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[HanCinema's Korea Joa] Korean Film Archive

2015/11/21 | Permalink

At the suggestion of Paul Quinn from Hangul Celluloid I decided that a trip to the Korean Film Archive (KOFA) as the representative of HanCinema, the Korean Film and Drama Database, wouldn't be amiss. This is the place to go for almost anything and everything related to Korean film. It collects all things related to Korean film such as film itself, movie documents, and sound materials and provides access to classic films dating back to the 1930s both via live stream and in the library.

We ventured there on our free coverage day and had planned to meet separately. Paul left from the Ritz Carlton and I from Insadong. One look at Naver maps and I knew that KOFA would not be easy to find at 400 Worldcup buk-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, 121-904 because it required more than one mode of transportation. So, I heralded a cab and had quite a long drive during which I was serenaded by my elderly cab driver. He had a boisterous baritone and even managed to hum the American national anthem to me once he found out that I hail from the good ol' US of A. Should you choose to visit KOFA via subway instead of by singing cab, the shortest route is to exit through No.2 exit on Digital Media City subway station (Line No. 6), take the bus 771, 7711, 7730, then get off at the Nuritkum Square bus stop.

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When I arrived I met Paul, who was patiently sipping a cup of coffee and waiting for me. We ventured into the massive lobby, which is connected to a convenience store and several small food shops. The Korean Film Museum is also there and is the main attraction. The museum is a kidney-shaped space that walks its visitors along the rich history of Korean film that begins in 1919 and ends in the present day. Before that time Korea only enjoyed foreign film imports and nothing of its own creation.

Paul and I meandered the museum and were awed by the volume of wonderful materials and the in depth explanation of Korean film history. There is only one problem with the visual walkthrough: there is very little written in English. Yes, the museum does have an audio guide in several different languages, but it is dull and completely unengaging. Also, the beauty of the written word is that one can peruse and focus on the interesting bits, and even reread them if one is so inspired. Paul and I were unable to do this. I managed to pick out a few choice morsels here and there with my rudimentary Korean, but it wasn't enough.

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My favorite areas were those dedicated to cartoons and children's films because there are drawings on the walls from kids who had visited as well as interactive games. Who doesn't like games? I also loved the string of military gear that was used in filming "The Admiral". It's wonderful visual stimulation after rows and rows of portraits and posters (even thought they were all fascinating.) Walking through the ages and watching posters and film quality evolve was inspiring, especially as I focus my own analyses and areas of expertise on 2000 to present. There is so much more to Korean film than what Hallyu has spread to the world. KOFA helps provide the background for it.

After our rather leisurely stroll through the museum, we decided to explore the other floors. It was a bust. The second floor, on which the KOFA Film reference Library and KOFA Film Conservation Center rested, was quiet and limited to severe stacks and computers. It lacked the intense visual appeal of the museum. To really explore we'd need more time to pour through the materials. The third floor said that it was the First Film Vault, but we found nothing more than a tall stack of film cans along with an employee who patiently guided us back down the elevator and told us that the fourth floor was merely offices - that was where the Korean Film Archive Office and the Korean Film Institute was located. Next time, Paul, we need to get in there!

You can find all of our Korea Joa 2015 coverage on this page.

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Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'

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