Adapting Western Literature in Korea: Colonialism and Gender Politics in Fingersmith's Film Adaptation The Handmaiden
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Adapting Western Literature in Korea reviews the exploration of colonialism and gender politics in Korean adaptations of Western literature and genres using the case study of The Handmaiden (2016), adapted from Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith (2002). The thesis goes back to the roots of adapting Western sources in Korea and looks at the context that these adaptations have been created in. Focusing mostly on 21st century cinema, it is argued that South Korean filmmakers use Western sources to comment on Korea’s colonial history or to voice an opinion on current affairs. In turn, these topics and other Korean elements are used to make the adaptation more familiar for the Korean public. By taking The Handmaiden as case study, the thesis discusses one of the most famed Korean films. The original source’s themes of gender politics and pornography in the Victorian-era are used to comment on homophobia and female oppression in contemporary South Korea. At the same time, Fingersmith’s themes are used to explore colonialism and the oppression of the Korean people. Comparing The Handmaiden to the other discussed adaptations, this thesis argues that The Handmaiden in its combination of exploring colonialism, female exploitation, pornography and homosexuality is entirely unique from other adaptations.