VOD Choice in February

2020-02-01 ~ 2020-02-29
VOD Choice in February
This month, we bring you “The Hand of Destiny,” “Correspondent in Tokyo,” and “Special Investigation Bureau : Kim So-San, the Kisaeng,” three spy thriller films from the 1950s to 1970s infused with the anti-communist ideology during the time

  • 01. The Hand of Destiny (Unmyeong-ui son) Han Hyeong-mo, 1954
    Margaret, a North Korean spy working in a bar, saves Shin Yeong-cheol, a poor student who is framed as a thief. Feeling compassion for Shin Yeong-cheol, Margaret does favors for him and the two fall in love. In love, Margaret struggles between her job as a spy and her love for the man, but leaves him when she discovers that he is a captain at an army counterintelligence unit. Park, the boss of the spy cell, finds out that Margaret is in love with Yeong-cheol. He plans to use Margaret to eliminate Yeong-cheol. On Park’s orders, Margaret succeeds in luring Yeong-cheol. Just when she thought her job was finished, Park orders Margaret to kill Yeong-cheol with her own hands. 

    ▶▶▶ “The Hand of Destiny” is known for the first kiss scene in the history of Korean cinema. It also provides an insight into Korea in the 1950s through its depictions of shops and bars. Also, the film is the first to show a female spy in Korean film history. Margaret (Yun-ae), the female spy in “The Hand of Destiny,” is a multidimensional character who is a modern woman in the form of the so-called “Après Girl” and a conventionally dedicated woman commonly shown in melodramas. Some argue that the dilemma of Margaret/Yun-ae created the prototype of female characters in future Korean films. “The Hand of Destiny” is attractive not only for its characters, but also the modern images infused with the style of noire films from North America and Europe, created by the director Han Hyeong-mo who used to work as a director of cinematography in other films.
  • 02. Correspondent in Tokyo ( Donggyeong Teugpawon ) Kim Soo-yong, 1968
    The husband of Ji-suk, who lives in Tokyo, is a reporter for a newspaper who is preparing an expose about Koreans in Japan who were repatriated to North Korea. Working with Anna, who was almost forced into being “repatriated” to North Korea, the husband tries to find the girl’s older brother who was lost. Ji-suk’s husband, however, has the collected information stolen and is eventually killed by a mysterious car. During the same time period, Ji-suk accidently hits a person with a car and kills him. However, Choi Wan-bae, a Korean expat in Japan, makes a timely appearance to handle the body. Ji-suk ends up living with Anna, who accompanied her husband through his investigative reporting trips. A young man appears before the two women. He blackmails them, saying that he knows that Ji-suk and Wan-bae secretly dumped the body, and demands that Anna go out with him. Ji-suk, Anna, and Wan-bae escape to Korea, away from the man. In Korea, Anna makes an effort to find her older brother, and Wan-bae stays at Ji-suk's home. He seduces Ji-suk’s father, Professor Nam, and Ji-suk to get her to marry him. The man, however, appears in front of the trio again, to tell Professor Nam that Wan-bae is actually Nam Ji-wan, the won that the professor left in North Korea a long time ago. The man is confined by Wan-bae, who threatens Professor Nam with a gun, and takes the family to Incheon to abduct them to North Korea.

    ▶▶▶ With the success of the “007” series in the 1960s, Korean directors began to produce films that takes on the structure of the series based on the British spy. In this boom for spy films, “Correspondent to Tokyo” stands out in that is tells a typical story that combines the themes of anti-communist ideology and the division of the Korean people. Staying faithful to its anti-communist ideology, the film depicts communists as absolutely evil, people who are willing to betray even their families. The actor Shin Seong-il shows the free and cheerful traits that James Bond had in his movies. Another entertaining point for this film is its use of color, as mentioned in the emphasis on the “full-color experience” that the promotional materials promised.
  • 03. Special Investigation Bureau : Kim So-San, the Kisaeng (Teugbyeolsusabonbu-wa gisaeng Gim Sosan) Sul Tai-ho, 1973
    Kim So-san, a female entertainer at Gukilgwan, becomes a spy when Im Chung-sik, a member of the South Korean Workers’ Party, buys her with money. Oh Je-do, a prosecutor at the special investigation bureau, monitors Kim So-san with the intent of eliminating the South Korean Workers’ Party. Learning about this, Im Chung-sik secretly orders Kim So-san to cooperate with assassinating Oh Je-do. She carries out the assassination, but fails and is arrested. Confined, she is let go after telling the authorities about the location of the South Korean Workers’ Party hideout. The special investigation bureau team launches an assault on the hideout to arrest the communists, but they fail to capture Im Chung-sik. Im Chung-sik is ordered to assassinate Kim So-san for leaking the location of the hideout, but he is unable to. Learning that she became the target of an assassination plot, Kim So-san becomes regretful of her past as a member of the South Korean Workers’ Party and is released. Im Chung-sik, however, approaches Kim So-san to lure her into being a passionate member of the South Korean Workers’ Party who oppresses people. The times change, however, and Kim So-san becomes a fugitive, ultimately being caught by the prosecutor Oh Je-do.

    ▶▶▶ Films in the “Special Investigation Bureau Series” were produced from 1973 to 1975. They tell stories about Oh Je-do, a public security prosecutor who chases after spies in liberated spaces. “Special Investigation Bureau : Kim So-San, the Kisaeng” is the first film of the series and became a hit that attracted 64,000 viewers. Considering that it was released at a time when anti-communist films were going out of fashion, it is curious as to what drew people to this film. While it is impossible to provide a unilateral answer, a key factor seems to have been Yun Jeong-hee, the biggest actress at the time, and her appeal as a femme fatale. If this does not seem plausible, readers are invited to view the film, especially the scene in which Oh Je-do (played by Choi Moo=ryong) interrogates Kim So-san. 

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