[OUTLOOK]Older moviewatchers, unite!I met with director Kang Woo-suk some time at the end of last year at a humble soju party near Chungjeongro with the staff and director of “Silmido” to celebrate the end of the filming. Usually a calm person, Mr. Kang was nevertheless quite excited that day.
“This movie’s different. I’ve got a good feeling about this,” said Ahn Sung-ki, who plays one of the crucial roles in the movie. His confident statement was out of character for him.
Of course, with a star director in charge and trustworthy and skilled actors like Ahn Sung-ki and Seol Gyeong-gu, the movie is sure to succeed. I reassured Mr. Kang and the staff. At the time, I was reassuring them out of politeness’ sake. I had thought these movie people were just being vain and trying to promote their new project.
However, it did not take me long to realize that Mr. Kang and Mr. Ahn had not been making empty boasts. Breaking practically all records there are to break in the Korean movie industry, “Silmido” has rewritten Korean movie history. It attracted some 10 million viewers in theaters, something that was never thought to be possible with Korean movies.
I was personally embarrassed not to have realized the greatness of the talented director and actors, but the unfathomable rapture I felt was enough to make up for the sense of embarrassment.
I was as happy to see the movie succeed thus as if it were my own. Moreover, everyone around me who has seen the movie has expressed similar feelings.
There are several theories about why “Silmido” was such a big success. First, it was an excellent choice of subject matter. Middle-aged Koreans flocked to the theaters to see a movie about the mysterious army of agents trained to be sent to North Korea, something that was the subject of many rumors.
The continuous debate in the media about the discrepancy between what really happened and what is portrayed in the movie helped “Silmido” stay in the public spotlight for a long time. It was also a movie where no expense had been spared.
If asked what is the most important element of the movie’s success, I would say “the influx of the 475 generation.”
Born in the 1950s, attending college in the 1970s and now in their 40s and early 50s, the 475 generation has lost the television and most all entertainment media to those in their teens and 20s. They have few places to go for entertainment but bars.
Even in karaoke bars, they feel isolated in the crowd of the 386 generation (those in their late 30s), or even younger people armed with their fast tempo rap or hip-hop music.
Driven even further to the sidelines of culture with the introduction of the Internet, they finally seek refuge in Misari, a village of cafes with live folk music that’s east of Seoul. Call it “cultural evacuation.” Listening to the likes of Song Chang-sik and Yoon Si-nae and other stars of the past, the 475 generation seek healing for their wounds and comfort for their empty hearts.
However, for some time, even Misari has become vulnerable to the winds of change. This time, it is the 475 generation that refuses to stay. Leaving Misari behind, they are returning one by one to Seoul to reclaim their city.
The “bangkok” tribe, a term used to describe people who stay at home without going out much, have also ventured out of their homes to greet those of their generation who are returning from Misari.
In their active search to create a culture of their own, the 475 generation is causing a storm not only in the movie industry, but in the overall cultural scene.
In September, I first felt a sense of this “rebellion” in the air. It was at the Dome Art Hall in the Children’s Grand Park.
A charity show was opened by 10 female singers who had been the stars of the 1970s and 1980s. It was a touching sight to see the crowd, mostly made up of the ajuma and ajeossi types in their 40s and 50s, shouting and cheering.
This wave of emotions is being continued at the staging of “Mamma Mia” in the Seoul Arts Center of, which is where it is currently being held. The audience at this musical consists mostly of “ajumas” chanting along to the tunes of Abba. The musical is sold out every day.
The grand long march of culture seems ready to go on with the opening of another Korean movie, “Taegukgi.” Spilling out of the Seoul Arts Center and theaters, it now looks ready to take on Daehagno.
While they’re at it, it would be nice if at least 1 million people saw director Kim Ki-duk’s new movie, “Samaria.”
To those who are in your 40s and 50s, please do not back down from this cultural rebellion you’ve started.
Take back the reins of society that those in their 20s and 30s have taken for themselves. Let’s become the true leading force of this society- culturally, as well as politically and economically.
* The writer is a deputy managing editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik