Hi again Gord,
Thought I'd drop you a quick line on something I've just across expanding on what I wrote in the comments thread. I haven't got to your series of posts yet, but I can see great potential in the following pieces.
I'm impressed by the way that Kim Soyoung reworks the concept of the public sphere in terms of South Korean independent filmmakers attempting to distribute their works outside the blockbuster circuit, as well as differentiating their form and content. This is because they in part define themselves against the way that local blockbusters reconfigure cultural nationalism and globalization in terms of the government's neoliberal policy agenda:
"The key issue that local blockbusters bring to the fore lies not so much in the actual amounts of real profit they generate as the investments they show of national cultural value. These investments go alongside a consistent emphasis on the virtues of the movie industry itself as something of an exemplary smog-free, post-industrial sector by the government since the 1990s which sits well with its new purpose in the popular imagination. Notwithstanding the often outrageous marketing fees and ticket sales, the film industry as a whole in the year of 2001 made profits that were only equivalent to those of a medium-size corporation. Nevertheless, what the film industry in its blockbuster mode displays and informs are the popular imagining of the working of finance capital and mass investment culture. The ‘Netizen Fund’ set up on the internet by film companies finds enthusiastic investors, often with such volume of usage that people complain about accessibility. Both the blockbuster movies and the related dissemination of blockbuster culture appear to announce a cultural era of investment that clearly plays a critical role in strengthening the hegemonic dominance of finance capital. This cultural intervention links the perceived interests of tens of millions of workers to its own by embedding ‘ investor practices’ into their everyday lives and by offering them the appearance of a stake within a neo-liberal order." (Harmes May-June 2001)
Might this not also be construed, along with Shin, in terms of a limitation placed on civil society/public sphere by these dominant discourses? Afterall, "trans cinema" is marginalized. Furthermore, I think it's pretty obvious that if you're forced to work within the "trans cinema", the special effects budget usually demanded by sci fi cinema is going to be out of reach. Although much could be read into Kim Soyoung's piece about the fracturing of genre, which may contribute to the relative absence of indigenous sci fi per se, I also think it is not easy to pass up on Moon Jae-cheol's critical observation that "recent Korean films are characterized by a desire for newness, and then reads in contemporary cinema the tendency to distance themselves from grand narratives, such as progress and ideology, to prioritize image over narrative and theme, and liberate themselves from responsibility to the societal role of films". As I alluded to in the comments thread, it is difficult to envisage sci fi without such grand narratives (there I mentioned "utopia" specifically). This too, might be classified as an inherent limitation.
I've focused on South Korea's film industry, but remember, Thomas Whiteside warned us in The Blockbuster Complex: Conglomerates, Show Business, and Book Publishing that the book publishing industry can be beholden to the film industry. So there might be something there that could account for the dearth of published South Korean sci fi as well, at least in recent years. To me, this suggests any answer is dependent on how much historical contextualization you want to use to frame how the genre has developed in South Korea.
I'll let you know if I come up with anything else once I've read your series of posts.