A Key Ingredient To The Box Office Success Of Jsa And Friends: Virtuous Male “Heroes”

2418 words - 10 pages

A Key Ingredient to the Box-Office Success of JSA and Friends:Virtuous Male "Heroes"Winning more than 5.8 million and 8 million tickets, respectively, Joint Security Area (2000) and Friend (2001) became the two highest grossing movies sold at their time in South Korea. On the surface, the two seem distant and have unrelated plots; JSA takes place near the Korean De-militarized Zone (DMZ) and centers on an investigation about North and South Korean soldiers while Friend spans four childhood friends' lives in Busan where two of them become gangster lords. Despite the differences in story plots the box-office success experienced by both JSA and Friend can be attributed to a formulaic character recipe that is highly receptive to the national audience in Korea: a male hero, Sergeant Oh (JSA) and gangster Jung-suk (Friend), who has a deep friendship with his other male companions within his homo socio-cultural environment. Their exemplary show of brotherly loyalty, friendship and personal sacrifice for male friends despite background differences uncovers why the record-setting Korean movie-goers geared towards these two particular movies: Due to Korea's Neo-Confucian culture on men as the economic pillar and military protector for the family and nation, the desire to see a more nurturing, mature, and stable patriarch out of an authoritarian and fragmented environment becomes crystalized in male characters Sergeant Oh and Jung-suk.[1: John Finch, "JSA," and "Friend" (PPT presentation, KORA398C lecture, College Park, MD, April 15, 2014]The male heroes, Sergeant Oh and Jung-suk, are a crucial element in their "buddy" movie. These so-called "masculine heroes" lead and support a circle of friends in a male-dominated, oppressive environment where they successfully rise above the rest as the noblest and stable-minded figurehead. In JSA, Sergeant Oh and his male friends meet and befriend each other at the DMZ, an "almost exclusively a heiarchal organization of men," as lax soldiers trying to fulfill the mandatory military service that their divided country forces them to oblige. Similarly in Friends, Jung-suk and his gang of friends try to cultivate their friendship while growing up being subjected to a violent and divisive education institution and social system. And, when they become adults, their lives are connected to the Busan's underground crime world where men again dominate and engage in violence. It is within these "closed micro-world[s], where [the main characters] ultimately redefine and exercise manhood," Sergeant Oh and Jung-suk transcend various ideological boundaries imposed by other male authoritarians to become embodiments of a "new," caring hero that places high value on friendship.[2: Seungsook Moon, "The Production and Subversion of Masculinity" (Under Construction, 2002), pp. 89][3: Chi-Yun Shin, "Two of a Kind: Gender and Friendship and "Take Care of My Cat" (NKC, 2005), pp. 118]Enclosed in a homo-social world, both Sergeant Oh and...

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