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Movies of South Korea
by Jeff Winston

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As I sat down to write my article this week, I was reminded of an old joke: You call a person who knows two languages a bilingual, but what do you call a person who only knows one language?........... An American. A stereotypical generalization to be sure, but I use it to make a point. The point is that many people in the world, including a Canuck like me, think that many, if not most, Americans only care about things American. I don't say that to be a dick, your own American talk shows regularly show that many average Americans are not knowledgeable about things non American, and what they do know is usually the tabloid gossip. Hell, you had a woman on ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER who needed help answering "which country borders America to the north?" for God's sake.

This brings me to the point of my article. How many of you have watched a movie that was from another country and subtitled? Now put your hands down if it was LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, it doesn't count. If your hand's is still up, good for you. If your hand is down, if you can pull your American head out of the American film industry's ass for a bit I will tell you about a few South Korean movies which are readily available in North America.

Oh and just for your information, all four of these films star the same actor, Min Sik Choi. He plays the anti hero Oh Dae Su in Oldboy and if this guy was American he would have won the best actor Oscar by now. This guy is worth every dollar he is paid, which is nothing compared to Hollywood's inflated salaries.


This is kind of what you get when ALIAS meets MR AND MRS SMITH. Yunjin Kim (of LOST) stars as a sniper North Korean agent who must murder some high ranking South Korean officials. Meanwhile her commanding officer (Choi) sets up a cat and mouse game with a former adversary, who is hunting for the sniper. He rigs a bunch of bombs throughout the city to go off in sequential order, and he continues to give the agent the locations of

the bombs so that he will be kept busy, and so that he will be unable to hunt for the North Korean spy. The North Korean spy happens to be his own girlfriend. Of course once he actually finds this out, she has orders to kill him. But, can she do it?


This is kind of like a Korean PEARL HARBOR, expect with better acting, a better story and a lot more heart. This is the story of two brothers: The younger smarter brother, and the older less fortunate brother. The older brother will do anything to see his brother succeed and sacrifices all he can to ensure that the brother can go to college and help out the family. The older brother is basically the father figure.

Then the Korean war starts and the younger brother is forced to join the army. The older brother immediately enlists with one objective: To volunteer for any important suicide mission in exchange for his commanders solemn promise to keep his brother off of any fighting line and out of danger. The younger brother of course knows nothing of the arrangement and when his brother continues to return from these missions he begins to hate him thinking that he has forsaken him in exchange for glory and medals of honor. The younger brother disowns the older one. There is a heartbreaking moment at the end of the film, one that tops nearly any movie you want to compare it to for emotional intensity. I do not wish to reveal to you how it comes about in case you will give this movie a shot.


Oh Dae Sue (Choi) is kidnapped off of the street one night on his way home from the police station. He is thrown into a locked room with no exits and only a trap door for access to his food. He demands to know why he's being held, and how long they will keep him there. After 15 years of eating the same meal, being gassed every month so they can clean his room, cut his hair and change his sheets while he is passed out, they release him with a new suit, money and a cell phone. While incarcerated his

wife has been murdered, his daughter given away for adoption, and he is still the prime suspect for the murder. He then gets a phone call from the man who paid for his imprisonment and is told that he has 5 days to figure out why he did it to him. The reason turns out to be a pretty major one, and the ramifications of acquiring the knowledge turns out to be worse than the imprisonment itself.


Very simply: A lady is incarcerated for a crime she didn't commit the sexual assault and murder of a young boy. The thing is, she knows who did it, and she knows that there have been other victims. By the time she gets released, she has one objective on her mind - Revenge. However, she doesn't simply want revenge for herself, but for the families of the victims. She kidnaps the man responsible and arranges for the parents of his victims to meet with her to tell them who the man is and to prove it. Once the families are convinced of his guilt, they are given time alone in a room with him. They only have one rule: If anything they do results in his death and deprives the other victims their closure, she will kill them.

I had a buddy once who made a comment to me that he would never watch a movie with subtitles. "A movie is meant to be watched, not read. If I wanted to read, I'd get a fucking book" was his opinion. Hey, if that's your opinion, I can respect that, but I don't want to hear you bitching when you've watched all the unoriginal Hollywood crap and want an original film to watch. You can't get much more original than movies that can not compete with American films financially so they actually develop good stories as opposed to good blockbusters that will take in a lot of cash. And you really can't get much more original than having these movies take place in other countries and deal with other cultures and their different reactions to similar situations.

Oh, and just in case some of you weren't aware, some of

you have already seen a movie or two of Korea, however many of you didn't see them until they were remade two year after being released in Korea, with American settings and actors. If you've seen THE LAKE HOUSE, that's one right there. There are also no less than 8 films about to be released, or have been signed for a remake in the next two years. SEVEN DAYS tells the story of Lee Ji-yeon (also played by Yun-jin Kim of LOST), a brilliant lawyer with a perfect winning record whose life takes a dramatic turn when her eight-year-old daughter is kidnapped. In lieu of ransom, the abductor gives Lee seven days to win an impossible murder case, or she will never see her daughter again. Also, THE HOST, about a river fish being mutated into a flesh eating monster by chemicals being dumped into the Korean Han river by the US Army. And, MY WIFE IS A GANSTER about a housewife taking on the Mob. There is also MY SASSY GIRL, MY TEACHER MR. KIM, MARRYING THE MAFIA, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, and POSSESION.

But hey, with all these remakes, why would any of you have to get off your duff and search for the true genius that was the original. Hollywood movie critic Jason Hahn - cites two reasons why Americans don't get into the original foreign films."The first is simply that American audiences are notorious for being somewhat "lazy" and do not enjoy watching a film while having to read text at the bottom of the screen. The second is that Hollywood fears that the cultural idiosyncrasies of the films will alienate American audiences."

If you wanna prove him wrong, start demanding the original films so that they can be appreciated for the wonderful movies they are, and so that you Americans can actually start being appreciated for your acceptance of other cultures, and their films. You might as well start with South Korea, because that where some of the best movies are being made these days.

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Mouthing Off
Every other Thursday

Mouthing Off is the no bull, tell it like it is column on various issues in the Hollywood arena. You want PC, then keep on moving, you won't get it here.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jeff Winston:

The Money Pitt

I Vant to Suck your Blud

Aren't Getting Their Due

Finally Getting Their Due - Underrated Actors

THe Issue of Accents

All Columns

Jeff Winston
I am a part time writer and full time teacher. I am currently stationed in the middle of nowhere, northern Alberta, Canada. I love movies, and I love to vent, I am happy to have an outlet to incorporate both here on Matchflick.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jeff Winston by clicking here.

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