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‘Unbowed’ portrays real-life ‘crossbow terror’ case

Director Chung Ji-young makes comeback with courtroom drama


A mathematics professor gets demoted a year after pointing out an error on the school’s entrance exam. He soon loses his job, as the university won’t renew his contract. Arguing he was fired unfairly, he sues the school administration and asks for reinstatement. When the court upholds the school’s decision, the professor decides to visit the court judge with a crossbow in his hand.

Celebrated director Chung Ji-young, who is most well known for his 1992 Vietnam War drama “White War,” is making a comeback after a 13-year hiatus with a highly entertaining, real-life based courtroom drama “Unbowed.”

Based on the true story of the “crossbow terror” incident by professor Kim Myung-ho in 2007, Chung’s film is to bring another socially-conscious account to the K-film scene ― after this year’s controversial drama “Silenced,” based on a real-life child sex abuse case. The upcoming drama received a standing ovation when it was screened in the Gala Presentation section of this year’s BIFF.

Veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki, who starred in two of Chung’s previous films ― “White War” (1992) and “Nambugun” (1990) ― stars as the stubborn, never-compromising Kim, who goes through a series of court ordeals after being sentenced to four years in prison for allegedly attacking the judge with his crossbow. 
Veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki stars in the upcoming film, “Unbowed.” (Aura Pictures)
Veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki stars in the upcoming film, “Unbowed.” (Aura Pictures)

Claiming that he never in fact shot the judge, though he had brought the weapon to demand a fair trial, Kim appeals against his sentence and does not lose his self-righteous manner throughout.

Ahn is paired up with “May 18” and “The Big Swindle” actor Park Won-sang, who plays his fierce and folksy lawyer, Park. His character is also based on real-life, Changwon, Gyeongsang Province-based labor attorney Park Hoon, who was in charge on Professor Kim’s case back in 2007.

The two actors have a prolific performance together, as they engrossingly criticize the justice department who will not accept their evidence submissions without solid reasons. Most importantly, the department dismisses Park’s request to examine the bloodstain which is reportedly found on the alleged victim’s shirt on the day of the incident.

Though dealing with a serious matter, the movie is very often comical and humorous. Veteran actor Moon Seong-geun, who in fact informed director Chung about the real-life court case, stars as the shamelessly unjust judge in the film.

Chung makes fun of Moon’s character while directly criticizing him, offering laugh-out-loud, almost cathartic moments when he is challenged by Ahn and Park as well as the jury members.

The director also does not portray Kim as a helpless victim, but a dignified human being who strictly believes in his values and ideals.

While Ahn never met professor Kim, as he wanted to create a character of his own, Park visited attorney Park in Changwon “just to see what he’s really like.”

“I carried a backpack when I went off to Changwon, just because,” Park told reporters during a press conference on Monday. “And it turned out to be a really good decision. He gave me so much to read which I wouldn’t have been able to bring home without the backpack.”

In the real-life final trial, attorney Park reportedly told the judge that he “should be ashamed of himself.” Professor Kim ended up serving four years in prison after his losing his appeal, and was released in January of this year.

“What Park said in the last trial pretty much sums up what I want to say to this country’s judiciary,” director Chung told reporters. “It is both absurd and sad that a case like this happened in real life.”

“Unbowed” opens in theaters on Jan.19 of next year.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)
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