The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] July Jung consoles victims of society’s structural abuse with her films

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Feb. 12, 2023 - 13:50

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Director July Jung of “Next Sohee” (Twin Plus Partners) Director July Jung of “Next Sohee” (Twin Plus Partners)

July Jung, who debuted with the 2014 feature film “A Girl at My Door,” has only released two films so far, but all both have been acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival.

Her second feature film in 9 years, “Next Sohee,” is a gut-wrenching drama which centers on a high school student, So-hee (Kim Si-eun), who is sent to a call center for a grueling internship. Later in the film, You-jin (Bae Doo-na), a detective, looks into the death of So-hee.

The film, which been selected as the closing film of the Critics’ Week at Cannes Film Festival last year, opened in local cinemas on Wednesday last week.

“I really appreciate the organizer at Cannes Film Festival for choosing my work and also for not forgetting me,” a 43-year-old filmmaker told The Korea Herald during an interview in Seoul on Feb. 6.

Director Jung said she was surprised how international fans and critics deeply understood the situation in “Next Sohee,” which she thought the story was only relevant to South Korean society.

“I’m sure that global audiences have empathized with the pressure and the agony of young generation for having to go through in their lives and that how, sometimes, there are things that they cannot fix,” said Jung.

Just like her first feature film “A Girl at My Door,” Jung depicts heavy topics.

“A Girl at My Door,” which was invited to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, deals with issues like social justice, child abuse, small-town politics and migrant worker issues.

According to Jung, “Next Sohee” was inspired by a true event involving the death of a 19-year-old girl. An SBS investigative documentary program back in 2017 put a spotlight on the incident.

“There was something that pulled me to ponder over the tragic death, even after years had passed (since the incident). Then I realized that there have been many more similar deaths before hers, deaths of young people who were assigned to job training programs and lost their lives either through injuries or suicide,” she said.

“And figured out that adults responsible such deaths did not apologize nor reflected on their faults at all, which made the situation more miserable. So I wanted to tell the story on what happens next,” she added.

“Next Sohee” is also the second project that Jung and Bae have worked on together.

“I’m truly blessed to be able to express my feelings through my films and actor Bae Doo-na has been on my side for doing that,” she said.

“She knows and supports what I do the best, writing a scenario and making it into a film on social issues and heavy topics that I’m interested,” she said, adding that she appreciates Bae for choosing to participate in Jung’s film immediately after reading the scenario.

“I tried my best to depict stories on victims of our society’s institution abuse, based on my intention to console them, rather than sympathizing their situation,” she said.

“Next Sohee” (Twin Plus Partners) “Next Sohee” (Twin Plus Partners)