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The Strange Case of the Animated Jekyll and the Online Hyde : a documentary study of Korean youth culture and identity

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posted on 27.11.2015, 09:51 by Man Ki Park
Robert Louis Stevenson s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) is the starting point for my practice-led research project. Stevenson's Victorian novella enables me to identify core themes which are pertinent to a discussion of the construction of contemporary identities in Korean youth culture. These identities are exemplified in the creation of avatars the virtual characters of animated online games such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). My animation practice is developed by addressing how Jekyll and Hyde provides useful critical and creative tools, such as gothic imagery and detective thrillers, for looking at the double . This concept is used to investigate the case of a young Korean boy, addicted to online gaming, who committed violent acts. My animated drama-documentary draws on research into the real and virtual Korean worlds and employs a visual ethnographic methodology to test my research question: in what ways can the construction of 'identity' (based on concepts drawn from 'Jekyll and Hyde') be identified in contemporary 'virtual' media (i.e. 'MMORPGs'/the 'animated' documentary), and how does this facilitate an address of the specific case of 'Korea' and 'Korean-ness'? The thesis is structured into five chapters: The Idea of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Theorising Identities in a Korean Context, Theorising Visual Ethnography, Theorising Animated Drama-Documentary, and A Film Practice as Animated Drama-Documentary in Visual Ethnography. Evidence of the research process and findings is located in a series of appendices. Theories about the construction of identity are discussed from three different perspectives: sociology, psychoanalysis and bio-culturalism. In my film practice, I look for the connection between the anxious self and Korean social issues, such as modernisation and the 1997 IMF economic crisis, to account for Korean youth s identity formation through online gaming. My research shows that many South Korean MMORPG users construct identity within contemporary virtual media and that this contributes to a very complex Korean-ness amongst Korean youth. Online gaming has both positive and negative consequences. Immersion in the virtual world can lead to addiction and to the violence which is at the core of my film narrative. It can also result in close online friendships, offering kinship not available in many broken families, or families inhibited in their communication by social roles and expectations, or the effect of economic failure and loss. My practice criticises young Korean people's narrow and limited social environment and proves that they desire liberal expression and decision-making for themselves, which can be experienced through the embodiment of animated avatars in MMORPGs. Hence, the online Hyde , though assumed to be a negative or destructive force, is actually a vehicle for varied and numerous social identities for youth culture preferable to those available in real Korean society. The research mounts a critique of the meaning of the online Hyde , not as a misrepresentative and negative representation of Korean-ness, but as a revelation of its contemporary meaning which can be articulated though animation, a tool which has applications within visual ethnography.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • Arts


© Man Ki Park

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.