DPRK film, Order No. 27 and the acousmatic voice

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DPRK film is often neglected by researchers of Korean cinema and is not considered to fall within traditional film studies because it is thought to be overly didactic and conservative in terms of film style and political persuasion. This paper builds on the work of Travis Workman, Stephen Epstein and Hyangjin Lee, and argues that DPRK film is capable of producing a greater range of meaning than acknowledged by most researchers. This paper considers Order No. 27 (Myŏngnyŏng 27 ho, dir: Jung Ki-mo and Kim Un-suk, 1986, DPRK), which tells of a commando mission to destroy an enemy special forces camp at an unspecified time, but presumably during the Korean War. The paper focuses on film sound to investigate the relationship between the didactic function of DPRK film, intentionality and the range of potential meanings that can be created. Using Michael Chion’s notion of an acousmatic voice that can be heard on screen but whose source remains unknown, this paper argues the acousmatic voice is an expression of communal and hierarchical identity, and represents the dominance of consciousness over spontaneity. The use of the acousmatic voice is also combined with other features of film style like the use of sudden cuts to natural imagery, and its use helps reveal important elite social anxiety about internal political tensions particularly concerning the rise of Kim Jong-il (Kim Chŏng’il). Most importantly, the voice is heard by the cinema spectator and includes them within its power by expressing the unity-ubiquity of the leader, hero, nation and spectator. This investigation of the acousmatic voice is significant because it reveals a hitherto unnoticed complexity to the didactic quality of DPRK film, but it also reflects upon the link between authorial intentionality and film since it is unclear whether the use of the acousmatic voice is deliberate or not.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKorean Screen Cultures:
Subtitle of host publicationInterrogating Cinema, TV, Music and Online games
EditorsAndrew David Jackson, Colette Balmain
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783035307825
ISBN (Print)9783034318228
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cinema
  • North Korea
  • Korean War films
  • Film sound

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