This paper contends that genre mixing in comedy films of the 1960s in South Korea had the potential to interrupt filmic codes, which were increasingly propagandistic following the tightening of film law. The advent of the James Bond films as a global cultural phenomenon stimulated local production of spy films, where the villain was typically North Korean. These films were welcomed by cultural regimes of the time due to their anticommunist orientation, but a small hybrid genre, the “spy comedy,” undermined their absolutism. Based in the vernacular comedy traditions of slapstick film performance, stage comedy, and radio, these “spy comedies” spoofed aspects of both the James Bond franchise and the local action thrillers that imitated Bond. This was often accomplished by overlaying the narrative of a rustic with that of a spy. The comedies reveal a synchronicity between development and urbanization, which displaced large numbers of people, and the othering of North Koreans, which led to spy paranoia about those who were out of place. This paper argues that global genres played a particular role for South Korean comedy in the 1960s: they enabled oblique treatments of sensitive social issues through play. Generic heterogeneity defined comedic films of this era.

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