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1881 East-West Road | Honolulu, Hawaii 96822

About the Series

Castaway in Korean Society

The 1997 economic crisis hit Korean society hard and began a significant transformation of the social, political, and economic landscapes. With massive economic restructuring, lifetime employment and job security—which led to stable middle-class lifestyles—were no longer the norm. Unemployment and poverty rates have increased; half of the total workforce now consists of irregular workers who are paid much less than full-time workers and receive no perks or benefits; and the suicide rates are the highest among OECD countries and the second highest in the world. The celebrated "economic miracle" on the Han River has now heightened anxieties and social distress among ordinary citizens. In particular, many youths struggle with limited job opportunities and lack of upward mobility. This "lost" generation finds it difficult to maintain relationships or to plan major life events such as getting married and having children. The spring 2015 Korean film series will explore how precariousness and economic uncertainty shape ordinary people's daily lives in current Korean society.


Films for the series were selected by Professor Myungji Yang of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa Department of Political Science, and the series was produced with the assistance of Hye-yoon Choi.

Film screenings take place in the Center for Korean Studies Noh Auditorium at 1881 East-West Road on the University of Hawai'i Mānoa campus and begin at 6:30 p.m. Korean films are shown with English subtitles.

This series is free and open to all University of Hawai'i students, faculty, and staff and to the community at large. The series is supported by the Timothy and Miriam Wee Memorial Fund at the Center for Korean Studies.

For further information about the film series, contact the Center for Korean Studies at (808) 956-7041 or Professor Myungji Yang ( at (808) 956-6387.

Limited, paid ($6.00) public parking is available in the parking lot adjacent to the Center and in other visitor parking lots on campus. For more information about parking regulations and locations, consult the campus parking office Web page.

Film synopses by Hye-yoon Choi.

Spring 2015 Film Series: Castaway in Korean Society

February 3

Castaway on the Moon  김씨표류기

2009. Directed by Lee Hae-jun. 116 minutes.

Castaway on the Moon


The story begins as a man named Kim Seung-geun attempts to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge overthe Han River. He thought he had enough of life: he is deep in debt, his business is a failure, and his girlfriend has just left him. He jumps off the bridge, but wakes to discover that he has drifted ashore on a small deserted island in the middle of the river. He is surrounded by city lights and can even see the bridge from which he had jumped, but civilization is too far to be reached by shout or swim. He first struggles to escape the island, but soon finds comfort in the primitive life, free of debt and worries. Meanwhile, the word "help" he scrawled on the beach is discovered by a woman named Kim Jung-yeon, who hasn't left her room in three years due to severe agoraphobia. She watches him through her the telescopic lens of her camera as he finds comfort and contentment with his new life on the island, and she finally decides to venture out into the world to send a message to him.

February 24

Breathless  똥파리

2008. Directed by Yang Ik-joon. 130 minutes.

Image from Breathless


In this independent film, the director, Yang Ik-joon, also plays the main character, Sang-hoon. Sang-hoon is a brutal and foul-mouthed debt collector who works for a loan shark, Man-shik. He carries a notebook that has the names and addresses of those from whom he needs to collect, and he literally beats the money out of them. For him, violence is a way of effacing childhood memories of how he failed to stand up and protected his mother and sister from an abusive father. One day, he accidentally spits on Yeon-hee, a high school student, who refuses to put up with his rudeness and demands an apology. They get into an argument, and Sang-hoon knocks her down. However, she eventually makes her way into his life, and he begins to feel affection for her. As his feelings for Yeon-hee grow, he considers leaving his gangster life behind. Leaving the past, however, turns out to be more difficult than he ever thought.

March 17

Waikiki Brothers  와이키키 브라더스

2001. Directed by Yim Soon-rye. 109 minutes.

image from Waikiki Brothers


The band Waikiki Brothers has had better days, particularly before the spread of karaoke. They have gone from seven to four members and then even further down to three when the saxophonist, Hyun-goo, quits after another disappointing performance. The remaining three decide to return to Suanbo, the hometown of bandleader Sung-woo and the birthplace of the band. The band starts playing at Waikiki Hotel, and Sung-woo encounters his high school mates who were the original members of Waikiki Brothers back in 1980s. He also meets In-hee, his childhood crush, who is now widowed. He learns that none of them is where he or she wants to be in life. It is nothing like what they had imagined when they were young. The band is brought to a new low when it is kicked out of the hotel. Despite the continuous pile-on of depressing events, Sung-woo quietly plays on, practicing a song he composed himself on the side of an empty stage.

March 31

Helpless  화차

2012. Directed by Byun Young-joo. 117 minutes.

image from Helpless


The movie is based on a Japanese mystery novel, Kasha, which can be translated as "a one-way train to hell." Mun-ho, a soon-to-be groom, is on his way to his parents' house with his fiancée, Seon-yeong. They decide to stop at a highway rest stop for coffee, but when he returns to the car, Seon-yeong is nowhere to be found. Convinced that she has been kidnapped, Mun-ho begins a frantic search. He asks his cousin Jong-geun, a former detective, for help, and together they dig deeper into her disappearance. While searching for Seon-young, he uncovers startling secrets about his fiancée. As the intricate layers of Seon-young's past are revealed, it turns out that she was not who he thought she was, not even her name. Shocked and confused, Mun-ho begins to wonder how well he knew his fiancée after all.

April 14

Boomerang Family 고령화 가족

2013. Directed by Song Hae-sung. 112 minutes.

image from Boomerang Family


In-mo is in serious distress: his first movie as a director was a big failure, his wife has left him for another man, and he is unable to pay rent. Depressed, he decides to hang himself. He is saved by a phone call from his mother inviting him for dinner, which leads to a change of plan. He decides to move back into his mother's house. His older brother Han-mo is already living there after being released from prison. Han-mo is an unemployed ex-gangster with five criminal convictions. The two are soon joined by their younger sister, Mi-yeon, who arrives with her rebellious teenage daughter, Min-kyung. She is about to divorce her second husband and has no place to stay. The once quiet and serene home of their mother is forever shattered when the three grown-up children return for a family reunion.