The protagonist is one of the growing group of poor North Korean refugees who are trying to adapt in capitalist South Korea. The maker, former assistant director to Lee Chang-dong, has made a deeply moving and profound film about the position of the unwanted guest.
North Korean ‘defectors’ who survived their flight to South Korea and are seeking a place in society remain recognisable for employers and authorities because their registration number starts with 125. As a result, it is difficult for them to get a good job.
The introvert Jeon Seung-Chul, played by the director Park Jung-Bum himself, also ends up stuck in the middle. He tries to earn his living as honestly as possible on the fringes of the capitalist society and on the outskirts of the mega city Seoul – first sticking up posters, a job in which competition and territorial claims are murderous. His only comfort is a beautiful white stray dog he cares for. When he also starts working at night in a karaoke bar, he seems to be acquiring more perspectives, both economically and romantically. But he remains an outsider. His attempts to improve his position in some way are not without their down side.
In 2008, Park made the successful short film 125 Jeon Seung-Chul, which would form the basis for The Journals of Musan. In between, he worked as assistant to Lee Chang-Dong on his Poetry. Park’s first full-length feature, which has already won prizes at its world premiere at the Festival of Pusan, is profound, realistically shot and moving. –Rotterdam
Korean rookie director Park Jung-bum’s The “Journals of Musan” won the Tiger Award at the 40th Rotterdam International Film Festival on February 4 in the Netherlands. It also scored the FIRPRESCI Award, given by the International Federation of Film Critics. “The Journals of Musan” is the story of a North Korean defector struggling to live in South Korea. Park Jung-bum served as the first assistant director on Lee Chang-dong’s film “Poetry”, which won Best Screenplay at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, and he was director, screenplay writer and actor for his debut film, “The Journals of Musan”, which was invited to the Pusan International Film Festival and won both the New Currents Award and the FIRPRESCI Award in 2010. The shooting of the film was supported by KAFA of KOFIC, March 2010. —koreanfilm.or.kr
At first the whole "calvary" the protagonist goes through was too much of a weak point. Then, considering it by his christian perspective and filtering his guilt as a former murderer (guilt as a former communist), the movie started to take shape as an honest tale of the cruel entering in the capitalist world, distortedly viewed as the working purgatory to Capital Heaven. Everybody pays for their "original sin".