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First Love and Remasculinization

Saerom Bae, Yonsei University

In this thesis, I discuss three Korean films (The Classic, A Love, and Architecture 101) to see how traumatized male subjects make use of first love narratives in enhancing their masculinity.

The romantic relationship is a new shelter used by modern subjects in which to identify themselves and it enables us to compose a “reflexive project” (Giddens). However, love is such a worldly thing that people coined the term ‘relationship market.’ Ironically, this is where the myth of ‘first love’ becomes fascinating.

First love is a theme that never seems to fail in Korean popular culture. In all sorts of representative texts, couples fall in love at first sight, get in trouble by villains, and meet each other again for their ‘happily-ever-after’ ending.

This pure love is a strong tool for a character to make its own history and it becomes even more attractive when encountered with hardships of reality because a subject can recollect memories of first love never ended in the past. Protagonists often deny their bodily desire and it is what keeps them from reaching the ‘final stage.’ Male subjects enhance their masculinity by imagining 'what it would be like if I was with my first love until now' when they are dissatisfied with their present that degrades their masculinity.

Nonetheless, this is the exact reason why the story can only stay as a myth. The narrative and the dream of the male subjects go together while it continues to conflict with reality.