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‘Sewing Sisters,’ a documentary that moved Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook

“Sewing Sisters,” co-directed by Kim Jung-young and Lee Hyuk-rae (Jin Jin Pictures)
“Sewing Sisters,” co-directed by Kim Jung-young and Lee Hyuk-rae (Jin Jin Pictures)
The upcoming documentary “Sewing Sisters” is a film recommended by the nation’s top filmmakers Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook.

“Sewing Sisters,” co-directed by Kim Jung-young and Lee Hyuk-rae centers around three women who used to work for textile companies at Peace Market in the 1970s.

“Parasite” director Bong appeared on stage before the film’s pre-screening event held on Jan. 4 and said, “I came here as a supporter and fan of the movie.”

“I think the film carefully unravels stories of each and every person in the labor history of Korea that are intertwined like a tangled thread, rather than explained in a grandiose style. It was a fun, moving and caring movie for me,” Bong added.

Park participated in a VIP screening event for “Sewing Sisters” held on Friday and said, “I cried throughout the movie, and at the end, I cried my eyes out as if I was bombarded. This is a movie I would recommend to everyone who was young in the ’70s and also to youngsters today.”

Instead of directly showing the poor working conditions of women, the film begins with the three climbing up a small green hill under a blue sky where three sewing machines stand. At first, they start talking casually about their sewing skills.

The movie then slowly unveils the three women’s connection to Chun Tae-il, a labor activist and tailor at Peace Market, who immolated himself in protest after witnessing how the female workers suffer from brutal working conditions, after being exploited in the name of capitalism.

The film proceeds in detail about what happened on Sept. 9, 1977, to female workers who joined Peace Market’s labor union that was created after Chun’s death.

“What happened on that day is the most important incident in the film,” co-director Lee said during a press conference on Friday. “I tried to show what the emotional struggles of the women were during that time, through consecutive interviews. By the end of the film, they go back to the actual place that they used to work 40 years ago.”

During the press conference, the three women -- Lee Suk-hee, Shin Soon-ae and Lim Mi-kyung -- said they hope that more people get to find out about their stories through this movie.

“At first, I did not want to be part of the film, because I did not feel comfortable about people finding out what had happened to me,” former Peace Market worker Lim said. She explained that her daughter gave her the courage to tell her story through the movie. “I hope that many people watch it. I hope former workers of the market would be able to contact us after watching the film, so that we can have a reunion,” Lim added.

During the conference, the three also shared some of their personal moments experienced and felt.

“Recently, a girl from my school told me that she cried a lot after reading a story about Chun Tae-il. I thought it was strange because I never cried reading it,” Shin said. “I later realized that I did not cry because the reality was much worse than what is written in books about Chun Tae-il.”

“I think that worse time was when I could not afford to buy sanitary pads at a pharmacy. Upon hearing the news about girls using shoe insoles as alternatives to sanitary pads, it reminded me of how we used to use the pocket of a jacket (for the same purpose). Those were rough and painful times,” Shin added.

“Sewing Sisters” will hit local theaters on Jan. 20.

By Song Seung-hyun (