Veteran actor Lee Gyeong-yeong stars in a scene from "National Security" / Courtesy of Aura Pictures
By Do Je-hae
Following a 13-year absence, filmmaker Chung Ji-young has made a compelling comeback with a new film "National Security," which revisits the political horrors of Chun Doo-hwan's military regime in the 1980s.
The film's Korean title is "Namyeong-dong 1985," an area of Seoul synonymous with political torture in the 1970s and 80s because it was the location of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA).
It centers around the personal experiences of the late democratic activist Kim Geun-tae (1947-2011). In 1985, he was imprisoned and tortured for 22 days by the national police over alleged ties to North Korea and for his involvement in a plot to overthrow the government.
For those unfamiliar with important figures in modern Korean politics, it would be helpful to learn a bit about Kim's political career before watching the film.
Kim was regarded as one of the foremost democratic activists. He entered politics at the recommendation of Kim Dae-jung in 1995. After Kim Dae-jung was elected president in 1997, he was one of the possible candidates to succeed Kim's presidency in the ruling party. However, because of low ratings, he dropped out of the race for presidency halfway, and supported the late Roh Moo-hyun, who won the presidential election in 2002. During Roh's presidency, he was a former leader of the ruling Uri Party (now Democratic United Party), and he served as Health and Welfare Minister from 2004 to 2006. He was also a lawmaker from 1996 until 2008.
Actor Park Won-sang, who has starred in 15 movies, does a fine job of portraying Kim.
On Nov.5, Park attended the press conference for the movie at Dongdaemun Megabox in Seoul. "I was so into the character that I actually hated some of actors who tortured me in the movie," Park said.
This movie is gaining public attention because the presidential election is less than a month away.
Chung's latest work highlights the brutalities of the nation's former military leadership installed by General Park Chung-hee in 1961 which lasted beyond his assassination in 1979 until 1987. Park's daughter Park Geun-hye is running in the Dec. 19 presidential election and last month apologized for the abuses which occurred under her father's controversial leadership.
"I talked to many people about the best timing to release this film, and many agreed that it should be before the presidential election," Chung said. "Some were concerned that film might influence the election. As a filmmaker, I think it would be worthwhile to see this film having a certain level of influence in this season of politics."
Playing the role of the torturer is Lee Gyeong-yeong, 53, a veteran actor who has largely stayed away from films following a sex scandal involving a minor in the late 1990s.
A former heartthrob, he has rarely played a villain in his career. But he delivers with great conviction intense portrayal of Lee Geun-an, a senior interrogator with the national police. His comeback has also been the source of some media attention lately.
The film debuted at the Busan Film Festival in October and is currently playing in local theaters. It has previously had several public screenings, most recently at the National Assembly.