogue sequence of the movie Pyŏltŭl ŭi Kohyang, as he treats the male leading role’s venereal infection. This paper will focus on this problematic figure of Kyŏnga, the tamed femme fatale who suffers the tragic fate of a fallen woman, and analyze how she is translated onto the screen, what she loses by putting herself forward as an object of voyeuristic desire, and what she gains as an image that acquires the power of the gaze.