Blue swallow set to soar onto screenAccording to the movie, she was Korea’s first female aircraft pilot in the early 20th century (she was actually the second). And her dramatic life of 30-something years ended in 1933 when her last flight crashed into a mountain on the outskirts of Tokyo.
This was a pretty good start to get a film going for Yoon Jong-chan, the director of the upcoming love and adventure picture, “Cheongyeon.”
The true story of a courageous woman named Park Gyeong-won from the colonial period was soon making Mr. Yoon come up with a series of questions he wanted to answer.
“Why did she choose such a dangerous and rare occupation for a female? Why did she choose to train in a Japanese aircraft?” he would ask himself. What was it that she wanted to achieve despite the prejudice against Koreans in Japanese society?
Through the film, Mr. Yoon answers that it was because of her ambitious dream to be free. He managed to express that through a big-budget film that involved 1,000 extras and several foreign backdrops including El Mirage, Los Angeles and Changchun, China.
“Aircraft scenes are rare in Korean films, so there were concerns whether I would pull it off,” the director said. “Actually I was worried myself.” But he did, not with actual 1930’s aircraft, but with model airplanes on a movie set that cost more than 9.5 billion won ($9.5 million). Also, he needed just the right someone to deliver Gyeong-won’s classic line, “The happiest and the sweetest moment of my life was when I was soaring up the sky!” He chose actress Jang Jin-young to star as the boyish female pilot.
“It was overwhelming to understand the passions she had for flying,” said the 31-year-old actress who returns to the movie screen two years after her hit romantic comedy “Singles.”
Jang said she was mesmerized by Gyeong-won’s character as she learned more about her. “Her given name was actually Won-tong, not Gyeong-won,” Jang said. “Her parents wanted a son, but when they saw that it was a baby girl, they ‘lamented’ and named her ‘Won-tong,’ you can see what a harsh life it was for her from the beginning.”
Won-tong is a noun taken from a Korean verb meaning “lament.”
Gyeong-won was born and raised in Daegu and desperately wanted to escape from poverty. She saw her chance in Japan where there was an aviation school. She studied aviation during the day, but worked as a mechanic and a taxi driver at night to earn her tuition money. For five years she studied and worked before finally getting her flying license. But then she had to choose between her love interest and her job as a pilot.
Aside from the difficulty of portraying someone she admires, Jang spoke about her own difficulties she had during the shoot. “For a flying scene in the rain, I was soaked for nearly a week while I was dressed in what the director said was a 100-year-old military jacket,” she said. “I came down with a skin disease.”
by Joo Jeong-wan