Inside Lotte Mart

03 Nov 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time yet to write about my teaching experience; hopefully I'll be able to do that in the next couple of days. But in the meantime, here's a little video we took on Saturday exploring the delights of our city's largest shopping center:

A series of random thoughts

1. Yup, you can definitely tell how much larger Gunsan is than Chungju by the relative sizes of our Lotte Marts. Even the E-Mart here is only five floors, and I think that the floors are slightly smaller.

2. Geez, Gunsan is ugly. And poorly laid out. I have mentioned this before, but seeing that vast expanse of dirt fronting the Lotte Mart forced me to say it again. My co-teacher told me that the government is pouring money into developing Gunsan at the moment---what on earth are they doing with it? Starting an Uglifying project? Accept my challenge, come to Chungju, and take videos of the downtown area here---I guarantee that you won't be disappointed. (And maybe, my challenge having been answered, I'll shut up about how ridiculously unsightly your town is. 'Cause seriously, your immediate area around the University is actually quite nice... it's the rest of the city that sucks.)

3. Your street dancers / objectified human advertisements have clothes. This is good. Hi-Mart does not let them wear anything more than bikinis (well, they can also wear jackets, but only if they remove them during the performance).

4. They actually sell cats? Really? Koreans are not fond of cats, and Matt has reported having serious problems finding cat food for his (absolutely psychotic, I mean really-really-disturbingly-unhinged-in-a-way-that-makes-me-never-want-to-go-to-Matt's-house-again level psychotic) feline.

5. You should have a toaster, it's in your contract. (At least I got one... in fact, I see my exact model for what looks like 33,000.) You should be complaining about all of the items you are supposed to have that you do not---if your co-teachers don't know what to do about it, call to the nice native English speaker guy at the head office. Of course, this may "cause problems" for your Big Boss, which will cause him to stop being so nice to you.

Inside Lotte Mart

Jordan and Marisa:

I enjoyed the movie, though the male character was more fully developed than the female, and I wasn't certain about the motivation of either. While food seemed a factor, I couldn't tell that either actually ate anything. Perhaps the strongest connection for me was to Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, especially because of the animal theme. (When I saw the dog I thought perhaps they had moved into the grocery section.) You rushed the end a bit. Compared to the carefully constructed prologue, the abrupt lunge at closure was slightly disappointing. But perhaps that was your comment on the ultimate emptiness of Westernized capitalism!

I am interested as well that you were evidently able to film unhindered. Last time Fuyuhiko visited us, we got in trouble in our local Cub for videotaping. Clearly, we were spies from Byerly's trying to steal the trade secrets of the New Brighton Cub, a store that can't even keep Oat Squares in stock.

Finally, the Dillard fan in me appreciates your subtitle indeed.


Thank you Matthew

Thanks Matthew for your continued insight into how ungly Gunsan is, but we are trying to look on the bright side of things, and make the best of our suroundings, however ugly and flat they might be. Marisa and I are both quite happy with our city, thank you very much.


Just ensuring that you come up to Chungju so I can show you a good time.

Isn't it amazing how quickly Korean regionalism is injected into your bloodstream here? Within a week I was already thinking of Cheongju-ites as big-city snobs (despite the fact that they live less than an hour away from me), Danyang-ians as small-town hicks (despite the fact that some of them live less than 20 minutes away from me), and Seoul's inhabitants as "not real Koreans," in the words of a teacher at Chungju. I thought that I'd seen some pretty extreme regional differentiation in England, but Korea is incredible... when I tell my kids that I live in Bongbang-dong (a section of Chungju), all of those who also live in the same region assume that I am their special friend. Remember, wherever you live in Korea is the best place on Earth.

But I'm still waiting for pictures that showcase Gunsan's scenic wonders. Just give me ten beautiful spots within Gunsan city limits, and I'll eat my words.

Regarding Motivation and Structure within Inside Lotte Mart

Thank you, Barrett, for your thorough analysis of Inside Lotte Mart. I need hardly say that your approval, as my film theory mentor, means a great deal to me. As for the film: the lack of closure was, as you suggest, a comment on the lack of any kind of ultimate meaning to be found in consumerism; the lack of structure was a similar attempt to capture that haphazard nature of a culture that rushes from one shelf to the next in search of the latest so-called "hot item."

You mention the central characters' lack of motivation, but I would have thought that this especially was an obviously intentional device: what motivates the perpetual shopper, the consumer? One can hazard many guesses (and a deeper analysis may in fact yield some sound theories--we shop to distract ourselves from our uncomfortable sense that we lack true identity, perhaps [but now I overstep the scope of our film]), but on the surface of it neither meaning nor motivation are readily apparent.

The animal and plant themes were an attempt to show how we have bottled and confined nature within the metaphorical 7-story shopping mall of our society.The poor lost dog is every dog.

Finally, regarding character development, I agree with you that it is disproportionate. I was going to try to argue that this too was intentional: that within the male-dominated culture of Korea we have given the female character even more time that would properly reflect the culture--but I think that is a sorry argument, and in reality the disproportionate character development stemmed mostly from a technical limitation (our very small microphone which has difficulty capturing the voice of any actor who is not actually holding the camera), and my own selfish desire to become a movie star; for I am sure there you have already discerned that the male character was played by myself. At the end of the day, I regret the way I handled this issue, and can only strive to be more even-handed in my future attempts at directing.

Yours truly,
Jordan Magnuson

P.S. You mention the difficulty you had filming at Cub Foods: I can only say that we were both fortunate and discreet at Lotte Mart.