Seen in Jeonju

Oseam (2003)

9th January 2010

oseamOriginally posted September 10, 2007–When people talk about their favorite Korean animations, I am always surprised how rare it is to hear Oseam mentioned.  If you ask someone what they feel is the best Korean-made animated film of the last decade, many will answer with Wonderful Days and a few will say My Beautiful Girl, Mari.  To be honest, I didn’t care for Wonderful Days at all–it seemed like a run-of-the-mill anime to me.  And I don’t think I ever finished watching my dvd of My Beautiful Girl, Mari and if I did, I don’t remember it which is not a good sign. 

However, Oseam is a movie that I have seen several times and it never becomes boring. The animation, drawn by hand, is beautiful to look at and the story, although moving forward at a leisurely pace, is enjoyable to watch.  It is based on a novel by the same title written by Jeong Chae-bong and published in 1986.

The story is about Gam-yi a young girl of about 8 years old and her five-year old brother, Gil-sonyi.  When Gil-sonyi was an infant, there was a terrible accident and the children’s mother was killed in a fire. At the same time, Gam-yi lost her sight.  The pair now wander the countryside with the young boy leading his older sister. Because of his young age, Gil-sonyi does not do a very good job of guiding his sister and often leaves her on her own while he goes off to chase butterflies, catch a puppy or scrounge some food.

Gil-sonyi is the focus of the story.  His character is pure and his laughter is contagious. He never feels the dispair over his situation the way Gam-yi does because he does not know that they alone in the world. In fact, he believes that they are looking for their mother. He does not remember the fire or even his mother’s face, but he is convinced that they will find her soon. 

The siblings stumble across a kind monk on his way back to his temple.  As winter is approaching, he invites the children to stay on at the temple grounds. They accept his offer and are soon living in a warm room with enough food. Gam-yi is grateful and makes herself useful by helping the kitchen staff prepare food or by doing the laundry and sweeping the grounds.  Gil-sonyi, however, is as bored as any normal pre-schooler would be living with a bunch of monks who strive for silence.  His mischievous nature takes over and soon he is stealing the monks shoes to decorate trees or helping himself to the offerings left for Buddha.  Although the monks do not always approve of his behavior, they do understand and the boy is quite popular with them, so much so that one of the monks invites him on a journey to a secluded retreat at a small temple on a mountaintop.

Gil-sonyi readily agrees to go, but finds it almost as boring there as it was at the larger temple. However he does find things to do to keep himself occupied. But then the monk has to go to town for supplies and he opts to leave Gil-sonyi at the temple believing that he will be alright alone for a few days.  He goes, giving Gil-sonyi a warning not to go into the dilapitated structure behind the small temple as that building is where an old monk died of lepresy and it is now unsafe.  However, almost as soon as the monk has left, the lonely Gil-sonyi makes his way to the unused building and finds an unusual companion to keep him company.

There is much more to the story than this and the end always leaves me in tears.  If this film is not already part of your Korean movie collection, I recommend that you track it down. You will not regret it.

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