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1881 East-West Road | Honolulu, Hawaii 96822

About the Series

Sweet or Sweat? Ethnic Others in Korean Cinema

The number of foreign residents in Korea reached 1.5 million recently, signaling Korea’s turn to an increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. This turn poses multiple challenges to Korean society, which until recently has maintained its strong ethnocentric culture and identity. The films in this series represent varied human reactions to such challenges.


Film screenings take place in the Center for Korean Studies auditorium at 1881 East-West Road on the University of Hawai'i Mānoa campus and begin at 6:30 p.m. Korean films are shown with English subtitles.

This series is free and open to all University of Hawai'i students, faculty, and staff and to the community at large. The series is supported by the Timothy and Miriam Wee Memorial Fund at the Center for Korean Studies.

For further information about the film series, contact the Center for Korean Studies at (808) 956-7041 or Professor Young-a Park ( at (808) 956-6387.

Limited, paid public parking is available in the parking lot adjacent to the Center and in other visitor parking lots on campus. For more information about parking regulations and locations, consult the campus parking office Web page.

Film synopses by Robert York.

Spring 2014 Film Series: Sweet or Sweat? Ethnic Others in Korean Film

February 18

He's on Duty  방가방가

2010. Directed by Shin Dong-il. 110 minutes.

photo:He's on Duty still


Bang Tae-shik cannot seem to hold a job, both because of his unending clumsiness and due to his unusually dark skin, which stands out in modern-day Korea. Then, one day, he adopts a strange accent and assumes the identity of “Bang-ga,” an immigrant from Bhutan. Immediately successful in landing a job at a chair factory, “Bang-ga” makes friends among his immigrant co-workers, begins a romance with Jang-mi from Vietnam, and become president of the factory labor union. This comedy/social commentary won best screenplay at the Buil Film Awards and Baeksang Arts Awards in 2011.

March 4

Where is Ronny  로니를 찾아서

2009. Directed by Sim Sang-kook. 92 minutes.

Still from Where is Ronny


Down-on-his-luck taekwondo instructor In-ho tries to revive his struggling academy through a public demonstration event, only to be publicly embarrassed when a foreign merchant named Ronny knocks him out with a single blow. Seething with anger and intent on reclaiming his dignity, In-ho risks all that he has left attempting to hunt Ronny down. Ronny has seemingly vanished, but in the process In-ho forms a relationship with Duhin, another immigrant who joins him in his search.

April 1

Failan  파이란

2001. Directed by Son Hae-sung. 116 minutes.

image from Failan


Having lost her parents, Failan moves from China to Korea to seek her only remaining relatives but finds they have since departed. In Korea, Failan is forced into an arranged marriage with Kang-jae, a gangster struggling to win the respect of his organization. How will they adjust, especially when Kang-jae’s organization asks that he take the fall for a murder? Failan stars Choi Min-shik (of Oldboy) as Kang-jae, a role that won him Best Actor at the Pusan Film Critics Awards and the Blue Dragon Film Festival in 2001.

April 22

Punch  완득이

2011. Directed by Lee Han. 107 minutes.


image from Punch


Wan-deuk, a teen from a poor background who never knew his mother, struggles in school and frequently gets into fights. He and Dong-joo, his stern high school teacher, clash at first but grow closer when Wan-deuk’s father asks Dong-joo for help looking after Wan-deuk. Together, they eventually learn that Wan-deuk’s mother is a Filipina immigrant working in one of Seoul’s satellite cities. Based on a bestselling novel, Punch was nominated and won numerous awards in Korea in 2012.