- Title: SOUTH KOREA: 'A Petal', a film about the 1980 massacre premieres in Kwangju
- Date: 22nd April 1995
- Summary: KWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA (RECENT) (REUTERS) DIRECTOR JANG SUN-WOO SAYS I WAS UNDER ARREST DURING THE TIME I HEARD ABOUT THE KWANGJU MASSACRE AND MADE UP MY MIND TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT THE KWANGJU MASSACRE (ENGLISH) VARIOUS OF RIOT SCENE BEING FILMED FILMING OF LEE JUNG HYUN, LEAD ACTRESS, WITH FILM MOTHER RUNNING FROM GUN FIRE FILMING OF SOLDIERS FIRING GUNS FILMING OF LEE LEAVING DEAD MOTHER BEHIND. DIRECTOR JANG SUN-WOO SAYS THE MASTERMINDS OF THE MASSACRES KEEP SAYING THAT THEY WERE THE RIGHT DECISIONS AT THE TIMES. I HOPE THIS MOVIE CAN BE THE DECISION WHETHER THEY WERE REALLY RIGHT DECISION. (ENGLISH)
- Embargoed: 7th May 1995 13:00
- Location: KWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA
- Country: South Korea
- Reuters ID: LVA21AIQM9PBFDZVV4AD8R36JWI2
- Story Text: The first movie ever made about the bloody Kwangju massacre of 1980 premiered in South Korea this week. The film depicts the violence in which thousands were killed trying to revolt against martial law. It's called "A Petal" and it's become the most talked-about release of the summer.
The release of "A Petal" couldn't have been better timed. South Korea is going to the polls in general elections on April 11. And as the country builds democracy, it's dragging its old skeletons out of the cupboard -- including the Kwangju massacre.
During the making of the movie last year, Kwangju relived its nightmare as director Jang Sun-Woo recreated the massacre on the city's main boulevard.
Downtown Kwangju became a rubble-strewn battleground with troops firing wildly, armoured cars rumbling through the streets and 5,000 extras called in to play rampaging demonstrators.
In reality, by the time the military had brought Kwangju to its knees, 200 people were dead according to the official count -- slashed and clubbed to death by South Korea's most lethal forces -- crack paratroopers trained to operate behind enemy lines in North Korea. Survivors say as many as 2,000 people were butchered.
When blood was flowing in Kwangju, film director Jang Sun-woo was in jail for his activities as an underground student leader, a victim of Chun's dirty war on dissidents.
"I was under arrest during (at) the time I heard about the Kwangju massacre and I made up my mind to make a film about the Kwangju massacre," he said.
But the movie is not so much about the massacre -- which audiences see only through black-and-white flashbacks. Instead, it illustrates South Korea's trauma through a story of a young girl survivor of the killings.
"The mastermind of the massacre keep saying that they were (made) the right decision at the time", Jang said, "I hope this movie can be an answer (as to) whether they really were right." Last year the wheels of justice caught up with Chun Doo Hwan, whose martial law edict sparked the Kwangju rebellion and who later became president.
Most Koreans blame Chun for the bloodbath that followed. Now, the most hated man in South Korea is on trial along with his presidential successor, Roh Tae-woo, on charges of treason for ordering the killings.
It was a history lesson with a difference for the star of "A Petal". Sixteen-year-old schoolgirl, Lee Jung Hyun hadnever acted before but was thrown into a role that left her literally battered and bruised at the hands of her guardian.
"Teenage girls don't know much about the Kwangju massacre or the trial of two former presidents. This movie will help them to understand the situation." Lee went on to say: "This shocking movie describes the flow of agony from the Kwangju massacre through the girl I play. My friends will be angry when they see this movie." Lee's character becomes deranged after watching her mother killed by soldiers in Kwangju. She can't forgive herself for running away as her mother lay dying.
The girl's abuse highlights South Korea's political suffering under Chun, Roh Tae-woo and their military cronies who ran South Korea with an iron fist. But the film's final message is one of reconciliation.
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