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Popular Korean Films Reflecting Social Issues
Updated: 2012-02-08 00:00:00 KST

Korean movies that tackle social issues head on have recently become the center of attention in the country.
They not only portray reality, but also provoke discussions.

Arirang News correspondent Park Ji-won joins us in the studio, and analyzes two films that are now screening here in Korea, which are now raising questions about Korea's political and legal conditions.
Hello, Ji-won.

[Reporter : jiwon] Hello, Sean. Hello, Jihae.
Today, I'd like to talk about two very popular Korean films, "Dancing Queen," and "Unbowed."
These two films have become quite the box office sensation in the country, each attracting more than 2-and-a-half million to the cinemas, since opening three weeks ago.
Let's take a look.



"Dancing Queen." And "Unbowed."
These two films are now top box office hits in Korea.


[Interview : Moviegoer ] "I like cheerful films. 'Dancing Queen' seems to be one of a kind. So I came to watch the movie."



[Interview : Moviegoer ] "I haven't watched 'Unbowed' yet. But I plan to watch it soon, because my friends recommend the film."


[Reporter : Park Ji-won
jiwonpark@arirang.co.kr] "These two films have each drawn over 2.5 million cinema-goers since they opened last month."

The two films seem quite different on the surface.
While "Dancing Queen" is a comedy film, "Unbowed" is a courtroom drama.
But they both have similarities, in terms of reflecting social issues.
The film "Dancing Queen" tells a story of a married couple, who each pursue their lost dreams in the middle of their lives.
The main male character leads a mundane life, until he accidentally begins running for Mayor of Seoul, while his wife follows her childhood dream to become a pop singer.
As the story unfolds, many current issues at stake in Korea are inter-woven into the plot, such as free school meals, and government measures to boost the nation's birth rate.


[Interview : Lee Seok-hoon, Film director
Dancing Queen] "In Korean society, the police and even prosecutors have become the subject matters of comedy films. But not many comic films have dealt with politicians in Korea.
I wanted to make a good comedy film that satirizes politics. Although this film is not a full-fledged comic feature, I thought Korean viewers would enjoy some satire of politics and politicians."

The film "Unbowed" goes one step forward.
It not only attempts to be satirical, but it also touches on the issue of fairness in Korea's legal procedures during trials.
The film is based on a true story of a former math professor who lost his job, after pointing out an error in an entrance exam issued by the university where he was working.
The former professor filed a lawsuit, and despite fighting for many years, he never won the case.
Infuriated, he ends up threatening the chief judge of his case with a crossbow, and eventually he is arrested before going through another set of trials on charges of inflicting injuries to a judge.
The film succeeded in reaching out to millions of viewers, as the film focuses on the biasness and unfairness of legal procedures.
It has created a stir nationwide.
People are asking whether the plot has been exaggerated or even modified from the actual facts.


[Interview : Park Ye-seul, Student] "I saw the film with great interest, since the film is based on a true story. But I think it is very important to distinguish fiction from reality. If we believe only what the film depicts, we will have a biased perspective."

The Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court expressed their concerns about the misunderstandings the film might cause, and they announced that the film is indeed, exaggerated and fictional.
The Seoul Central District Court also held a special event on Monday, to dismiss any misunderstanding about the nation's legal system.


[Interview : Kim Byung-chul, Press & Planning Judge
Seoul Central District Court] "The judicial system can only exist with the trust of citizens. We are doing our best to earn the people's trust,.. and to make trials as fair as possible.
However, we still lack the people's trust in the legal system, and we wanted to hear what people thought through this occasion."


[Interview : Kim Woo-ja, Participant] "Today I felt grateful. There are so many people who retain grudge over their trials, and this kind of event was really necessary, for those people's voices to be heard. Through continuous efforts to listen to the people's voice and opinions, I believe Korea will become better country."

Film critics are already praising the film, as it succeeded in reflecting a social issue through the big screen..


[Interview : Yu Gi-na, Professor
Dongguk University ] "Although this film is based on an actual case,.. it is still a created feature. This film is not only about the specific case but it also questions whether Korea's legal system is too authoritative,.. and whether it truly represents the people. I believe this film is a good example of a film that fulfills its social function of reflecting social issues."
Just like last year's film "The Crucible," which left a huge impact on Korean society regarding the rights of the disabled, "Unbowed" puts the issue of fair trials on the table.


[Interview : Yu Gi-na, Professor
Dongguk University ] "From the perspective of film history, movies gain more popularity when times are tough. While films can amuse people, they also have the power to console them. When watching movies, anger against an absurd reality can be also removed, with a bond of sympathy developing among viewers.
When economic and political conditions are poor, movies tend to vitalize people.
Films can assume bigger social functions, when a society's subconsciousness is gloomy and exhausted.
I am personally glad to see a surge of popularity for Korean films that reflect social issues, over the past couple of years."


I can see that these films are assuming a role in society, such as providing a voice for the voiceless, and raising questions about less-than-ideal conditions.

Yes, as we can see from the case of the film "The Crucible," released last year, films certainly do possess the power to highlight the wrongdoings of society, if they succeed in attracting viewers to their screens.
And it's somewhat of a relief that millions of viewers in Korea are also concerned about the rights of the under-represented.

[Reporter : jiwon
] Right. I hope these films keep raising social issues,. and also raise awareness among citizens, so that they can eventually help improve Korean society.

Thanks, Ji-won, for your report today.

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