The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_3

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea


Memory and Media Advocacy

Memory and History

Memory and history are so deeply related that no one really can say which one is more valuable when it comes to truth seeking. The distinction that historians would draw between history and memory is that history is engaged to seek truth, and memory is winnowed out or discarded in a process of natural selection made by historians. Based on this notion, the statement made by Halbwachs that ‘history is dead memory’ can be considered (cited in Olick & Robbins 1998). This assertion somewhat negates the self-image of historiography devaluing the meaningfulness of memory in terms of an appropriate attitude toward the past.

Some critiques of this notion of the relation between history and memory are based on recent approaches, that consider history to exist nor just in the official version but in the social and cultural terms of memory. The selection and interpretation of memory/sources have become arbitrary in the process of writing history (Olick & Robbins 1998).

According to Halbwachs (cited in Olick & Robbins 1998), autobiographical memory refers to our own experience in the contrast to historical memory, which is historical events that we all remember through historical records. Collective memory can form our identities as it is considered more active compared to historical memory. However, historical memory can be organic/active sometimes when people celebrate something together, even though they did not directly experience it. Hence, different types of memory affect a creation of history, as history can be defined as the remembered past (Olick & Robbins 1998).

Cultural memory is something different as it is shared through cultural products and thus has cultural meaning. In the twentieth century, we use a new system which enabled digitisation of information through electronic recording and transmitting. This change has provided new ways of conceptualising memory (Olick & Robbins 1998). Accordingly, cultural memory can be examined in the context of media culture since most cultural products have been formed through digital technologies. 

Shaping Cultural Memory through Media

Cultural memory, once again, is formed by communication through media. It used to be reproduced through speech, such as when grandparents tell their story about the old days to children. Writing, film and the Internet are considered more sophisticated media technologies that help to shape cultural memory as shared versions of the past among people. What would be the requisite of power for media to produce and shape cultural memory? It can be argued within, between, and around the media (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008).

Firstly, intra-medial strategies are considered the requisites within the media as a form of collective memory based on four modes: the experiential, the mythical, the antagonistic, and the reflexive. The experiential modes represent the past as recent. The mythical modes describes foundational events in mythical way. The antagonistic mode includes negative stereotyping of conflicting memory cultures. The montage of different versions of the past are considered in the reflexive mode. All these modes help us to have an illusion of the past through media (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008).

Secondly, inter-medial relations can be argued to be one of the factors in forming cultural memory between the media. Pre-mediation and remediation are examined as a double movement in the interaction; meaning that memorable events are represented again and again in different media over decades and centuries, and that is how it creates a power in cultural memory. In the same context, comparable events provide schemata for later events, as they not only depict the past, – this is what the term “pre-mediation” refers to. Remediation tends to solidify cultural memory created in the first stage through different modes of representation, it stabilises certain icons of the past. Therefore, the boundaries between historical events as documentary material and fictional stories based on the events are often blurred in the course of remediation (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008). 

Thirdly, around the media affects cultural memory as “pluri-medial networks.” This stage refers to a collective phenomenon, not just a creation of cultural products – as films or books that no one watched or read will not have any influence in creating cultural memory. This means a certain kind of context is required for cultural products to become memory-shaping media. All those advertisements, comments, and discussions are considered as the context of the media networks surrounding cultural products (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008).     

In conclusion, powerful media has a memory-making effect, it needs to be analysed at an individual level and a collective level at the same time. Media representations at the individual level provide us a schemata of certain images of the past based on autobiographical memories. When the representation can provide cues for the discussion of those images in society, cultural memory can be shaped at the collective level. Therefore, cultural memory can be examined in the current media cultures we live in (Erll, Nünning & Young 2008). 


The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_1

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea 


“Bottom-up memories began to replace top-down historiography since World War One” (Kim 2014, p.85).

A new movie “Spirits’ Homecoming”, directed by Cho Jung-Lae, was released in South Korea on February 2016, drew 2.21 million viewers by March. This film is not only considered as an art form, but also a media campaign since the movie production was funded by more than 70,000 Korean citizens through crowdfunding. The film was based on the testimony of comfort women, their memory mediated through art drawings, and by the film itself. This campaign constitutes a meaningful process, shaping the cultural memory of Korea in relation to the comfort women issue.


About the Movie

The movie was directed by Cho Jung-Lae who is an indie movie director. He typically directs movies related to minority or Korean culture. His previous movie includes “Duresori” which is about students who study and practice traditional music in Korea. His documentary, “Youths on Feet: A Great Journey to Our Nation” also shows his passion towards the Korean peninsula and the people of Korea. 

The film “Sprits’ Homecoming” was produced based on a true story of one comfort woman in Korea, Kang Il-Chul. According to her statement, teenage Korean girls were forcibly taken by the Imperial Japanese Army to be sex slaves for them during the 1940s.

Kang Il-Chul is portrayed as one character, Jung-Min in the film. Jung-Min is an innocent and clumsy teenage girl, an ordinary girl living in the 1940s. She lives with her father and mother, peacefully thinking of getting married to someone in the future. One day, some Japanese policemen take her away from her family and put her in a car with a bunch of teenage girls. She arrives somewhere in China, and starts to work as a sex slave for the Japanese armed forces.

In the meantime, there is a character named Eun-Kyung who lives in the twentieth first century. Her father is murdered while he tries to save her from a burglar. Since then, she develops a mental disorder, and her mother takes her to meet a female shaman. The shaman finds out Eun-Kyung can talk to dead souls. One day, Eun-Kyung sees Jung-Min’s soul and her life as a sex slave.

Jung-Min and the other girls are saved by Korean independence armed forces when they are about to die. However, Jung-Min dies when she is shot by a Japanese. Eun-Kyung consoles the ghost of Jung-Min to make her spirit come back home. The movie shows how the teenage girls’ tragic experiences, as it was without any human rights or dignity, their bodies only for the purpose of war and the militarism.