Cinema and Prosthetic Memory: The Case of the Korean War

Judith Keene


This paper assesses the explanatory possibilities of the concept of prosthetic memory, with cinema as the enabler of popular understanding, when applied to the Korean War. The essay examines why it was that the conflict in Korea for many decades occupied a memory void and whether the explanations that have been offered for other similar “forgotten “wars are useful in relation to Korea. The analysis sugggests that cinema may be important in the formation of popular understanding but that there are serious analytical drawbacks in assuming that cinema can provide a window into popular mentalities.


cinema; Korean War; memory; historical memory; national narratives; veterans

Full Text:



Adams, C. 2007, An American Dream: The Life of an African American Soldier and POW Who Spent Twelve Years in Communist China. University of Massachusetts Press, Boston.

Allen, W. (dir.) 1985, The Purple Rose of Cairo, motion picture, Orion Pictures Corporation.

Ashplant, T. G., Dawson, G. & Roper M. (eds) 2004, The Politics of Memory: Commemorating War. Transaction Publishers, London.

Barthes, R. 1975, The Pleasure of the Text. Hill & Wang, New York.

Bassett, R. M., with Carlson, L. H. 2003, And the Wind Blew Cold. Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio.

Bodnar, J. 1996, Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ.

Carlson, L. H. 2002, Remembered Prisoners of a Forgotten War: An Oral History of Korean War POWs. Macmillan, St Martin's Press, New York.

Clarke, D. L. 1979, The Missing Man: Politics and the MIA. National Defense University, Research Directorate, Washington, DC.

Chase, C. & Shaw, M. (eds) 1989, The Imagined Past: History and Nostalgia. Manchester University Press, Manchester; New York.

Cumings, B. 2005, Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History. WW Norton, New York.

Edwards, P. M. 1997, A Guide to Film on The Korean War. Greenwood Press, Westport, CN.

Edwards, P. M. 2000, To Acknowledge a War: The Korean War in American Memory. Greenwood Press, Westport, CN.

Evans, M. 1997a, 'Rehabilitating the Traumatized War Veteran: The Case of French Conscripts from the Algerian War, 19541962, ' in War and Memory in the Twentieth Century, (eds) M. Evans & K. Lunn. Berg, Oxford, 7385.

Evans, M. 1997b, The Memory of Resistance: French Opposition to the Algerian War, 19541962. Berg, Oxford."

Evans, M. & Lunn, K. (eds) 1997, War and Memory in the Twentieth Century. Berg, Oxford.

Fdration Nationale des Anciens Combattants d'Algrie-Maroc-Tunisie (FNACA). 2005, official website. Online, available: [accessed 17 April 2010].

Franklin, H. B. 1993, M.I.A. or Mythmaking in America. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.

Fleming, D. B. and Kaufman, B. I. 1990, 'The Forgotten War: Korea, ' Education Digest, vol. 56, no. 4 (December), 7172.

Frankenheimer, J. (dir.) 1962, The Manchurian Candidate, motion picture, MC Productions/United Artists.

Friedan, B. 1963, The Feminine Mystique. WW Norton & Co., New York.

Garton, S. 2004, 'Longing For War: Nostalgia and the Australian Returned Soldiers after the First World War, ' in The Politics of Memory: Commemorating War, (eds) T. Ashplant, G. Dawson & M. Roper. Transaction Publishers, London, 22239.

Gluck, C. 2007, 'Operations of Memory: Comfort Women and the World, ' in Ruptured Histories: War Memory and the Post-Cold War in Asia, (eds) S. M. Jager & R. Mitter. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 4777.

Harper, S. 1997, 'Popular Film, Popular Memory: The case of the Second World War, ' in War and Memory in the Twentieth Century, (eds) M. Evans & K. Lunn. Berg, Oxford, 163176.

Hynes, S. 1998, The Soldiers' Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War. London, Penguin.

Irwin-Zarecka, I. 1989, Neutralizing Memory: The Jew in Contemporary Poland. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ.

Irwin-Zarecka, I. 2007, Frames of Remembrance: The Dynamics of Collective Memory. Transaction Publishers, London.

Keene, J. 2011 (forthcoming), 'Lost and Found to Public Commemoration: American Veterans of the Forgotten" Korean War, ' Journal of Social History."

Kinkead, E. 1959, In Every War but One. WW Norton, New York.

Landsberg, A. 1997, 'America, the Holocaust and the Mass Culture of Memory: Towards a Radical Politics of Empathy, ' New German Critique, no. 71 (Spring-Summer), 6386.

Landsberg, A. 2004, Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. Columbia University Press, New York.

Leonard, J. 1997, 'Facing The Finger of Scorn": Veterans' Memories of Ireland after the Great War, ' in War and Memory in the Twentieth Century, (eds) M. Evans and K. Lunn. Berg, Oxford, 5973."

Mayer, Major W. E. 1957, Freedom Forum Presentation. Communist Indoctrination: Its Significance to Americans. Distributed by the National Education Program, Arkansas.

Milestone, L. (dir.) 1959, Pork Chop Hill, motion picture, Melville Productions/United Artists.

Norris, W. T. 2003, 'The Forming of the Korean War Veterans' Association, ' Graybeards (March/April), 26-27.

Piehler, G. K. 1995, Remembering War the American Way. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, and London.

Prost, A. 2000, 'The Algerian War in French Collective Memory, ' in War and Remembrance in the Twentieth Century, (eds) J. Winter & E. Sivan. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 16176.

Records of the Office of Judge Advocate General (Army). 1995, Record Group 153, RECAP-K program case files, United States National Archive and Record Administration, College Park, Maryland. Online, available: [Accessed 17 April 2010].

Renoir, J. (dir.) 1937, La grande illusion (The Grand Illusion), motion picture, Ralisation d'Art Cinmatographique.

Robin, R. 2001, The Making of the Cold War Enemy: Culture and Politics in the Military Intellectual Complex. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Rossellini. R. (dir.). 1945, Roma, citt aperta (Rome Open City), motion picture, Excelsa Film.

Rossellini. R. (dir.) 1946, Pais, motion picture, Organizzazione Film Internazionali.

Sjlyst-Jackson, P. 2004, 'Remembered/Replayed: The Nation and Male Subjectivity in the Second World War Films Ni Liv (Norway) and The Cruel Sea (Britain), ' in The Politics of Memory: Commemorating War, (eds) T. Ashplant, G. Dawson and M. Roper. Transaction Publishers, London, 16581.

Slocum, D. 2006, Hollywood and War: The Film Reader. Routledge, New York.

Tavernier, B. (dir.) 1992, La guerre sans nom (The War with No Name), motion picture, Neuf de Coeur.

Taviani, P. & V. 1982, La notti di San Lorenzo (The Night of the Shooting Stars), motion picture, Radiotelevisione Italiana.

Thatcher, N. 2011 (forthcoming), 'The Malgr-nous: Unfolding a Second World War drama, ' Australian Journal of French Studies.

Thompson, A. 1994, Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Trembath, R. 2005, A Different Sort of War: Australians in Korea 1950-53. Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne.

Tribe, K. 1977, 'History and the Production of Memories, ' Screen, vol. 18, no. 4 (Winter), 922.

'US Military Korean War Statistics.' 2010. The Korean War website, compiled by Ed Evanhoe. Online, available: [Accessed 17 April 2010].

Weir, P. (dir.) 1981, Gallipoli, motion picture, Australian Film Commission.

Winter, J. 2001, 'Film and the Matrix of Memory, ' AHR Forum on World War Two and National Cinemas, American Historical Review, vol. 106, no. 3 (June), 85764.

Wylie, P. 1955, Generation of Vipers. 3rd edition. Rinehart, New York.

Young, M. B. 2001, 'Korea: The Post-war War, ' History Workshop Journal, Issue 5, 11226.

Zweiback A. J. 1998, 'The 21 Turncoat GIs": Non-repatriations and the Political Culture of the Korean War, ' The Historian, vol. 60, no. 2 (Winter), 33462."