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Director Jang Cheol-soo returns after nine years with provocative romance film

Actors Yeon Woo-jin, Jeean, director Jang Cheol-soo and actor Jo Sung-ha pose after the online press conference held on Thursday. (JNC Media Group)
Actors Yeon Woo-jin, Jeean, director Jang Cheol-soo and actor Jo Sung-ha pose after the online press conference held on Thursday. (JNC Media Group)
Director Jang Cheol-soo has returned after nine years with a provocative romance film titled “Serve the People.”

Jang is known for creating “Bedevilled,” which was invited to the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival, and hit film “Secretly, Greatly” which drew over 6.9 million moviegoers.

“Every director’s dream is to create a movie that can be screened in front of an audience. But it was not easy. I think I grew up a lot during the last nine years,” the director said during a press conference held online Thursday.

The new film tells the story of Mu-gwang (Yeon Woo-jin), a North Korean soldier hungry for success. One day, Mu-gwang gets to work at his commander’s house (Jo Sung-ha) and there he encounters the commander’s wife, Soo-ryun (Jeean). Mu-gwang battles the temptation of falling in love with her.

Like “Secretly, Greatly,” which was based on the popular 2010 webtoon series “Convertness” by artist HUN, “Serve the People” is based on a Chinese novel with the same title.

“This was exciting work because I was so looking forward to visualizing the original work,” he said.

The director stumbled across a review of the book that had kick-started the project.

”I think it was fate. I became interested in the book because of a review that I had read. The reviewer said he was reading the book on the subway and had to stop reading it because it was too provocative,” the director said. “After reading the book myself, I realized that it is not just a provocative story but a story that depicts honest emotions of a man and woman. I thought that I would like to show this emotion through a two-hour-long movie.”

“Serve the People,” directed by Jang Cheol-soo (JNC Media Group)
“Serve the People,” directed by Jang Cheol-soo (JNC Media Group)
The film’s story unfolds in a 1970s North Korea, instead of the novel’s setting during China’s Cultural Revolution.

“It was the time of the Cold War. Due to different ideologies, there was strong oppression. I thought I could show a suffocating love story between a man and a woman in this setting. I think that key material for a romance drama is death,” Jang said in explaining the backdrop. “In wartime, death is near us. These days, the situation is different and that is why there are many popular rom-coms, instead of serious romance films.”

Actor Yeon also talked about why he decided to join Jang’s movie.

“I chose this project because it shows a romance story that I have not done before,” Yeon said. “I have been involved in pieces that show love’s beauty and peacefulness. This movie shows how it can be risky and deadly.”

Yeon also added that his first meeting with director Jang was special.

“During our first meeting, he grabbed a ladder and climbed it to get something,” Yeon said, describing it as a shirt that looked like a military uniform.

“He gave me that shirt and proposed this project,” he said. “Now that I think of it, I think it (the shirt) was the medium that convinced me to do this project.”

“Serve the People” will hit local theaters Feb. 23.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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