Since its publication, Yi Yŏngil's Complete history of Korean cinema (1969) has remained a seminal work of film historiography. A critical rereading of the work is required, however, to capture the paradoxes of postcolonial historiography that are created by the spatial-temporal orders of modernity in a decolonizing, non-Western society. By examining Yi's creative use of historical documentation, such as oral testimonies of filmmakers, this article considers how he offers a counter-narrative against colonialist historiography that denies Korea's agency to transform itself into a modern nation-state without Japanese annexation. However, despite his decolonizing endeavor, his work cannot fully eradicate the colonial effects that inevitably shape postcolonial subjectivity in the globalizing world. In reassessing the possibilities and predicaments of his work, this article reveals Yi's fundamental conundrum as a postcolonial writer living with the effects of colonialism, ultimately challenging the imagination of the postcolonial experience as an uninterrupted struggle to establish an autonomous nation.

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