Friday, December 27, 2019

Top 10 Korean Films of 2019


By Pierce Conran

You won't find any big surprise at the top of this list, but beyond the obvious choice for best film of the year, the sad truth of the matter is that 2019 was a very poor year for Korean cinema overall. As the industry has tried to course-correct from the blockbuster-heavy lineup of the last year or two, a great number of very watchable but not altogether memorable mid-level films have emerged. It's the same story within the indie industry which has grown stale with a great many competent films appearing at festivals that cycle through the same social themes but precious few among them generating genuine excitement.

I've cut this list back down to 10 after a few years of managing to squeeze out 15 worthy recommendations but honestly I considered cutting it down to a Top 5 as there were less than a handful of great Korean films this year, though of course others may feel very differently. As such, I've also cut down the honourable mentions list.

What was encouraging in 2019 is that we're finally starting to see more representation for women on screen. Only a few women-centered works really broke out (Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, Miss and Mrs. Cops) but most of the best films were specifically about or made by women, or at least had balanced ensemble casts.

That said, while things are slowly starting to move in the right direction, we're also seeing a regression of sorts with an explosion of middle-aged bromance films and a number of aggressively macho films that occasionally seem designed to placate or at least appeal to the feminist-bashing keyboard warriors that dominate so much of today's ugly online discussions. Now a number of these films were good (The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil) or decent (The Divine Move 2: The Wrathful) but by aiming themselves towards what may be a shrinking audience at the expense of other demographics, in the long run these films may be shooting themselves in the foot.

With that, I'll leave you with MKC's Top 10 Korean films of the year, which were chosen among the 85 films I've seen this year (lower than usual, but I think I've covered most of the essentials). Only feature-length films screened for the first time anywhere in 2019 were considered.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know below.

Also check back in a few days' time when we'll publish MKC's Top 50 Films of 2010s!

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from MKC!


1. Parasite
(기생충)


Forget best Korean film of 2019, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is cementing its position as one of the greatest films of all time. It’s already made history several times over as the first Korean film to win the Palme d’Or, first to score Golden Globe nominations, and it will probably be the first to be nominated for and win something at the Academy Awards.

A signature work from one of the greatest filmmakers of our time, Parasite effortlessly crosses the divide between art and commerce as it weaves a gripping web of dread, elation and surprise between the levels of our society. With a stellar cast, led by the great Song Kang-ho and featuring standouts such as Lee Jung-eun’s delightful and surprising housekeeper, along with some of the best production design, cinematography and editing of any film this year, Parasite is truly a sight to behold.


2. Kim Ji-young, Born 1982
(82년생 김지영)


The year’s most divisive film in Korea but possibly also its most important was Kim Ji-young, Born 1982. Based of Cho Nam-ju’s sensational book of the same name, the film drove a massive wedge in the country’s gender gap when it opened as women flocked to see it for weeks while a very vocal segment of the country’s whined and wailed like giant man babies, labelling the film feminist trash, which only served to reinforce the story’s timely themes.

Aside from the necessary issues that the film raises, I’m very happy to say that Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 is a wonderful adaptation that manages to avoid the kind of histrionics that often mar similar social issue films in Korea (although the pathetic man babies will surely argue the opposite). Jung Yu-mi is splendid in the title role and debut director Kim Do-young (a veteran actress) wrings subtle and powerful drama from the source text.


3. Another Child
(미성년)


Superstar Kim Yun-seok (The Chaser, The Thieves) finally jumped into the director’s chair this year (for years he’s been rumoured to be a vocal contributor on set) and the result, the stage adaptation Another Child, is an acting masterclass for all involved and, outside of Parasite, probably the most tightly scripted film of the year.

This unusual affair/family drama is full of heart, empathy and levity and foregrounds a quartet of brilliant actresses (Yum Jung-ah as the wife, Kim Hye-jun as the daughter, Kim So-jin as the mistress and Park Se-jin as the mistress’ daughter), while Kim Yun-seok appears in the background as the cad on the run.


4. Moving On
(남매의 여름밤)


The big discovery from the Busan International Film Festival this year, though admittedly there were many good but almost no great new finds there this year, Moving On is the impressive debut of director Yoon Dan-bi. Divorce is becoming a more prominent theme in Korean cinema and three well-received new indie films focused on the children of divorce cropped up this year. Personally I was disappointed by Yoon Ga-eun’s new film The House of Us and have yet to see the Jeonju Grand Prize winner Scattered Night but Yoon Dan-bi combines adult themes with child perspectives and confusion to great effect in this small but moving tale.


5. Innocent Witness
(증인)


Director Lee Han, known for Punch and Thread of Lies, returned with yet another fine drama in 2019. The story of a murder trial hanging on the testimony of an autistic teenager could easily have gotten very maudlin very quickly but in Lee’s steady hands and with an empathetic performance from Jung Woo-sung as the lawyer and an effective turn from Kim Hyang-gi as the teenager, it becomes an engrossing combination of the trial film, the family drama and the social drama.


6. Forbidden Dream
(천문: 하늘에 묻는다)


After the disappointment of the very similar The King’s Letters this summer, I’d almost written off the year’s final wide release, which also focuses on a close friendship between King Sejong and an inventor/scholar. As it turns out, Forbidden Dream may be the best film the celebrated melodrama expert Hur Jin-ho has made since One Fine Spring Day (2001) as it smoothly segues from a breezy and somewhat sappy first half to a powerful conclusion. Han Suk-kyu and Choi Min-sik are both ace in what is easily the best Korean bromance of the year.


7. The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil
(악인전)


The serial killer thriller and the gangster drama are slammed together in the brawling and explosive The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, one of the most enjoyable commercial offerings of the year, though it may also be one of its most uneven. Ma Dong-seok (aka Don Lee) is on fine form as the gang captain who teams up with Kim Mu-yeol’s tenacious detective to track down a serial killer. That’s about all there is to it, but it’s enough to keep it going to the finish.


8. Moonlit Winter
(윤희에게)


Following his Chaplin-esque debut Merry Christmas Mr. Mo, director Lim Dae-hyung closed the Busan International Film Festival this year with his new film Moonlit Winter. Playing out over winter and split between barren countryside exteriors in Korea and a snowswept small town in Northern Japan, Moonlit Winter is an understated and keenly observed follow-up that affirms Lim’s skill as a dramatist who knows where to place a camera. Though I do hope he’ll tackle something a little more consequential for his next project.


9. Extreme Job
(극한직업)


The box office sensation of the year, Extreme Job employs a very clever concept (detectives go undercover as the staff of a fried chicken joint that becomes an unexpected success) and a game cast as it delivers infectious laughter and action throughout most of its running time. However, as breathlessly enjoyable as the first half is, the film encounters several narrative roadblocks later on, and never quite manages to regain its footing.


10. The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale
(기묘한 가족)


One of the most unheralded commercial films of the year, though it was invited to a number of foreign film festivals, this rural zombie comedy kicks off with the speed of the undead but when it eventually finds its bite it becomes a winning deadpan comedy with shades of writer-director Jang Jin’s best work. Jung Jae-young is in familiar territory but the whole cast rises to the occasion as the film finally but firmly finds its feet.


Honourable Mentions


Birthday (생일)
Crazy Romance (가장 보통의 연애)
Exit (엑시트)
Shades of the Heart (아무도 없는 곳)
Svaha: The Sixth Finger (사바하)



Top 10 Lists

Year  20192018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010
2010s (Top 50) - All Time (Top 25)

Genre   Gangster - Revenge

92 comments:

  1. I don't have a clue what you're talking about in regard to aggressively macho films designed to appeal to feminist haters. The only two movies I can think of that even come close to that are the ones you specifically listed as exceptions. Yet you somehow spend twice as much time describing this nonexistent trend than you do discussing women's film.

    This is especially irritating because women's films were in fact a strong recurring trend this year. You make it sound like a minor blip. But then that's not so surprising given that from the very first paragraph you take a dismissive attitude toward mid-level films, which is where the vast majority of this representation took place.

    Most of those films don't appear on this list. Whether it's because you didn't see these films or just weren't paying attention to them is unclear. You somehow completely failed to notice that Moonlit Winter was about lesbians struggling with the past trauma of their forced separation. At least that's how I'm choosing to interpret your dig about the movie not being particularly consequential, the alternative speaking far more poorly to your moral character.

    This year saw movies like A Resistance, No Mercy, House of Hummingbird, Warm Bodies, and Maggie among others. But the only woman-centered movie you saw fit to name was a racist buddy cop flick where the cast and crew specifically tried to downplay feminist interpretations in the press.

    Parasite has created a golden opportunity for Korean films worldwide and what do people like you do? Make vague, unsourced, factually wrong assertions about the current state of the industry because the movies being made right now aren't specifically designed to appeal to a specific set of preconceptions about what South Korean films should be. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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    1. Hang on, you come onto Pierce’s personal blog, criticise his personal film selections, before proclaiming that YOU don’t understand what the article is talking about, cite examples that actually came out last year, accuse HIM of making vague, unsourced statements, and then call into question his moral character?

      And you have the audacity to declare that it is Pierce who should be ashamed of himself?

      You have gatecrashed a civil, informal conversation about contemporary Korean Cinema and made a complete fool of yourself. Crawl back under your little rock, dude.

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    2. I don't understand what the article is talking about because it is referencing trends that do not exist. Speaking in my personal capacity as someone who actually writes about Korean film professionally on a regular basis, instead of twice a year on a blog, the information presented as objectively accurate in this post is so blatantly false it would be unethical of me to pretend otherwise.

      Ironically enough I don't actually have much issue with his personal film selections. Pierce is entitled to his own opinions. He's not entitled to his own facts.

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    3. I'm perplexed why a lofty professional such as yourself even bothers commenting on the occasional writings of someone you clearly consider to be nothing more than a fair weather hobbyist.

      Surely, if Pierce doesn't know what he is talking about, nobody reading this will take him or his words seriously anyway. You are merely wasting your clearly very valuable time here.

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    4. Sadly there once was a time when Pierce was writing reviews more regularly. I didn't always agree with him but I appreciated the input and it helped with my own work. There's so little serious writing about modern Korean movies in English it's not that hard to keep up with all of it.

      Nevertheless, Modern Korean Cinema still has a reasonably strong Google ranking and I really don't like the idea of someone coming in here and getting the impression that South Korean film is ruined because the alt-right took it over. That's sloppier work than I expected from Pierce and frankly I'm more disappointed than anything else.

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  2. I disagree with some of Pierce Conran's choices and arguments here, but your comments are truly odd. You seem to have just skimmed through the post, chosen to interpret it in your own special way, then flown off the handle.

    Conran IS saying that films centring on and/or made by woman are a major trend this year. He even says most of the year's best films are such films. This article certainly doesn't give me the impression of the phenomenon being a 'minor blip'. Moreover, I think you're exaggerating the prominence of women in the Korean film industry this year. As Conran points out, things have got better but a lot more needs to be done. I really cannot disagree with that.

    Even so, by no stretch of the imagination is Conran arguing that South Korean cinema is "ruined because the alt-right took it over". I do think he's exaggerating about "an explosion of middle-aged bromance films and a number of aggressively macho films", because as far I can see there haven't been any more than usual. But otherwise he is cautious to say that such films "SEEM designed to placate or at least appeal to the feminist-bashing keyboard warriors". And he doesn't say that the films are destroying the industry, he says they are "shooting themselves in the foot", and he might have a point because a number of them performed below expectations at the box office (eg Man of Men, Battle of Jangsari, Jo Pil-ho, The Divine Fury, The Dude In Me).

    Also: House of Hummingbird is not only from 2018, but included in Conran's Best of 2018 list. I've never heard of a Korean film called Warm Bodies - could you provide a link to it? No Mercy is a total cliche, and seems more exploitative than anything. I think Maggie is certainly worth consideration, but A Resistance's appeal to patriotic instincts might very well have over-ridden its protagonist's sex.

    Furthermore, Conran is hardly dismissive towards mid-level films. Firstly, he's clearly of the opinion that there should be more mid-level films and less emphasis on blockbusters. Secondly, he's not saying that all 2019's mid-level films are awful, just that many of them are "very watchable but not altogether memorable". Even though I think he's overstating the case, I don't think that's an unreasonable judgement to make. Thirdly, most of the films in his Best of 2019 list ARE mid-level films.

    Finally, Conran does NOT say that Moonlit Winter is "not particularly consequential". Hoping that Lim Dae-hyung's next film will be about something "a little more consequential" does suggest that relationships aren't very high on Conran's list of important themes, but what is objectively wrong with that? Lots of people think Sally Rooney's novels or Eric Rohmer's films are inconsequential. It's their opinion. To accuse Conran of homophobia just because he wants Lim to tackle what he believes are bigger themes is not only unfair, it smacks of virtue signalling.

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  3. One last thing. You (W. Schwartz) say:

    "But the only woman-centered movie you saw fit to name was a racist buddy cop flick where the cast and crew specifically tried to downplay feminist interpretations in the press."

    Eh? I'm no fan of Mrs and Miss Cop myself, but at least half of the films on Conran's list are women-centred films, and he makes frequent reference to the women involved - eg the "quartet of brilliant actresses" foregrounded in no. 3; the director of no. 4; almost everything about no. 2. Even when he doesn't explicitly point out the partipation of women, anyone who has seen the films or even read their synopses will know that women are pretty central in no. 5, 8 and 10.

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    1. My critique is not directed toward Conran's list but rather the preamble to the list, which gives a grotesquely misleading portrait of the current state of the Korean film industry. The fact that Conran's own list completely contradicts his thesis about the Korean film industry being dominated by mid-level macho man flicks only makes the laziness of that preamble more obvious.

      You have dedicated considerably more words to defending Conran here and offering up the rosiest possible interpretation for his objectively incorrect statements than Conran himself did. To accuse me of skimming the post is utterly comical considering how short the article is to begin with and how lacking in details that can even be reasonably contradicted, entirely because the commentary is phrased in unnecessarily ambiguous weasel words.

      I will concede to the error of writing Warm Bodies when I meant Our Body. I will not concede to the error of describing House of Hummingbird as a 2019 film. It was released in August of 2019, was eligible for awards that year and won quite a few of them, in addition to having an unusually strong box office run. Defining it as a 2018 movie when the vast majority of people in Korea had never even heard of it at that time is patently absurd.

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    2. Also, since you were so kind as to provide some specific examples of films which you thought might apply to Conran's argument, I can offer a more robust critique. To start out with I should emphasize that the whole point of mid-level films is that you're focusing on quantity over quality. I mean in the resource sense of course. A single big budget movie is not necessarily a better movie than three mid-budget films. An underperforming film in the context of a mid-budget focus is just breakage. But you also have to bear in mind that expectations for mid-budget films are extremely low to begin with, and often aren't reflected via box office.

      Man of Men, for example, was a low brow comedy intended primarily for secondary markets. That's where it's been making most of its money, but it wasn't a failure by any means. It was just overshadowed by Crazy Romance which did far better though it had very similar expectations. And even though it stars two older men in the lead roles and has a very masculine sounding title its viewers are very evenly distributed genderwise.

      Battle of Jangsari wasn't a mid-budget picture at all. It was a big budget war film that should have been a safe bet, given the outstanding success of Operation Chromite, but the local cultural dynamic of South Korea changed a lot in the previous three years such that Battle of Jangsari's naked jingoism proved unappealing to contemporary audiences, to say the least.

      (As a brief sidebar the relative success of A Resistance, which was also a patriotic movie made on a much smaller budget, should really illustrate the uselessness of trying to attribute box office success or aesthetic quality to patriotic themes. Tonally speaking those two movies are about as widely divergent as you can get.)

      Jo Pil Ho was indeed an objective failure but to attribute that to its apparent appeal to keyboard warriors is laughable. Yes, the movie's a hard boiled male detective crime thriller but it also discusses the Sewol tragedy as a major plot point. It was distaste from viewers who generally agreed with the film's liberal politics that sunk the movie, no pun intended.

      There are many reasons why the Divine Fury failed but to say that it was due to a short-sighted appeal to male viewers is outrageously incorrect. The lead actor is a Hallyu Wave heartthrob and a majority of the few viewers the film received were women.

      The Dude in Me even moreso but again, to call that movie a short-sighted failure is horribly ignorant. Even ignoring the solid box office returns, that movie has done quite well in secondary distribution streams. That's the very definition of a viable long-term project.

      The main part of Conran's article that hit a nerve for me is that reading it, you'd get the idea that South Korean film as an institution is in trouble. That it's not making money, or that it's not producing artistically significant work. This is an extremely strong claim to make about a local film industry that just had a banner year in terms of revenue, even if measured exclusively in terms of box office, where secondary distribution models now allow so many films to be produced that it's impossible to keep track of them all, and which quite literally just produced the most commercially and aesthetically successful internationally distributed South Korean film of all time.

      I'm sure I may come off as rude here, and I beg pardon for my tone. But Conran's article is a slap in the face to the many hard-working people in the South Korean film industry who have spent years trying to diversify this market. If he doesn't want me to come in here and rip him a new one over posting ignorant bullet points as if they were objective truth than he's going to have to make an actual argument and not use vaguely interpretable qualifiers like a coward.

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    3. You don't come off as rude so much as deranged.

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    4. Sorry for being passionate and informed about my field. If you fancy yourself a serious film professional I'd be happy to read your take on why I'm wrong. Or you can just insult me. Whatever floats your boat.

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  4. You've done little more than insult Pierce and used his platform to rant and rave about, let's face it, a non-issue. Any "serious film professional" would've made their point politely and succinctly and then moved along. Feel free to go away now.

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    1. If you don't think discussing South Korean film over the year in 2019 is interesting, to the point of describing the subject as a non-issue, I'm not really sure what you're doing here. Given the obvious passion Pierce has for Korean film your dismissive attitude toward his life's work seems a lot more insulting than my engagement does.

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    3. Hang on, this all began because you were pissed off that Pierce only blogged about Korean cinema twice a year, and now this is his life's work? Make up your mind.

      And clearly you've never read his poetry.

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    4. I wasn't pissed that he wrote about it only twice a year I was pissed that he was writing falsehoods. Pierce works for the Korean Film Council and should know better, even if he appears to have lost interest in more opinion-oriented pieces. I'm sure his poetry is very wonderful but it's not as far as I know how he makes a living.

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  5. 1. According to you: "My critique is not directed toward Conran's list but rather the preamble to the list... The fact that Conran's own list completely contradicts his thesis about the Korean film industry being dominated by mid-level macho man flicks only makes the laziness of that preamble more obvious."

    But in the preamble, Conran says:

    "What was encouraging in 2019 is that we're finally starting to see more representation for women on screen. Only a few women-centered works really broke out (Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, Miss and Mrs. Cops) but most of the best films were specifically about or made by women, or at least had balanced ensemble casts."

    So it isn't just his list; in his preamble he actually starts by saying that most of the best films ARE woman-centred.

    2. Whether House of Hummingbird is from 2018 or 2019, the fact is that Conran does acknowledge the film as being one of several films belonging to a trend of more woman-centred films. He did not ignore it, contrary to what you said in your first post - he claimed it was one of the best of 2018.

    3. I wasn't focusing on quantity or quality re: mid-level films. I was simply saying that Conran seems to think that there shouldn't be such a huge emphasis on blockbusters, and filmmakers without the resources to make blockbusters should be allowed to make the films they want to make, such as many of those on his 2019 list. Hence his statement that "the industry has tried to course-correct from the blockbuster-heavy lineup”.

    4. I didn't say Battle of Jangsari was a mid-level film. I included it as an example of a more macho and/or "middle-aged bromantic" kind of film. Nor did I say any of the films that I mentioned were aimed at keyboard warriors. I simply said that they were more macho. I even said there weren't any more of such films than usual. Finally, I certainly did NOT say any of them is a "shortsighted failure". I said they performed below expectations. Also, isn't being "overshadowed by Crazy Romance" precisely why Man of Men performed below expectations?

    5. Neither Conran nor I said that the industry isn't making money. We were referring to certain films whose intended audiences might be shrinking. That doesn't mean other kinds of films aimed at other kinds of audiences are NOT making money. Conran talked about some films "aiming themselves towards what may be a shrinking audience at the expense of other demographics". I said that some macho films performed below expectations. Neither statement entails that the entire industry is in financial trouble.

    6. So Conran believes that there aren't as many brilliant films among 2019's crop as they were in other years. But that is his opinion as a critic. You have expressed some pretty questionable opinions in your hancinema reviews too. Take the following, from your review of Ashfall:

    "None of the actual characters are quite so crass as to fondly remark that it's fortunate the North Korean regime was apparently destroyed without South Koreans needing to get their hands dirty. Yet the film's directing unavoidably makes this implication. Matters are not helped by the token North Korean character Joon-pyeong (played by Lee Byung-hun) acting like a generally untrustworthy and dangerous psycho even as he inadvertently repeatedly saves the lives of his South Korean counterparts."

    I've seen the film, and nowhere did I see any sign of feelings of relief that the North Korean regime had been destroyed. Nor did I get the sense that the Lee Byung-hun character was a psycho or had saved the others' lives inadvertently. Far from being a psycho, it was clear from the start that he was going to squeeze the situation for all it was worth to save himself and his family, and saving the others' lives was very often done quite deliberately for that very purpose. In such a serious crisis, lots of people, Korean or not, might do the same thing.

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  6. You are focused entirely too much on a literal interpretation of Conran's words. He spends twice as much time discussing his imaginary alt-right macho man movie trend as he does women in South Korean films. This gives the strong impression that imaginary keyboard warrior pandering film production was the big story of South Korean film this year.

    Meanwhile, by qualifying female participation in the South Korean as being limited to the best films of the year, Conran misleadingly suggests that the movies in his list were the only notable ones to feature female performers and directors. This simply wasn't the case at all as any kind of casual review of the year's release calendar will demonstrate.

    I get the impression subtext isn't your thing, given your overly rosy impression of Ashfall where, much like with this article, you're giving it the benefit of the doubt for no reason. Ashfall's also a funny movie to bring up in this context, given that it was more of a macho man flick than any of the ones you mentioned. Interestingly, because Conran's original definition is so vague, and features no examples, I'm not actually sure Ashfall qualifies simply because it's technically speaking an ensemble film with female characters.

    The other great irony of bringing up Ashfall is that in production and presentation it was a throwback to previous years of South Korean big budget spectacles. Yet it underperformed quite a bit at the box office, only succeeding as well as it did because all the other distributors avoided competing with it.

    This is a very different story compared to how the box office behaved overall last year, where a large number of smaller films took the lead for a week or two and made a healthy profit off of small budgets. This strategy had already secured a record year by the time Ashfall came out.

    You and Conran can rules lawyer and argue that you never explicitly wrote this was a bad year for South Korean film as much as you like. When the preamble for a list like this is overwhelmingly negative that is the clear implication.

    And lastly, at the risk of repeating myself (who am I kidding- that's all I'm doing here) Man of Men was not a failure. It made back its budget and thensome and would have led the box office most weeks of 2019. It just had the bad luck to open up against Crazy Romance.

    Speaking of which, can we take a moment to appreciate how weird this framing is- like there's a meaningful way to tell the difference between mainstream movies that were produced artistically and those that were designed for a quick buck? Especially since Crazy Romance, in spite of being a romantic comedy, is somehow in the first category.

    Jo Pil Ho, for that matter, is also in the second category even though that movie wore its artistic pretensions on its sleeve. Yet for some reason you thought that picture was designed to appeal to macho keyboard warriors, rather than the adrenaline pumping action spectacle where Ha Jung-woo and Lee Byung-hyun play literal soldiers.

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    1. "This gives the strong impression that imaginary keyboard warrior pandering film production was the big story of South Korean film this year."

      It does give that impression, but it's still only his opinion. I disagree, but I can see why he thinks that.

      "Meanwhile, by qualifying female participation in the South Korean as being limited to the best films of the year, Conran misleadingly suggests that the movies in his list were the only notable ones to feature female performers and directors."

      He doesn't say that they are limited to being among the best films of the year. He says that many of what he thinks are the best films are women-centred etc, which is a completely different thing. If I say many of my favourite actors are Korean, I'm not saying that only the Korean actors I like are good.

      "I get the impression subtext isn't your thing, given your overly rosy impression of Ashfall where, much like with this article, you're giving it the benefit of the doubt for no reason. Ashfall's also a funny movie to bring up in this context, given that it was more of a macho man flick than any of the ones you mentioned."

      As a matter of fact, I think Ashfall is a mediocre film that sidelines its female characters. I simply picked a review of yours to point out that you too have your opinions that sound like objective fact (in fact, a lot more like objective fact than Conran's opinions) but are nevertheless arguably wrong. I did not cite Ashfall as a good film, a mid-level film or a woman-centred film. But you think I am SUGGESTING that it is a good mid-level film centring on women, then I've gotta say subtext isn't just your thing, it's your obsession.

      "And lastly, at the risk of repeating myself (who am I kidding- that's all I'm doing here) Man of Men was not a failure"

      And I repeat, I did not say it was a failure. I said it performed below expectations. I really thought a comedy with Sol Kyung-gu and Jo Jin-woong would do better than a rom-com. Kong Hyo-jin seems to be a pretty big draw, but Kim Rae-won is not exactly on the other two guys' level. Nor did I say Jo Pil-ho was aimed at keyboard warriors, only that it was macho. And lastly, I haven't said any of these films are good or bad films. You really do need to read my post more carefully.

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    2. "You and Conran can rules lawyer and argue that you never explicitly wrote this was a bad year for South Korean film as much as you like"

      Conrad DOES explicitly state that 2019 was a relatively bad year for South Korean film in terms of quality. But neither he nor I say that it was a bad year financially. You mention above that Conran gives the impression that the industry is "not making money, or that it's not producing artistically significant work". My point was that he does seem to be saying the latter - and that he is entitled to his opinion - but nowhere does he or I say the former.

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  7. Oh I see, Our Body. That's in Conran's Best of 2018 list too. In the accompanying article, he says:

    "Yet perhaps the most exciting thing about this year's list is that three newcomers made the cut and they were all women. In fact four women directors made the list this year overall, which doubles our previous record."

    Yes, Our Body and House of Hummingbird got far more attention in 2019 than in 2018. But they were made before 2019. One may agree or disagree with Conran's opinions. (And I really don't see how or why anyone would interpret his opinions here as "objective truth", as you keep insisting. To me, they are obviously opinions, and I'm no expert or professional, just a casual viewer.) But it is possible to argue that perhaps fewer female-centred films are being made this year, compared to last year. In any case, as I've pointed out before, Conran says nothing of the sort. On the contrary, his one big positive point in his preamble is that things were looking up on that front in 2019. even though only Kim Ji-young and Mrs and Miss Cop "really broke out", i.e. were mainstream successes.

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    1. To suggest that Kim Jiyoung and Mrs and Miss Cop were the only mainstream successes that could be attributed to improve diversity is the exact tonal argument I'm taking issue here. Far more movies than that, with both female cast and female directors, made a big impact on South Korean film's financial and cultural landscape. By scaling down women-centered successes in South Korea this year to two extremely dissimilar films, and then concern trolling about a nonexistent right wing backlash, Conran is engaging in erasure of 2019's extremely encouraging trend toward improved film diversity.

      Which is not to say that it's perfect, of course. There is as you wrote, a long way to go. There has absolutely not been a regression of any sorts, however, and acting like there has been without providing even the slightest amount of evidence is straight up fake news that's a lot more insidious than I think you fully appreciate.

      Take your own arguments here. None of the movies you listed provided any kind of credible evidence for a trend. You made those connections yourself because you decided to give Conran the benefit of the doubt and vaguely remembered these movies as being sausage fests that didn't do well. I already explained how box office alone is a misleading indicator in the current mid-level production scheme. I can obviously not dispute that these movies featured men. However, simply featuring men or macho themes in major roles does not an anti-feminist keyboard pandering film make. Conran made a far stronger claim than you're willing to acknowledge. That's where my issue is.

      I have not seen anti-feminist keyboard warriors express a fondness for these or any other mainstream Korean movies. Truth be told I don't know much of what anti-feminist keyboard warriors think about South Korean film at all right now, because their relevant influence is nonexistent. Their reputation as influencers is at this point largely due to signal boosting from right wing media. I will charitably assume that Conran has copied these tropes unintentionally, as he is probably not aware of these political dynamics in South Korean news media.

      My point being, the fact that Conran uses weasel words to give him wiggle room to act like he is making subjective statements doesn't absolve him of being attacked for making implications, however accidentally, that give a misleading picture of the actual film environment and what is influencing it. As is mentioned upthread, Conran works for the Korean Film Council and effectively writes press releases for them, which I regularly read. So the language here greatly surprised me. It was irresponsible even bearing in mind that this is a personal blog, not one for a professional organization.

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  8. "Far more movies than that, with both female cast and female directors, made a big impact on South Korean film's financial and cultural landscape."

    In both his preamble and his list, Conrad has given several examples of women-centred films that have made an impact on the country's cultural landscape. However, he claims that Mrs and Miss Cop and Kim Ji-young are the only two mainstream successes, and based on what I know of the box-office figures I believe him. If you wish to argue that there are other women-centred films that have made a similar financial impact in 2019, you will have to provide better examples than the ones you gave above. Man of Men might be a success in secondary markets, as you say, but what about House of Hummingbird or Our Body?

    "Conran made a far stronger claim than you're willing to acknowledge."

    I have mentioned repeatedly above: I partly disagree with his claim, because I don't think there have been more macho films than there usually are. But since it is merely a claim, I don't see why I cannot give him the benefit of the doubt. What you keep calling his 'weasel words' to me are perfectly acceptable qualifiers, especially as there does seem to be enough keyboard warriors in South Korea to create a backlash against Kim Ji-young. It is encouraging that the book and the film have succeeded in spite of that backlash, but the fact that hardly any celebrity is able to endorse either without being besieged by angry trolls makes me think that Conran's claims about anti-feminist keyboard warriors are more plausible than your insistence that their "influence is non-existent".

    In contrast, even though I seem to agree with you that Conran has exaggerated the regressive explosion of macho films in 2019, I find your own arguments less convincing than his, for various reasons. Firstly, just because you haven't seen any keyboard warrior express a fondness for macho films doesn't doesn't mean that those films were not at least partly aimed at their demographic. Secondly, you have the tendency to twist others' words or to put words in others' mouths to suit your own purposes in argument, e.g. insisting above, many times, that Conran and I are arguing that the Korean film industry is in financial trouble when neither of us has said anything of the sort. Lastly, your own hancinema film reviews, as I've mentioned above, often misrepresent the films themselves. To get plot and character details wrong is bad enough, but to attribute ideas such as "relief that the North Korean regime has been destroyed" to a film like Ashfall is more irresponsible than Conran worrying about keyboard warriors having an undue influence on the film industry. With friends like you, who needs supposed enemies like Conran?

    By the way, you said above "given your overly rosy impression of Ashfall where, much like with this article, you're giving it the benefit of the doubt for no reason". As I mentioned above, I just happen to think Ashfall is a mediocre film. But why can't anyone give it the benefit of the doubt? There are lots of people who seem to think it's a good film, and I respect their preference.

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    1. Conran's words are easy to twist because he has so few of them in the first place. He offers no support for his argument whatsoever yet you are rather incredibly acting as if the onus is on me to prove that his argument is wrong rather than on him to prove that it is correct. Conran's very own post contradicts his argument, not just in terms of his list, but also in that he provides two examples of mainstream successes with female characters in the lead roles but zero examples of mainstream successes that were pandering to right-wing keyboard warriors.

      As far as Ashfall goes I respect anyone's opinion of the movie and if you disagree with my interpretation I'd be happy to discuss it with you somewhere more relevant than here. But here's the thing- my reviews explicitly present my own subjective opinions. Conran's preamble presents his signal boosting take of the cultural importance of right wing keyboard warriors as an objecive fact. Had he simply expressed disappointment with the right wing backlash against Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 I would have had no objection to his words because that backlash is well-documented. South Korean film production pandering to right wing elements of the South Korean Internet is absolutely not well-documented and needs to be called out for the fake news it is.

      By the way if you think my reviews are getting plot and character details wrong feel free to complain about them in my own comment sections. I have not, to the best of my knowledge, made anywhere near as embarrassing an error as failing to notice that Moonlit Winter was about lesbians still recovering from their decades past separation and forced conversion therapy and would very much appreciate someone calling such errors to my attention.

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  9. "Conran's words are easy to twist because he has so few of them in the first place.”

    Not that Conran is a victim, but such a statement is tantamount to victim blaming. Why should anyone’s words be twisted just because there are few of them?

    "He offers no support for his argument whatsoever yet you are rather incredibly acting as if the onus is on me to prove that his argument is wrong rather than on him to prove that it is correct.”

    If I feel that any of his arguments is wrong, the onus IS on me to point out what is wrong with it. I agree with your observation that he has not provided any evidence for two of his arguments: that there has been an explosion of macho films and that those films had been made to placate keyboard warriors. But unfortunately for you, Conran has what you call well-documented facts on his side - not just the Kim Ji-young backlash but related issues like the #metoo movement in Korea. If you don’t provide counter-evidence, then Conran’s arguments, though possibly exaggerated, are bound to be more convincing to me.

    "But here's the thing- my reviews explicitly present my own subjective opinions. Conran's preamble presents his signal boosting take of the cultural importance of right wing keyboard warriors as an objecive fact.”

    Both reviews and posts like Conran’s above contain opinions. But why should your opinions be any more subjective than his? In any case, you yourself have said he uses ‘weasel words’. What makes them weaselly in your eyes, but indicators of subjectivity in mine? In any case, at least he takes the trouble to use ‘weasel words’, so there is at least an actual concrete signifier like ‘seem’ or ‘may’ to signal the statements' speculative nature. In contrast, you state that the direction of Ashfall ‘unavoidably makes [the] implication’ that the South Korean characters are glad the North Korean regime has been destroyed. Like Conran failing to provide any evidence for his claim about keyboard warriors, you do not describe how exactly the direction ‘unavoidably makes this implication’. If Conran’s opinions about keyboard warriors constitute fake news, then your claim that Ashfall expresses relief that the North Korean regime has been destroyed is similarly problematic. If Conran’s opinions are a slap in the face for members of the film industry, then your claim about Ashfall is similarly a slap in the face for the people who might actually have intended Ashfall to convey something less than negative about north-south relations.

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  10. SPOILER ALERT

    "I have not, to the best of my knowledge, made anywhere near as embarrassing an error as failing to notice that Moonlit Winter was about lesbians still recovering from their decades past separation and forced conversion therapy”

    END SPOILER ALERT

    I’ve scoured not only this post but also the entire website, and all I can find about Moonlit Winter is the following, which is part of Conran’s Best of 2019 list and by no means a review of the film:

    "Following his Chaplin-esque debut Merry Christmas Mr. Mo, director Lim Dae-hyung closed the Busan International Film Festival this year with his new film Moonlit Winter. Playing out over winter and split between barren countryside exteriors in Korea and a snowswept small town in Northern Japan, Moonlit Winter is an understated and keenly observed follow-up that affirms Lim’s skill as a dramatist who knows where to place a camera. Though I do hope he’ll tackle something a little more consequential for his next project".

    I see no error here. Since it’s just a brief introduction to a film that I don’t think has been released to the general public, he does not mention the plot at all, so it is downright impossible for him to make an error about the plot. In any case, just because he didn’t mention the details above doesn’t mean he didn’t notice them. In fact, I suspect many people would regard them as crucial plot details that shouldn’t be mentioned in a review without a spoiler warning.

    Also, in case you’ve missed my other point about Conran's take on Moonlit Winter, here it is again:

    Finally, Conran does NOT say that Moonlit Winter is "not particularly consequential". Hoping that Lim Dae-hyung's next film will be about something "a little more consequential" does suggest that relationships aren't very high on Conran's list of important themes, but what is objectively wrong with that? Lots of people think Sally Rooney's novels or Eric Rohmer's films are inconsequential. It's their opinion. To accuse Conran of homophobia just because he wants Lim to tackle what he believes are bigger themes is not only unfair, it smacks of virtue signalling.

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    1. The fact that there was a reactionary backlash against Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 and the existence of a #metoo styled feminist movement in South Korea have absolutely nothing to do with Conran's claim that South Korean film is being guided by a desire on the part of film producers to appeal to right wing trolls. If anything those data points are an argument against such a trend. A film market that cares about the opinions of right-wing trolls would never have greenlit Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 in the first place, let alone given it wide distribution or attached major stars to the project.

      Using words like "seems" to pretend as if you are not making a strong, inflammatory claim is using weasel words. The fact that you are doggedly defending Conran's unsupported claim while at the same time acting like he didn't really make a claim at all is a direct consequence of that. It's intellectually dishonest phrasing made by people who want to state opinions but want to lessen the risk of being called out by those who might disagree with them.

      Conran's blurb about Moonlit Winter presents a similar issue. Neither you nor I nor anyone except Conran himself has any idea what he meant by not particularly consequential. For that statement to refer to relationships would be odd, given that Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 is a very similar style of movie, just with more explicit politics. A box office reference also seems unlikely, since Conran appears uninterested in box office save to concern troll about how great alt-right movies are doing in the South Korean market. Maybe he's referring to hype- except that such a failing would have nothing to do with deficiencies on the part of the film production. Aesthetic quality? But it's number eight on Conran-s list. That's an awfully high position to give to a movie that's artistically deficient in some obvious unexplained way.

      Having concluded that these explanations are not likely, I decided upon the one that made the most sense- that Conran simply did not understand what the conflict in Moonlit Winter was about, as the movie never states it explicitly. Such an assumption on my part does not, admittedly, express a very high opinion of Conran's intelligence. However, given that he had earlier in the article made extended reference to a non-existent trend of films designed to pander to right-wing anti-feminist keyboard warriors, with his only apparent support for this argument being the success of some movies that featured male leads and macho themes, such an interpretation struck me as reasonable.

      Conran could, of course, at any point come in here and simply explain what he meant, clearing up all the vagaries in this post. I can't imagine why he would do such a thing, though, when you're here bending over backwards to make every possible excuse for him.

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    2. "Neither you nor I nor anyone except Conran himself has any idea what he meant by not particularly consequential. For that statement to refer to relationships would be odd, given that Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 is a very similar style of movie, just with more explicit politics. A box office reference also seems unlikely... Maybe he's referring to hype… Aesthetic quality? But it's number eight on Conran-s list. That's an awfully high position to give to a movie that's artistically deficient in some obvious unexplained way.”

      Either you are being disingenuous or you really have a problem with understanding a very simple sentence. In his post, Conrad showers Moonlit Winter with praise, then says he hopes Lim Dae-hyung will "tackle something a little more consequential for his next project”. He did not say the film was ‘artistically deficient’. He wasn’t referring to box office figures or hype, because how exactly is Lim suppose to “tackle” the box office or hype in his next project? Clearly he is referring to the theme of Lim’s next movie.

      And now that you have revealed crucial plot points of Moonlit Winter to me (I have obviously not seen the movie), I realise that ‘relationships’ might be not be all that Conran was referring to. But whatever he was referring to, he clearly believes that there are other themes that are of greater consequence. Perhaps he really didn’t understand the film, as you think. But I don’t see why he couldn’t have understood the film perfectly well, yet - without being a bigot - still hope that Lim will make films about themes that are ‘more consequential’. Recently, in a poll, many people picked climate change as the most pressing issue at the moment, more important than terrorism and cyber attacks and - indeed - the persecution of minorities. But that doesn’t mean those people are racist or homophobic.

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  11. "Conran's very own post contradicts his argument, not just in terms of his list, but also in that he provides two examples of mainstream successes with female characters in the lead roles but zero examples of mainstream successes that were pandering to right-wing keyboard warriors."

    Agree with the lack of examples of mainstream successes pandering to keyboard warriors, but disagree about the contradiction.

    Conran says that "we're finally starting to see more representation for women on screen" (and includes various examples, as you mention), then goes on to argue that there is also "a regression of sorts with an explosion of middle-aged bromance films etc". Whether or not one agrees with these claims, how exactly do they contradict each other? Things getting better, then regressing and/or being subject to a backlash: that sounds not just logical but tragically familiar.

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    1. Film production takes place over the course of several years. Any kind of backlash against more films featuring women or directed by women would not appear in the film market immediately.

      You're also forgetting or choosing to ignore that Kim Jiyoung 1982 came out near the end of the year. If Conran's glut of misogynist keyboard warrior films existed at all (and they don't) they would have predated Kim Jiyoung 1982's release.

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    2. But the backlash against the film of Kim Ji-young occurred even before the film was released. And as I've mentioned in another post somewhere around here, of course the keyboard warriors and other anti-feminists and misogynists have been around for ages. Otherwise no one would have bothered to write Kim Ji-young, or to ignite #metoo in Korea.

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  12. "The fact that there was a reactionary backlash against Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 and the existence of a #metoo styled feminist movement in South Korea have absolutely nothing to do with Conran's claim…”

    Why not? The fact that there was a backlash, not just against the film but also against the book, means that many anti-feminist keyboard warriors were at work long before the film adaptation was released. The #metoo movement is a response to years of misogyny. Against such a backdrop, Conran’s claims, though lacking in evidence, seem more probable to me than your insistence that the keyboard warriors have no influence at all on the cultural landscape.

    "If anything those data points are an argument against such a trend. A film market that cares about the opinions of right-wing trolls would never have greenlit Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 in the first place, let alone given it wide distribution or attached major stars to the project."

    Your view of a film industry is oddly simplistic. Unlike you I don’t claim to be a professional in this field, but even I can see that certain sectors of an industry may try to move forward while others remain entrenched in older attitudes. An industry isn’t a uniform entity. Parasite’s recent triumph at the Oscars may signify a change in how non-English-language films are viewed, but at least some of the audiences in the west will still be resistant to subtitles. Similarly, Kim Ji-young might have been greenlit and cast with major stars by a more enlightened part of the Korean film industry, but as you yourself said above, a lot more needs to be done.

    "The fact that you are doggedly defending Conran's unsupported claim while at the same time acting like he didn't really make a claim at all is a direct consequence of that. It's intellectually dishonest phrasing made by people who want to state opinions but want to lessen the risk of being called out by those who might disagree with them."

    As you point out in the paragraph that I’ve quoted above, Conran is simply ‘stat[ing] opinions’. So why is it dishonest of him to use what you call weasel words to indicate that his opinions are opinions? What is more, his use of modals to qualify his statements have not stopped me from disagreeing with him. As I’ve said again and again, I disagree with two of his claims. But disagreeing with him doesn’t mean I agree with you. In ‘calling Conran out’, you have also made claims yourself. What I’m doing here is not so much defending Conran’s unsupported claims, as disputing your far more questionable ones.

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  13. Sorry that was incomplete. I meant that misogynist trolls have been around long before the film of Kim Ji-young, railing at other women-centred books, films, etc, so why couldnt films have been aimed at that demographic before the release of Kim JY in October?

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    1. Because misogynist trolls are insignificant in a demographic context and empower themselves mainly by exaggerating their size and importance. You can perhaps see why, given this, I was offended when Conran uncritically repeated one of their common claims, that the film market is designed for men like them alone, as if it were objective fact.

      Meanwhile, in reality, the big competition at the South Korean box office this week is between a local comedy film starring a popular forty-six year old actress and Little Women. Even on the consumer end there's no evidence that misogynist trolls have any influence in the market, yet you're assuming this holds true on the production end because...why again? Because Conran said so?

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    2. As for your continued insistence that Conran has presented his claim as objective fact: the following account is purely anecdotal, so you have every right not to believe it. A few days ago, a friend of mine, a teacher in Singapore, gave Conran’s text to her English / media literacy class. The 14-year-olds’ response to the text:

      Mode: personal blog
      Genre: opinion piece
      Linguistic features: ‘seems’, ‘may’
      Conclusion - writer giving subjective opinions, not objective fact like in a newspaper report.

      Even if you believe this anecdote, you might argue that these teens know little about Korean cinema, are oblivious to subtext, can’t spot 'tonal arguments', etc, and you’d be right. Acquiring background knowledge and identifying subtext are tricky things to do. But that’s all the more reason why, more so than the professional or the expert, the layman would see Conran’s claims as subjective opinions. It’s the ‘weasel words’ that are on the surface and easiest to spot, even by the untrained eye, whereas any subtext, now matter how strong, would require more skill to detect, skill that not everyone possesses.

      Flimsy anecdote aside, if Conran’s claims are so strong and inflammatory, why haven’t his KOFIC employers intervened? And why are there only three people commenting here, two of whom seem to have no trouble interpreting Conran’s claims as opinions? I can’t speak for Marshy, but I assure you I'm not Conran in disguise, and the only other time I’ve commented on this site was to challenge something in his post about the most anticipated films of 2017.

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    3. Marshy is a personal friend of Conran's. I didn't want to call attention to it because it would have been irrelevant to any point he wanted to make, although he ended up not making any.

      I would be surprised if anyone at KOFIC actually reads this site anymore. But if they did I doubt they would be too bothered by right-wing signal boosting. One reason why Conran avoids mentioning his connection to KOFIC is because he was employed by them during Park Geun-hye's blacklist of filmmakers with opinions disagreeable to conservative politicians.

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    4. And I know this wasn't your point with the Singaporean ancedote, but that kind of thing is exactly why I took so much offense to this article. I know from personal experience that people from really weird far-flung places will read stuff like this, see no rebuttal, and assume that its qualified as an informed opinion. Reporting as I do on such an obscure field this knowledge has encouraged me to be careful not to make unsupported generalizations. I'm disappointed mainly that Conran has not been inspired to similar due diligence.

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    5. Indeed that wasn’t my point. My point was that anyone who understands English, whether they are fourteen or forty, whether they are from New York or “weird far-flung” places like the proverbial Timbuctoo, would be able to distinguish subjective opinion from objective fact, and thereby take the former with a pinch of salt. As the Singapore students did not proceed to research the state of Korean cinema during their class, they concluded that they had no way of knowing whether Conran’s opinions were true or false.

      Could you give a few examples of those ‘weird far-flung’ places you’ve mentioned, and would Singapore be one of them? And could you also explain why English-speaking people in those places might be less able to distinguish opinion from fact than people from ‘non-weird, nearby’ places? (I specify English-speaking people, because people who don’t know English would of course not read this blog at all.)

      “Reporting as I do on such an obscure field this knowledge has encouraged me to be careful not to make unsupported generalizations”
      That’s very commendable of you. However, I’d like to encourage you to take even more care in the future, because claims that you’ve made like

      “misogynist trolls are insignificant in a demographic context” and

      “[Ashfall’s] directing unavoidably makes this implication [that it's fortunate the North Korean regime was apparently destroyed without South Koreans needing to get their hands dirty]”

      are precisely that: unsupported generalisations.

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  14. "Even on the consumer end there's no evidence that misogynist trolls have any influence in the market, yet you're assuming this holds true on the production end… Because Conran said so?"

    Once again, I urge you to read my posts more carefully. I'm not assuming anything of the sort. Giving Conran the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean that I think what he says is 100% true. But if the macho films of 2019 don’t prove his point (and as I said above, I don’t think there was even an unusually large number of them), then Kim Ji-young, Mrs and Miss Cop, Little Women and Honest Candidate don’t prove your point either. I’m glad to hear that the trend that both you and Conran describe is being extended with the latter two films, and I hope they hold on to their respective positions over the weekend. But how exactly do these films prove that keyboard warriors have zero influence? You yourself said above that Mrs and Miss Cop’s cast and crew "specifically tried to downplay feminist interpretations in the press”. If that’s true, that’s pretty disturbing, and sounds more like the placating of keyboard warriors than anything Conran himself has mentioned.

    Basically, neither Conran nor yourself have provided a shred of evidence for your opposing claims about keyboard warriors’ influence on the Korean film industry. I’m willing to give you both the benefit of the doubt, because both claims lie in the realm of possibility, but based on my knowledge of Korean society, I think Conran’s claim is more plausible.

    Furthermore, while I agree with you that misogynist trolls "empower themselves mainly by exaggerating their size and importance”, I find it hard to believe that they are insignificant demographically. Unless we have access to more data and expertise in the field, there is no way of knowing the exact degree and nature of their significance. There have been several books on the subject in recent years, e.g. Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Whitney Phillips’ This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, that include a lot of disturbing examples of the effects of trolling. According to ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, trolls have collectively caused the platform to lose ‘core user after core user’. With regard to Korea, I only know that both male and especially female idols in Korea, and even their management companies, have had to jump through hoops both personally and professionally in order to avoid the fury of keyboard warriors. That gives me the strong impression that keyboard warriors are more influential than I’d like them to be.

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    1. I haven't actually made a claim. Conran made a claim, without support or evidence as you have mentioned multiple times, and I challenged that claim. The onus is on him to prove it, not me to disprove it. It is in fact impossible for me to prove that Conran is wrong from a logical perspective, especially if I have to contend with vague unrelated stereotypes about Korean culture and non-academic texts in reference to completely different countries as the actual foundation of your argument.

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    2. I mean really that explains it all right there. You believe Conran not because you think the evidence is on his side or because he provides any support for his argument, but because it fits your preconceptions. You've simply dismissed all of my explanations for how the South Korean film market actually functions save for one that you managed to twist into a pretzel to somehow turn it into a right-wing talking point.

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    3. On the contrary, you have made many, many claims – about the Korean film industry, about Internet trolls, about what you believe Conran and I have said. For a start, unless you can telepathetically “rip him a new one”, there is no way of challenging Conran’s claims unless you make a counter-claim yourself. Some more claims you’ve made (in addition to the ones I’ve quoted above):

      “There has absolutely not been a regression of any sort.” (Unsupported)

      “Conran misleadingly suggests that the movies in his list were the only notable ones to feature female performers and directors.”

      (Untrue. As I said above, his exact words are “most of the best films were specifically about or made by women, or at least had balanced ensemble casts”, which in no way suggests that the only good woman-centred films are those on his list.)

      With regard to your comment about “Vague unrelated stereotypes about Korean culture and non-academic texts in reference to completely different countries”:

      Your claim was that “misogynist trolls are insignificant in a demographic context”. Since you didn’t specify any country, I assumed you were referring to trolls everywhere, including Korea. And since I don’t know Korean, I can only cite English-language books. Incidentally, though Ronson’s book might be regarded as non-academic, Phillips’ is published by MIT Press.

      My exact words were “I think Conran’s claim is more plausible”. If you read the sentence carefully, you’ll see that it does not mean I believe Conran. Also, I think you’ve referred to my examples about the Kim Ji-young backlash, the need for the #metoo movement and the effect of trolling on Korean idols as “vague unrelated stereotypes”. But why? All three examples are specifically about the film industry.

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  15. “[Marshy] ended up not making any [points]”

    While Marshy has mostly made points about you rather than about the Korean film industry, I happen to agree with his view of Conran’s post, i.e. that Conran is simply expressing his opinions and hence there’s no issue of fake news etc.

    “I would be surprised if anyone at KOFIC actually reads this site anymore. But if they did I doubt they would be too bothered by right-wing signal boosting.”

    They might not be bothered about “right-wing signal boosting”. But you claim that Conran has made “vague, unsourced, factually wrong assertions about the current state of the industry”, Surely KOFIC would look askance at one of their employees giving “a grotesquely misleading portrait of the current state of the Korean film industry”, especially when “Parasite has created a golden opportunity for Korean films worldwide”?

    “One reason why Conran avoids mentioning his connection to KOFIC is because he was employed by them during Park Geun-hye's blacklist of filmmakers with opinions disagreeable to conservative politicians.”

    AFAIK, Conran has always made it very clear that he’s with KOFIC, not just in the About page here but on his Contributor page at screenanarchy.com. And that’s exactly where the information should be. I’d be pretty annoyed if he had mentioned that connection at every opportunity.

    Moreover, if you take a look at the posts here between 2013 and 2017, you will find him singing the praises of Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Song Kang-ho, The Attorney and The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol – and that’s just a cursory list, because I only know the big names on the blacklist.

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    1. I am aware of the fact that Conran is a liberal. His obsession with misogynist trolls, which so overwhelms the Kim Jiyoung piece he forgets to describe what the movie's actually about, smacks of virtue signaling. That's why I slammed him over offering such a backhanded compliment to Moonlit Winter. The lesbian identity of the characters is a hell of a thing to consider inconsequential when he's set himself up as such a defender of gender equity.

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  16. Oh sorry, I just realised the word 'idol' might be more closely associated with music than with film in Korea. I meant Korean film idols. Just today, Lee Honey and Song Hye-kyo seem to have been trolled for some pretty innocuous Instagram posts.

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    1. Celebrities are trolled all the time for innocuous social media posts for all sorts of reasons. Most of them just ignore it. As do the production companies that employ them.

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    2. You seem to have unparalleled access to celebs' personal lives, thoughts and feelings, not to mention production companies' policies and strategies regarding how their performers and products should be placed. I do envy you.

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    3. This is not so surprising given that, as I have mentioned, it is my job to know such things. Much like Conran, I can't make a living writing film reviews alone.

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  18. Also, Twitter is pretty popular in Korea. According to the Korea Herald, Twitter use in Korea increased by about 40% in 2019. When making a statement like the one I mention above, a CEO of Twitter cannot be referring only to, say, North America. As CEO of an international social media platform, he must be referring to its use around the world. Here is a link: https://www.theverge.com/2015/2/4/7982099/twitter-ceo-sent-memo-taking-personal-responsibility-for-the

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    1. Twitter being popular in South Korea does not equal misogynist trolls having control of the South Korean film market.

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    2. "Twitter being popular in South Korea does not equal misogynist trolls having control of the South Korean film market."

      I didn't say it did. My Twitter example (i.e. the ex-CEO saying that trolls had lost them many core users) was in response to your claim that "misogynist trolls are insignificant in a demographic context”.

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    3. Demographic context means in terms of marketing to audiences. Film and drama companies consider men and women to be demographic groups as well as age brackets. They do not consider political affiliation to represent a meaningful demographic group because it's nearly impossible to measure the political beliefs of individual moviegoers and there's little evidence suggesting that politics are relevant to box office returns anyway, at least when it comes to the mainstream movies we've been discussing.

      South Korean movies tend to have if anything a left-wing bias and the only major movies I can think of with a comparable right-wing bias were all released during the blacklist era. And these were just garden variety right-wing nationalist themed movies, not misogynist keyboard warrior ones.

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  20. This isn't a review of any film. This is a Best of 2019 overview and list. He is not obliged to describe what any of the films is about. I don't see him describing what Parasite or Another Child is about either.

    "The lesbian identity of the characters is a hell of a thing to consider inconsequential when he's set himself up as such a defender of gender equity."

    His exact words are that he hopes Lim Dae-hyung will "tackle something a little more consequential for his next project”. Just because he thinks there might be something else "a little more consequential" than lesbian identity doesn't mean he thinks lesbian identity is inconsequential. I've got lesbian friends who believe that there are other things that are more consequential than their lesbian identity. Lots of people believe climate change is the most consequential issue at the moment. Does that mean none of them cares about minority rights?

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    1. I'm honestly hard-pressed to see how Lim Dae-hyung could make a more consequential movie than Moonlit Winter because Moonlit Winter is about as consequential a movie as you can get without just becoming overly preachy.

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    2. That is your opinion and you're entitled to it. But just because you believe that the theme of Moonlit Winter is as consequential it gets does not mean that Conran, environmentalists and my socialist lesbian friends are immoral anti-LGBTQ bigots.

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  21. "Demographic context means in terms of marketing to audiences."

    Which is why I included the Twitter example. Twitter is also a company that has to market itself. If trolls have lost Twitter 'core user after core user', then trolls as a demographic group must have had an effect on Twitter's financial performance.

    "They do not consider political affiliation to represent a meaningful demographic group because it's nearly impossible to measure the political beliefs of individual moviegoers"

    That is plausible enough, but how is that relevant to our discussion? We were discussing anti-feminist and misogynist trolling and its influence (or lack thereof) on the Korean film industry. AFAIK, I haven't brought up left or right wing politics, and neither has Conran (who only mentions "feminist-bashing keyboard warriors" and "man babies, labelling the film feminist trash". I did cite the Twitter example which is about trolls in general, because 'misogynist trolls' are a subset of 'trolls', but you're the one who brought up the alt-right first (which neither Conran nor I have addressed).

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    1. I must confess a little confusion as to how exactly you think South Korean films can pander to political extremists without expressing political opinions.

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    2. And I'm confused about why you think I'd think such a thing. I merely said that it's misogynist not political trolls that are the topic of the current discussion. Of course a film pandering to political extremists would express or at least imply some position on political issues.

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    3. Feminist-bashing keyboard warriors are political trolls. I don't have a clue how you're defining either of these terms that you think they're somehow mutually exclusive.

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  22. I was being ironic. Unless you provide evidence that goes beyond information gleaned from the media, simply stating that celebs and production companies 'just ignore' trolling does not constitute evidence for the claim that trolls have no influence at all on the Korean film industry. Also, in the examples I cited above, the celebs did not 'just ignore' trolling. Song had to disable the comments section. Lee's apology and explanation for the photos she took at the Oscar after-party for Parasite were not enough for the netizens - the Parasite team had to defend her on social media.

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    1. Neither Lee Honey nor Song Hye-kyo would be very happy about you trying to "defend" them by implying that their careers are at the mercy of misogynist trolls. Their agencies go through quite a bit of effort to manage their images and threaten lawsuits as necessary precisely to insure that their careers are not impacted by malicious online comments.

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  23. "Their agencies go through quite a bit of effort to manage their images and threaten lawsuits as necessary precisely to insure that their careers are not impacted by malicious online comments."

    Exactly! That was what I meant when I said their management might have to "jump through hoops". It's precisely because trolls and their comments can be so damaging that agencies take drastic steps like threatening lawsuits. In a world where trolls have "non-existent influence", agencies really would ignore trolling, instead of making so much effort to protect their people.

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    1. Do trolls have no influence because the agencies are marginalizing them, or are they so powerful that entire film trends cater to them?

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    2. I have no idea whether entire film trends cater to them, and you have no evidence for it either. I only wish agencies had the power to truly marginalise trolls. No legal action seems to have been able to quash them altogether.

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    3. If there is no evidence that South Korean film is catering to trolls then the default assumption is that they aren't. Stop pretending like you're occupying some kind of reasonable middle ground on the issue. Either the trend exists or it doesn't exist. I am under no more obligation to prove that it doesn't exist than I am to prove that Bigfoot doesn't exist.

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  24. No they are not mutually exclusive, but they are not equivalent either. You can't just lump them together. E.g. some anti-feminist trolls may have no clear political affiliation at all. Also, the right does not have a monopoly on misogyny.

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    1. I'm at a bit of a loss trying to imagine a person so angry about Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 that they would make trolly Internet posts about it but not identify their political ideology as conservative. Have you actually seen Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 or are you just making assumptions about it based on Conran's description here where he never actually explains what the movie's about?

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    2. Since you live in Korea, I thought you'd be aware that the feminist/anti-feminist divide does not coincide exactly with the left/right divide.

      Firstly, developments in the last couple of years with regard to the #metoo movement clearly indicate that misogyny is alive and well among the left-leaning, e.g. several political figures associated with the Moon Jae-in government; important cultural figures like Ko Un and Lee Yoon-taek. According to the Korea Herald, a podcast host by the name of Kim O-joon even accused people of using #metoo to attack the left.

      Secondly, the backlash against #metoo has seen a disturbingly large number of young men turning against feminism. According to a Dec 2018 report at realmeter.net, 76% of men in their twenties are anti-feminist. I’m not convinced that 76% of twenty-something Korean men are also right-wing, especially as the reasons they give for their anti-feminism don't seem to have much to do with politics. Rather, they appear to be personal and economic reasons: e.g. indignation over being tarred with the same brush as earlier, more overtly misogynist generations of men; dismay at men-only compulsory conscription; the belief that the government is giving more education/employment opportunities to women rather than to themselves (which is also related to their having to be stuck in the army for two years). To put it another way, at least some men (and young men at that) believe that they are being oppressed, being lorded over by women. Many online critics of Kim Ji-young expressed similar sentiments - that, contrary to the novel/film's theme, women are in many ways in a much stronger position than men.

      I’m not saying that such reasons and sentiments are well-founded. And of course many people trolling Kim Ji-young, Mrs and Miss Cop, etc really are alt-right types. But the idea that all Korean anti-feminist keyboard warriors are conservatives is simplistic. Some of them may be motivated by socio-economic circumstances quite distinct from straightforward political conservatism.

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    3. I apologize. I misjudged you. This entire time I assumed that you were defending Conran because you agreed with his political beliefs. It never occurred to me that you were actually sympathetic to the arguments presented by alt-right trolls to try and frame their misogyny as being a commonly held mainstream opinion.

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  25. "If there is no evidence that South Korean film is catering to trolls then the default assumption is that they aren't."

    I didn't say there wasn't any evidence. I said YOU didn't have any evidence. You keep saying that Conran is presenting his opinion as objective truth. You don't seem to realise that a negative claim like your own, i.e. that production companies are NOT AT ALL influenced by anti-feminist keyboard warriors, is much stronger than his. All he needs to do is to show that some film executive somewhere in Korea has, say, decided to make more male-centric films in order to avoid being trolled. You, on the other hand, need to show that absolutely nobody in Korea - not a single person involved in filmmaking in Korea - is in the least affected by misogynist trolls. But I forgot: you say you are under no obligation to provide evidence for this very strong claim that you've made, and indeed you have provided no evidence at all.

    That things were undeniably looking up for women in Korean cinema in 2019 does not prove that misogynist trolls have no influence whatsoever on the film industry. Unless we are privy to what goes on in the offices and boardrooms of production companies, we won’t know for certain whether trolls influence their policies and decisions. Submitting to an anti-feminist agenda doesn’t even have to involve producing misogynistic or ultra-macho films. One way of doing so could simply be to continue letting male-centric (though innocuous and in many cases excellent) films like Ashfall, Extreme Job, The Battle: Roar to Victory, Along With The Gods, A Taxi Driver, etc dominate the market.

    Celebs and their production companies ostensibly doing little or nothing about trolls proves nothing either. We don’t know, for example, whether the social media accounts of some celebs are being “curated” or at least vetted by their production companies, and how much any such intervention might have to do with causing as little offence (real or imagined) to netizens as possible. Nor do we know the extent to which trolls might have affected the lives and careers of celebs. People like Jung Yu-mi are A-listers, but even so, unless we’re their close associates, we won’t know for sure that their personal and professional paths have not been constrained in any way by trolling.

    Finally, note that none of the above is incompatible with the recent pro-woman advances made in the area. As I’ve already mentioned, an industry is not a uniform entity. Enlightened and less enlightened sectors could exist side by side. Even a production company isn’t a uniform entity, since it could very well make a woman-centric film while simultaneously throwing a sop to misogynist trolls, all in the name of selling tickets to as many demographic groups as possible.

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    1. This is why the burden of proof is on him and not me. It is obviously preposterous to expect me to demonstrate that literally every single person involved in the Korean film industry has never observed the existence of misogynist trolls. It is also equally preposterous for Conran to be able to make any ridiculous statement he wants without fear of contradiction so long as he phrases it in such a way that literally one unknowable thought from any random person would suffice to prove him technically correct. How you can actually specifically phrase the sentiment in such a way and not realize how idiotic it sounds is beyond me.

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    2. "It is obviously preposterous to expect me to demonstrate that literally every single person involved in the Korean film industry has never observed the existence of misogynist trolls"

      You are misrepresenting my argument again. I didn't say you had to prove that every person in the Korean film industry has "never observed etc". I said you had to prove that they have never been INFLUENCED etc". And yes it is preposterous to expect you to demonstrate it. That your claim is virtually impossible to support makes it even more problematic than Conran's. It's not just that you refuse to support it - you don't even have the ability to support it. Of course you may have no scruples about making unsupportable and hence unsupported claims. But that'd mean that your 'calling out' Conran for making 'any ridiculous statement he wants' is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. How you can actually 'call him out' and not realise how hypocritical it sounds is beyond me.

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    3. From a logical perspective I can't prove that the Korean film industry haven't been influenced by anything. It doesn't have to be misogynist keyboard warriors. We could just as well be talking about Russian bots, drag queens, immigrant wives, construction workers or, yes, even Bigfoot. You have framed this entire discussion in a way that is outrageously beneficial to Conran's point regardless of how ridiculous that point is.

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    4. From a logical perspective you can prove it, because unlike Bigfoot trolls actually exist. But from a practical perspective, it would indeed be impossible for any one person.

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  26. Lastly, comparing a trend to Bigfoot is also simplistic. Bigfoot is a large hairy mammal that either exists or doesn't (it doesn't). But trends are not always concrete, and certainly not always visible to the untrained or even naked eye. E.g. many of us assume that internet shopping is the main enemy of bricks and mortar shops, but a recent University of Chicago study found that it's superstores and hypermarkets that are undermining bricks and mortar shops as much as, possibly more than, online commerce. Just because the relevant figures are not accessible or evident to the layman, and need to be unearthed by someone in the know, doesn't mean that the trend doesn't exist.

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    1. I agree. Which is why it would have been nice for Conran to offer a single shred of support for his assertion that Korean film today is dominated by films designed to appeal to antifeminist keyboard warriors.

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    2. Glad you agree. It would be nice if you could offer some support for your assertion that Korean film today is utterly untouched by anti-feminist influence, too.

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    3. You might want to try to read my posts again. I never described Korean film today as utterly untouched by anti-feminist influence. I described their relative influence as nonexistent.

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  27. Perhaps a more relevant example is the one of Korea's NIS's own keyboard warriors trolling critics of the government, e.g. the actress who criticised the government for importing beef from America during the mad cow disease crisis. Many people would have assumed that the trolls were just nasty keyboard warriors. Even if anyone had suspected otherwise, there was simply no evidence of a systematic government-organised cyberbullying campaign. So if no one had carried out a proper investigation and managed to find evidence for it, are we supposed to just accept that it didn't exist?

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    1. If no one had carried out a proper investigation, or if somebody had carried out a proper investigation and failed to find evidence for it, anyone making such claims would have been rightly dismissed as a conspiracy theorist and roundly mocked.

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    2. Yes the actress who criticised the government during the mad cow disease crisis probably kept very quiet while receiving online death threats etc for fear of being mocked. But if she'd had any theories about the cyberbullies being more than ordinary netizens, she would still have been right.

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    3. I did not realize that Conran was receiving death threats for threatening to expose the death grip misogynist keyboard warriors have on the South Korean film industry. This certainly explains why he doesn't post on this blog very much anymore.

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  28. I apologise for misjudging you too. I was aware you had trouble following an argument, but clearly you have much more trouble than I'd expected.

    I didn't defend the men accused in #metoo. I quoted some far-from-obscure, non-political reasons given by young male anti-feminists, and explicitly said that such reasons were not well-founded. In short, rather than expressing sympathy for anti-feminists, whether they are on the left or right, all I was saying was that not all anti-feminists are political conservatives, contrary to what you claim.

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    1. I really don't think you're in any position to accuse others of having trouble following an argument when you've done everything in your power to try and drag this conversation away from actually discussing Korean film.

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  29. I didn't know he was receiving death threats either. That's terrible.

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  30. "I never described Korean film today as utterly untouched by anti-feminist influence. I described their relative influence as nonexistent."

    Ok I'll rephrase that. It would be nice if you could offer some support for your claim that there is no anti-feminist influence on Korean film today. But of course you can't. In your own words, you "can't prove that the Korean film industry haven't been influenced" by anti-feminist keyboard warriors.

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  31. Wow, this William Schwartz guy really destroyed every arguments to shreads. I'm quite impressed and can't say I don't agree with him... I'm not an expert but when Conran said the industry was struggling I was surprised as I've only been receiving news of its growth and the increased financial investments it was receiving.

    Also, surprised by his comments on the keyboard warriors, it smacked of virtue signaling that left a bad taste in my mouth.

    Btw, what is wrong with 'masculine' movies? They shouldn't be directly equated to sexist anti feminist movies, though they can certainly overlap at times. It's a style, feminine movies and certainly dramas, are made all the time (I binge watch these all the time- I'm a woman by the way).
    I mean this from an artistic and social perspective rather than a revenue perspective of whether it can still generate stable profits.

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  32. Really? I didn't read every single comment here, but i thought thersites was right about william's arguments, including all that stuff about pierce being homophobic & spreading fake news about the death of the Korean film industry. Weird cuz I thought pierce sounded like he was just wondering about the possibility of Korean film producers maybe trying to please the trolls. And he doesn't say anything about the money side of the industry as a whole.

    I got no problem with William saying that Pierce doesn't provide any proof for saying whatever, like films are being made for Korean antifeminist keyboard trolls or something. But then william says that films are definitely NOT being made for antifem keyboard trolls. And it is pierce's duty to prove what he says is wrong. But W says logically he cannot prove that what he says is right. Huh??? So W says P is spreading fake news even though it's obvious that P is just giving his opinion? But it is ok for W to say something that can never be proved right, and can only be proved wrong?!?

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  33. No-one said macho movies were wrong, not pierce or thersists or william. They were talking about companies making too many macho movies and too few female-centric movies. I'm female too and I gotta admit I loooove a good macho movie with lots of action and manly eye candy. I really enjoyed Ashfall! Thersites and william were a bit harsh about it haha.

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  34. Thanks for this post! I didn't watch these movies but after reading your blog definitely I will try to watch these movies.

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