Kim Jong-boon of Wangshimni
왕십리 김종분 (Wangsimni Kim Jong-bun)
South Korea, 2021, 102’, Korean
Directed by: Kim Jin-yeoul
Photography (color): Lee Kang-min, Kim Jin-yeoul, Ko Dong-sun
Editing: Nam Tae-jae
Music: Jeon Song-e, Park Kyung-pil
Producers: Stanley Kwak
Cast: Kim Jong-boon, Kim Kuelim, Kim Jungsu
Date of First Release in Territory: November 11th, 2021
Kim Jong-boon has been a peddler in Wangshimni for 50 years. At the age of 83, she no longer has to earn a living at her street stall, but she still works because she does not want to disappoint her regular customers. She is affable, ordinary, and like many “aunties” of a certain age, is full of interesting life tales. However, we soon learn that Jong-boon was the mother of a young activist who tragically died during the South Korean democratization movement almost three decades ago.
The documentary then delves into this perilous time period in South Korean history, when then President Ron Tae-woo, a protege of the late Chun Doo-hwan, engineered a political suppression campaign to thwart student democracy movements, which resulted in mass protests around the country. During a demonstration in 1991, many protesters were brutally suppressed by police, resulting in several deaths, including Jong-boon’s daughter, a college activist at the time.
Obviously devastated, this mild mannered woman did not back down to the government, who mounted a propaganda cover-up. Jong-boon joined others who openly demanded truth and justice in public, and it was eventually revealed later that the South Korean government was indeed responsible for Gui-jeong’s death, and many others of her colleagues.
Although her life has been mired by tragedy, that is just one aspect of her long life. What Kim Jong-boon of Wangshimni expertly showcases is a senior citizen who has always been in the trenches, an ordinary person with an extraordinary life. We see her joking and have a budding camaraderie with her fellow street stall vendors and her closeness with her adult children and surviving siblings. It shows time and time again that the fortitude of a mother's love is unconditional, resilient and powerful.
Kim Jin-yeoul received an M.A. in film directing from Chung-Ang University. She has directed numerous short and feature-length documentaries, beginning with the 40-minute film The Wedding Story of a Woman with a Disability in 1999. In her subsequent films she has tackled such diverse subject matter as agriculture (Land, to Make Rice), female Communist partisan fighters (Forgotten Warriors), and the Sewol Ferry sinking of 2014 (Cruel State). Kim Jong-boon of Wangshimni premiered at the 2021 Busan International Film Festival.
1999 – The Wedding Story of a Woman with a Disability
2000 – Land, to Make Rice
2005 – Forgotten Warriors
2007 – Jin-ok Goes to School
2015 – Cruel State
2021 – Kim Jong-boon of Wangshimni