January 16th, 2004
Park's Y2K hit, Joint Security Area launched careers and
broached the sensitive issue of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) the
area that separates North and South Korea. His latest film, Sympathy
for Mr. Vengeance reveals another aspect of the political/social
climate there. With the help of an appointed-Korean-English interpreter
and my multi-talented friend Sang-Eun Kim who helped with the translation/transcription
I was able to speak with Park last summer.
was the inspiration for this film?
view on kidnapping is very negative, but I wanted to show that it
could have other aspects. Ryu (Ha-Kyun Shin) and Young-Mi (Doona
Bae) kidnap a child from a rich family because they need money.
Young-Mi's argument is that there are good kidnappings and bad ones.
Ideally, if good people kidnap a child, treat the child well and
later return her safely then no one is harmed. The wealthy family
can afford to spend the money and since the family doesn't see each
other for a time there's a strong feeling of happiness and appreciation
when they re-unite.
films usually have a political element. In Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,
some of this is demonstrated through the young activist (Bae). What
are you trying to communicate about the political situation in Korea?
JSA (Joint Security Area) I wanted to show the relationship between
North Korea and South Korea, but in this film I focused on the class
struggles within South Korea. I wanted to show the animosity between
the classes. Blue-collar workers always think that they are being
taken advantage of, but owners aren't always bad people. However,
there is an impossible gap between being a good person and a good
businessman in a Capitalist system. If a company isn't doing well,
the good person will try to lay-off only a few people instead of
closing down and putting many out of work. In the film this action
backfires. One of the men commits suicide because of the lay-offs
and then his family kill themselves. This happens in Korean society
and we need to be aware of it.
me about the Organ Dealers.
exaggerated this area as a negative side of Capitalism. The Organ
Dealers are depriving people of something necessary for life. Although
the scenes are exaggerated in the film, this (organ stealing) does
actually happen in Korea.
the success of Joint Security Area open a lot of doors for
it hadn't been for JSA, I would have never been able to get
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance released, which was one of my
dreams. JSA is like a gift.
been working on Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance for the last five
years and prior to JSA. What was the response to Sympathy
liked JSA, but Sympathy was more bi-polar. Some people liked
it, but some people really disliked it and after the film they'd
even throw up. On the film website in the guest book some people
wrote, "This is the best movie ever made in Korea," but others wrote,
"I'm so shocked by what I've seen, I want to kill the director."
I had no idea people would react that way. Of the two films, I prefer
Sympathy and wish people would be a little more receptive
the government subsidize film arts in Korea?
not a lot, but there's one positive thing that the government's
involved in right now. They are requiring that Korean movies be
played for a certain amount of time in the cinemas. Hollywood movies
just take over, resulting in no one showing any Korean films. Hollywood
wants Korea to remove that law, but I think that law is very important
because Korean movies represent Korean culture and Korean society.
have been compared to Seijin Suzuki and John Woo.
CWP: (Laughter) John Woo's
such a big star. I don't have anything in common with him. I really
like Suzuki. I interviewed him and wrote an article about him.
your next project?
now I've got three stories in my head, but I haven't made a decision.
Before I leave Seattle, I'm going to pick one of them.