Kangwon-do ui him

Kangwon-do ui him
The Power of Kangwon Province

The Power of Kangwon Province (1998): leaving with a friend to tour this tourist-province par excellence, the hero puts a secretary at his university in charge of taking care of two goldfish. They are placed in a bowl that is well exposed to daylight and protected from the sun by a sheet of paper. The movie ends with the bowl, moved to a cluttered nook; there is only one fish left. What to do with this detail? I have several solutions: I can call it insignificant, irrelevant to the course of the story, and forget about it. I can, on the contrary, try to semiotize it at all cost, try to find a clue for an unnoticed enigma, in line with the idea of Raoul Ruiz’s ‘secret film’ or Peirce’s abduction. [2] I can, more simply, make it mean something in another sense, that of metaphor, reading into it something like the discrete poeticization of a kind of melancholy. But I can also – and my hypothesis is that this is the most Hongian position – refuse all of these interpretations and be content with revealing it, with seeing it exist, accepting that it doesn’t signify anything, at least nothing specific. The fish were there, I saw them, they had a destiny, which doesn’t concern me and of which I will never know if or how it concerned or affected the characters. This detail, both figurative and narrative, puts me in front of what I, both in my everyday life and in film, continue not to see: the real – which precisely does not make sense, exists outside of me, only concerns me by accident or by refraction and therefore does not enter into my scenarios of reality.”

Jacques Aumont1


“Hong’s ‘tales of cinema’ are often bifurcated, with each half reflecting or counterpointing the other, as in his early masterpiece, The Power of Kangwon Province (1998), which presents one story, about a young woman on vacation in the eponymous setting; then another, about a professor taking a trip to the same place; and then, in a cubist coup, reveals them as simultaneous and interconnected. The second telling returns to sites, objects, and incidents from the first to cast them in a different light, fill in gaps in our knowledge, or open new mysteries.”

James Quandt2

  • 1Jacques Aumont, “Idiocies. A Poetics of the Real,” translated by Sis Matthé, originally published in Les variations Hong Sang-soo, Eds. Simon Daniellou, Antony Fiant (De l’incidence, 2017).
  • 2James Quandt, “Twice-old Tales,” Artforum Vol. XLV, 10 (2007).
UPDATED ON 29.01.2019