Anger isn’t so simple
In Korean cinema, films about “social anger” have become a whole new genre. Their plots are generally about the abuse of power, arrogance, frustration and retaliation.
Combined with traditional criticisms of society, the movies focus on relieving the frustration and anger of the weak.
The underlying theme is antagonism toward those with vested interests and an understanding that justice is not easily served in real life. These social thrillers have become mainstream in the Korean film industry. Most of the big hits are about social injustice in some way. While “The Thieves” was pure entertainment, the success of other films was driven by public anger and catharsis. Two of these movies - “Assassination” and “Veteran” - had over 10 million viewers.
The same trend exists for television dramas. While romances and family dramas have traditionally been the most popular, more and more thrillers are being introduced lately. These tend to feature sociopathic, powerful men abusing their influence. In fact, the corruption of the elite class seems to be somewhere in the background of every genre.
“Inside Men” is a movie that is often compared to the hugely successful “Veteran.” It signals the beginning of a genre that isn’t just about anger - it’s about fury. It highlights the corrupt connections between a conglomerate’s chairman, politicians and the media, and a young, ambitious prosecutor’s fight to uncover the misdeeds. Episodes in the movie remind us of real-life events, and some lines leave lasting impressions, like “The public are dogs and pigs. They will forget soon,” or “The prosecutors in the Republic of Korea have to do whatever they are told to do.”
The movie is based on the online cartoon “The Insiders” by Yoon Tae-ho, who meticulously investigated the way power works. But the film is more of a display of extreme evil and gratifying revenge play. What is noteworthy is how people with power are depicted in the film. A presidential candidate, a business tycoon, an influential journalist and a Blue House secretary talk and act like gangsters. If the titles weren’t evident, the presidential secretary could be mistaken for a mobster. The movie equates the holders of power with gangsters.
However, simplifying power as absolute evil and having gratification only come through the punishment of that evil isn’t valid in reality. Not all powers are absolute evils, and the way evil works is not so simple.
We are left with only temporary gratification, and we cannot but grow sick and tired of the world after hearing the repetitive stories of corruption and retaliation on television and in films.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 4, Page 35
by YANG SUNG-HEE
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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