Spectacled Korean woman sits at desk looking sternly at a Korean man standing in front of heralr

Female Boss

Screening on Film
Directed by Han Hyung-mo.
With Cho Mi-ryong, Yi Su-ryon, Yun In-ja.
South Korea, 1959, 35mm, black & white, 105 min.
Korean with English subtitles.
Print source: Korean Film Archive

Female Boss centers on the transition of Yoanna from charismatic women’s rights activist to housewife as she falls in love with her hardheaded employee Kim Yong-ho. Appropriating Hollywood screwball comedies that foreground a battle of the sexes, the film caters to the restoration of Korean patriarchy by ending with Yoanna’s ultimate subordination to her husband. The fact that the original eponymous play was written in 1948, yet appealed to audiences in 1959, demonstrates that ambiguity surrounding the accommodation of “American values” in South Korea persisted even after the Korean War and the signing of the alliance treaty. While the ending reads as a partial rebuttal of Americanism, the film also brims with mesmerizing depictions of American popular culture. Deviating from the then-common stigmatization of American popular culture as decadent, the film treats its appreciation as perfectly natural. Female Boss is also of importance in the history of Korean film technology, as the earliest existing Korean film in Cinemascope. The set of Yoanna’s women’s magazine company was specifically designed for the film’s aspect ratio, with its multiple rooms linked perpendicularly and horizontally, adding visual depth to the space she reigns over as the owner. 

Part of film series

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Out of the Ashes – The US-ROK Alliance & South Korean Cinema