Seen in Jeonju

Archive for November, 2011

Pained (2011)

30th November 2011

pained(I originally wrote this article for the December issue of Asiana Entertainment which is now available on all Asiana flights this month. Now that it is published, I can share it here) Over the past ten years, Kwak Kyung-taek has made a name for himself directing exciting, male-oriented action films where the roles of women were minor at best. Like a Hemingway novel, Kwak’s films focus on the masculine but the beautifully scripted action sequences and powerful emotions therein manage to speak to all viewers regardless of gender. What then, can you expect when Korea’s premiere director of action movies decides to direct a melodramatic love story? Well, from an experienced director such as Kwak, you should expect nothing less than a powerful story.

Director Kwak manages to instill a healthy dose of fighting and other action into this romance. This is necessary due to the lead character’s job. Nam-soon is a debt collector, a man who visits the homes of people behind on their repayment schedules at the behest of the loan shark who employs him. Such employment is far from glamorous and the debt collectors are feared by most as they often resort to violence to collect the money. However, Nam-soon is different from other debt collectors. In fact, he is different from most other humans. He is suffering from a rare disorder that prevents him from feeling pain. If he is cut, he will bleed, however he will never feel the blade that injured him. It is not a genetic disorder however, it is psychological– as a child he underwent a horrible trauma and now he feels nothing.

On a routine job to terrorize a debtor into paying back funds, Nam-soon runs into a surprising bit of resistance from his target, Dong-hyeon. She is a frail young woman working a small stall on the street selling trinkets and jewelry to people passing by. Although she looks healthy enough, she is referred to as frail because she is a hemophiliac. Because her blood is slow to clot, one shallow scratch might be enough to cause her to bleed to death. Despite the fact that Nam-soon had threatened her for money, she sees through his act and chooses to help him when he receives a severe beating at a labor dispute. This simple act of kindness touches the unfeeling Nam-soon’s heart.

When Dong-hyeon is kicked out of her home by her landlady, Nam-soon is there for her and offers to let the now homeless young woman stay at his home. The pair’s turbulent relationship softens and Dong-hyeon is able to see just how deeply scarred Nam-soon truly is as he starts to open up to her. Initial animosity becomes respect and love and Nam-soon makes significant improvements in his life for the sake of his newfound love. However, as Dong-hyeon’s health is deteriorating, Nam-soon agrees to take one last job that will earn enough money to get her the medical attention she needs.

Nam-soon is played by Kwon Sang-woo known for his romantic, tough guy roles and his winning smile. Kwon rarely smiles over the course of Pained and instead relies on his acting skills. The part of Dong-hyeon is played by Jang Ryeo-won. She is a talented actress who has already appeared in several films and is on her way to becoming a top star in Korean cinema.

Posted in 2010s, Review | Comments Off

Trailers for Korean Films: December 1

29th November 2011

This coming week, the likely hot movie will be a film I have listed in English as both Chilling Romance and Eerie Romance– an official title will probably be posted by the weekend.

Next is the film Moscow–which I can’t find a proper trailer for.. but I did find this clip…

There is an award-winning documentary opening as well called White Jungle looking at the struggles of the poor of Seoul.

And finally, there is Gungdari Yurangdan, a documentary about an acting troupe consisting of differently abled performers.

Posted in video & trailers | 2 Comments »

The Independent: Vol. 1, No.1

28th November 2011

Below is the first issue of the first English newspaper in Korea, the Independent, published beginning in 1896. I will admit, the first issue is the least interesting of those I have read so far.. and I have read about a year’s worth of news already…  However, it does do a good job of setting the stage. I will explain a little of the background of the stories mentioned at the end of passages where I think necessary to help with the general understanding of what is going on and of the events to come which become progressively more exciting and complex. This will be writtin in italics to keep it separate from the text.


Tuesday, April 1, 1896–

Local Items: – It has become evident that the disturbances n the country are not the result of disaffection toward the government but are simply the excesses indulged in by lawless characters who take advantage of the present lack of strong central control, knowing that for the moment they will go unpunished. We could wish that they might take warning from the fate of similar attempts on the past and remember that sooner or later their sins will find them out. We decidedly refuse to to believe that any large fraction of the country people are willing actors in these anarchical proceedings. The better informed Koreans in the Capital are of this opinion.

– The Admiralty Court of Inquiry into the sinking of the Egar pinnace at Chemulpo found that the launch was overladen and badly managed.  <<Chemulpo refers to the area now called Incheon and was of great importance because of the port.>>

– We learn to regret that a case of insubordination in the police force was condoned rather than punished because the offender had been given his position by a powerful official. Such things tend to bring into discredit an otherwise effective force.

–The promptness of which the governor of Ha Ju was dismissed from his office wehn evidence of his malfeasance was forthcoming tends, insofar, to disprove the charge of inactivity which has been made against the present government.

– At the Easter service in the Union Church, Hon. J.M.B. Sill, U.S. Minister delivered an able address. The children rendered some Easter music very prettily. The altar was handsomely decorated with potted plants.

– EDICT.  Alas, of late the minds of the people have been disturbed by wrong ideas conveyed to them by the bands of bad characters calling themselves the “Righteous Army.” These unscrupulous men incite to trouble and keep the country in an uproar. This is due to Our being unable to rule them properly and we consequently feel ashamed. We have sent Royal messengers in all directions in all directions and have ordered the people to go back to their vocations in peace, but they do not seem to know what is right to do. We also sent the Royal troops to the disturbed district but we did not wish them to fight unless the people should resist the Royal Edict. The time has come for tilling the soil but the people have not yet returned to their duties and We fear that famine will follow. In that case We would not be able to eat or sleep in peace for thinking of the suffering of Our people. We have been told that some foreigners have been killed by these rebellious bands and that some some of Our people have been killed by foreigners, all of which shocks and pains us. As We have opened up intercourse with the world, We consider that we are all brothers, whether foreign or native born. For brothers to hate and kill one another is an offence to Heaven and will bring its punishment. Our messengers tell us that the governors and magistrates have received Our orders to protect the people regardless of nativity.   Ye people, cast away all savage customs and become peaceful and obedient children. Cast aside the doubts ond suspicions which you entertain against foreigners. The names of those killed, whether natives or foreigners, should be reported to Us. <<At the beginning of 1895, a peasant rebellion, known as the Donghak Uprising was quashed. Donghak was a kind of philosphy/religion that taught all men were equal regardless of birth and the poor rose up against the nobles (yangban).  The rebels demanded four things– that their lives and property would be protected from greedy landlords; that they would be given equal rights as the rich, to drive Japanese and western people for Korea and; to purge the government of Seoul from corruption.  The Korean army failed to stop them and China sent 3000 soldiers to Seoul to assist. Japan took this as a threat to its own security and this sparked the first Sino-Japanese War. Japan also sent soldiers into Korea and set a trap for the rebels at Gongju where they were wiped out.  This resulted in changes in the yangbans’ power for a while, but they started falling back into their old ways and the peasants were soon rising up again.  In the coming months we will see them organize and become a powerful movement>> <<The King writing this is Gojong–lots more on him later>>

Editorial– The time seems to have come for the publication of a periodical in the interests of the Korean people. By the Korean people, we do not mean merely the residents of Seoul and vicinity nor do we mean the more favored classes alone, but we include the whole people of every class and grade. To this end three things are necessary; first, that it shall be written in a character intelligible to the largest possible number; second, that it shall be put on the market at such a price that it shall be within the reach of the largest possible number; third, that it shall contain such matters as shall be for the best interests of the largest possible number.

To meet the first of these requirements it has been put in the native character called the on-moon for the time is shortly coming, if it is not already here, when Koreans will cease to be ashamed of their native character, which for simplicity of construction and phonetic power compares favorably with the best alphabets in the world. Difficulty is experienced by those not thoroughly acquainted with the onmun from the fact that ordinarily there are no spaces between words. We therefore adopt the novel plan of introducing spaces, thus doing away with the main objection to its use. We make it biliteral because this will act as an incentive to English speaking Koreans to push their knowledge of English for its own sake. An English page may also commend the paper to the patronage of those who have no other means of gaining accurate information in regard to the events which are traspiring in Korea. It hardly needs to be said that we have access to the best sources of information in the capital and will be in constant communication with the provinces.

To meet the second requirement we have s arranged the size of the sheet as to be able to put it on the market at a price which will make it unnecessary for anyoe to forego is advantages because of inablity to buy.

To meet the third requirement is a more difficult matter. What Korea needs is a unifying influence. Now that the old order of things is passing away, society is in a state which might be described as intermediate between two forms of crystalliation. The old combinations of forces have been broken up or are rapidly breaking up and they are seeking new affinities. The near future will probably decide the mode of rearrangement of the social forces.

It is at this moment when Korean society is in a plastic state that we deem it appropriate to put out this sheet as an espression at least ofour desireto do what can be done in a journalistic way to give Koreans a reliable account of the events that are traspiring, to give reasons for things that often seem to them unreasonable, to bring the capital and the provinces into greater harmony through a mutal understanding of each other’s needs, especially the need of each has of the other.

<<By on-mun– which in later issues, editor Jaisohn will spell ‘unmun’, he is, of course, referring to what we now call ‘hangul’–Korean characters used in writing. Up to this time, all newspapers were written in Chinese.  The Korean/English versions of the newspaper was printed until the end of 1896. They were then enlarged and separated into two distinct papers.>><<I now realize that typing nearly the entire newspaper will make for very long posts– It might be wiser to divide it into differnt sections: Local News one day, the Editorial the next…>>

Posted in The Independent: 1896 | 2 Comments »

Korean Box Office: November 25-27

28th November 2011


After hold its own against battling robots and warring gods, Punch finally met its match and was knocked out of first place after a month at the top of the charts.  It was replaced by S.I.U. which is short for the Special Investigation Unit. This new action film stars Uhm Tae-woong, Joo Won and Jeong Jin-yeong and it is directed by actor Hwang Byeong-guk successfully trying his hand at a new career. Real Steel held steady at number four, but the third place spot was taken by Arthur Christmas. I would have thought it was a little early for a Christmas movie, but I guess I would have been wrong.

Posted in Box Office | Comments Off

The Independent: Introduction

26th November 2011


When you think about English newspapers in Korea, names like The Korea Times, The Korea Herald or the Joongang Daily probably leap to mind if you live in Korea. After all, they are the largest English newspapers in the country. In fact, a quick trip over to The Korea Times website reveals that they are the oldest English daily newspaper in Korea. It might surprise you to learn that they started publiction back in 1950. It might also surprise you to learn that, while the Korea Times is the oldest daily English paper, it is not the oldest English newspaper in Korea. That honor goes to The Independent.

The Independent started publication on April 7th, 1896 in conjuction with the start of the Dokrib Shinmun, the first newspaper written in Korean rather than Chinese. Both of these papers were started and edited by Dr. Seo (Phillip Jaisohn) Jae-pil. Born in South Jeolla Province, Dr. Seo was educated in America, graduating from the Columbian Medical College in Washington DC in 1892. He married Josephine Armstrong, the daughter of George Buchanan Armstrong, founder of the US Railway Mail Service. The pair moved to Seoul in 1895, a place, as you will see, very different than what we know today. Inspired by an English Missionary monthly magazine that started in March of that year called the Korean Repository, the visionary Seo realized the usefulness of having news available to the international community and to the masses and he founded The Independent and the Dokrib Shinmun. He shared editing duties with a Mr. H.G. Appenzeller. The newspaper was published three times a week; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and sold for either 10 cents an issue or $1.30 a year. 

So what does this have to do with Korean movies? I think I have mentioned how I dig through old newspapers in the library to find images of old movies for the plates I am making in the Korean film index I am working on. At one point I had found a few issues of the Independent and thought that it might have a report about when the first movie was shown in Korea. The first public screening is generally recognized as 1903, but there are reports of private screenings as early as 1897. I have now been able to locate all of the original run of the Independent which starts in 1896 and continues for several years. I do not know if I will find what I am looking for, but I have found many other interesting things.. a report of the first phonograph in Pyeongyang, the origins of the trains, the poisoning of the king’s coffee, a murder mystery and trial among the foreign community, the meltdown of the Minister of Education and the growing insurgency.

I want to share these articles in full with readers once a week. They often a fascinating look at history unfolding from the perspective of the foreign residents in Seoul who manage to keep a stiff upper lip throughout the growing chaos of the times. The early editions of the paper are simply one page and I will be able to reproduce it in full editing out only the list of government appointments and dismissals.  I do want to stress however, opinions of the newspaper articles written 120+ years ago are NOT mine. In fact, I am more than a little horrified by some of what is printed and what the newspaper was promoting such as the witchhunt against the shamans and fortunetellers and the terms used to define certain classes and races living in Seoul. I will add a short explanation at the end where I can and comments and analysis are welcome.

I plan to make this a mid-week feature, but I will post the Volume 1, Issue 1 later this weekend.

(I need to somehow find The Korean Repository — The Independent mentions it has art and society pages which might reveal something about the early showing of films)

Posted in News, The Independent: 1896 | 1 Comment »

The 32nd Blue Dragon Awards

25th November 2011

The thrity-second Blue Dragon movie awards are underway as I type this.  Below are the list of winners in the order they appear in the broadcast. I listed all the nominees and gave the winner a gold star under her or his image.

Best New Actor:

blue dragon new actor

Best New Actress:

blue dragon new actress

Best New Director:

blue dragon new director

Best Supporting Actor:

blue dragon supporting actor

Best Supporting Actress:

blue dragon supporting actress

Best Director:

blue dragons best director

Best Actor:

blue dragon best actor

Best Actress:

blue dragon best actress

Best Film:

blue dragons best film

Posted in Actors, News | Comments Off

Index of the 70s: Im Won-shik

25th November 2011

Director Im Won-shik’s career began in the mid-sixties and ended in the early 90s. In the decade I am currently working on, Im Won-shik helmed 12 movies. I had already posted half of his films earlier. Information on these and the movies of other directors can be viewed by clicking the tab marked ‘the 1970s’ at the top of the page. The thumbnails below can be clicked as well to enlarge the plate and allow you to see a full-sized image.

imwonshik1974 arirang, imwonshik1974 excellentguys, imwonshik1974 exorcist, imwonshik1976 evenidontknowmymind, imwonshik1976 mother, imwonshik1977 towardsthehighplace

Up next: Jang Il-ho

Posted in K-Movie Index | Comments Off

Korean Movie Trailers: November 24

22nd November 2011

This Thursday, there are several new Korean films being released. I have not yet seen an English name for the following film, but in Korean, it is pronounced Teuk.Soo.Bon. These are initials. The full name would be Teuksoo Soosa Bonboo. In the 1970s there were more than a half dozen of these TeukSooBon films–mostly directed by Lee Won-se or Seol Tae-ho. Some examples include: The Special Investigation Bureau: The Case of Lee Nan-hee, College Student, The Special Investigation Bureau: Kim So-san, the Kisaeng. All of the stories see the members of the Special Investigation Bureau stopping communist plots in Seoul. Here is the trailer of the 2011 version:

Queer-themed movies are still quite rare in Korea despite some high profile successes like Frozen Flower and The King and the Clown. REC is about two men who decide to record their night in a motel room. The film is only 65 minutes long.. I imagine it will screen primarily in art theaters.

I have seen the names The Lovely Child and Lovable referring to the following movie, but KOFIC has yet to post the English name on their website.

The next up is a documentary, The Color of Pain. Documentaries generally have limited releases as well. Fortunately, here in Jeonju, we do have an art/indie film theater that enables me to see most of these smaller releases. This looks like a quiet but interesting film.

Posted in video & trailers | Comments Off

Korean Box Office: November 18-20

21st November 2011


Well, Punch spends yet another week at the top of the box office charts and has now topped four million tickets sold. Immortals remained a distant second for the second week in a row, closely followed by the newcomer Money Ball which pushed Real Steel and two others down a notch. Most new films did not open above 7th this week.

Posted in Box Office | Comments Off

Index of the 70s: Im Kwon-taek, part 2

20th November 2011

I finally finished the 39 films director Im Kwon-taek produced in the 1970s. These are the final ten. Click the thumbnail and enlarge to see a full-sized image or go to the tab marked ‘the 1970s’ at the top of the page to see images and information on all of his films and those of other directors as well. Up next: Im Won-shik

imkwontaek1976 wife, imkwontaek1977 imjininvasionwolhyang, imkwontaek1977 lifeofokrey, imkwontaek1978 evergreen, imkwontaek1978 familypedigree, imkwontaek1978 mothersfaceabovewaves, imkwontaek1978 soclosesofar, imkwontaek1979 divinebow, imkwontaek1979 noglory, imkwontaek1979 tomorrowandtomorrow

Posted in K-Movie Index | Comments Off