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YMCA Baseball

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Amir Osterweil
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YMCA Baseball

This is a lighthearted film about a Korean baseball team in 1905. It takes place during the Japanes occupation of Korea, and I had hoped to use it to highlight examples of imperialism and to perhaps gain a better understanding of the period. It is a typical underdog story where the baseball the baseball team from Seoul, the best in Korea, plays a game against Japan in Seoul. Spoiler alert, the Korean team wins.  The first time they are badly beaten and win the re-match. In the political background there is discussion of the  Eulsa teaty that Korea has signed with Japan the hunt for "traitors" by Korean nationalists. Korea has ceded its sovereignty to Japam, the movie does not explain why. Caught in the middle is Lee Hochang. He is a likable goofy guy who's biggest talent is hitting the fast ball.

The most interesting aspect of the film is not the Korea vs. Japan match, the outcome is all but predetermined. Rather it is the relationship with Hochang and his father. I would show a few key scenes to my students to highlight traditonal Korean social structures, focusing on Confucianism. The fiml also subtly raises some issues on modernity and Westernization. In the beginning we see a nobleman on the baseball team who refuses to catch a ball thrown by a peasant. Later on he learns that they must work together if they are to win. Second, there is a scene where the father disowns Hochang for playing baseball, his expectation is that he take over the private school. We learn that Hochang was not even the first choice for the job, it was supposed to go to his older brother, who has run off to join the underground. All in all, the movie is not worh watching as a class in its entirety. I would just chose a few key scenes.