Most people tend to get excited about movies mixed with fantasy because they provide a fresh and new experience that differs from their ordinary lives. However, the movie The Journals of Musan, directed by Park Jung- bum, does not rely on this factor to attract audiences and can do this on the merits of its narrative alone. The Journals of Musan deals with the life of a North Korean defector named Seoung-Chul Jun’s re-settlement in South Korea and how he gradually adjusts to a capitalist society.
In this respect, the movie has been acclaimed by many critics and has won several awards throughout the world, including the Etoile d’or (Golden Star) at the Marrakech International Film Festival (Morocco), the New Currents Award, the Fipresci Award at the PIFF(Korea), and is also a favorite for the top award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam(Netherlands) plus Jury Prize at the Deauville Asian Film Festival(France). Another notable aspect of this film is not only its realistic story but also the film’s directing by Park Jung- bum, alumni from the graduate school at Dongguk University.
Jung-bum played many roles in the making of the movie. He was the screen writer, director and also acted as the North Korean defector Seoung-Chul Jun. The Dongguk Post met Park Jung-bum to talk about the movie and his life at university after the press preview which was held on March 24th at Art Seong-jae. Just as he stepped right out of the screen, Jung-bum appeared in front of reporters with a gloomy gaze and calm face with his eyes, however, glowing radiantly.
>> Motivations for making the movie
The Journals of Musan is based on the experiences of Park Jung-bum’s friend named Jun Seung-chul who escaped from North Korea. “Seoung-Chul is my university friend. I spent a lot of time with him and had some chances to meet other North Korean defectors. I was touched by the desperate and sorrowful conditions they had endured in South Korea and decided to make a film,” Park Jung-bum explained. In 2008 Jun Seung-chul passed away because of stomach cancer but this did not stop filming. “After Jun died, I was initially worried about developing his story into a full-length motion picture. Moreover, many other North Korean defectors objected to my wanting to shed light on their situation, wishing not to add additional trouble to them. But after reading a message that Jun Seung-chul had left behind for me, I was convinced to go ahead with this project and my mind was set.” This was also the reason why Park chose to play the role of Jun Seung-chul, himself, in the movie. The director thought he was the only person who could accurately express the sad defector’s life because he was so close to him.
In acting, Park gave the character a hard edge with his crude and forthright acting. “Have you ever walked on the streets of Chungmuro? If you walk on the main side of Chungmuro, you will only see the big buildings and splendid things on the streets. However, once you get beyond that and actually look inside Chungmuro, your perspective will change almost immediately. You will see tons of litter and tumble-down buildings. Peoples’ lives are similar, too. More often than not, we see only the fabulous and outer shells of people and know little of the difficulties they face. I really wanted to make a film that illuminated the hidden side of the world that people often fail to notice.” He went on to say that this movie was not only about North Korean defectors. “It is also a story of refugees who have to adjust to a new country to survive. In any country, refugees are everywhere. This is a large part of living in a global society. In this sense this story will likely resonate with the people of the world.” Winning the awards was nice, he said modestly, but making the movie was a big achievement in itself.
>> His passion for movies & university life
Park Jung-bum’s life has been anything but regular. He majored in Tae Kwon Do at Yonsei University and only started studying movies after being influenced by the movie Hanabe, directed by Gitano Dakasi when he served in the military. “I didn’t start my career with an interest in movies, but that’s not important. After discovering my interest, I simply jumped at the opportunity and into the movie industry without hesitation. If you have an interest in something, you really have to go after it and take it. No one is going to knock on your door looking for you. There is a saying that you’ve all heard, ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way!’” Park said.
Before entering DU Park studied movies alone. He noted that free discussions at DU were really helpful to broaden his perspective on movies. “I had a lot of help from DU financially and spiritually. Especially the seminars held to increase my ability to analyze the movies were really important. I really appreciate my time with professors, Park Jae-won and Jung Jae-young. I used the school’s equipment to shoot The Journals of Musan for free. Thanks to the support I received, I was able to make a great film.”
When this reporter asked him to give advice to the students of DU, he smiled with mischief and said, “I’m not really the right person to say this, but I hope students carry on with their studies more faithfully. (Laugh) I skipped many classes for nights of drinking or working as an assistant in movies, but I do realize how much hard work is necessary, more so now than before. I really recommend that students work during the day and study at night. (Laugh)” This was the first time he smiled during the interview.
If you wish to see a wonderful film from a fellow Donggukian why not watch the The Journals of Musan, which will be released on April 14th.
Park Ji-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
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