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Contemporary Korean Film

The Surrogate Woman

Set towards the end of the last century, The Surrogate Woman tells of a noble couple that must resort to surrogacy as means of producing a male heir. They enlist the services of a lower class woman to serve as a mother for their child. Ritualistically isolated -- separating her from the world as a means of insuring that the child will be male -- Ullye, the enlisted woman, grows attached to the nobleman, an unfulfilled attachment that eventually leads to a tragic sacrifice.

The Surrogate Woman, writes critic Hanna Lee, creates a thorough-going portrait of Korean society and of the patriarchal order therein. Lee writes, "Im poses the question of what it means to live as a woman in Korean society, and, moreover, what it means to live as a Korean."

Im Kwon-Taek is one of the most celebrated Korean filmmakers working today. Expert in crafting engaging melodramas themselves engaged in social concerns, he has created a body of work unmatched in its story-telling excellence and in its exploration of his Korea. Writes critic Tony Rayns, "...[Im's] ability to create functioning, plausible melodrama in the late 20th century consists of a refusal to separate the emotional from the social and the cultural. Where this places him politically is hard to determine, but there is no doubt that it has creates a body work that few directors now active can match."

The Surrogate Woman (94 min., 1986)
Directed by Im Kwon-Taek
Starring Kang Soo-Yeon, Kim Hyun-Ja, Lee Gu-Soon, Pang Hee

The Murmuring: A Documentary film of Korean Comfort Women from the Second World War

The Murmuring documents the aftereffects of one of the more horrific and more underreported crimes of World War II. Starting in 1930's, the Japanese Army established an elaborate system of "comfort stations" to serve their troop in all regions of their expanding empire. To staff these mobile brothels, the army kidnapped large numbers of Korean women and enslaved then as prostitutes. This horrible crime was kept secret for decades as governments erased it from history, and as the surviving,violated women were shamed into silence. In her tender film, documentarian Byun Young-Joo presents the stories of some of these women, now turning to each other for support and strength, and daring to come out and demand reparation for the lives taken away from them.

History of Comfort Women: Comfort stations were first established by the Japanese Imperial Army in the Early 1930's. Initially, poor Korean girls were recruited under the premise that they could earn money and obtain an education in Japan, but later many were kidnapped into their situation. There, these girls ages 13-16 were violated by as many as thirty soldiers a day. Many were sterilized by onjection and most contracted sexually transmitted diseases. In addition to suffering life-long mediacl problems, they were stigmatized by thier societies, families, potential partners.

"I had heard about 'comfort women' in grade school, but didn't think their fate concerned me. Only when I saw the coming-out of one of these women on television, I felt ashamed. Indeed, their life ois comparable to a normal Korean woman. In this country, there is an unbelievable number of rapes."
--- Byun Young-Joo

Winner of the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize in the 4th Annual Yamagata International Film Festival 1995

Released to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the Korea's Liberation of Korea and the International Woman's Day Conference.

The Murmuring (98 min., 16mm, 1995)
directed by Byun Young-Joo
Women profiled: Kang Tok-Kyong, Kim Soon-Duk, Lee Young-Sook, Park Duri, Park Oknyun, Song Pan-Im

Push! Push!

Push! Push! is a breathless, narratively-packed comedy-drama set in a busy maternity clinic in Seoul. Unique in its mixing of high drama, gynecological humor, social satire, and even documentary footage, Push! Push! is a spirited take on Korean society's misconceptions and attitudes to sexuality. From the director of 301, 302 this film features that scandalous film's stars as an obstetrician and gynecologist, battling phobias, delusions, hypocrisies, and hysterical relatives.

Push! Push! (35mm, 95 minutes, 1997)
Directed by Park Chul-Soo
Starring Hwang Shin-Hye, Bang Eun-Jin, Shin Shin-Ae, Cho Mi-Ae

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