[EDITORIALS]Gangsters and moviesA leader of a gangster group called Chilseong-pa, or "seven-star faction," Mr. Kwon, was arrested on charges of extorting some 300 million won ($249,000) from the producer and the distributor of the block-buster movie "Friend," with the cooperation of the film's director, Kwak Kyung-taek. In the world of gangsters, there is much talk of friendship and loyalty. But this incident assures us that gangsters are just gangsters. It also surprises us to learn how deeply gangster influence has penetrated the film industry.
The movie "Friend" is based on the true story of a gangster boss who killed the leader of a rival faction. The boss, who was Mr. Kwak's friend, led the Chilseong-pa in defense of its territory. The film enjoyed great success, attracting a record-breaking audience of more than 8 million viewers and taking in about 53 billion won ($44 million).
Mr. Kwon allegedly threatened the producer, demanding "a fee for modeling the group to score such a big success." Mr. Kwak's role is also suspicious. He insists that he received money as a bonus for box-office success and gave it to his needy friends. But the prosecutors found that the money was not paid as a bonus.
"Friend" initiated the success of a series of gangster movies in Korea in recent years. Since its debut, movies like "Marrying the Mafia," "My Wife Is a Gangster," and "Kick the Moon" hit screens one after another. A television serial, "Wild Days," depicts the saga of a young street leader, Kim Du-han, fighting against Japanese gangsters. The serial draws enthusiastic support among young viewers. Organized crime rings which pursue expansion of their territory and interest are glorified in these movies as heroes and their groups as honorable royalty.
There were rumors that organized crime rings provided money for the production of gangster movies. Suh Se-won, the producer of "My Wife Is a Gangster," suffered from such a rumor. The alleged extortion shows that the world of gangsters is not glamorous. The government should take measures to eliminate the influence of crime rings from the film industry and other social sectors.