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Ex-Justice Minister Cho Kuk recommends political film ‘The Red Herring’ to conservatives

“The Red Herring“ directed by Yi Seung-jun (At Nine Film)
“The Red Herring“ directed by Yi Seung-jun (At Nine Film)

Ex-Justice Minister Cho Kuk made a surprise appearance via video to ask conservative Korean moviegoers to watch “The Red Herring” during a press conference held at CGV Yongsan on President Yoon Suk-yeol’s inauguration day, Tuesday.

“What I want the people to know is that there are different perspectives on the situation and that there are different experiences and different testimonies,” Cho said in the video. “I hope this documentary will be watched by many people who are considered conservatives in our society and those who voted for President-elect Yoon Seok-yeol.”

“The Red Herring” directed by Yi Seung-jun mainly deals with events surrounding Cho from the day he was appointed justice minister on Aug. 9, 2019, to his stepping down weeks later on Oct. 14 due to a scandal involving his family.

Clips of an interview with Cho as well as scenes from his everyday life after leaving office, including his phone conversation with his daughter Cho Min, are seen in the 124-minute film.

Director Yi is known for directing “In the Absence,” which deals with the Sewol ferry sinking in April 2014. The film became the first-ever Korean documentary to be nominated for an Oscar in 2020 in the shorts category.

Although Cho’s supporters and their point of view make up the bulk of the film, director Yi stressed during the press conference that the film was not created to make any kind of judgment about the issue.

Regarding the criticism of bias, Yi explained why he created the documentary that way.

“People who have conservative beliefs told me that my movie is biased. Then I thought about what is a balanced film,” Yi said. “There was a lot of information about the Cho Kuk scandal, and I did not include everything in the two-hour long film. It could only be part of the whole story. As I have said, I focused on the people who suffered due to the scandal, people who we do not know much about. It is because hearing the opinions of the other side (conservatives) is not something we have to do now at this point. I think this movie is right for now.”

Yi, a documentary film director known for calmly following the protagonists’ daily life, also talked about why he decided to make this film which does not exploit his strength to the fullest. The film mainly uses shots of documents, people’s interviews, news clips and existing videos of protesters.

“Yes, for this film, even if I wanted to, there were many things that I could not film. Especially as Cho’s trial is still ongoing, we had limits,” Yi said. “But I knew from the beginning that there would be limits when I was asked to film this movie (by the producer). I thought that what I could and could not shoot was not important, and that what is most important is that we include an interview with Cho. I also thought it was nice to meet people like Jang Kyung-wook, a professor at Dongyang University, and CEO Park Jun-ho. I thought it was worthwhile because the stories they were telling me had never been heard before.”

Jang and Park are people in the film who share the view that prosecutors were coercive when investigating the case related to Cho Kuk’s wife. 

“The Red Herring“ director Yi Seung-jun speaks during a press conference held at CGV Yongsan on Tuesday. (At Nine Film)
“The Red Herring“ director Yi Seung-jun speaks during a press conference held at CGV Yongsan on Tuesday. (At Nine Film)

“When making this film, I focused on listening to different stories and sharing the stories persuasively,“ the director added.

The director also briefly talked about his feelings about the film being premiered at Jeonju International Film Festival.

“After the premiere in Jeonju, and during the second official screening event in Jeonju, I felt overwhelmed. Now that we are having a press conference, I feel a different kind of nervousness,” he said.

Meanwhile, the crowdfunding for an upcoming movie directed by Yi began at 10 a.m. on April 25. As of Wednesday, the film had raised over 2.29 billion won from 44,940 people.

The film will hit local theaters on May 25.

By Song Seung-hyun (