Lost Youth (1982)– Korean Title: 버려진 청춘– Romanization: Beoryeojin Cheongchoon. Directed by Jeong So-yeong. Starring: Nam Goong-won (as Mr. Han), Lee Gi-seon (as Myeong-ja), Park Jong-geun (Woo-shik), Choi Hee-jeong and Kim Gi-jong (as Woo-shik’s father). Running Time: 89 minutes. Original Release Date: September 24, 1982. Available on DVD: No
Myeong-ja ran away to Seoul when she was in her teens in order to escape an unhappy family life in which her father was abusive to her mother and her younger siblings could not afford to go to school. She took a job in a factory with dreams of helping her mother and siblings. But life in Seoul was not at all what she expected. One night, Myeong-ja is raped and her perspective on life changes drastically. Rationalizing that the world was evil, Myeong-ja sets out to make money in any way she can and that includes lying, cheating, blackmail, stealing and selling her body. We know little of her background when we first meet her on the prowl at Kyeongpo Beach. (A beautiful beach, by the way. Not too built up, clean water.. good alternative to Haeyundai Beach) After a quick look through the cars in the parking lot and a chat with the clerk at the front desk of a hotel, she determines that her target is there. She takes to the beach and eventually finds her prey.. Woo-shik. She arranges to ‘accidently’ meet him and is soon heading back to his hotel room where they spend the night together. Myeong-ja sneaks out early in the morning, but before heading back to Seoul she intentionally bruises all of her limbs. The purpose of these self-inflicted injuries is to manufacture ‘evidence’ to support her claim that Woo-shik raped her. Heading the Woo-shik’s father’s home, a large mansion she had scoped out earlier, Myeong-ja arrives during a party. She meets with the wealthy parent and threatens to go to the police with her story if he does not pay her five million won. He relents and gives her the money she requests.
All of that, although a substantial portion of the running time, was to establish the character of Myeong-ja. Woo-shik and his father will appear again in the film, however their role has mostly been played out. The body of the story is Myeong-ja’s meeting of Mr. Han and how they change each other’s lives. They meet in a the lobby of an expensive international hotel is Seoul where Mr. Han is entertaining a rich client from Japan and Myeong-ja is attempting to seduce and rob foreigners. Their exchange inside the hotel is brief but they meet again in the parking lot when Myeong-ja, attempting to escape the enraged Woo-shik, dives into Han’s car and hides in the backseat. There she falls into a deep sleep so Mr. Han takes her home and puts her to bed.
In a Korean film made in the 1980s, you would not often be wrong if you suspected the worst from this situation, but in this case you would be. Director Jeong had a lot of class and Mr. Han was played by Nam Goong-won, so Myeong-ja was perfectly safe in this situation. Waking up in the morning, she strikes up a friendship with Mr. Han. In her case, she is enraptured with his wealth and the size of his estate. For his part, he is fascinated with this charming, young free spirit. Han confesses that he has not been with a woman in seven years, since his wife and son died in a plane crash. Myeong-ja takes this up as a personal challenge, and a chance to make a lot of money, and promises to seduce him in no time at all. After several failed attempts, Myeong-ja finallly succeeds in tempting Han to have sex with her, but her success may be largely due to the fact that the pair seem to have fallen in love with each other although neither will state that at first.
Here the movie could have ended happily ever after except for several things. First, Myeong-ja rediscovers her conscience and sets out to make ammends for some of her recent crimes such as returning Woo-shik’s money and visiting her mother and brothers and helping them as she intended. Unfortunately, neither of these things go off as smoothly as she had planned. Then there are those reoccuring headaches that Myeong-ja suddenly develops– and their instensity seems to be increasing rapidly. Will Myeong-ja get the happy ending she dreamed of all her life?
Lost Youth is a very good story marred slightly by the 1980s obsession with sex. Not that sex is bad in a film, but the overtness of it and the voyeurism the camera indulges in is often uncomfortable. This is especially true when the film is dealing with Myeong-ja’s loose friend whose breasts are exposed whenever we see her, be it at home or drunk at a club. And Myeong-ja’s attempts to seduce Han provide the camera ample opportunities for those uncomfortable ass and crotch shots. Barring that however, the movie is quite good and is an interesting character study, especially of Myeong-ja and the changes she undergoes throughout the film.She moves from being a character out only for herself to one who finds a larger purpose.
This was the last of director Jeong So-yeong’s regularly produced films. He did make two more movies after this.. one six years later in 1988 and a remake of his most famous film series entitled Again in 2001. But up until 1982, Jeong had been making one, two or more films for decades. The film starred Lee Gi-seon whom some readers may know as the shaman’s daughter/maid with the haunted doll from the 1981 horror film Suddenly at Midnight. It also starred veteran film actor Nam Goong-won. This makes for an odd pairing as Nam is more than 20 years Lee’s senior. In the film, Myeong-ja claims to be 21 and by this time the film was made, actor Nam was nearly 50 (although his character’s age is never stated)
All in all a good film, considerably better than I expected. It is not, however, on DVD at the time of this writing although it was, at one point, on VHS. I was lucky enough to see it on Btv and if you are in Korea, you can see it there along with many other classic films.