Thriller with brains: ‘Traffickers’ tackles human organ market
The dark, underground world of human organ trafficking is the focus of the new film, “The Traffickers,” which sees veteran actor Im Chang-jung make his big screen comeback in his first-ever thriller role.
The crime thriller is loosely based on true events that the director, Kim Hong-seon, researched after seeing a news story a few years ago about a newlywed Korean couple who went on a trip to China, only to get sucked into illegal organ trafficking.
Shortly after encountering the story, Kim said he saw an article about the case in which a lawyer, scholar and doctor discussed the issue.
“The scholar’s position was, ‘How could human organs be bought and sold?’ The lawyer said, ‘Both parties have a point,’ while the doctor said, ‘Even if someone buys human organs, he or she may need to do so to save a family member or friend,’ ” the director said during a press conference for the film Tuesday.
Kim said he researched for the film by contacting organ traffickers on small ads posted on bathroom stalls, watching TV documentaries and talking to surgeons and professors.
“Which characters are good or evil? I think the answers to this question will be different for each viewer,” he said.
“There is no answer regarding whether it is right or wrong to buy or sell human organs. So I left the final part of the film open-ended on purpose.”
The film begins as Sang-ho (Choi Daniel) and Chae-hee (Jung Ji-yoon) board a passenger boat headed for China. As the vessel reaches the international waters between Korea and China, Chae-hee suddenly goes missing. Following this, passengers on the boat are chased by Yeong-gyu (Im Chang-jung), the head of an organ trafficking operation, and surgeon (Oh Dal-soo). Im, whose most noted film performances have been comedy roles, said he was grateful for having an opportunity to finally show his range as an actor.
“Up to this point, I’ve only played comic characters and I was so happy this time to play a serious role in this film,” said Im.
“I like watching thrillers and I always thought, someday, there will surely be a chance for me to play those kinds of roles .?.?. and I kept on waiting for them. In that sense, director Kim Hong-seon was kind of my savior.”
On playing a victim, Jung Ji-yoon said that while the character was “so passive” and very different from who she is in real life, she wanted to play the role because the film was well-scripted and the characters easy to relate to.
“The film doesn’t rely on a short moment of grief; there is a story. And that story felt like it could happen to someone living next door and I felt empathetic. So I found the courage to play the role,” she said.
Meanwhile, the director said that a sex scene featuring Oh Dal-soo was cut from the film during editing.
“Oh Dal-soo shot a very difficult sex scene in the film, but due to my misjudgment, there was too much [genital] hair exposure. It wasn’t the running time we were worried about but the age rating for the film,” said Kim.
“I don’t feel any regret that the sex scene was cut. I’m not an exhibitionist. But it is true that the scene was very difficult to shoot for me,” said Oh.
By Cho Jae-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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