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The Memory of Labor Oppression in Korean Cinema: The Death of a Young Worker in Single Spark (1995)

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Single Spark (1995) is a retrospective work discussing the growth of the labor movement under the authoritarian rule of the Park government. This focuses on the life of a young worker named Tae-Il Chon,2 who immolated himself to protest against labor oppression at the age of 23 in 1970. It deals with the labor movement in the 1970s, but it does not attach importance to the tension between the working class and employers/capitalists. Rather than depicting a violent conflict, the film highlights a sense of inevitability regarding the labor movement where both administration officials and employers pay no regard to labor laws, laws that are generally considered to favor the management more than the working class.
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Keywords: 1970s; Korean cinema; Single Spark; labor movement; oppression; working class

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Korea University

Publication date: September 1, 2000

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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