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Interview

1987: WHEN THE DAY COMES Director JANG Joon-hwan

Jan 16, 2018
  • Writerby KIM Su-bin
  • View1573
“I want people to realize that they are the stars of history”



One 22-year-old college student dies from assault and torture during a police interrogation. Another 21-year-old dies from being hit by a tear gas bomb during a protest for pro-democracy. The two innocent deaths enrage citizens and they gather in June of 1987 with voices crying to denounce the dictatorship ringing throughout the square. This film is about the June Democracy Movement, a moment that cannot be ignored when talking about Korea’s democratization. Director JANG Joon-hwan, helmed unique films such as Save the Green Planet (2003) and Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013), is back with a film that deals with modern Korean history. We met with director JANG Joon-hwan to talk about 1987: When the Day Comes.

What have you been up to since Hwayi: A Monster Boy?

I was thinking about my next project. While I was deciphering what to do, I came across the script to this film. At the time, it was titled Ordinary People. From then on, I focused on working on this film.


Is there a particular reason why you decided to direct this film?

While reading the script, there was a scene I really liked. Mr. PARK, who is considered the center of all evil, is challenged by many protagonists who fail one after another. It really struck me when the nation rose together as one to fight against evil and to win a victory. Both artistically and cinematically, it was a new challenge for me because I wasn’t used to this type of film. I would normally follow one or two protagonists and immerse in their emotions until reaching a catharsis or conclusion. I liked how this script didn’t follow that format. Also, I questioned why this story wasn’t already given the spotlight before. The democratization of our country was an important step in history, but no one wanted to talk about it or bring it up. I was frustrated and upset about that.


Starting from the end of 2016, people protested in the square for the resignation of now ex-president PARK Geun-hye. It must have been felt more special for you to watch the changes happen in the square just like in 1987 since you were preparing this film.

It was amazing. I was writing about the square, and something similar happened in the same spot 30 years later. I was amazed, but I also felt mixed. As a fellow Korean, I was mad that such a thing happened again. But more than that, I felt that it was important to make right of what’s wrong.


I heard that some actors contacted you first to be cast in the film. I assume they participated as if it was their calling. Did it make a difference to the mood on set?

They did act as if it was their calling. OH Dal-su, JO Woo-jin, and JUNG In-gi came to me first and asked to participate. Participating in the film created a kinship for us. Being responsible is important, but actors must have a fun time on set. The more they have fun, the more meaningful the film would become. That’s why I tried hard to make sure the actors weren’t too pressured.


You have a great cast. You have a strong main cast, a talented supporting cast, and young rising actors from indie films.

Since there are so many characters in the film, I had to make sure the audience could follow the story. I thought my main cast should include people everyone is familiar with. Meanwhile, I also looked for actors who were talented, but less known. My wife MOON So-ri teaches students, so she watches a lot of plays. I asked her to recommend good actors to me and I was able to work with some of them.


It must have been hard to be creative with characters based on real people.

You can say that 30 years is a long time, but it’s also not that long. These are people who are still living in our time, so I paid extra attention. I was careful with how much non-fiction and how much dramatic fiction I would use.


There are many scenes where you used reflections on glasses or mirrors.

This may sound farfetched, but I thought it would be great if the film itself could look like a mirror that helps us look back into the past. It’s our past, but it’s reflecting us at the same time. That’s why I used many reflections.


The last barricade scene felt like a tribute to the citizens from 1987 as well as last year.

I thought about ending the film in the square from the very beginning. This has many meanings. “Everyone was a protagonist, but the real protagonists are those that were in the square.” That’s the story I was aiming for. I thought hard about how to take the format and the story together. Although the members of the audience are sitting in their seats, I wanted them to experience and think, “The protagonist is me. I’m the star of this history.”  I was hoping to help them find a connection between the characters and themselves.


What would this story mean in current times?

In 2016 and 2017, many citizens went out to hold up their candles. It was a bloodless revolution. I believe the passion of the people were just as strong then as they are now. Politically speaking, the demonstration in 1987 was an incomplete revolution. That’s because the next elected president was someone still connected to autocracy. However, this became a background to how the 2017 president was tried at the Constitutional Court because the constitution was based from what happened then. I don’t dare call it a definition, but I think history is something that moves forward while influencing each other. 


Are you working on your next project?

I was so focused on this film that I didn’t get a chance to think about my next project. I will look for something that speaks to my heart after this is all finished.
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