The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] ‘Because I hate Korea’ tells about agony and happiness of young Koreans here and abroad

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Oct. 9, 2023 - 17:00

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“Because I hate Korea” (NK Contents) “Because I hate Korea” (NK Contents)

“Because I hate Korea,” director Jang Kun-jae’s coming-of-age film based on the novel of same title by Jang Kang-myung, realistically portrays the journey of Kye-na (Go Ah-sung) in search of empathy and consolation.

In her late 20s, Kye-na isn’t sure about her life in Korea. Her longtime boyfriend Ji-myeong who is preparing to become a journalist, not so well-off parents who are dependent on Kye-na and her boss who asks Kye-na to do something unethical because it is a company tradition, are just some of the reasons.

Another is her two-hour commute from her home in Incheon to her office in Seoul every morning.

In search of happiness, Kye-na decides to leave everything and everyone behind and move to New Zealand.

But life there isn't easy. Going to college to get a job so she can earn permanent residency is just one of her missions there. The people she encounters in New Zealand and how she gets along with them also reflect a difficult, confused reality. While she is not fully happy there, she gets more clarity about the kind of happiness she wants in life.

Explaining why “Because I hate Korea” was picked to open the 28th Busan International Film Festival on Wednesday, BIFF’s acting executive chair, Nam Dong-chul, said the appeal was in the way the film depicts Kye-na’s attitude toward life.

“It is about her way of protecting herself by making bold decisions when she could have just given up everything,” he said.

During a press conference Thursday, director Jang said the essence of the film lies in the common feeling of anxiety that young people express and share in the movie.

“Many of the dramas or films abridge coming-of-age stories. That is quite a reality that young people face. Some decide to take their own lives, while others decide to go abroad for a new beginning. Such agonies are plainly portrayed in the film, which makes the audience deeply empathetic,” director Jang told reporters.

Go Ah-sung's performance of the character, which could have come off flat and dull, portrays Kye-na as a multifaceted and attractive woman.

Other characters also bring their own messages. The people she meets in New Zealand, like Jae-in (Joo Jong-hyuk), who has come to New Zealand as if he was being chased, finds his own life goal and becomes a chef there.

At the end of the movie, Kye-na reads “Cold-blooded Penguin," a story of a penguin called Pablo, who hates the cold and embarks on a journey to go to the warmer South Island of New Zealand.

The story of Pablo, with whom Kye-na shares a mirrored reality -- a penguin who hates the cold and a Korean who hates Korea -- offers her comfort. Both having landed in a place that they have dreamed of, Kye-na reminds herself that they will, and can achieve happiness in their lives.