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Fate and Freedom in Korean Historical Films

Publisher: , 2023
Link to online store *

This open access book examines the depiction of Korean history in recent South Korean historical films. Released over the Hallyu (“Korean Wave”) period starting in the mid-1990s, these films have reflected, shaped, and extended the thriving public discourse over national history. In these works, the balance between fate and freedom—the negotiation between societal constraints and individual will, as well as cyclical and linear history—functions as a central theme, subtext, or plot device for illuminating a rich variety of historical events, figures, and issues. In sum, these highly accomplished films set in Korea’s past address universal concerns about the relationship between structure and agency, whether in collective identity or in individual lives. Written in an engaging and accessible style by an established historian, Fate and Freedom in Korean Historical Films offers a distinctive perspective on understanding and appreciating Korean history and culture.

Kyung Moon Hwang is Korea Foundation Professor at the Australian National University, Canberra. He is the author of A History of Korea (Third Edition, 2021), Past Forward: Essays in Korean History (2019), Rationalizing Korea: The Rise of the Modern State (2015), and Beyond Birth: Social Status in the Emergence of Modern Korea (2004).



  1. Freedom and Fate in the People and Monarchy: The Early Joseon Era, Fifteenth to Sixteenth Centuries
  2. Forces of Nature on the Topographies of the Nation: Responses to the Calamitous Foreign Invasions, 1590s–1630s
  3. Tracking National Destiny: Prince Sado and the Eighteenth-Century Monarchy
  4. Facing the End of Days: Crises and Potential in the Nineteenth Century
  5. Crafting Independence: Gender, Class, and Reorientation under Colonial Rule, 1896–1945
  6. Hope Amid Unrelenting Carnage: National Division and the Korean War, 1945–1953
  7. Struggle for Self-Determination: Development, Dictatorship, and Democratisation in South Korea, 1960s–1980s
  8. The Cyclical Buildup of Historical Burdens: Reckonings in the Post-democratisation Era, 1980s–2010s

Source: publisher’s website

Entry on here.

* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.