[Newsmaker] In polarized society, documentary lends ear to Park supporters
Director says film the beginning of conversation between generations and search for coexistence
Published : Oct 11, 2017 - 13:16
Updated : Oct 11, 2017 - 18:08
A documentary that sheds light on the ardent defenders of impeached former President Park Geun-hye will hit theaters on Oct. 26 -- the date of her military dictator father’s 1979 assassination.

The film’s title is “Mis-President.” When said out loud, the first syllable is intentionally meant to be mistaken for either “miss” or “myth,” director Kim Jae-hwan said a press statement issued Tuesday.

“I explained to a foreign correspondent friend that the generation that shares the ‘myth’ of Park Chung-hee and (then first lady) Yuk Young-soo is crumbling with the impeachment of Park Geun-hye, hence ‘mis-President.’ But they are still ‘missing’ Park Chung-hee and Yuk Young-soo.”

A monument of Park Chung-hee located in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province (Indieplug)

The film begins with the story of the elderly farmer Cho Yuk-hyoung, who religiously kowtows four times to a portrait of Park Chung-hee hung in his room every day. The general-turned-president’s past speeches are Cho’s prayer, and the theme song of the Saemaeul Movement, Park Chung-hee’s 1970 plan to modernize the rural South Korean economy, is his hymn.

Scenes of past news footage of Park Chung-hee’s 1963 inauguration and, later, the election of his daughter as president in 2013, are weaved together with the reminiscences and rallies of present-day supporters.

Their arguments, filled with nostalgia for the past, are consistent: How can you forget a leader who led a starving people into economic prosperity? The criticism that Park Chung-hee’s plans were carried out at a cost to democracy fails to sway the older generation, who say that basic survival took precedence.

A young Park Geun-hye (Indieplug)

But the film is neither an advocate of the Parks nor a biting satire of their supporters, director Kim explained. Its purpose was to give ear to the Park supporters’ seemingly radical advocacy of the former presidents and to seek a means of coexistence.

“I felt that there was a barrier between the candlelight generation and the Park Chung-hee generation,” Kim said, referring to the mass candlelight rallies that took place last year calling for Park Geun-hye’s impeachment.

“It is a huge barrier that deters us from understanding or conversing with each other. ‘Mis-President’ is an attempt to begin a conversation and listen to what the Park Chung-hee generation has to say.”

A poster for the documentary “Mis-President” (Indieplug)

Kim said that the film is being lambasted by both liberals and the conservatives even before its release.

“One side says it’s a film made by a leftist director that’s meant to destroy conservatives. Others say the film takes too seriously the stories of a generation that should be disposed of.”

Distributed by Indieplug, the 85-minute film screened at the Jeonju International Film Festival in May.

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)