The South Korean courtroom drama “The Attorney” by Woo-seok Yang was shot in 2013 and was nominated for the multiple awards, among which are the Asian Film Awards 2014, Baek Sang Art Awards 2014 and Udine Far East Film Festival 2014. The movie even won in several categories. Though “The Attorney” cuts to the heart of the spectator by the emotional and touching truth and reality of South Korea in the 1980s. Though the film lasts more than two hours, it keeps the spectator in permanent tension and even draws to tears.
Woo-seok Yang managed to create a film reflecting the difficult period in the history of South Korea when violence was used deliberately to express or advance political goals. The government allowed the illegal police practices, including tortures of the dissidents and intellectuals. The government itself was often involved in violating people. Park Chung Hee, whose governance left a great mark on the society and the history of South Korea, was the one to become all-powerful. His Korean Central Intelligence Agency was created for preventing a countercoup and suppressing all the potential enemies. It could arrest anyone suspected of wrongdoing or sympathy for the enemy.
During the Chun Doo Hwan regime, the violence continued. In May 1980, thousands of angry citizens and students of Kwangju contributed to the struggle for South Korean democracy. It was a great demonstration against government abuses and regional discrimination. Unfortunately, it was suppressed by Chun Doo Hwan with a brute force - many civilians and students were killed. The role of the United States in the mass killings of the South Koreans stays controversial – the president Reagan strongly approved of Chun’s actions.
The 1980’s are marked by a great number of students’ demonstrations. Young and ambitious, the students were restless for action. They demanded the removal of the professors with close ties to the Park regime and Chun himself, the autonomy from government control and the lift of the martial law, they wanted the guarantee of labor and farmers’ rights. Thanks to the student demonstrations, the government removed Chun.
As for the movie’s so-called “Burim Case” in 1981, it was a bright representative of the fabricated procommunist cases. The procedure of investigation was obviously illegal, and there were signs of cruel tortures of the defendants. The case was made up by the fifth President of South Korea from 1980 to 1988, Chun Doo-hwan. Roh Moo-hyun, who took the case, would soon start his political career, and in 2003, he would become the ninth president of South Korea. His presidential government lasted till 2008, and in 2009, he committed suicide by jumping from a mountain cliff behind his home.
The movie fully shows the atmosphere of South Korea of the 80’s – the period of the 5th Republic of South Korea. The university students and labor unions led strong protests against the authoritarian rule of Chun Doo-hwan all over the country. It was the era of the rapid economic growth, and the gap between the rich and the poor widened. The government also made a lot of efforts for the cultural development and in 1988, even the Summer Olympic Games were successfully held in Seoul. But despite the promises for democratic reforms, the government was essentially a military regime, and the public's support and trust in it was low. The Koreans wanted change and a lot of them started to sympathize with the protesting students. It was the death of the protesting Seoul National University student under police interrogation that made the fury of people immense and the opposition strengthen. In June 1987, a million of South Korean students and citizens participated in the nation-wide anti-State protests of the June Democracy Movement. Soon, the presidential candidate Roh Tae-woo announced the Declaration of Political Reforms which led to the restoration of civil rights. In October 1987, a revised Constitution was approved by a national referendum. The same year, the 5th Republic of South Korea was over, and the new president was elected.
In 1989, Roh Tae-woo promised to reach out to communist bloc parties and to improve the relations with North Korea. In spite all of his efforts to move towards democratization, the demonstrations continued: farmers against the liberalization of agricultural trade, students against the government's plans to retain the initiative between South and North Korea, there were also lots of strikes of subway and shipyard workers.
Everything I saw in the movie, goaded me into shock. Firstly, it is bizarre to imagine that someone has a right to judge and handle with violence another man for his opinion and thoughts, all the more he doesn’t even expresses them. Secondly, I can’t understand how it is possible that someone strong-arms another person for the things he is not guilty. He has no right to do it without proof and evidence. And thirdly, how savage the man race has become if the violator creates the fake evidence to make the innocent person guilty? It looked like this if you were the intelligent student of South Korea in 1980’s, and you were unlucky to be caught by the police.
I think that every country has its era of the governmental system being hypocritical and dirty. The army men broke oath, the doctors were not faithful to the oath of Hippocrates and the judges were not fair and objective at times. Otherwise, every country throughout the world would be prosperous, and the people there would be happy. But the desire of having more and more power drives people crazy, they lose all their human qualities and dignity and set at naught of those who are weaker.
CHUNG, HYUN-CHAE. "The Actor of His Generation: How Song Kang-ho Ruled Korean Cinema in 2-13." The Korea Times (2013). Print.
CONRAN, PIERCE. (21 January 2014). "The Attorney Crosses 10 Million Viewers in 33 Days". Korean Film Biz Zone (2014). Literary Reference Center. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.