12th July 2013
Incest as a tool of revenge must surely be one of the most shocking methods of achieving vengeance. The role it played in the most popular of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy shocked audiences around the world with both its venom and its creativity. The more recent Dirty Blood features a young woman intent on getting revenge on her father and begins a sexual relationship with him without him knowing her real identity. Are these cases unique in Korean cinema? The answer, of course, is ‘No.’
Back in 1971, we have another example of a young woman out for revenge against her biological father. The movie this occurred in is called I’m Your Daughter and it was directed by Jo Moon-jin and it had some big-named stars in it. The incomparable Moon Hee played Baek Yeon-hee opposite Shin Yeong-gyun who played Mr. Baek and Shin Seong-il who played her former lover, Seong-ho. Two other major actresses of the time, Ko Eun-ah and Hwang Jeong-soon also appear in the film.
In the story, Yeon-hee lives in poverty. Her mother bore her out of wedlock when she had an affair with Mr. Baek and never recovered after he abandoned her. After her death, Yeon-hee turns to her boyfriend, Seong-ho for comfort and becomes pregnant with his child. Seong-ho attempts to do the right thing and marry her, but cannot oppose his family who object to the marriage because of Yeon-hee’s background. Instead, Seong-ho is married off to Mr. Baek’s legitimate daughter, Ja-myeong and Yeon-hee is left to fend for herself and raise her son on her own.
To support herself, Yeon-hee becomes a hostess—entertaining men at a bar. She moves closer to Seong-ho’s house so her son can get to know Seong-ho a little. It is there that she is presented with a chance to avenge her mother, and Yeon-hee hatches a dreadful plot. The womanizing Mr. Baek frequents the bar in which Yeon-hee works. Throwing all morals to the wind, Yeon-he gradually becomes closer to him, seducing him and allowing Baek to fall in love with her. When sh is ready, Yeon-hee finally reveals who she is, taunting him with the information and blaming him for her mother’s death and her own ruin. It turns out that Yeon-hee had concocted the ultimate revenge against Baek. Upon learning of his incestuous relationship with his daughter, Baek has a heart attack, keels over and dies. Yeon-hee leaves her son in Seong-ho’s care and leaves for parts unknown.
A decade earlier there were a couple of other films where adult children enter their fathers’ lives without their identities being known, to wreak havoc on his family and business. There is one where a son comes back, gets a job with his father, and attempts to make his stepsister fall in love with him as revenge before having a change of heart and another from 1966 where a young woman gets a job in her father’s office as his personal secretary and feeds confidential papers to rival companies for revenge.
Unfortunately, while these films still exist, a trailer or film clip is not available. So instead, I will leave you with the clip from Who Broke the Red Rose Stem? (1990). A more typical revenge film where a woman sets out to avenge the deaths of her father and husband as well as her daughter’s lost sanity against a cooperate director responsible in his effort to steal the company from her. Five years later she has reinvented herself as a fashion designer and with her model bodyguards enacts revenge on the businessman only to have it revealed that her husband is alive and was manipulated by the evil corporate heads into killing her father. She decides to take her vengeance out on everyone involved, manipulated or not…
Don’t forget to head over to Modern Korean Cinema for more Revenge Week