Jun 2016 VOL.62


  • KANG Yi-kwan, Director of JUVENILE OFFENDER
  • by JI Yong-jin / 11.30.2012
  • Social Problems Still Exist
    Juvenile Offender is the second feature film directed by KANG Yi-kwan. The film received the Special Jury award and the Best Actor award at the Tokyo International Film Festival. What did the director want to say about the dark side of the society where juvenile delinquencies and problems related to unmarried mothers exist?
    - Juvenile Offender was produced and supported by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. What kind of story did you plan to make when proposed to direct it?
    I have wanted make a story about a mother and son since long ago. After I received the proposal, I had a chance to visit an unmarried mother camp, where I naturally hit upon the story of a young mother and her son. Then I wanted to set an unusual relationship between them and I also thought about social issues such as juvenile delinquencies and unmarried mother problems.
    - I heard it started with a Talent Donation?
    The material in this film is a rare occurrence in real life. It must have not been easy for actors to deal with. I really appreciate LEE Jung-hyun’s understanding of my intention and participation to the film because I know she was not familiar with the role as an unmarried mother. Fortunately, the strong bond between LEE and SEO Young-ju made it possible for us to come up with a good result.
    - In fact, I cannot easily match LEE with the image of an unmarried mother.
    When I actually visited the camp for unmarried mothers, I saw a lot of young mothers. Most of them were as big as grown-ups, but still young and immature. They delivered a baby and were ditched at a very early age, so they had no idea what to do as mothers. They didn’t seem to know what they have to do as adults. It was even hard to believe they had a baby. So I thought the mother in my film should look different from ordinary mothers, that’s why I chose LEE for the role.
    - Juvenile Offender basically deals with sensitive and heavy materials, yet the overall atmosphere is rather lively. I think it has a lot to do with Hyo-seung, who ‘doesn’t match the traditional image of a mother’.
    LEE is basically an optimistic person. She is very energetic both during filming and in her life. I think her personalty melted well into the character. The story of the film is obviously gloomy and dark. Nevertheless, it was described in a pleasant way because there was a resemblance between Hyo-seung, who tries to live hard without losing hope, and LEE in real life.
    - What did you realize when you visited the youth detention center and the camp for unmarried mothers to have interviews?
    Although Korea has experienced economical growth and the number of poor people has decreased, there are still people in trouble in our society. Especially youngsters imprisoned at youth detention centers and women at unmarried mother camps who are exempted from social protection. Once they make trouble, people suspect that they will repeat the same mistake. They are hiding at places where problems have yet to be solved. This is one of the reasons that juvenile delinquencies and unmarried mother related issues keep on arising.
    - The scene where Hyo-seung beats Ji-gu when he confesses that his girlfriend is pregnant was harsh. What was the atmosphere like on the set?
    I had to think hard about the various ways we could shoot the scene. I wondered what it would be like for her to hear such a confession from her son. There were a lot of different opinions, but I decided that it would be the most realistic to have her just beat him hard. The idea was that she would have recalled her past very clearly as soon as she hears the news from him and couldn’t control herself. SEO suffered a lot because LEE beat him too hard. He even forgot his lines because he was shocked.
    - The ending, with its lingering images, seemed hopeful and I liked it. What was your intention?
    I shot various versions of the last scene. In one of them, Hyo-seung drove a small car to the youth detention center and picked up Ji-gu, but it looked too artificial and strange. I wanted to direct the scene in a way that Hyo-seung decides to ‘start over’. The focus of the storyline shifts from the boy in the beginning to his mother as the story develops, and I wanted to have them encounter each other at the end. Viewers can see from their faces how hopeful they are. Hyo-seung's abstract facial expression in the last scene reflected the notion that she was about to regain hope in her hard life.
    Photograph by HWANG Jin-yong
  • Comment