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(LEAD) Film revisits 1987 when people rose up massively for democracy

All Headlines 16:45 November 22, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with more quotes from press conference from 7th para to bottom; ADDS photo)
By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- In January 1987, a 22-year-old student activist died during a police probe. Police announced the cause of death as shock, but all the evidence found at the scene, as well as the autopsy results, indicated that he choked to death due to water torture.

The new historical film "1987: When the Day Comes" depicts how the death of the college student Park Jong-chul sparked nationwide pro-democracy protests that changed the tide of Korean history in June that year. The protests undermined the iron-fisted rule of the Chun Doo-hwan government by forcing him to introduce a set to democratization measures, including a direct presidential election system.

Jang Joon-hwan, the director of "1987: When the Day Comes," speaks during a news conference for his forthcoming film at the CGV Apgujeong theater in southern Seoul on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

The movie was helmed by Jang Joon-hwan, who was critically acclaimed for "Save the Green Planet" (2003) and "Hwayi: A Monster Boy" (2013).

"The year 1987 was a historical year when the people won the right to directly elect their president. South Korea achieved democracy in a few decades, although it took the West several hundred years to accomplish," Jang said during a press conference for "1987" at a Seoul theater on Wednesday.

"I was greatly moved by the incident in which the entire people rose up in massive rallies against the dictatorship and won a great right. I thought it was a great moment in history that we now have to look back on, but nobody will tell the story of it."

The director said he hoped his film would be like a mirror that enables present-day Koreans to look back on their common past.

This video released by CJ Entertainment is an official trailer of "1987: When the Day Comes." (Yonhap) [https://youtu.be/_6_id7fZxhs]

Kim Yoon-seok plays Chief Park of the police investigative unit that oversaw the case of Park Jong-chul at the time, while Ha Jung-woo plays Prosecutor Choi, who rejects the police's request to cremate the body of the student activist and insists on conducting an autopsy.

Kim, who attended the same high school as Park Jong-chul, said he found the script of the film very interesting.

"I was greatly fond of the script," he said. "I thought this type of film must be made, and I became part of it without reluctance."

Born the son of a wealthy family in North Korea, Chief Park crosses the border into the south alone during the 1950-53 Korean War to escape from persecution in the Communist North. Believing that anti-Communism equals patriotism, he tries to employ all means, including even torture, to investigate South Koreans suspected of spying for the North.

"He is an unfortunate, monster-like person created by the times," the actor said of his character. "He is not a simple villain, so I did my all to show how he ended up being such a person."

Ha said that since his role is to put a break on the police attempt to cover up the torture-death case, he wants audiences to see the film from the perspective of the righteous prosecutor character.

"The director asked me to take a part in bringing viewers to the film in a flexible and easy way, and I agreed with his opinion."

The film marks the second time he has worked with Kim Yoon-seok, the first being "The Yellow Sea" in 2010.

Director Jang Joon-hwan and the main cast of "1987: When the Day Comes" pose for photographers during a press conference for the film at the CGV Apgujeong theater in southern Seoul on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

"We took a picture together to mark the end of the film's shooting seven years ago. Looking at the picture, I found much time has passed since then and that I've gotten quite older. It was such a meaningful time for the two of us to work together."

Yoo Hae-jin, who was a Gwangju-based cabbie in this year's smash hit movie "A Taxi Driver," once again acts a commoner who becomes embroiled in a whirlwind of turbulent history.

"He is a really plain prison guard," Yoo said. "But he has the conscience to do all he can do to let the people know the hidden truth that he happened on."

Actress Kim Tae-ri, who made a successful debut with director Park Chan-wook's "The Handmaiden," plays Yeon-hee, a college freshman who helps her uncle, played by Yoo, convey the truth to political dissidents.

Many famed actors such as Seol Kyung-gu, Oh Dal-soo, Kim Ui-seong and Moon Seung-geun also have cameos in the film. The middle-aged stars volunteered for the small roles when they heard that the people's uprising of June 1987 would be cinematized, according to the director.

"They said they would even play small roles because the film is about what they underwent. I really thank them all. I think we were very lucky," he said.

Park Hee-soon and Lee Hee-jun also star in the CJ Entertainment release, which is set to premiere Dec. 27.


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