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Korean Popular Culture


The rapid development of the anthropocentrism theory in the last century has led to a human being and a human life being in a focus for various forms of cultural production. Artists tend to illustrate a deeper understanding of human nature and to convey intrinsic feelings and emotions. It is a major subject in Korean popular cultural production. The paper aims at analyzing elements of cultural production on the example of the movie Psychometry.

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Movie Psychometry (The Gifted Hands)

American cinematography is well known, and Hollywood with all the things it represents has become a dream of many people. There is the same place in Korea where cinematographic dreams come true. It is Hollywood. The terms stand for Korean-language entertainment. The film industry in Korea is a successful and interesting notion because of its unique ways of representing the world. The film under consideration is distributed in South Korea. It is a movie of the year 2013 under the title Psychometry. The producer of the film is Kim Bong-Seo, and the director is Kwon Ho-Joung. The title Psychometry is a literal translation of the Korean word; it is also known as The Gifted Hands. The genre of the movie may be defined as a thriller with elements of mystery.

In order to understand the film, the term “psychometry” has to be defined. It is a supernatural ability to see things from the past by reading memories through the contact with physical objects. One can touch a human being or something that belongs to him or her, and be able to see memories. What is prominent about this mystic element is that it has a purpose in the film, and the whole plot focuses on it. It is a story of a police officer who investigates cases of kidnapped and murdered children. The name of the detective is Yang Choon-Dong.

Due to the development of the plot, he is introduced to the gifted boy Kim Joon who helps him with the investigation and uses his ability to do so. In should be noticed that the director’s attitude towards the gift may be “seen between lines” of a script. The very first word that is spoken in the movie is “the miracle”. It is the beginning of an inspiring speech about water; nevertheless, it introduces the audience to the power of the main character and the way it works. This subtleness is a prominent feature of Korean cultural production as a whole – every detail is important and paid attention to.

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The basic theme of the film is the police investigation and the case that is solved with the help of the supernatural force. The idea is more personalized. It is all about choices people make, their actions, and the consequences of such actions that have to be dealt with. There is also a conflict that plays an important role in the characters of main heroes. For example, an episode at the beginning of the movie illustrates a situation when a detective has to act by the book, but personal feelings get in the way. There is a well-written dialogue between the mother whose daughter has been kidnapped and Yang Choon-Dong. Yang Choon-Dong has to send the woman home and ask her to wait 24 hours until the investigation can be started:

“- Madam, when kids do not come home when they are expected, in 80% of the cases, they return home safely within 24 hours...

- Detective, my baby will be alright, won’t she, detective?...

- Of course.” (Bong-Seo & Ho-Joung, 2013)

This dialogue shows the personal struggle of Yang Choon-Dong, who is supposed to ignore the case of a missing girl until the time permits. A direct question about the safety of the girl makes him go against the system and start looking for her. This is his choice, and the decision takes roots deeply in the life of Yang Choon-Dong and reveals his personal tragedy.

The Plot

The plot is complex. It has a few storylines that focus on the lives of two protagonists – the detective and the gifted boy. Their stories are, indeed, personal tragedies. For example, when Kim Joon reads memories of Yang Choon-Dong, a story of how the detective has lost his brother is shown. It all goes to the question: “You think, if you find those kids, your kid brother will come back alive?” (Bong-Seo & Ho-Joung, 2013). This is Yang Choon-Dong’s ultimate motivation to find children and the source of these emotions. The director shows feelings in a way that leaves a deep and lasting impression on the audience. There is also a tragedy in Kim Joon’s life. He has lost his mother. The two characters are similar as they blame themselves for what has happened. The director takes his protagonists into pieces and shows what heroes are made of. Attention to feeling and emotions manifests itself in the film and emphasizes the idea of a human being to be a center of Korean popular culture production.

The Theme

The theme of the movie is serious; nevertheless, the director manages to show a few comic episodes. The humor of a situation takes place. This can be seen in episodes with the application of physical force in the beginning. For example, there is a fun fight on ties. An episode when Yang Choon-Dong gets a punishment from his boss who continuously hits Yang’s with a folder is also entertaining. This is done in order to decrease the level of tension in the movie and let the viewers have a rest. In a situation when Yang Choon-Dong discovers a graffiti that represents a crime scene, he asks a woman no to clear it but leave it as an important piece of evidence. She ignores his request because it is her job to eliminate vandalism from the streets (here, the attitude towards a job is shown). Yang Choon-Dong starts to take photos of the graffiti, but the woman shouts: “I do not wear any makeup” (Bong-Seo & Ho-Joung, 2013) and makes attempts to take the camera away. This is how a stereotype of a woman’s behavior is shown in this film. Such stereotypes are a part of popular culture.

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The film has a great deal of violence in it. It is always hard to see violence and people’s suffering, but it is also a shock to see how people make animals suffer. The theme of dogs being mercifully disposed of is not the main theme, but it is shown through the antagonist’s point of view. When dogs bite him, he kills them, when people (children) do not listens to him, he kills them. Here, the psychological aspect is presented – people do not usually deal with problems, but cancel them in the most primitive ways. The patterns of psychological behavior are often the elements of Korean popular cultural production.

It should be noticed that the dialogues of the film are not primitive. They are well thought and have a deep meaning. The main character Yang Choon-Dong is often put into situations when he has no choice but to influence people with what he has. The ability to choose the right words strikes the audience. He seemed to know what to say in every situation, which is very important. For example, when Kim Joon wants to give up and be taken away from people, Yang Choon-Dong is able to find the words which motivate Kim Joon to use his gift and not to consider it a curse. He says that it was not the hands of Kim Joon that killed the mother, but an accident and his are indeed the “hands that save lives” (Bong-Seo & Ho-Joung, 2013). Many battles have been won by the use of force, but what the director shows is that words can be as powerful.

The Matter of Choice between Life and Death

The matter of choice between life and death is depicted in the movie. It hurts to see painful memories for Kim Joon when he touches something. In the episode when he takes a hand of murder in order to see whether a kidnapped girl is alive, he makes a choice to suffer. He can even die, but he chooses to use “hands that save lives” to find the truth. Yang Choon-Dong asks Kim Joon to let the killer go, and let him die by falling out of the window. However, a few seconds later, Yang Choon-Dong saves Kim Joon along with the murderer. Yang Choon-Dong decides to save a life, no matter how spoiled with crimes it is. This is the moral of the movie (also an element of cultural production).

The motto of the film may be the words:

“…memories fade, but some things stay with you for a long time…” (Bong-Seo & Ho-Joung, 2013).

This philosophical phrase makes people think about their actions and the consequences they may have. It is a message of the movie.

The paper has analyzed scenes, characters, and dialogues of the Korean movie Psychometry. These various key parts describe issues of personal feelings and emotions, cultural and psychological stereotypes, special attention to details that illustrate the cultural production as a whole symbiosis of human-related aspects.

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