Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Amy Rust


aesthetic dialogue, ambivalence, Bong Joon-ho, Korean blockbuster, New Korean Cinema


Bong Joon-ho‟s monster movie blockbuster, The Host (Gweomul, 2006), is the most commercially successful film in South Korean cinema history. The film‟s popularity and significance derive from its unearthing of the ambivalence concerning South Korea‟s rapid transformation from a rural dictatorship to an urban democracy with one of the strongest economies on the planet. This ambivalence is buried beneath a veneer of "progress" blanketing contemporary South Korea and constitutes a condition I call inverted exile. The Host explicitly engages life in inverted exile through my notion of aesthetic dialogue. Aesthetic dialogue, takes influence from the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and allows for proliferation of meaning beyond authorial intent by focusing on The Host‟s context. My approach focuses on genre, narrative, and style to flesh out the political, historical, and social ambivalences behind any given moment of The Host to put them in dialogue with one another. The project progresses through sites of cultural dialogue central to the film and/or life in inverted exile: the monster, the city, the home. I approach each site through the genres associated with them and gender roles each of them assume in inverted exile. South Korea‟s transformation and its relationship with the United States are causes of anxiety (e.g. loss of traditional values, overwhelming Western influence) and desire (political freedom, economic opportunity). Ultimately, I argue, The Host suggests that South Korea and its citizens need to embrace the ambivalences of inverted exile and actively shape an identity that takes an active and critical attitude towards Western influence. Such an attitude can better preserve the desirable aspects of traditional culture (e.g. traditional food, familial unity) and alleviate the anxieties caused by Western influence (e.g. rampant consumerism, unjust class divisions). The Host‟s dialogic form is integral to its shaping of Korean identity as it takes from multiple cultural sources (i.e. Hollywood and Korean history) without challenging their polarization.