ReFocus: The Films of Kim Ki-young

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Chung-kang Kim
contact email: 

Call For Papers: ReFocus: The Films of Kim Ki-young

Contact email: Chung-kang Kim(

Deadline (abstract): 15 October 2020

Deadline (full manuscript): 30 May 2021


Many contemporary world-renowned South Korean film directors, including Pak Chan-wook and Bong Joon Ho, cite Kim Ki-young (1919-1998) as the most influential Korean director relative to their work. Over 30 years of his career (1953-1990), Kim Ki-young produced thirty-three films which were regarded as the most sensual, grotesque, provocative films within Korea, the themes and aesthetics of which far exceeded the social and cultural norms of the period. Born and educated during the Japanese colonial period, Kim Ki-young began his film career under USIS (United State Information Service) making small documentary films. Despite the fact his work was largely created during the 30 years of military dictatorship, Kim’s films manage to both retain an eccentric aesthetic style and mirror the lived reality of this incredibly tumultuous period of modern Korean history.


Perhaps Kim Ki-young’s most renowned films are the “housemaid series.” Within the productions The Housemaid (1960), Woman of Fire (1971), Insect Woman (1972), Killer Butterfly (1978), Water Lady (1979), and Beast of Prey/Carnivorous Animal (1984) Kim repeats similar themes and female/male iconography, creating an unseen perverse sexuality within Korean films of the period. This series of works penetrates the socio-political condition of women in South Korean society and have come to assume a great and shifting significance for audiences across different historical periods. Traditional Korean society and its grotesque representation is another of Kim’s favored themes. This can be seen in films such as Yangsan Province (1955), Koryôjang (1963), Transgression (1974), and Iôdo/Iô Island (1977) which all reconstruct the past of Korea not in terms of oriental nostalgia but as the site of a grotesque aggregation of culture and tradition. His historical films such as The Sea Knows (1961) and Elegy of Ren (1969)tragically represent Korean history, whilst displaying Kim’s unique penchant for visual style. Many of his films negotiated the limits of what was cinematically possible during the dictatorship period in South Korea. And the brutal censorship of the time is exemplified by the manifold changes enforced upon Pan Gûm-ryôn (1975/1981). Kim’s singular ability to create such unique films, despite extremely limited resources and censorious restrictions, explains why he is so highly regarded by South Korean film makers today.


As the very first comprehensive scholarly volume on Kim in English, covering his entire career and history in cinema, we are currently inviting the submission of 250-300 word abstracts for essays to be included in ReFocus to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press in their series of anthologies examining overlooked International film directors. The series editors are Robert Singer, Stefanie Van de Peer and Gary D. Rhodes. Possible topics specifically on the work of Kim Ki-young for this volume include (but are not limited to):


- Colonial unconsciousness and post-coloniality

- USIS and Kim Ki-young’s early documentaries

- State control and censorship

- Gender, class, and sexuality

- Eroticism, grotesque and perversity

- Space and the filmic frame

- Aesthetics of repetition

- Creative dialogues between Kim and contemporary Korean film directors

- The rediscovery of Kim’s work within the film festival circuit


Essays included in the refereed anthology will be approximately 6,000-8,000 words, referenced in Chicago endnote style. Completed papers for the accepted abstracts should be submitted by 30 May 2021. Please send a CV and 200-300 words abstract to by 15 October 2020.


Any questions can be sent to:


Chung-kang Kim

Assistant Professor
Department of Theater and Film
Hanyang University, Seoul