giant monster with a rhino-like horn stomps through the cityalr

Yongary, Monster from the Deep
(Taegoesu Yonggari)

Screening on Film
Directed by Kim Ki-duk.
With O Yong-il, Nam Chong-im, Yi Sun-jae.
South Korea/Japan, 1967, 35mm, color, 80 min.
English dubbed.

Yongary, Monster from the Deep marks a watershed in Korean film history as one of the earliest Korean sci-fi monster films and a remarkable case of Korea-Japan collaboration post-liberation. Heavily influenced by the success of giant irradiated monsters in the US and Japan during the 1950s and early 1960s, Kuktong Hungop, one of the most influential Korean film studios of the 1960s, proposed a collaboration with Yagi Masao, special effects director of Gojira (Godzilla, 1954). Directed by Kim Kee-duk, one of the most successful Korean filmmakers of the 1960s, the film was a hit and exported to many countries, including the US, the location of the only surviving print.

Yongary inevitably bears striking narrative and visual similarities to its famous predecessor, yet as a critical navigation of Korea’s place within the US led Cold War bloc, Yongary is a unique creation. The most interesting deviation from its Japanese counterpart is Yongary’s rather comic disposition, even secretly doing the twist with the young boy who comes to understand him. According to film scholar Yi Youngjae, such a friendly depiction of an irradiated monster corresponds with the US promotion of nuclear energy in South Korea, which was positively perceived by the Korean public. While Yongary also evokes fears of North Korea by first appearing in the Joint Security Area, the specific usage of the traditional Korean song “Arirang” for its joyful dancing scene reveals ambiguous feelings about this “enemy” by connecting it to the musical symbol of the once-united nation.

Part of film series

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