Past in the present: film and TV drama, Korean families, and the palimpsestic Neo-Confucian family schema

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In an era of social change, South Korean films and television drama interrogate how family is conceived in an interdependent society. A (Neo-)Confucian palimpsest implicitly underlies representations of the family, whether as an ideal structure, an oppressive set of conventions to be challenged, or an archaic system which endures at most as a cultural memory. Six examples are presented, as two groups. First, the films Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982 and Wonderful Nightmare and the television drama Something in the Rain are symptomatic of the family as a site of conflict, especially for many women, because of Korea’s deeply gendered social structure and persistent misogyny. The second group – the films A Good Lawyer’s Wife, Boomerang Family and Broker –explores the idea that, entering a post-Confucian era, the Korean family has encountered a state of crisis which threatens its dissolution. In its place, these films suggest that people inhabiting the margins of society can form new relationships with marginalised others and thence develop new communities not based upon traditional concepts of family. However, if social structures remain mapped onto an idea of the traditional family, there is little prospect of real change.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Asian family in literature and film
Subtitle of host publicationchanging perceptions in a New Age-East Asia
EditorsBernard Wilson, Sharifah Aishah Osman
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9789819725007
ISBN (Print)9789819724994, 9789819725021
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Jul 2024

Publication series

NameAsia-Pacific and Literature in English
PublisherPalgrave Mcmillan
ISSN (Print)2524-7638
ISSN (Electronic)2524-7646


  • Confucian palimpsest
  • family values
  • Gender roles
  • ressentiment
  • schemas
  • separation of spheres


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