The Asia-Pacific Journal / Japan Focus

Cold War Panic and the Korean War Film: From Bamboo Spears to Body Snatchers

by Mark Morris (2020)

The Korean War would generate a wide range of cinematic responses. The fledgling film industry of South Korea produced films that, in sync with an ideology of stark anti-communism, tended to emphasise the immediate physical brutality of the communist enemy. The reaction of American film makers was at first to reproduce the narrative shape and tropes of the very successful films from World War II, usually situated in Europe or the Pacific Islands. Gradually, however, Cold War paranoia about enemies within and about the new insidious threat of ‘brain washing’ took hold in Hollywood, as it swept through other social and political discourses and institutions. This paranoia, a sense of diffuse panic was not limited to the war film genre but leaked out creatively into a new genre of science-fiction features.

Korean War film, anti-communism, Cold War paranoia, science-fiction film.

Mark Morris is a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and formerly a member of the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge. There his teaching and research focused on Japanese literature and East Asian cinema, especially South Korean film. He is an advisor to the Korean Cultural Centre in London and has organised and participated in a wide variety of film events in the UK, Europe and South Korea. He curates the ‘classic cinema’ strand of the annual London Korean Film Festival.


Morris, Mark
Cold War Panic and the Korean War Film: From Bamboo Spears to Body Snatchers.
In: The Asia-Pacific Journal / Japan Focus 18,12,2 (Jun 2020), 18 p.