Young-a Park, Ph.D.

park_yYoung-a Park is Associate Professor in the Asian Studies Program.

Contact Information

She can be reached at (808) 956-9125, or through her email:

Educational Background

  • B.A. Anthropology, Seoul National University,  1993,
  • M.A. Anthropology, Seoul National University, 1995
  • Ph.D. Anthropology, Harvard University 2006.


Professor Park’s book entitled Unexpected Alliances: Independent Filmmakers, the State, and the Film Industry in Postauthoritarian South Korea was published in November 2014 by Stanford University Press. The main question that she tackles in her book is the following:

Since 1999, South Korean films have dominated roughly 40 to 60 percent of the Korean domestic box-office, matching or even surpassing Hollywood films in popularity. Why is this, and how did it come about? In Unexpected Alliances, Park seeks to answer these questions by exploring the cultural and institutional roots of the Korean film industry’s phenomenal success in the context of Korea’s political transition in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The book investigates the unprecedented interplay between independent filmmakers, the state, and the mainstream film industry under the post-authoritarian administrations of Kim Dae Jung (1998–2003) and Roh Moo Hyun (2003–2008), and shows how these alliances were critical in the making of today’s Korean film industry.

During South Korea’s post-authoritarian reform era, independent filmmakers with activist backgrounds were able to mobilize and transform themselves into important players in state cultural institutions and in negotiations with the purveyors of capital. Instead of simply labeling the alliances “selling out” or “co-optation,” this book explores the new spaces, institutions, and conversations which emerged and shows how independent filmmakers played a key role in national protests against trade liberalization, actively contributing to the creation of the very idea of a “Korean national cinema” worthy of protection. Independent filmmakers changed not only the film institutions and policies but the ways in which people produce, consume, and think about film in South Korea.

In addition to her Korean film industry research, she is conducting a new line of research on North Korean refugees in South Korea. She plans to explore North Korean refugees’ strategies in obtaining cultural membership in South Korea and the formation of new transnational migrant identities.

For further information about the book, please click on the following links:


  • ASAN 320K Asian Nation Studies: Korea
  • ASAN 491K Globalization and East Asia
  • ASAN 491K Korean Society and Culture through Film
  • ASAN 600K Asian Studies Seminar: Korea
  • ASAN 750K Proseminar: Korean Studies

Selected Publications

  • Unexpected Alliances: Independent Filmmakers, the State, and the Film Industry in Postauthoritarian South Korea, 2015, Stanford University Press.
  • “New Activist Cultural Production: Independent Filmmakers, the Post-authoritarian State, and New Capital Flows in South Korea,” Gi-Wook Shin and Paul Chang, eds., Korean Social Movements: From Democracy to Civil Society, 2011, Routledge.
  • Translated Laura Bohannan’s “Shakespeare in the Bush” to Korean, in Encountering Self at Unfamiliar Places: Cultural Anthropology Anthology, edited by Kyung-koo Han, 1998, Seoul: Iljogak.