The Korea Herald


Documentary sheds light on beloved singer’s mysterious death

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Aug. 25, 2017 - 15:15

    • Link copied

Two decades after Korean folk singer Kim Kwang-seok passed away, a documentary film about him is shedding light on a popular conspiracy theory that his supposed suicide was actually a homicide.

The film “Suicide Made” was screened in Seoul from Wednesday to Friday, and is to hit the local theaters on Wednesday. It follows the last days of Kim before his death in 1996 through his music and investigative reporting.

A scene from “Suicide Made” (Cineport) A scene from “Suicide Made” (Cineport)

“I’ve been following Kim’s case for a while, and this film version is a much ‘diluted’ version (of my investigation),” the film’s director and investigative journalist Lee Sang-ho said in a press conference prior to the premiere. “Things have changed from 1996 when there was no internet. Now is the age of collective intelligence and this film is a challenge to the audience, in hopes that we as a group can uncover the truth.”

The film centers mostly on the sole witness of Kim’s death, his wife Seo Hae-sun. It is about Lee’s quest to dig past Seo’s testimonies, with consultations from experts.

Lee added that he is “100 percent certain” that Kim’s death came at the hands of another person, but is missing a confession from the murderer.

Lee said he made the film because even though the statute of limitation on Kim’s death -- assuming it is a murder -- would already have passed, there is “no statute of limitation in press.”

Kim, who died on Jan. 6, 1996 in an apparent suicide, was one of the most beloved and influential folk singers in Korea. His deep, understanding, but powerful voice tells a tale on its own, while lyrics from his many hit songs touch on sentiments shared by young people even today.

Songs like “On the Street,” “A Letter From a Private” and “Song of My Life” are still often covered by artists. Songs like “In the Wilderness” have become iconic due to their messages of freedom and resistance to oppression.

With his premature death just before his 32nd birthday, Kim has also become an icon of youth, even among those born after his time.

“I think I’ve realized what Kim really means over time, more so than at the time of his death. I sang ‘A Letter From a Private’ as I sent off my friends to the military, and sang ‘Around 30’ with my friends as we turned 30,” said Lee.

There has been a quiet but resonating movement among fans demanding the reinvestigation of Kim’s death.

A fan claiming to be a former police investigator said during the film’s premiere in Daejeon that Seo’s testimonies were self-contradictory. “I don’t think the police were determined to discover the truth,” he said.

More than 2,700 people signed an online petition urging legislation of a bill allowing past murder cases to be reopened -- if there is sufficient evidence to prompt a reinvestigation.

Park Young-soo, who led the independent investigative team on the corruption case surrounding former President Park Geun-hye also watched the film and acknowledged there are “certain things left unclear” about Kim’s death. “The movie got me to think about a lot of things,” he said.

Authorities have yet to give any indications of the possibility of a reinvestigation.

By Yoon Min-sik