Early Korean Cinema: Lost Films from the Japanese Colonial Period

Early Korean Cinema - Trailer

It was once assumed that all pre-1945 Korean cinema had vanished from existence, but in the 2000s a series of remarkable archival discoveries revealed a diverse treasure trove of melodramas, propaganda films and newsreels from the colonial period. We’re delighted to present them for the first time in the UK, thanks to the restoration work of the Korean Film Archive.

Here you can learn about the stars, directors and politics of this complex and controversial period in Korean history – a time when the nation was under Japanese occupation. However, rejecting these products as nothing more than colonial propaganda refuses to acknowledge the skills, desires and ambitions of the Korean filmmakers behind them.

These are unique creations that, despite their background, are the very origins of contemporary Korean cinema.

Next Screening: Military Train + Volunteer

Military Train

Thursday 21 February, 6:10pm, BFI Southbank

The most problematic of the colonial products were the ‘military recruitment’ films. Designed to encourage Korean men to join the army, these films give a highly inaccurate vision of the colonial experience. Military Train follows two young friends who drive military transport trains with tragic results.

Volunteer charts the tale of Chun-hoo, a young Korean man desperate to join the Japanese Army. While narratively the film is pro-Japanese propaganda, the mise-en-scene, cinematography and use of sound make it a valuable addition to this season.

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London Korean Film Festival 2018

The London Korean Film Festival 2018 Highlight Video

The London Korean Film Festival 2018 ran from 1- 14 November in London before taking highlights around the country with the annual UK Tour. The festival featured an in-depth Special Focus entitled A Slice of Everyday Life, along with an exciting mix of UK and International premieres, guests and events across a diverse set of strands; Cinema Now, Women's Voices, Indie Firepower, Contemporary Classics, Artists Video, Animation and Shorts.

You can see images from the 2018 festival here.


All film screenings are organised by the Korean Cultural Centre UK (KCCUK). For more information on the KCCUK and its many events, including film, music, visual arts, literature and more, please visit the website here.

Whats on?

Upcoming events

21 Feb 2019

Military Train + Volunteer
6:10 pm, BFI Southbank

22 Feb 2019

Hurrah! For Freedom
8:30 pm, BFI Southbank

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