Spotlight on South Korean Cinema: Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder

Part two of my Spotlight on South Korean Cinema series is a look at Bong Joon-ho’s 2003 masterpiece Memories of Murder.


Bong Joon-ho is best known in the west as the director of the internationally successful monster movie The Host. Yet, as good as that film undoubtedly is, his even earlier Memories of Murder (the local blockbuster that made the monster Bong hit possible) still probably stands as the ideal introduction to this unique auteur‘s filmography as well as the S. Korean New Wave as a whole. It is certainly my personal favorite Korean movie of recent decades. Memories of Murder, like most of the exciting films to come out of S. Korea in the early 21st century, is a young man’s movie: it was only Bong’s second film, following the black comedy Barking Dogs Never Bite in 2000, and he completed it when he was just 33-years-old. Also marking it as a quintessential work of the new S. Korean cinema is the way Bong offers a refreshingly original spin on well-worn genre elements. In much the same way that Nowhere to Hide uses the action-movie framework as an excuse to stage highly experimental set pieces, or Failan begins as a gangster film before daringly transitioning into an unabashed melodrama, or J.S.A. adopts the form of a political thriller in order to express a plea for tolerance and a desire for reunification between the two Koreas, so too does Memories of Murder resemble a murder mystery but only as a means for conveying a far-reaching social critique of S. Korea in the past as well as the present.

Like many Hollywood films that came out in the wake of the success of The Silence of the Lambs, Memories of Murder is ostensibly a murder mystery about the exploits of a serial killer. As such, some of the most familiar aspects of the movie are the scenes depicting the tensions and hostilities between various members of a police department — most of which result from their differing crime-solving methodologies — in the small town in which the movie is set. Specifically, the plot details the investigation into a series of serial murders by two dumb local-yokel cops, Detective Park (the brilliant Song Kang-ho) and Detective Cho (Kim Roe-ha). Completely out of their element because they have no experience in such matters, the brutal, quasi-fascist tactics of these characters soon come into conflict with the patience and reasoning of Detective Seo (Kim Sang-kyun), a cop from Seoul who voluntarily moves to rural Gyunggi province in order to help with the investigation. Memories of Murder is, however, perhaps most interesting for how it deviates from the murder mystery and police-procedural genres — Bong’s point is not to put his characters through the paces of a routine plot but rather to paint a trenchant portrait of life under a military dictatorship in the mid-1980s.


In one of the film’s most telling scenes, the local cops can be seen violently cracking down on a pro-Democracy protest in the rain. Detective Cho, in particular, can be seen stomping with relish on a hapless victim with his combat boots. (Elsewhere we see how kicking suspects with a shower cap stretched over his boot, so as not to leave incriminating marks, is Cho’s preferred method of “enhanced interrogation.”) Shortly afterwards, Detective Seo uses more logical methods to discover that the killer’s modus operandi is only to attack women wearing red and only on rainy nights. Part of the local law enforcement’s failure to apprehend the killer, however, stems from the fact that they have been spread too thin as a result of having to quell political protests. At the end of the movie, Detective Cho’s leg is infected with gangrene and has to be amputated below the knee — a clever way for Bong to show, symbolically, that a politically repressive era has finally come to an end (though the film’s haunting coda shows what scars remain). Another aspect of the film’s sly social commentary is the way Officer Kwon (Ko Seo-hie), the only female member of the police department, is routinely discriminated against and treated like a glorified secretary when Bong takes care to show that she has genuinely good instincts as a detective; it is Kwon who discovers that the murders have all occurred whenever a certain obscure song is played on the radio, and it is only she who is able to extract crucial information in an interview with a would-be victim. Her male colleagues, however, disregard her suggestions and treat her as only good for fetching coffee. In these and other scenes, Bong implies that the tragic murders are merely one symptom of a broader trend of S. Korea’s systematic abuse of its female citizens.

Yet Memories of Murder moves in unpredictable directions in terms of both its ideology as well as its story. Detective Park may be a clueless idiot (in a long line of such characters essayed by Song) but viewer empathy with this character strangely increases as the film progresses, just as it likely decreases for the city-slicker Seo. This is in part because of the way Song Kang-ho is always the most charismatic presence in any movie in which he appears, but also because of the way these two characters seem to gradually exchange philosophies: by the end of the movie Park has become closer to being the voice of reason while it is Seo who is more prone to use brute force to exact justice, the civil liberties of suspects be damned. Then, in an immensely satisfying coda, Bong boldly flashes forward fifteen years into the future where Park, now a salesman for a company that makes juicers, quizzes his teenage son at breakfast about whether he had stayed up all night playing video games; the portrait of S. Korea’s transition from dictatorship to western-style democracy is now complete. But Bong doesn’t stop there: he then has Park revisit, by chance, the location of one of the first murders, a powerful scene that single-handedly explains the movie’s title. Frustrated as some viewers may be by his “open” ending, Hollywood-style narrative resolution would actually be antithetical to Bong’s true purpose — to emphasize the lingering effects of his characters’ darkest memories of the past upon their present.


Memories of Murder is available in a decent-quality DVD edition from Palm Pictures and as a superb-quality region-free Blu-ray from CJ Entertainment.

Bong Joon-ho’s next film, the international co-production Snowpiercer, stars Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho and Tilda Swinton, and will be released before the end of the year. Check out this early trailer, which I think looks exceptionally promising:


About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

87 responses to “Spotlight on South Korean Cinema: Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder

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  • Mandukhai Damdinjav

    This was a great movie. I have seen this movie a long time ago, when I was a teenager. It is a very suspenseful and action thrilled movie. Now that I have seen it a second time. I understand the movie better. After the movie was finished I kept thinking about the movie itself, who could be the true suspect. Suddenly, it rang into my mind, that the two deceives missed on crucial element. It was obvious that the murder did oral sex, and did not have actual intercourse with the victims. Am I wrong ? It just confuses me, why and how the suspect’s semen did not match the victim. Again did the Deceives consider that those girls had sex already with someone else prior. As Mr. Micheal said that the female police officer was treated like a secretary, who just fetches tea for them. She was not taken seriously, when she came up with the information about the murder. She was a smart and had a good hunch about this, but yet again they didn’t take her seriously, and this scene shows how woman were treated in that era. Detective wasnt the brighest detective in town and he was violent one, who abused power.Detective Seo turns out in the end the violent one to justify the suspects justice. Over all it is a great movie. I love Korean movies because of the great film maker Bong-Joo Hon.

  • aspic

    I am so happy you explained some of the social/political symbology. I was really emotionally invested in the storyline of Memories of Murder. It was like my logic and analytic nature disappeared to be replaced by pure frustration. I think Detective Seo only reverted to a violent, oppressive justice system because his viewpoints stemmed from a universal goal of human decency and protection. That could be seen as an extreme viewpoint but they knew they had evidence to confirm the serial killer. When Detective Park was violent towards his suspects his evidence was rare or fake. I wish Seo had successfully shot the killer. He probably got away to make a point about the lost lessons or lack of accountability when it comes to past mistakes.
    It was such a beautiful movie and Bong Joon-ho did an amazing job criticizing sexism and governmental oppression. Officer Kwan was a really amazing character. It didn’t seem like she resented the way her fellow male officers treated her. She understood the culture she was in and found her niche to do what she wanted to. I love that Detective Park ended up selling juicers.

  • Christopher Sanchez

    I really like how you point out the social commentary in it. Some of it flew over my head when watching it like the pro democracy rally and how the leg being amputated symbolizes the end of the politically repressive era. I also like the comparison to silence of the lambs because when watching the movie it did remind me of it. I also enjoyed the open ending letting the viewers see the darker side of the characters and the bleak feeling of the movie as well.

  • Julie Vera

    Memories of Murder has been the best movie I’ve seen so far. Each character grew on me, even though the main characters were cruel. As you mentioned Officer Kwon was a victim of discrimination, and she clearly figured a clue that leads to the murderer. If I was Officer Kwon I would had left the police department. Not to be mean but I was glad that Detective Cho had to get below his knee amputated. Detective Cho passed the line when he was stomping his first victim and suspect body. The end of the movie was great, and it’s something new for me, and I can’t wait to show this movie to my father.

  • Lakita Flowers

    This movie was really good to me. Even though it was a movie about murders, it was a little comical. This made me like it more than the traditional all serious murder type of movies. Detective Park was the funniest in the movie but he was also pretty clueless about doing actual detective work. Like how he was actually going around looking for “bald” men was so funny yet a waste of time. His character at the beginning of the movie kind of irritated me because he kept trying to put the murders on someone that was innocent. Towards the end of the movie I begin to like him though and yes this movie does go in unpredictable directions seeing how detective Park wasn’t the one beating up the suspect at the end.
    Seo is my favorite character in the movie. He comes across as a very passionate person who takes his job seriously. It seems as if he just stumbles upon evidence that helps with the case. He seems to be deep in his thought too. Unlike Park, Seo isn’t judgmental and dismissive towards the female detective. He also seems to have more authority as a detective compared to Park. Which I think made Park mad because every time Park thought he had the murder Seo would come and provide evidence against what Park thought. This caused them to fight a lot. Except towards the end when the DNA test came back denying that the suspect Seo was sure was the murder was innocent. That’s when Seo started acting like Park and Cho.
    I didn’t even think about how the ending scene of the movie linked to the movies tittle. Which makes a lot of sense since they never found out who the murder was. When Park asks the little girl how the guy that came back to the murder site looked she said he looked “Just ordinary” and Park had a really shocked looked on his face. Since the beginning of the movie Park had been looking and accusing people who weren’t exactly ordinary. He even thought he could just look someone in the face and know who the murder was but he couldn’t.
    Even though I wanted to know who the murder was, the ending of this movie was great. It left me thinking. Also in real life we don’t always get the ending we want. Sometimes we don’t get one at all; we’re just left with memories to look back on.

  • Mercedes Abreu

    Memories of Murder (Bong, 2003) is conventional of its kind. I agree with Smith’s view on how Bong creates a “refreshingly original spin on well-worn genre”. Memories of Murder movie title makes sense as you get to the end. I think Detective Park (Song Kang-ho) is a talented actor, he was outstanding as Sargent Oh in J.S.A. and to see his character be this bumpkin detective with his combat boot kicking partner policing like renegade Colombo’s shows what a great actor he really is. I enjoyed this suspense filled thriller. I was captivated from beginning to end. In the slow motion scene, where Detective Park is chasing the seemingly mentally challenged suspect through the field, has a great impact of how chaotic the investigation becomes. Also, I agree that viewer empathy does shift as it does increase towards Detective Park and Detective Seo begins to unravel mentally. Detective Seo loses all composure towards the end as the investigation comes to a wall, and Detective Park does become the “voice of reason”. The scene close to the end where the rain is pouring and the body of the school girl is found, everyone has an umbrella except both Detective Park and Seo. As the rain pours on both of their heads and drenched, I feel this shows the emotional strain the murders had on both detectives. I was hoping to find out who was the murderer and leaving the movie open at the end is frustrating. At the end where Detective Park revisits the first murder scene, the long take on his face and the tears in his eyes only makes you wonder, will Bong make a sequel? Or this is his brilliant way of captivating the viewer. All in all, I enjoy the Korean filmmakers we’ve seen thus far.

  • Yeongjae Nam

    I strongly agreed with Bong paint a trenchant portrait of life under a military dictatorship in the mid-1980s. At that time, Korea had social change which military dictatorship to democracy. During that time, police and government violently abused their power and people were afraid of their merciless governmental authority. There are two significant scenes that show the political conflict between governmental authority and protester against the government for democracy. First, When Detective Park and Detective Seo fight each other and the song which is murderer’s favorite play on the radio, the chief asked support from riot police but all of riot police go to another city in order to repress the protest and it disturbs to protect the new victim from the murderer. Second, after the endless murder occurred, police changed the chief. The new chief is more justice and flexible to communicate with his subordinates. The previous chief was the same person as detective Park. Both of them quickly wanted to terminate the accident and they manipulate the evidence to catch the murderer. They are not trying to catch the suspect but making suspect who is even innocent. During the military dictatorship, this happen was common and a lot of innocent people involved in crime and police violently hit them to receive confession without obvious evidence. The change of chief means the society are changing. More democratic chief allow detective Seo and female detective find the evidence of murder. In addition, the most important scene is Detective Cho fight with the young college student in the restaurant. Most of the protesters against the government were the young college student at that time. Young people criticized the government violent control over the country. In the restaurant, young people saw the news in the television and criticized detective Cho who represents violent police authority. He fights with young college students and one of the most innocent and pure Kang-ho hit him to punish his past unjust violence. Finally, Detective Cho’s leg is infected with gangrene and has to be amputated below the knee. His leg is a symbol of unjust authority on police and infection is how dangerous infection spread people’s whole body and finally it kill people. I think Bong point out that unjust power should remove from the body even though it is part of our sad history on the 1980s. This movie is based on true story. The murderer is still not caught. Long times ago, I saw the article which include director Bong’s interview about this movie. He said that during making this film, he tried hard to analysis the suspect’s patterns of crime and he said the suspect tend to show his existence on crime. So, director Bong implied the last scene which staring at camera giving a message to uncaught suspect that I see you in there. Director Bong assured that the suspect must come to the theater to watch this film.

  • Seoyeon Jang

    Bong Joon-ho is one of the best famous directors in South Korea. In 2006, Bong Joon-ho’s monster movie, The Host, made a great hit because this movie well represented a monster realistically by using computer graphics in South Korea. However, it also was a film having a powerful message that criticizes the government and the society at that time through a monster emerged in the Han-river and family stories.

    And, before The Host created, at the beginning of the 21st century, Memories of Murder is came out by Bong Joon-ho in 2003, and this movie also made a great hit. At that time, this film was highly acclaimed for both its cinematic quality and its popularity. The motif of this film was horrible murders called “Hwaseong serial killings” happened in the 1986 to 1991 in South Korea. During that time, 10 women had been cruelly murdered by a killer (or killers). However, unfortunately, the killer still not get caught, and it remains unsolved to this day. Also, due to the statute of limitations of this accident expired on April 2nd 2006, now police can’t make him stand in court.

    But, this movie not just show the cruel murders. Memories of Murder shows the darkness of that time through the various depicted scenes, such as the non-scientific investigation, violence investigation, and ignorance about many things. And these things, ignorance, cowardice, and wickedness, seem to still exist somewhere in the world.

  • Shield K.

    After finishing this movie, I was frustrated at how horribly everything was handled in theses series of murders and how many people were murdered. There were so many issues going on simultaneously that it really hindered the police department in catching the serial killer. Military dictatorship, underestimating/discrimination of officer Kwons ability as an officer, conflicting egos, inexperience, police brutality/unprofessionalism, lack of basic technology, information given to the public, inappropriately handling interaction those with special needs and so many more made this case impossible to solve. With this list going on in my head, I couldn’t enjoy the movie at all. What really was unfortunate was that this movie was based on a real-life serial killer who was never caught and probably never will be.

    What also made me not like this movie was the fact I have watched several Korean movies in which the police/detectives are portrayed as incompetent, inexperienced and/or hot-headed people in their fields who are more in the way than actually solving the crime. It’s a common theme in Korean and I have a hard time understanding why they are consistently portrayed this way (maybe this is how society views their police force). In America, we have tv show/movies where there may be a bad cop but there was always one who actually knew what they were doing and actually try to really solve the case.

  • Andrew Klapp

    Initially, I was also frustrated by the lack of a conclusive ending. It actually seemed to me like Detective Park was going to resume investigating the murders. After reading your explanation, however, it makes much more sense. The conclusion of the case is not the important part of the story, it is the way that the investigation changed the investigators.

    I had noticed as well that not only is misogyny frequently displayed in the film, but the case is also caused by and exacerbated by it. The murderer obviously thinks of women as less valuable than others, but so does everyone else, as their treatment of Miss (Detective?) Kwon actively hinders their efforts.

    Furthermore, I became somewhat convinced about halfway through the film that the murderer was actually Detective Cho. He is consistently the most adamant about beating confessions out of suspects, he is in an excellent position to divert suspicion from himself and tamper with evidence, and he knows the bumbling detectives will never figure it out.

  • Doug Jones

    Out of all the South Korean films we have seen currently, I really really enjoyed this one. This stuck with me from the beginning to the very end. It has a certain feel to it that keeps us the audience engaged with every character and every detail that occurs within the film. With every murder that takes place in the film, it gives of a strong sense of suspense and mystery that almost every film watcher likes to see in a film like this.

    What I enjoyed most about this film, it conveys the element of surprise. Meaning that it didn’t give out too much of who killed who. You thought it was this person but then it really wasn’t. I think that’s a significant element that most people like seeing in films like this. I would compare this film to other American made films such as, Zodiac and one of my personal favorites, Prisoners. It’s a type of film that keeps you on the edge of your seat and has plenty of tension that builds up that gives is the cinematic suspense. I really enjoyed this film and would highly recommend it.

  • Derian Avalos

    I thought that Memories of Murder was great because it works on so many levels. First, there’s the social satire, as you point, and then of course, there’s drama and comedy, which works a lot better than you’d think it would in a murder mystery/crime drama. I enjoyed Memories of Murder so much that I actually ended up watching two of Bong Joon-ho’s other films, The Host and Snowpiercer, and I noticed, especially in The Host, that Bong’s a master of mixing genres to create something truly unique. I can imagine that trying to mix comedy and serious crime drama would result in some jarring scenes, but the film just flows so well, like when an interrogation is heating up, and out of nowhere comes Detective Cho flying across the screen with one of his dropkicks.

    And just like The Host, a lot of the satire in Memories of Murder works really well because it’s not at the forefront and it doesn’t feel like it’s being pushed down your throat, but it’s just sort of there, bubbling in the background and interacting with the characters in the form of obstacles that stop them from catching the killer. And while we do see the military dictatorship as a hindrance to Detective Park and his screw, we also see that a lack of technology hurts the detectives as they try to solve the crime, like in the end, where they have to wait what seems like an eternity for that one DNA test (from America even), really painting a vivid picture throughout the film of the tribulations that a team of detectives like Park would face in a case as difficult as the one they were faced with.

    I’d like to watch Barking Dogs Never Bite next given how much I enjoyed Bong Joon-ho’s other films

  • Jessica Diaz

    I really enjoyed this film of ” Memories of Murder” by Bong Joon-ho. It was suspenseful and frustrating because you didnt know when or where the killer would pop out or didnt know if the guy in custody was responsible for the crime. I totally agree with you that Detective Park and and Detective Cho act with brutality and violence towards the suspects trying to get the confession out by making them fear them. In the other hand Detective Seo looks for evidence and deeper clues that might lead him to the suspect. I thought it was really interesting how Detective Park could define if someone was lying by looking at them straight in the eyes. While Detective Park and Detective Cho try to get the information out of their suspects with kicks, Detective Seo finds out that the killer attacks women only wearing red and in rainy nights. I think women in the movie are not given enough credit of their intelligence and just seen as an object thats just gets used and thrown away. Offficer Kwon who was the only female in the police department was just seen as the one who gets coffee for the team until Bong shows her instincts when she discovers that the murders occur when a certain song plays on the radio.
    I thought it was interesting how by the end of the film Detective Park and Detective Seo sort of end up switching roles in a way because Detective Seo became the violent one at seeing that the results didnt match and Detective Park was frustrated at the results but calm. It was frustrating to see that after all the suspects being brought in and all the work the Detectives did throughout the movie the criminal wasnt caught, especially since they seemed to have been soo close to ending the case.

  • Cristina Rosas

    Reading your post has clarified some great points in the film. I love that term you used describing Bong’s film, “a young man’s film.” The scene where Detective Seo is introduced he is welcomed unbeknownst by Detective Park with a beating that I found comical in how animated it looked. This probably introduced him as well to the way things are done around there and how suspects are treated. I love that second still you have up where it shows the reenactment gone wrong and how the father of the accused is trying to get ahold of his son and they’re running through puddles. I enjoyed this film technique. They literally are making use of their set. I find the coincidence how Cho is infected below his knee and will need to get amputated to survive interesting. I agree with your observation. I also noticed how Cho did not want to see a doctor earlier even though the immense swelling. I feel this symbolized he had no desire to change his violent ways more than his coworkers and was most for the military dictatorship . He was depicted as the most aggressive one who’d always be stomping on people and took pride in it. My favorite character is Officer Kwon. Mr. Bong makes his characters show indifference towards her although she really brought a very intricate piece of the puzzle to the table. The other women in the film are depicted as ninnys in my opinion. They actually go out against all warning during the crucial moments where they are at high risk. It’s like the police department don’t really try in stopping the women from provoking the killer but focus more on the killer himself. The film actually reminded me of the previous horror film you screened in how you thought you knew what was going on but then events would take another turn. This feeling would be felt by the detectives as time would go on and they haven’t caught the actual killer and they are left to their final suspect that they are dead set is the real killer. Even I was sure that the last man was the killer all because he looked familiar to that quick blurry brief scene where Bong actually presented to the viewers the killer almost animal-like on the prowl lunging toward the female victim. I really don’t think the killer is human. All the evidence proves to it. The camera angles standing as the vision from the the killers eyes would be from the trees darting back and forth choosing victims almost ravenously. Also the killer would-be shown popping up in the background while a woman was walking the lonely road. He would insert whatever they had in their possession at the time inside of them, be it peaches, or a pen. It’s disturbing. The area is so small and seems dull. The people must grow bored easily shown as the aaccused man who would go out and wear womens underwear because he found it exciting and got caught. In the film they mentioned a folklore I believe. I remember your speaking of how in asian cinema they would use folklore. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case in “Memories of Murder.” I enjoyed the end how to me it proved how all their leads were correct in how the killer would attak in the rain and all that because the killer encountered a girl at the old crime scene and didn’t attack her since it was a sunny day shown. If this was any old rapist he would have attacked that girl right there and then. Detective Park revisiting the scene shows to me he still has that spark to work in that field again even though it would take a toll on him as his wife noticed. As the girl was describing the mystery man to Park she said he was plain as the camera does a close up on his face. This shows that it could be anyone and he nor anyone would ever know. I enjoyed the film technique used.

  • Rocio Gonzalez

    This movie has been one of my favorite ones mainly because it has a combining style of a thriller, mixed with laughter, and violence. It caught my attention from beginning to end because the plot develops several themes along the story. I was also shocked to find out that it was based on a true story which sadly was a mystery without results. At the beginning the untrained detectives take pictures of the suspects and use violent methods to interrogate them. Detectives Parker and Cho try to get a confession from a developmentally delayed suspect who seems to know how a murder took place. The plot gets interesting when a skilled detective joins the efforts to investigate along with these detectives but using other techniques such as looking into details in the murders color of clothing. Officer Kwon discovers that the murders are taking place usually in rainy nights after a certain song is ordered on the radio . The suspense of the investigation take not only the detectives but also the audience on a intense search for the truth. Unfortunately, the DNA results were inconclusive therefore no one was charged and the truth might never come to light.

  • Dylan

    I really enjoyed this film and it was my first experience of a Korean film that wasn’t largely action-based (although I love movies like Snowpiercer and The Raid). I have been thinking a lot about reality becoming more dramatic than fiction so it really struck me when the suspect in the red underwear basically said as much during his interrogation “real events in town are stronger than the magazines” is the line. This line illustrates one of the reasons this movie is so popular, people’s fascination with the true crime story and the unsolved mysteries that are recent enough to still be relevant to the imagination. It brings to mind other true crime stories that have been popular in recent years in many different media such as the “Serial” podcast or the Netflix Documentary “Making of a Murderer” which actually was eerily similar in how the police department in that documentary aslo had no qualms about taking advantage of a young and mentally retarded man in order to get a conviction.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Good job tying that “Real events in town” line back to the debate about reality being more dramatic than fiction. Interestingly, Bong Joon-Ho, the director of MEMORIES OF MURDER, also directed SNOWPIERCER. Both films use genre as a framework inside of which he is able to offer political commentary, no? 9/10

  • Brianna Clark

    I really enjoyed the use of camera direction and angles in this movie. While I was watching it, I felt like I was in the scene with them because of the intimacy of some of the shots. The scenes of the women tied up on the ground were so close up it made me almost feel like I was laying next to her. While the detectives were inspecting the crime scenes, the camera was significantly unsteadier than other scenes like when they’re in the police station, this added authenticity to the film.
    I also liked how Inspector Park and Inspector Suh switched philosophical places in the end. Park starts off indifferent to the rules and procedures, while Suh is chained to them. Park plants evidence to try to convict a suspect as well as forces them into a confession. Inspector Suh bases his whole investigation on rules and paperwork. I thought the movie’s ending with them almost becoming one another was good closure especially since the murderer was never found.

  • Seni Membreno

    I personally thought this film was an amazing example of a very reflective and symbolic movie that did not need an ending to make it a extremely memorable and unique movie. I strongly believe this film was developed in such a way, as to show the frightening limits a human being can go. This shows the limits from both sides the spectrum from inspector Seo almost losing his mind at the end, along with my favorite scene from the movie. What I refer to is the scene where the murder was up on the tree seeing two potential victims to attack and to the audience surprise, he picks the little school girl to attack and murder. I believe there was a major symbolic meaning behind this to show how monstrous a human being can potentially be all while leaving a scar to remember the movie by in each viewers mind. I believe overall this movie was created to show harsh limitations the average person may look past as not possible as it continued to shock the audience throughout each scene as the story progressed and got darker. For this reason I find this film extremely unique and strongly sentimental but over all carries a genius concept and message behind it all.

  • Nishat C

    This is so far my very first foreign (sk) film that I have watched and I have to say has definitely opened up my interest in them. Most definitely one of my favorites now. The way this movie was made felt as if you were there in the presence of everything happening. It was very overwhelming with so much going on which kept your attention to keep wondering who was the murderer. Even though these were foreign actors their expressions and acting skills made it so much more interesting to watch and actually able to understand what was going on. You felt the tension, the parts that were also made to be funny. E.t.c the director did an amazing job having a little taste of everything in the film. On another side note I feel that this movie showed a political side to it kind of showing how in countries like these there is so much like these rapes and murders happening to young women and children and nothing can be done about it because either the government is corrupt or the police is. Lots of people are able to “get away” with such acts because the government isn’t stable or advanced enough to perform such ways to actually find a person as America would have the technology to find. I feel that many law enforcement officers e.t.c find a person to blame or torture as showed in the film just to get the case over with and put innocent people in jail. And of course without much evidence to even go on park and suh had nothing to go on with catching the real killer even though he was right in their hands. Which was such an intense part of the movie because you have some hope while watching it that either they could just catch the killer or just kill him towards the end. Such a great scene. The director did an amazing job pointing out many things in the film but putting it in a way that isn’t as direct. Definitely a great movie that kept my attention 110%.

  • Maria Reji

    Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder and the message of police brutality!!!

    Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder is the first Korean film I ever had seen. Personally, I think this film is great in respect to plot, character developments, camera movements, building suspense and climax. One of the problem addressed in the film is the police brutality in South Korea to innocent people during 1980s. This movie particularly gives two examples of innocent people who were arrested as suspects of the crime and were later released as thy were not guilty. Park No-Shik, the handicapped character, who was arrested by detective Park was subjected to a lot of cruel brutality from Detective Cho with his army boots. Detective Park even created a fake evidence with Park No-Shik’s shoes to prove the case. Park No-Shik was made to dig his own grave to confess the truth. Another example of police brutality in this film includes the interrogation of Jo Byeong-Sun. He was also brutally abused by Detective Cho and as hung upside down from the ceiling during the interrogation. He was forced to take the responsibility of the entire crime. These two examples show how brutal police were to the innocent people during that era. It is ironical in a way because even though, these detectives used all these brutal techniques to suspects, they were not able to find the actual person who did all of these murders.
    The scene that I really liked was the amputation of Detective Cho’s-the legs he used to kick innocent people had to be removed. This scene is a great irony! I also liked the climax because the story was kept the same as the reality. This film will be not powerful as it is now if the climax was changed. This film is also a masterpiece for cinematography and having a great cast.

  • michael speck

    Bong the director of Memories of Murder has a keen eye for shooting a film. Bong has the ability to make a scene go from 0-100 in a matter of seconds. My favorite scene in Memories or Murder is the chase with all three detectives (Park, Seo, Cho) and the suspect. That scene starts off very quite with Seo revisiting the crime scene. He then hears something, takes cover to find that Park and Cho are also revisiting the crime scene. Before Seo can confront the two detectives another person comes to the crime scene. At this point all three detectives have taken cover to see this who is revisiting the scene, its a man who begins to jack off where to corpse was found. Cho then steps on a branch making there presents known and like that the chase starts; it happens so quickly that i actually jump. That whole five minute scene is shot so well that if makes the viewers feel that Bong has shoot films for a lifetime. Bong also does a excellent job in showing how the case affects the personalities of Park and Seo. Park character starts of being kinda of a superstitious know it all that use a physically confrontational methods of interrogation. Seo’s character is a peaceful detective who uses reason to solve crimes. At the end of the movie Seo is trying to kill an innocent man over frustration with the case and who the voice of reason in this scene, yup its Park trying to stop Seo. If
    we made these two characters a venn diagram, it would of start of with the middle (similarities) being very small but as each scene passes by that middle would grow and grow. Until you get to the end of the movie where Seo and Park have almost trades places with each other. Last this i’d like to talk about Park and when uses his eye’s to see if someone this a criminal or not. I think its a metaphor for stereotype which is a common problem that all police departments deal with. The way Park “uses his eye’s” fits hand in hand with the definition of stereotyping.

  • Flavio Torres

    I thoroughly enjoyed Memories of Murder just as much as I had with Snowpiercer. Director Bong Joon-Ho is a brilliant man on how he really bring his works of art to life. The subtlety he brings about current issues blends in very well in both film. For example, Snowpiercer is about the divide amongst the classes of the wealthy, the people in the front cars, and the the poor, the people in the back of the train. Where as Memories of Murder portrayed the oppression of South Korea’s people post WWII as they are at war with the North. This gives me a very good insight of South Korea’s history as I am unversed in their history and culture.
    Furthermore, I found Song Kang-Ho’s performance in Memories of Murder just as captivating as his character, Namgoong Minsoo, in Snowpiercer. The sheer difference in his acting styles for both characters is astounding as he plays a mediocre and rash detective in one film and a smart crazy guy who designed the security of the train and is desperate for Kronor, a substance of unknown use till further on in the movie, for himself and his daughter.
    Now I am left wanting to see another film of Director Bong just because he is so damn good at his job.

  • Tazrin Choudhury

    “Memories of Murder” is a true mystery movie. The film did a phenomenal job at taking me along with them on the serial killer case. I love how we also got to experience korean culture from eating together, drinking, and singing karaoke which is a big part of the culture. The film also displayed a lot of patriarchy/ misogyny. Miss. Kwon was very intelligent and figured out the serial killer does killings when a certain song is played on the radio. She also got one of the victims to speak because she made her feel comfortable enough to talk about her experience. Miss. Kwon was a big help although she was just treated as a secretary. It was obvious she did not receive the same amount of respect as the men did. There were also no powerful woman in any of the scenes. The movie is about woman getting raped by a serial killer with strange killing methods and the males in the movie were the ones showing dominance to solve these crime. It was also very ironic that detective Cho had to get the bottom portion of his leg amputated because he was the one that stomped on many of the people who were accused of the crime.Towards the end of the film i understood the title “Memories of Murder” They showed what happened 15 years later and Park still had some of the characteristics he had during the case. When his son was accused of playing video games all night Park wanting him to look him in the eyes. Park use to do this to figure out if someone was guilty or not. He also passed past by one of the locations where the first murder was and stopped to check if anything was there. This clearly shows that a part of him is still not over being a detective and that will always be a part of him.

  • Alisa

    The film ‘Memories of Murder’ is an impeccably crafted political and social commentary on Korea in the turn of the twenty first century. When watching this film there is the plot of the serial killer and the mysterious hints that they leave behind, reminiscent of the moths ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ However unlike the latter film, ‘Memories of Murder’ does not resolve thus leaving the audience as questioning as Detective Park. Is the movie truly about catching a serial killer?

    Perhaps, the most common recurring theme in this film is how the police repeatedly plant evidence on the suspects. Towards the end, Detective Cho is removed from the interrogation room and humiliated by his leg injury. The suspects are so fearful of the police that they are ready to record a confession, knowing well that denying the murder is no use – they will be found guilty and will be executed regardless. The real murder is at the hands of the policemen who are representative of the fascist government. An outsider, Detective Seo, who has experience with the Western world/America is brought to help the detectives only to reverse roles and become the torturer of the last suspect.

    This can be interpreted as a powerful subliminal political message; the representative of American influence (Detective Seo) in the film turned out to be as brutal the Korean. In truth, regardless of government this can be found to be true: the documentation of American police brutality is not as common as that of fascist countries, however similar methods of planting evidence and brutality is strongly prevalent.

    This is dramatically portrayed by the concluding scenes in ‘Memories of A Murder’ as the suspect of the murder, after being violently threatened by Detective Seo chooses to limp into the dark train tunnel in handcuffs, rather than be freed by the detectives. The transformation between the two characters is powerfully portrayed in Detective Seo’s decision to destroy the lawful evidence indicating the suspect’s innocence and Detective Park preventing his colleague from detaining and beating up the suspect.

  • Liz

    Memories of Murder directed by Bong Joon-Ho, 2003, takes place in the 1980s in South Korea. The South Korean New Wave which started roughly in 1999 and is still present to this day is a post example of what is going on historically in South Korea now. However, because Memories of Murder is based in the 1980s, I found that since there was a lack of social media that it added to the detectives struggles to solve the murder mysteries at stake. The plot of the film centers around three detectives. The most well-known and one of South Korea’s most famous Hollywood actors is Song, Kang-Ho. He is known to play a guy with a bit of a dislikeable character personality but it grows on audiences because he has a dry wit about him. Song, Kang-Ho is the lead character of all three detectives and his name in the film is Inspector Park. However, there are two other main character detectives; Inspector Joe and Inspector Suh. Inspector Suh and Inspector Park immediately butt heads and it is a continuing trend throughout the film which was a really attractive dynamic to watch. For example, Inspector Suh is from South Korea and has a four-year college degree unlike, Park. Park is different, towards the start of the film when he questions a witness he has no problem being physical with him while Suh plays by the book. Suh is technical, in my opinion and Park is abstract. The third detective, Joe, is also in my opinion a blend of both Park and Suh’s personalities and approach to solving the murders of women who are killed. The theme is this film isn’t solving a murder crime as much as it is how the problem of unraveling and mystery of a murder can cause havoc on one’s soul. The detectives, all three, are equally disturbed by the end of the film and it shows in different ways. Inspector Joe, who was the most physically abusive to the suspects, loses his leg the one which he so easily kicked people with. The end result was that it was amputated due to someone stabbing a nail into it. Park is disturbed through a transformation. In the very last scene of the film he looks into the camera. It’s the only scene in the film where any character looks the camera directly in the eye. I loved it because filmmakers rarely use that approach. It had a profound effect on me because I felt as if his eyes were trying to say to the audience, “help me understand why this still will forever haunt me.”. Suh is affected too because he starts out playing by the book but towards the end of all the climatic scenes that this film takes you through he turns out the way Park was in the beginning. During the scene when he, the main suspect and Inspector Park are standing under the railway tunnel on the tracks in the rain, I literally thought Suh was going to blow his brains out with the gun. Suh sees that the documents of the DNA do not match his prime suspect and Park has to stop him from shooting the suspect. This is another example of how Bong Joon-Ho is very skilled at making the audience feel like isn’t a move, like it is reality. This film was based on true events and he did a fine job representing that. Finally, Miss Kwon, added a key element of sexism to this film because she is a female detective on the job who is very successful at bringing many insights to light but the men in this film belittle her and like you said in class, tell her to go fetch them coffee. She was able to find the song pattern on the radio, interviewed a woman who had been attacked brutally by the mystery murder and she found the address to the man who request the song all along. All of the detectives, including their higher up don’t credit or even seem to have the capacity to acknowledge her technic. I would watch this film again because I enjoyed it and because there is so much too process I feel as I want to being a movie fan.

  • Suanne Rayner Global Cinema

    Memories of Murder (2003) Bong Joon-ho Director
    This memory of a movie was a bit unsettling for me. Its like a scary movie where the dead thing keeps on coming back to life. This film directed by Bong Joon-ho was based on a true story of a serial killer in the remote agricultural province, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi in Korea. Beginning in 1986 women started coming up missing were found bound,gagged,raped and murdered all over the place.The police in the area were ill equipped for the gruesome trail of murders in which they encountered. Also technology had not caught up with this remote area, so forensics were not readily available. The case frustrated the police, mostly because the murders happened during rainstorms, washing away the evidence. The film tells the story of the relationships between the police who were involved in discovering the murders and trying to solve the case, which is still unresolved.
    The film starts out with a chartreuse color of the rice paddy as far as the eye can see, a young kid looks around to see the whole scene opening up to what becomes the first and last memory for Dectective Park.
    His beatdown partner Detective Cho (Jo) and the volunteering voice of reason from the big city Detective Seo (Suh) from Seoul.Together they look at hundreds of potential criminals spending years trying to figure out who did this.
    During the film, we see how police brutality is a common thing for Detective Park and Cho, while the newcomer doesn’t approve of their methods. We also see in the background the military presence, and with the help of Detective Cho, any uprisings are squashed with the stomp of his boot. Ironically, after being reprimanded for kicking the wrong guy, in a drunken fight Cho prepares to smash a woman he is dragging by the hair, when one of his victims, hits his stomping leg with a piece of wood embedded with a rusty nail, soon his leg becomes infected. We are lovingly shown the combat boots as his friend, Park must sign for his gangrenous leg has to be amputated. He laments of his brutality especially after the key witness is killed by a train and the demise of Detective Cho’s boots that will never kick anyone else. However, as the brutal officers became less brutal the voice of reason became increasingly frustrated picking up the bad habits of his associates.
    This film also speaks volumes about women, with the main theme of abuse, rape, and murder. 10 women were killed, one got away to tell a few things about him, The woman detective Miss Kwon found a few key facts and went places they couldn’t to uncover the few facts of the crime.
    While viewing the film, I could see how hard it must have been to attempt to catch this killer. The vast area of land and when the local police force needed help there was none because of a political uprest. I thought perhaps the number 9 meant something, that was probably his 9th victim. Or the color chartreuse, which stems from something called a chart house where monks make this green liquor (a case for no hair and soft hands). Perhaps one of the monks nearby could have been the killer.Maybe someone from that quarry who oversaw the village women as they came and went. Just like the scene where the killer hiding in the tree had to choose which woman he wanted, the possibilities were endless, leaving the film in the same color it began, with a kid and only a memory.

  • Ryan Stillmaker

    Memories of Murder. What a great movie. I love how from the very beginning of the movie starts with detective Park looking at the first murder. For me it got me engaged from the that on. They’re trying everything they can for the murder scene to not be destroyed but you see kids playing around and the one lead they were going to get was a foot print in the mud but a tractor runs it over. All three detectives (Park, Jo, and Suh) I feel they were all playing a cat/mouse type of game. When you think they have the person that commits the murders detective Park comes in and tells detective Park and Jo to let them go because they’re innocent. It felt the two felt helpless and the pressure from higher command to find its killer. They would torture and beat up the people they thought were connected to the murders. I’ve noticed each person they bring in and beat up more and more press would show up. They tried a lot of things out of the box to catch the killer, a cop dressing as a woman, detective Park going to a voodoo woman. Watching this you would of never guessed the span of these murders were five years. Felt just under a year. Another interesting point I noticed was later on detective Park is no longer in Law Enforcement but working as a salesman selling juicers but going through the country he pulls over to the spot from the beginning where he was at the first murder scene. I just found it interesting detective Park started and ended the movie in the same spot.

  • Sean McLennan

    Something that is very important to understand, from a cinematic standpoint, is how S. Korean New Wave films were able to bring refreshing elements to “well-worn genres,” as you put it. What has impressed me most about S. Korean cinema is the directors ability to connect a story using various components of genre. Memories of Murder is special in many ways, but what made it so remarkable was Bong’s ability to tell a serial killer thriller within a piece of S. Korean history. Suspense unfolds throughout this film, but intertwined is a reality that many people of S. Korea faced at this time. There are specific scenes in the film that paint a portrait of life in S. Korea under military leadership at the time. You get the sense that there is some sort of conflict when the civil defense drill broadcasts early on in the film. Also reminding us of the climate of the times were the tanks riding through the streets while people rioted and the schools trained the children to be medics in case of an attack or emergency. In one specific scene, the sergeant (detectives superior) claims that he can not call for backup because all the other officers were out suppressing a demonstration. This spoke to the lack of help these detectives were able to receive at times of great importance to their investigation. These scenes were equally as important to the director and story as much as the scenes involving the murders. It created a realistic setting for this story to reside in (after all it is based on a true story).

    There’s two elements to this film that I thought were extraordinary. The first being the actual progression of the story and the second being the characters. The film begins with a heavy component (dead body) but cut short due to the young boy mocking detective Park. The first half of the film introduces each character and their qualities. There’s a lot of humor mixed into this wacky investigation style that Park brings to the table. The way he operates is humorous and non-professional to say the least. This is counterbalanced by Detective Suh’s intelligence and rationality. In between Detective Jo is a hothead who just acts rather than thinks. As the film goes on, things get pieced together and Park becomes a bit more refined, while Suh becomes aggressive and emotional. The personality shifts, along with the suspense of the clues narrowing this investigation down literally had me at the edge of my seat. All to find out that it didn’t match up in the end and your left with this hole in your heart and two words stuck in your head, “plain” and “ordinary.” Detective Park had this natural charm and was very funny. This is an ongoing theme with these characters cast in these S. Korean films that just attracts you to them. Whether it is Detective Park, Detective Woo in Nowhere to Hide, Kang-Jae in Failan, Sergeant Oh in JSA, they all are naturally funny, wacky, natural, and charismatic.

    The technical aspects of this film are what rounded Memories of Murder out perfectly. Bong made it very intentional to have a large percentage of this film shot using wide shots. The wide shots allowed you to see beautiful yellow tall grass fields, rainy green fields, acres of hay fields, an extremely large working plant, and a heated fight scene in a small restaurant. Within even the confined spaces, such as the police station the camera shot always viewed the whole room and didn’t keep focusing on any single character (like a lot of Hollywood films). The wide shots really give the viewer a sense of the surroundings and how each character interacts within them. There were also a lot of mysterious shots of the serial killer which created a lot of suspense. My favorite being a shot taken of the killers back holding his hand over the surviving victims mouth (standing in between what looked like two plastic greenhouses) as a biker rides by in the rain. It is a quick shot lasting no more than two seconds, but it was chilling. These types of shots, the characters, the story line, and the history setting created a superb synergy within Memories of Murder.

  • Ghina

    I loved this movie because it’s based on a true story, which is really interesting.
    It’s really sad that they didn’t know who is the killer and it’s really depressing. This movie is really real! I liked detective Seo personality, and how calm and smart is he, and at the end he changed and started to be different because he really wanted to know who is the killer, but sadly he failed, even though his really experienced in his filed. Even though detective Park is really not that smart about his job but he works hard to know who is the killer and his really passionate about it. Detective Kim seemed really aggressive, but at the same time you he does really want to know who is the killer even if he want to kill the person. At the end the detectives thought that Park Hae in the train scene is the the killer, but they found They received the DNA from America which proved that was not him. But honestly I think that he is the killer because some serial killers are intelligent and they can do everything to hide the evidence.

  • Fiona Prieto

    Screening Report – Memories of Murder
    Since switching to the South Korean New Wave, I have found that, as of yet, Memories of Murder is my favorite movie. Not just the acting is fantastic, but also the way the director, Bong Joon-ho, tells the story, with details which are small but have an impact on the audience and have a hidden message. As Mr Smith pointed out in his essay, this movie resembles “a murder mystery but only as a means for conveying a far reaching social critique of S. Korea in the past as well as the present”.
    The movie is based on real events, and there was a serial killer in a small Korean town. And the murders took place over a longer period of time than was being portrayed in the film. The main characters are three detectives trying to catch the killer. But you can see where “Bong’s point is not to put his characters through the paces of a routine plot but rather to paint a trenchant of life under a military dictatorship in the mid-1980s”. For example, women were seen as inferior and Mr. Smith points out in his essay that Officer Kwon, a female member of the police department is discriminated against and when she presents the knowledge that the murders all take place on rainy nights, against the backdrop of the same song, they all somehow dismiss her and tell her to make more coffee.
    Towards the end of the film, Bong makes another connection with the ending of the dictatorship. He points out that Detective Cho’s leg had become infected and must be amputated. Mr. Smith explains that “symbolically, the repressive era has finally come to an end, but the haunting scars remain”.
    Like the other films from this genre that we have watched so far, all of them have some sort of hidden message or idea, as well as having a plot to go along with it.

  • Sharon Kim

    Memories of Murder was an interesting movie based on a true story. Similar to JSA, this movie was something that the Korean people could easily relate to because of the fact that it happened in real life and the murderer was still on the loose – not to mention, still on the loose. However, the plot line is not the only thing that was interesting and keeping the audience focused. Rather, the character’s role, personality, and moral beliefs were what allowed the story to keep flowing. Interestingly enough, as mentioned in the article above, Detective Park, Detective Jo, and Detective Suh all had different methods of finding out the truth – or forcing out the truth, or forcing the truth on another person – and yet their methods seem to switch towards the end of the movie (similar to Nowhere To Hide). Another interesting idea portrayed in the movie is about the role of women. Kwon, the only female on force, perfectly depicts the inequality of women at the time. Though today, women are indeed still treated unfairly to a certain degree, it is not as nearly as bad as it was back then. Women back then were seen as objects and almost as eye-candy. Therefore, Kwon even working on the force would be quite a shocker to most. The part that truly had me thinking was when Detective Jo had his leg cut off. Very brutally he beat innocent people and as bad as this may sound, all I could think of was how he probably deserved to get his leg cut off for using it in such a way (though, Detective Park’s sadness of his comrade getting his leg cut off did pull back some of that thought). Overall, this movie was very eye opening – literally at the end when Detective Park stares right back – and it truly gave me the goose bumps on the fact that the murder is still on the loose. Bong Joon-Ho made sure to carry the point across that the murder is still out and about.

  • Romeo Suarez

    This film had many elements that made it one of the best S. Korean New Wave films that we have seen so far. Bong Joon-ho seems to combine certain styles of previous S. Korean films, like J.S.A. with its focus on real tension between the border, Memories of Murder focuses on the first discovered serial killing case in S. Korea. Bong Joon-ho shows how inexperienced Detective Park and Jo are when it comes to dealing with such a case, by having them show off their emphasis on police brutality and forcing a confession, with scenes similar to the more comedic brutality in Nowhere to Hide. As the viewer we can see exactly what the police force is focused on, solving the case, right or wrong, showed by Detective Park and Jo taking a picture with their boss for the newspaper. Not until Detective Suh speaks up to the boss do we get the classic, detective slowly piecing together the case style of film, and someone focused on finding the true killer. Later on we find out that while Park and Jo have no experience with serial killings, after asking Suh if he had seen anything like this back at his previous work area, he responds to also having no experience with this sort of case. This becomes important later as we currently see the difference in work styles, with Park and Jo focused on violence and filling the gap, while Suh wants to follow the book and complete the case correctly and honestly. Eventually, we reach the point where Jo goes through surgery and has his leg amputated, signifying the end of excessive police brutality, as covered in the review. This connects to the following scene, where Park and Suh are fighting over the results of the test, and showing their swapped work methodologies. Suh has been consumed by the case, always following the facts and evidence, and when he is finally convinced that he has the murderer, it is disproved by the test results from America. This is the one time that Detective Suh ignores the evidence, and turns to physical violence to gain a confession, eventually trying to kill an innocent man himself. Park on the other hand, has learned to follow the facts, and has become a more rational person that can use more than his fists to solve a case, something Detective Suh once was, and tries to stop Suh’s blind rage and frustration. This scene is, again similar to Nowhere to Hide, set in heavy rain, with scuffles between the three characters as we see how Suh has become completely corrupted, and are waiting in suspense as to whether Suh will actually go through with murder. Previously, the film had a steady pace, with some exciting chase and murder scenes, but this ending scene is one of the longest, most suspenseful, high stress sections of the film. We know that the results are true, we know that the murderer is still out there, and we hope that Suh realizes this and regains composure. It ends with Suh firing his gun into the tunnel, almost killing an innocent man as he walks away into the darkness, never to be seen again, and as the viewer, we become disappointed with Suh. Both detectives have the same experience with these types of cases, and Park started off leaning towards violence, but after Suh fires and fails to kill, we are disappointed with his actions, understanding that he behaved in an immature manner for a detective. Bong Joon-ho ends the film with a true, open end of no murderer being found, sticking with the real outcome of the case, and we are left with a sad, and if watching at the time in S. Korea, frightening mood as we will never know who the culprit was.

  • Nadia

    Since beginning the South Korean New wave, I have to say this film has been my favorite so much so, that I watched it again.

    Memories of Murder directed by Bong Joon-ho’s. As mentioned by professor Smith, this movie followed a serial killer during a time of military dictatorship. This film is so much more than just a movie about murder, the film paints “a trenchant portrait of life under a military dictatorship in the mid-1980s” that helps “conveying a far-reaching social critique of S. Korea.” For example, Michael Smith points out that part of the reason that the law enforcement isn’t able to catch the killer is because they have “been spread too thin as a result of having to quell political protest.” This is evident in the scene where Detective Parks girlfriend and the school girl are walking through the forest area and the camera cuts to scenes of a military shut down. You know one of these women will be the killers next victim, yet what makes this scene chilling is that no one in that town will be able to help because they are all being mandated inside by the military drill happening at that time. The movie also critiques the military dictatorship style that has taken over the police department treatment of suspect. This is clear when you see Detective Cho going to great, illegal, measures to try to get confession and information. From kicking suspects to hanging them, beating them, and obtaining false confessions. Eventually Detective Cho gets tetanus from being pierced by a nail and has to get a below the knee amputation, which is symbolic to the end of the military dictatorship.

    The actors in this film were absolutely outstanding, Song Kang-ho played a great blindly ignorant detective, who for most of the movie, has outrages theories about how to catch the killer as well finding things out of pure luck, such as when he happened to be by the murder scene and the guy with the red underwear appears there as well as when he catches him in the large mining factory, or when he finds out details about the scene from the guys with a mental disorder. Yet, Song Kang-ho performance stand out in the scene where Detective Park and Detective Seo have their last suspect by the train tunnel. He looks like a real detective would look like after a long pursue of this killer to only find another victim and an inconclusive blood test from the US. The second and most important performance is the ending as he stares into the camera and towards to audience in a panic and devastating look. A look that says “I was so close, and he was just here, if only id stopped by ealier”. Kim Sang-kyun performance as Detective Seo was very captivating. His transformation from this knowledgeable, cool and collective detective to a distraught and impulsive detective is very well captured.

  • Tomasz Bereszynski

    Memories of the Murder, is one of my favorite movies of the South Korean New Wave. This crime or thriller film made by Bong Joon-ho made the viewer guess who the real killer was. The filmmaker Bong Joon-ho leaves the film open ended so the viewer never finds out who the killer is. Bong Joon-ho’s plot line was amazing making the film really interesting to watch.
    I enjoyed the evolution of Detective Park’s character. Like the article said, in the beginning of the film Detective Park used his brutal strength to make people confess to crime. While on crime scenes Detective Park was really clueless on what he was doing. Detective Park also did not like Detective Soe when he joined the force from another agency. Their style of policing was totally different. Detective Soe was strictly by the book while Park was brute force. Through out the movie Detective Park and Soe’s personalities began to change. In the end of the movie Detective Park become calmer while Detective Soe lost his composure. In the end of the movie when the DNA results come in Detective Soe did not want to believe the results. He was set on killing the man who he thought was the killer. Detective Park on the other hand believed the DNA results and was trying to stop Detective Soe from killing the innocent subject.
    The article also talked about South Korea’s social commentary of female inequality. In the movie, there was only one female police officer. She was regularly discriminated against and treated like a secretary. The female officer turned out to be really smart. She discovered that the killer murdered every time a certain song came on. I really enjoyed watching this movie.

  • Joseph Lee

    Memories of murder are one of the most popular films among Korean thrillers. It was a movie based on the motif of “Mars serial murder” in which 10 women were murdered from 1986 to 1991. The ‘Mars serial murder’ is a case in which 1.8 million police officers have been put in and 3,000 suspects have been investigated, yet the killer has not been caught. This is a movie I had a great time in before. I think this film shows how scientific investigation is important in solving the problem of murder. Our country, where scientific investigation is not done well, shows you how the cops at that time solve the case. Police officers telling people on board a suspect line to speak with violence. Perhaps in these days, police might be sued if they do this. And despite the persistent efforts of the detectives, the killer does not leave any traces.
    Also, in this article, it says “Detective Cho’s leg is infected with gangrene and has to be amputated below the knee — a clever way for Bong to show, symbolically, that a politically repressive era has finally come to an end,” and I did not realize this after I watched the movie. Now, I feel like more clean because I could not understand why the creator put that scene in the movie. I just thought he loses his leg because he got what he deserved. Anyway, even though, I watched it was my second times to watch this movie, it was the great movie. I wish I just wanna see that if the real murder is alive, so I can find him and punch.

  • Ayush Syal

    Memories of murder is one of the finest South Korean movies and my favorite movie from the South Korea wave. This film was really intense as it was full of action, thrill, and complex plot. It was based on a real life event which happened in S Korea called “Mars serial murder” where 10 women were killed year 1986 until 1991 and the killer for all these murders was never caught. In S Korea murders and killing didn’t really happen until this event. The director, Boon Joon ho’s movie was similar to JSA in certain ways as they both were real life story based and the people in S Korea could really understand the movie well as it was real and with the usage of amazing acting from the characters. Detective Park, Suh, and Jo all had their own ways of getting the truth from the people that they arrest or confess with. As the movie goes, their behaviors and characteristics change throughout the movie. As Mr smith mentioned in his essay that females were not given much respect and treated unfairly in that era and still are at certain extent. For example, when Kwon, the only female in office, who mentioned that the murders are happening when it rains in the dark and when the song plays in the radio, they ignored her and told her to get some more coffee . All the three detectives tried to do whatever they could’ve to find the killer, but that showed the political views as it lacked the quality of the police in S Korea as so many murders happened and nothing was found. Park had this one thing where he would say that he could tell which one is the killer and which one is innocent just by looking at them. I liked how he changed as a character from the beginning till the end but his habit of telling if someone is lying to him or not just by looking at them didn’t go away because he used that same idea on his son when he is with his family. The movie ended up being unsolved and not finding the actual killer. But it ended up making Park not be in law but he switched to be a salesman and have a more relaxed life and live with a family. Overall this movie was fantastic, loved every bit of it; would highly recommend to friends to watch it.

  • Jessica Zotoiu

    Memories of Murder by Bong Joon-Ho is a murder mystery film that is based on a true story and so far is one of my favorite of the South Korean movies we have watched in class. I enjoyed the film because of its story but also because of its critique of the police forces in South Korea at the time. Three of the main characters are all detectives, Park, Cho, and Seo. Both Detective Park and especially Detective Cho showed violent and brutal methods of extracting information from suspects – or at least attempting to extract information. An example of the lousiness and unprofessionalism of these cops is at the beginning of the film. They struggle to clear a crime scene or preserve any of the evidence. There are children running around the field and a man ruins the only valuable piece of evidence they had by running over it with his tractor. The only detective that appears to have any sense is detective Seo. He comes across as smarter than the two we also find that he disapproves of the brutal tactics Park and Cho have. However, we see a change at the end of the film. Detective Seo becomes the brutal one while Park becomes more understanding. There are a few other critiques and messages that are a little more subtle. Detective Cho’s main method of extracting information from suspects was by covering his boot with a shower cap and kicking them mercilessly. Near the end of the film, Cho has to have his leg amputated and there is a shot of his shoes on the ground, one of which has a shower cap on. This was a subtle message meant to represent change and an end to the political environment of military dictatorship in South Korea in the mid 1980s. Another subtle message the film shows its audience is through Miss Kwon. The other cops only seem to need her when they want coffee and just dismiss her and don’t believe that her ideas are any good, when in fact she is more useful than any of the three detectives combined. Miss Kwon is more involved and better at finding solutions to the investigation than any of the other detectives and is never given any credit. This critique shows that women in South Korea need to be given more recognition and need to be seen as just as hardworking and reliable as their male counterparts. My favorite scene in the entire film has to be the end scene. I enjoy how it parallels the beginning of the movie with the same main character and same setting. While I was upset that it was an open ending and upset with the little girl’s description of the murderer as “ordinary” and “plain looking”, I still enjoyed it because it is realistic. In reality, not all murder cases are going to be solved and a lot of murders do in fact look like normal, everyday people. Detective Park looking directly into the camera before the end credits of the film is incredibly symbolic, giving the message that the murderer may still be out there. And if you were an audience member watching this film in a crowded theater, the idea of the murderer looking normal and ordinary becomes even more chilling when you look around you and realize he could be anywhere.

  • Leila Music

    Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder was really an amazing movie. From the begining when detective park saw the first victim i found it very interesting that their was a little boy intimidating him. Maybe it ment that park was still knewish to the whole thing, still learning to become a better detective. Throughout the movie, you can really tell that it was ment to be a murder movie, but their were little peices of comedy and suspense. For the comedy part, when the detectives would all throw themselves on someone they think was the preditor always made me giggle a bit. Their were many more comical scenes but I just cant seem to remember them at the moment. Their was one very suspenseful scene that…if im being honest, I kinda jumped in my seat haha. It was the scene of when the one woman was in the rain walk I g through a feild with an umbrella. The camera is show I g a long shot of her to the right side of the screen as a figure of a man pops up from the grass (she didnt see him at all). What made this scene very suspenseful was the sharp music that played so damn loud when he popped his little head from underneath! Anyways, the movie in general was quiet a mystery, the fact that the detectives were try g to found out who the murder was and trying to stop him at all cost. I found it chilling that they figured out that a murder happened ever time it rained at night with the same song playing. In the end, Park went to the same scene from the beginning, but this time it was a little girl that began questioning him. Its invredible how the movie started and ended with the same scene, but i only wonder what the little boy and little girl mean..

  • Joseph Vettom

    Memories of Murder is an outstanding murder mystery filled with beautiful shots of the South Korean setting and innovative filming techniques, but I think the movie’s greatest accomplishment was mixing the plot, which was based on a true story, with greater philosophical ideas. Memories of Murder, directed by Bong Joon-ho, was made with several truths beyond the plot like the importance of women in society and the benefits logical thinking, but as stated in the article the main purpose of the movie was to convey a far-reaching social critique of South Korea in the past as well as the present. Bong Joon-ho made a movie about the repercussions of the changes in systems of governments, when South Korea was changing from a military dictatorship to a democracy. The movie’s main character was Detective Park, played by Song Kang-ho, who certainly did play the character brilliantly. Detective Park seemed to stand in for the people of South Korea that found success or adapted to a new life after the transition of governments. At first, he was like Detective Cho, played by Kim Roe-ha, a static violent character that wants the case to be over and only knows how to use force to accomplish his goals. Detective Cho was the old way of doing things, whereas the character of Detective Seo represented the new way. Detective Seo, who was played by Kim Sang-kyun, had a personality that slowly influences Detective Park throughout the movie. Detective Seo pursues his goals with logic and good ideas from any source, but even though there is significant progress made, he cannot solve the case. When he reaches a possible solution to the case, Detective Seo methods are not enough to end the case and he resorts to the old forceful way, but Detective Park intervenes and maintains Detective Seo’s integrity. Detective Park ability to change makes him a likable character, but also demonstrates how South Korean people who shared his quality to adapt and accept an unresolved conflict could make it in the new society. It also shows how the two hardline detectives are fallible in their own ways, much like the systems of government, but Detective Park, like the people of South Korea, would have to be the moral guide that leads to a proper ending. Perhaps not an entirely satisfying ending but satisfying to those that can accept an ending where justice is second to morality. Like the people of South Korea, Detective Park would be haunted by everything that happened in the past; South Korean people cannot forget their memories of changing from a dictatorship to a democracy, and Detective Park cannot forget the memories of murder.

  • Doug Winkler

    Memories of Murder
    Bong Joon-ho, 2003
    A good film will have something that you will remember after you leave the theater. A favorite scene, a song you can’t get out head or a piece of dialog that will get misquoted “Play it again, Sam.” In Bong Joon-ho film “Memories of Murder” you can take home a sleepless night. Based on a true story of S. Korea first serial killer. There are two scenes that had me awake. The first, a young girl is seen with her arms and legs tried behind her back. Her mouth gaged and she does not struggle as the murderer carries her through the woods. It is very short scene easy to miss but in the back of my mind, I am thinking it like the way a hunter may carry a deer he just killed. The second is ate the end were Park no longer a detective visit the first crime scene. He breaks the fourth wall as he looks at the audience and warning us that the killer is still out there. That fourth is there to keep us safe, it’s there so when we leave we can say, “It’s only a movie”. Taking it away said that the boogieman is real you can’t hide behind that shroud of disbelief.

  • abdullah

    Memories of Murder directed by Bang Joon-ho (2003), this one of my favorite movies that we watched in class, because it based on true story. Even it was kind of scary movie and I hate scary movies. one of the shots that I like is when the two girls were walking and cross each as it is the last time that they can see each other, while the young girl got killed by an unknown person. at the beginning of the scene I like how that little kid at the farm started copying everything that detective Park was saying. Detective Park was brainless detective he doesn’t know what he was doing. he thinks that he was right for investigating people in a hard way. While Detective Cho he was known by a mean person and he just wants the case to be done but it never ends. The Chief always thought that Detective Park and Cho are doing the right thing for investigating with suspects. In fact, the girl Kwan was always thinking of a positive ways of thinking about how to find evidence and how to catch the murder, but they always treats her like she doesn’t know anything rather than making coffee and tea for them. When detective Suh came to town to help them find the right murder, at first they didn’t follow him and they think that he was stupid and cannot think. He and Park always fight, because they thought that one of them are thinking of stupid solutions. Detective Park and Cho was forcing people to say that they did the murder where it ends up releasing them with no evidence after they beat them up for nothing. Baek-Kwang-ho was a person with mental problem where he ends up killing himself by standing in front of train, because of how hard detective Cho and Park was on forcing him to tell them who was the murder. Detective Cho he got his leg trimmed, because he got gangrene from a fight in a coffee shop by getting stabbed in his legs by Baek-Kwang-ho. Detective Suh at the beginning of the movie was a smart person and always thought of positive solutions, but at the end of the movie when the DNA got back from America with no name on it, he got very frustrated and he almost killed the suspect with no evidence, while Detective Park had to wake up on himself and realize that all the investigating part that he was doing was very wrong. So that being said Detective suh is now Detective ark and Detective Park is Detective Suh. Toward the very end Scene Detective Park was telling his son not to follow his ideas, because all his ideas were idiotic in finding the murder. I really liked how at the end this girl look at Park and asked why he was looking under that little tunnel and that another person was looking under that tunnel a while ago, and that look at Detective Park was very suspicious that she called him an not normal person without knowing that he was the person who was looking at the tunnel before.

  • Osvaldo S

    I really enjoyed “Memories of Murder” by Bong Joon-ho. I liked how it you never really know what was happen next if the killer is going to pop up randomly or if the guy that the police have arrested if the actual killer. Both of the detectives are very unique and they play a very vital role throughout the film. Detective Cho and Park who are seen as the harsher of the three in my opinion, they are seen beating the truth out of the suspects and on the other hand Detective Seo seems to be the nicer one and sometimes quitter, he had the skill looking at someone straight in the eyes and knowing if they were lying or not. I love the fact that the these cops fit the role of good cop bad cop and as we see throughout the rest of the film in a very unique way the three detectives become complete opposite of each other, having Dectective Seo come to his breaking point of frustration and becoming the violent one.

  • Julia

    I LOVED this film. it really opened my eyes and helped me realize cases that I never knew occurred. It is truly upsetting that this was a true story and that the murder cases remain unsolved. I liked how he used symbols that signaled a death was about to happen. The color red was the perfect symbol for death, I thought it was interesting that in the film, when it rained and a specific song played, someone was about to die. Bong was able to make the scenes start off calm then go 0-100 real quick. I admit to jumping at each jump scare. The music played a big role with this film and in each jump scare. My favorite part is when all three detectives are hiding when a man comes to the scene of the crime and begins to jack off with the view of the girl’s underwear. When Cho accidentally steps on a branch, the chase scene begins. Most films would have it go on for one to three minutes, but he made this to be around five minutes. This scene really grabbed my attention because the anticipation and suspense on whether they will catch him or not. The camera movements were phenomenal. This film shows how brutal police were to innocent people. They committed all these abuse techniques yet could not find the actual killer. It seemed very ironic to me.
    An example of the police brutality was the interrogation of Jo Byeong- Sun. He was hung upside down and was abused and was forced to make a confession to a crime he did not committee. As the search continued, more and more pressure occurred towards the suspects. It was upsetting to see Detective Cho get his leg amputated..Even though it was used in the wrong and for abusive tactics, I really enjoyed watching his jump kicks. It made me laugh honestly but it showed how easily he got angry and had anger issues. This film was suspenseful and frustrating because we never found out who the murderer was or when the dramatic music would take place. I was shocked when both Detective Park and Seo switched roles. Seo became more violent when the results did not match while Park was frustrated yet remained calm.
    The Motto in the beginning was Documents never lie, and at the end he claimed he did not need the documents, that they were a lie. This film targets the problem with women, who were raped, murdered and abused. 10 innocent women died, while one woman who was smart enough not to look at him escaped death and was able to tell her story. I loved how it started out in a yellow field and ended with him in the same spot. When he looks at the camera and the film ends it symbolized that the search for him was not over and he was not going to give up. I really wish this was not based on a true story, the open ending is killing me, but my heart goes out to the families who never had the chance of getting closure.

  • Isaac Choo

    Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder was a movie that I can never forget. Memorable soundtracks, memorable characters with great actors and actresses, and fact it’s base on true story made this movie so memorable. The movie showed how S.Korea was like when the country was controlled by military instead of democracy. The citizens were on strike against government; therefore most of polices were on duty of stopping citizens from strikes, and that ended up limiting local police to investigate real crimes. By showing some scene of police were being aggressive, Bong was able to portrait how the Polices were also criminal but protected by government. Throughout the movie, I was dying with frustration where they have so much limited resources and always lose their opportunity to catch the murderer. Especially last victim scene in the movie made me go crazy and very upset. It was little girl on her way to home targeted by murderer. Once per week S. Korea required citizen safety drill where everyone had to turn their light off and stay inside of their house. The drill was supposed to protect the citizens, but it ended up helping the murderer killing little girl.
    The end of this movie gave me feeling that I can never forget. It had very similar ending with The 400 Blows, but personally I thought it was much powerful. The ending was Detective Park staring at camera straight and makes eye contacts with audience of the movie. Bong answered that it was scene to tell us how this murderer is living with us just like ordinary people, and he might be next to us without us knowing.

  • Meagan McCarthy

    Memories of Murder by Bong Joon-Ho is an incredible murder mystery film that is based off of a true story about a serial killer who was never captured. When this movie aired in 2003, it is showing the time between 1986 and 1991. That was six years of a killing spree and it happened to all women, and it happened to most women wearing red, but always on a rainy day. You think this is a coincidence? I think not. We never find out who did all these crimes, but with how the cops are portrayed in the movie, the crime will never be solved.

    Moreover, Bong Joon-Ho portrays the local cops to be dumb and aggressive. They use aggressive tactics such as beating people to get what they want. The cops want it to be a certain person they had been suspecting, and do everything they can to make it seem that it is the local person who has been requesting the same song. They even send semen samples out to America in order to catch the suspect, but in the end it is a fail for the police. The semen samples did not match with the suspect, and he was released. But even once they find out the results, they still beat the suspect up on the train tracks because they wanted it to be him so badly.

    Lastly, there are a few other critiques within the movie. Detective Cho’s main method of getting information was by covering his boot and kicking people with brutal force. Towards the end of the film, Cho had to get his leg amputated, how ironic? Once again, I think this was intentional of Bong Joon-Ho. There is a scene that shows his shoe when the audience discovers he was getting his leg amputated. Bong Joon-Ho was trying to show a change to an era, an end to a political stance of dictatorship during this time.

    In conclusion, Bong Joon-Ho creates a murder mystery that goes unsolved to bring suspense to his audience that was based on a true story and would bring suspense to Koreans that lived through this time. He uses subtle messages to depict how society was during this time. The government portrayed cops to be just as dumb as seen in many of the movies. The reasons I say the government is behind this is because of the Quota System. The government paid close attention to the movies being aired and as other films have showed such as Nowhere to Hide they depict cops to be aggressive and not smart. Overall, the end of the movie is very changing in the points of views. Like Failan, the movie is gangster film that changes into a melodrama, and just like Memories to Murder it starts off as a murder mystery that has all the parts to solving the mystery, but it concludes with the murder goes unsolved even though any of the audience members were prepared for it to be the suspect the cops had assumed, it wasn’t. And Bong continues to frustrate his audience in that they will never know the truth of who the true murderer was.

  • Anais Deac

    I really enjoyed watching this film. It was very mysterious and had lots of suspense. Whenever watching a film that involves solving a mystery, the automatic reactions is to find out who did it and why. Most films are a cliché, because we the audience have figured it out while the main character has not. The film had an open-ending with no resolution as to who the serial killer was. This also gave me the thought that if the killer had seen the film, that they would consider themselves amazing for having a move written about them. Just like you said, it “frustrated as some viewers….by his ‘open’ ending, Hollywood-style narrative resolution would actually be antithetical to Bong’s true purpose — to emphasize the lingering effects of his characters’ darkest memories of the past upon their present.” This film wouldn’t have had such a great impact if it had a conclusion that everyone would be willing to accept. I also saw how Detective Woo (Nowhere to Hide) and Detective Park (Memories of Murder) were similar. They both were unbelievably stupid, but both wanted to catch the bad guy very desperately. Even Detective Kim (Nowhere to Hide) and Detective Suh (Memories of Murder) were similar. They both started out as the cool headed cops, but as things started to unravel, they started to change and not for the better. This left both of these detectives unhappy at the end of each film. One more thing I would like to add is that both these films (Nowhere to Hide and Memories of Murder) both point out the corruption of the police divisions. When the detectives used torture and underhanded methods to get people to speak, even if they were innocent, it’s made me wonder what it would be like to live in a country like that. I feel very blessed to be able to live in the U.S.A.

  • Patrick Hughes

    Something that stood out to me while watching this film was the foreshadowing of the final murder. When they catch on to the killers pattern our detectives set a trap using their assist and in a red dress on a rainy night on a secluded stretch of road. During this scene we get a perspective of someone watching from the trees, we are led to believe that this is one of the detectives waiting for our killer to spring the trap. but in the final murder we get the same perspective. This lead me to believe that the killer was at the night when the trap was set but left the bait alone. Unfortunately, on the night of the trap, we also learn that this is the path that two school girls take home. These girls, who are always together for safety tell our detectives that they are in no danger when they are together.

    When we return to this road with the killer we are desperate for another conclusion because he has set his sights on detective Park’s wife and we hope something changes so that she won’t die. Change does come but instead of comfort we get increased dread. The killer is not gonna just leave without a victim but we hate both of the possible futures. Both potential victims are known and sympathetic characters to us and safety of one means the doom of the other. When we first met the girl she was safe with her friend but now she is alone and vulnerable and it proved to be a fatal mistake on this particular evening. Seeing as both the potential victims were connected to our detectives its scary to think how horrible detective Park would have taken his girlfriend’s murder. His arc has made him change, but had he been the one to lose himself would all the growth he achieved be undone, I believe so. We don’s see the effects the actual murder has on those closest to the victim but Park had a family with the survivor, he quit and got a new job to support this family and relieve himself of the burden he had undertaken as an officer on this case. I doubt Park would be able to move on had the final victim been his eventual wife. However, as we see at the end he still questions the girl with the hope of closing that dark chapter of his life only to realize he was never even close.

  • Graeme

    I think your mention of Memories of Murder alongside Silence of the Lambs is certainly apt. One of the most striking aspects of the movie for me was the suspense building that Bong Joon-ho employed throughout the run time. I found the murder scene near the factory to be an excellent example of Hitchcock’s bomb under the table idea (if two men at a table suddenly blow up you may get a scare, but if you cut to a bomb with a timer beforehand the same scene builds suspense). Rather than having the murderer come out of nowhere, we are given a lengthy scene of her walking alone in a rural area. At this point in the movie we have recently learned of the significance of rain so we are already on alert. We then get the shot of the “bomb” as the would be victim does a sweep of the field with a flashlight. After the beam passes we can see, in the background and out of focus, a figure rise out of the field and then sink back into it. The rising tension had me on the edge of my seat through the scene and made the payoff that much greater when the killer finally attacked. I think there are certainly many other examples of this tension building throughout the movie such as the interrogation with the final suspect or the detective falling asleep while on watch of the same suspect after release.

    The character development of Detective Park and Detective Seo were also very interesting. Detective Cho (the “bad cop” in of the duo) undergoes relatively little change through the film, still preferring his violent methods even to the end where it costs him his leg, and can be used as a fixed point of comparison for the other two. Even though Park plays the role of the role of the “good cop”, he is still a far cry from a model officer as he is willing to fake evidence and relies on instinct rather than evidence. He is willing to do almost anything to arrest a suspect if his instincts tell him they are guilty and is clearly much closer in method to Cho than Detective Seo is. Seo follows the evidence often stating that “documents don’t lie”. By then end Detective Seo is beating suspects and even says “this document is a lie, I don’t need it”. Meanwhile Park is someone who is no longer sure of guilt by just looking someone in the eyes. The fact that we see Park years later as an even more moderate father and salesman makes me wonder what became of Detective Seo. Did he continue his spiral down to become ever more obsessed and unscrupulous? Much like the identity of the true killer, this is a question that will be left unanswered.

  • Kai Jantsankhorol

    Memories of Murder (2003)
    Bong Joon-Ho

    “Memories of Murder” was made based on a true story, a mysterious murder that was never found during the time of military dictatorship. Bong Joon-Ho did such a great job portraying the South Korean life back then taking the audience through the memories of the serial killer’s case.
    What I really loved about the movie was Bong show the audience what he wants to show without using too much close up, or cut in the middle of a scene. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when they have hangover after celebration. The scene was taken in one take with no cuts, and continues about 5 minutes. While detective Park and Seo was arguing about the case, sergeant Shin comes in and interrupts the story. Before sergeant Shin comes in, we see detective Cho making out in the background and it shifts our focus. For the entire scene, sergeant Shin had to hold his puke waiting for the right moment to shift people’s attention. As you mentioned in the last class, you said “as a director, it is very hard for actors to hold something until the moment”. The whole scene was totally unpredictable kept us guessing and it continually happens through the film such as the scenes when detectives investigating in the forest, when they are eating, and when they are talking. I love the the little details that makes this a great South Korean film, and behind every one of scenes there is so much hard work involved. This is definitely has become one of my favorite films.

  • Oyundari

    Memories of Murder directed by Bong Joon-Ho was a film based on true events that took place in the late 1980s in South Korea, when South Korea was under a military dictatorship. The film’s main focus is as the title mentions, was about “the memories” of murder. Many of the South Korean viewers thought or suspected that Detective Park to be the murderer, seeing as how he returned to the murder scene later and that him being the detective was the reason they never caught him. However, I think they were just desperate to point fingers to anyone to be the murderer so they can rest happy. I loved that you mentioned about the symbolic meaning behind Detective Cho’s leg amputation. Detective Park’s performance was outstanding throughout the film, and exceptionally awe-striking in the last scene. Overall the films greater meaning has a resounding impact on the world in a greater way. I enjoyed the film and appreciated the societal impact.

  • Nathaniel Kanter

    What a chilling movie. For the extensive focus on the plot and characters, It can be easy to forget about the dictator’s regime cancerous indoctrination tainting the course of the movie. It’s as subtle as vinegar in wine, not taking long to spot the problem. Right from the beginning of the movie we see Park struggling to get some order in the crime scene, losing a crucial footprint right at the beginning, and it all goes downhill from there. What’s kept Park from properly doing his job is that we have a small pack of officer support, being drained dry to stop peaceful democratic protest rather than stopping a killer. Park is so hardwired with the objective to get the job done that he’d rather seek an easy way out rather a complete conclusion. Fiction or not, a lot of time was wasted trying to frame innocent suspects rather than of considering alibies or focusing on the information given to them, and it really bites them nearing the end of the investigation when the people they abused will now vehemently reject them and the last possible shot they had to get’s plowed into oblivion. Even the once professional Detective Seo is reduced to the tactics of the dropkicking Jo, and even he by the end of the film can no longer use a tactic that didn’t work to start with. This movie also briefly touches upon gender roles with the men as bumbling drunken fools only to receive sympathy when they have to take a majority of the psychological weight of the issue before them, we the women as although not the only sex to get victimized the only to get ambushed by the killer. It’s subtly displayed that at this time South Korean women are treated as sex and neoteny icons while in juxtaposition by being the few sources of genuine information with Officer Kwan managing to coax that one victim who managed to survived by sheer serendipity. This movie continues to leave haunting scenes of the copious ambushes in the bleak night with the disorienting folk music down to the ending that seems to share an open-ended ending like the “Four Hundred Blows.” but charged with sheer trama rather than leaving the smallest shred of hope.

  • Ale Barrett

    I loved “Memories of Murder”! It is by far my favorite film we have watched in this class. I am into serial killing films and stuff so I think that is why it was my favorite one yet but I also thought it was a good one because you really got everyones different views of the situation and what was going on. I thought it was interesting as well how all the characters had different ways to approach the serial killer. Detective Park, Jo, and Suh all had different ways to look at the suspects and different ways they treated them as well but through the whole movie they learned from each other. At the end of the film Detective Suh was more like Jo and was more rough with situations and was very angry. Detective Park becomes like Detective Suh too during the movie because at the end Park learns how to be calmer about situations and seems to be able to try to understand situations better. One thing that stuck out to me during the whole film was gender rolls and how women are often though to be useless not as smart as men but in the end the women were the ones who were smarter than the men. Miss Kwon and Detective Parks wife( i think) were always suggesting new ideas in the case and always getting overlooked by the men but then Miss Kwon suggests something she has realized about a song playing every time someone is killed on the radio and Detective Suh is the first one to listen and eventually this information from Miss Kwon becomes very useful to the case! Overall I really enjoyed this film it was very interesting and really kept my attention the whole film but one thing I did not like was the ending! I was and still am kind of frustrated about it. I was so shocked that the little girl said something about a man saying he left something there a long time ago and came back to visit, hinting to that he left a body and was back visiting the crime scene, and Detective Park was in shock as I’m sure most of the viewers were too. The ending was the only thing I disliked because I wish they were able to find the serial killer or at least give people some closure about it, but it was a very good film other than the last five minutes.

  • Kate Franks

    “Memories of Murder”, by Bong Joon-ho is an incredibly moving and engaging film. Not because it’s about an unsolved murder mystery (although that does play a part in it), but rather because of Detective Park and Detective Seo’s philosophies. You mentioned that this is the more moving and empathetic part of the story and I couldn’t agree more. Seeing Park go from incredibly violent and aggressive to more logical and almost soft was something I think a lot of people can relate to even outside of the world of law enforcement. And vice versa with Seo, from his logical approach to passionate and aggressive (not unlike Park from the beginning of the film) was also a very moving part because often people can become apathetic or monotonous but there’s always something that ends up striking a cord within us. However, I think the most emotion-inducing part of the film is that in the end, they never find the murderer. It’s clear that both Park and Seo are willing to go to all ends to figure this out, but because of malpractices and a lack of proper technology, they cannot, and it is one of the most devastating parts of the film. Not because we don’t find out who it is, but because Park and Seo don’t. Bong was also incredibly artful with the editing and cinematography of this film. Throughout the whole film it feels as though we are there, in Hwaseong, with the characters and experiencing everything loss and missing puzzle piece with them. These aspects of the film, along with Detective Park and Detective Seo’s personalities and personality flip-flops make the film incredibly relatable, empathetic and emotional. Bong avoided romanticizing the serial killer, instead romanticizing otherwise dislikable characters who, in the end, were following their passions in only the ways they knew how for the time.

  • Max Taddeo

    It was very interesting to see how South Korea handles a cereal killer in Memories of Murder. What I found to be the most interesting was the dynamic between the police. It was obvious from the beginning that each of the three detectives involved in the case had their own ways of going about the job. Detective Suh is the big city cop who frequently talks about how the answers are in the documents and that the documents don’t lie. Park is the opposite where he just looks into the suspects eyes in order to determine guilt and Jo just liked to put the shower cap over his boot and do some old fashioned kicking and stomping on the suspect. All of their commonly used tactics change drastically by the end of the movie. Park and Suh do a flip flop and it becomes Park who believe that the truth is in the documents and Suh believes that he can see the guilt in the eyes of the suspect. Just as these two begin to make their transition into a new style of investigating it is really set off by the loss of Jo’s leg. The leg that Jo had always used to kick the victims eventually has to be amputated and that began the beginning of a new style of police work with new practices and maxims. Another, rather frustrating, part of the movie that stood out was how a majority of the case was solved. All the clues and hints that ever led to anything came from female characters. Their information was often dismissed yet it was always the most important. Without the assistance of the women in this movie they wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere with this investigation. For example, it was Parks wife that informed him of the guy that followed around one of the victims. The girl who receives the band aid tells them to check the outhouse and a woman there leads them to even more information. Perhaps the most important clue that had been observed was the connection between the rain and the song on the radio happening at the same time on the nights of all the murders. Even with this being so crucial to the investigation it may have been the clue that the police were the most dismissive of. If it wasn’t for Suh, who was less old school and from a big city, they may not have ever listened to or taken seriously what Kwon had to say. At first, I thought that she was an assistant or an intern, but it turns out she’s not. Based on their treatment of her it’s hard to believe that she was a police officer but none the less she was, and she certainly deserved more respect than she was given. It’s a shame that’s how they were at the time but at least you could see the beginning of a change in society towards the end.

  • Tania Jacob

    This week we watched Bong Jong-ho’s “Memories of Murder”. This was definitely one of my favorite movies we have watched thus far in the South Korean new wave film era. This was a movie that knew how to keep my attention from beginning to end. I felt like I was watching a Hollywood movie, because it had more a story line than most of the movies we watched in class. We can tell right away that the three detectives are all very different and have methods they want to use to solve the murders. I felt bad for the kid they kept on bullying and putting the blame on. You can tell he was telling a story about something he saw opposed to something he did. My heart broke a little when he died. Also, Detective Cho getting his leg amputated in the end and that was the leg he used to kick all these people with. I found it so cruel and inhumane whenever he would kick someone with his combat boots. Whether they were a suspect or not, they’re still human beings and no one deserves to be treated that way. I agree with you when you mentioned that they didn’t give Officer Kwon any respect and expected her to stay quiet and fetch the other detectives coffee. Officer Kwon was the one who was able to find a big clue among all the murders. You can tell how the female citizens were treated during that era. Young and beautiful women were the target for the murderer. After watching the film, I realized how lucky we are to have equal rights as men and have a voice to speak up compared to many different places around the world where women still don’t have any rights or freedom to this day.

  • Alexander Miehl

    This 2003 film by Bong Joon Ho is, as you said, not just a typical serial killer movie. The fact that we never even find out who the killer was is proof of that. This movie, yes, is a thriller and a crime investigation, but Bong delves into many topics surrounding the main narrative. This type of story-telling is similar to the other two movies we watched, JSA and Nowhere to Hide.

    The main narrative revolves around three detectives, Park, Suh and Jo, who are trying to catch a serial killer in a small village outside of Seoul. Detectives Park and Jo are local cops, and Suh is a detective from Seoul. Very early on it is established that the country cops and city cops have very different styles of operating and interrogating. This is highlighting the rough nature of the government in Korea during their military dictatorship.

    Another interesting aspect that the director explores is the role of women in Korean culture. At the local police station there is only one female police officer. Most of the movie she is just seen in the background or bringing coffee to the other, male, officers. At one point she is used as bait for catching the serial killer. She gets all dressed up and the other officers comment how they didn’t even realize she was attractive. Later on in the movie she digs up some actual evidence in the case when the other detectives are completely stuck on poor ideas. So, instead of women being just for beauty and serving men, they are shown to have actual worth.

    In this film, the local cops have very rough means of getting information from their suspects. This style is similar to the police from Lee Myung Se’s film, Nowhere to Hide, in that it is hard to tell the difference between the police and bad guys. In this film, one person even comments how everyone in the village knows how the detectives are so horrible to the people that are in custody.

    Overall, this movie is a great example of a New Korean Wave director using a familiar movie genre to broach much larger topics.

  • Janet Camacho

    Memories of Murder absolutely took my breath away, and is definitely a film I will continue to watch in the future! The amount of suspense was great, but it still had those small bits to make the audience laugh, like when Detective Cho would jump kick anyone. Also, just the fact that it’s based on true events is bone chilling. The character development was brilliant and it was interesting to see how the detectives slowly turned into each other. It also showed us a bit about how genders are portrayed. As mentioned in the essay above, officer Kwon actually discovered very crucial information, and has good ideas, but the male detectives just don’t take her seriously. They just see her as a receptionist whose ideas are not valid. Although the ending might have some audience members feeing unhappy, it made perfect sense with what actually happened in real life. The murderer was never found, and worst of all, the killer looked so ordinary and just like anyone else. Like we discussed in class, if watching it in a movie theater, it made the audience feel like the killer could’ve been anyone in the room which is so creepy!

  • Rodrigo Garcia

    Memories of murder was an interesting movie as it helped highlight the path towards insanity and that abuse of power showing that even the most moral can go down a path of darkness. Most of us crtisize and abhore the fact that the police manage to pull of some ridiculous stunts abusing power in the manner that they did. Seo served as the image that we all perceive ourselves, being rightous and moral and seemingly brilliant. His transformation to losing himself in the pursuit of the serial killer takes us off our high horse to show us that even the most morally just can be corrupted. Not only that but the Park’s character arc mirroing Seo’s in how they conducted themselves served to show that you can still ascend from that place below to something else. Overall creating a yin yang dynamic both being equal and capable of both side of the coin.

  • crdgirl1

    Bong Joon Ho’s Memories of Murder is an interesting and addictive type of movie. you could watch it so many times and see its many layers peel apart. While the characters were a bit flat they served a purpose to the progression of the movie. Park Doo Man, the no nonsense detective who trusts his gut and only his gut. Seo Tae Yoon, the intelligent young’un who only believes in the numbers, and Choi Young Koo, a man who believes the best form of persuasion is to wipe the floor with the suspect. the tree together is something not so foreign to the west. Were this a normal movie, it would have been on par with any slapstick comedy cop movie we see today. But Bong’s technique and direction allowed for this movie to really shine.

    Along with the other two movies we saw in this class, Memories of murder helps paint a picture of the mentality of people who grew up on 80’s South Korea. All three directors were young enough to have participated in or have their views molded by the Pro democracy protests in the mid-late 80’s. Lee Myung Se and Park Chan Wook would have been in their mid to late 20’s and Bong Joon ho was in his very impressionable late teens. The views of that generation have definitely translated beautifully over to their movies. especially in Memories of Murder during the protest crackdown scene. As shown in the article, this is one of the most impact-full scenes in the movie and for good reason too.

  • Kyle O'Shanna

    Memories of Murder is an intense film that delivers an intense message about South Korea at this time. I completely agree that this film moves in unpredictable directions in ideology and story. The film begins with viewers believing they are going to see a murder mystery or serial killer thriller type film, and while that may be in part true, there are many subtle things happening unrelated to the murders. Bong Joon Ho presents an interesting array of characters and a story that involves these characters transforming and seemingly unimportant characters actually playing large roles. Detective Park is on the hunt to find a killer and he will do this by any means necessary, even attempting to incriminate a local boy who is seen as mentally slow or handicapped. Detective Park and his co worker, Detective Cho, enforce a no nonsense, guilty until proven innocent form of investigating and interrogating suspects in these murders, with Cho kicking people into submission. It is even seen that the police chief is okay with this type of behavior to some extent, asking at one point if they tried tying a suspect to the ceiling. This shows a parallel between the military style dictatorship they are living under and how they do their policing. Detective Suh is introduced as the down to earth, patient, and logical detective that brings some reason and intellect to these otherwise brutish investigation tactics. Even so, throughout the film with an the increased frustration experienced by these detectives we observe an exchange in temperaments between Park and Suh, and in a bit of symbolic irony, Cho loses his ass kicking foot to infection. The original impression we as viewers had of these detectives completely changes. Meanwhile, Miss Kwon, the brains of the investigation who is consistently disregarded and seen as the coffee girl, exemplifies women’s roles in South Korea at this time. The irony is that the female characters in this film continue to be a reliable source of information and clues for the murder investigation, and yet they are seriously underestimated in their ability to be as important as a man. While the story progresses as a murder investigation, it ends up appearing as more of a political thriller; painting a picture of South Korea and how things worked during this time. Most fitting perhaps is the ending, the once rational detective Suh is quite certain that their prime suspect is guilty, while Park enforces his freedom, there simply isn’t incriminating evidence. Viewers never get closure on the killer, and it is important for Bong Joon Ho to do this because it again emphasizes the importance of this film politically, not just for entertainment and the satisfaction of closure for the viewer.

  • Megan Atwood

    Memories of murder was a very interesting movie in my option. I thought the characters could of been a little better but they were still good. Seo Tae Yoon, who was the smart one who really only believed in what the numbers said and only what the numbers said. It was crazy how at the end he didn’t believe what the papers said from America. Park Doo Man was a deceive that didn’t deal with nonsense who really only trusted one thing and one thing only and that was his gut. Choi Young Koo was the detective that believed that the best way to do something was to just wipe the floor with the suspects. This movie had me on my seat when it would start raining because i knew someone was about to get attached but i wanted someone to save them. At the begging with the tractor i was so scared that one of the kids would fall in front of the tractor and get hit. what i loved was how the detectives changed over time and became different people. The murder was never found and what made it harder was that the murder look just like everyone else he/she looked normal. But that’s what happened in real life they never found the murder. The movie showed how the local cops did things very rough means of getting information they wanted from their suspects. This style of the cops is kinda the same as the film Nowhere to Hide from Lee Myung Se’s in the way that it is kinda hard to understand the difference between the police and a bad guy. In this film someone said how everyone in the that village knows how the deceives are so mean he was to the people they take into curiosity. Overall i really enjoyed this movie and how it gave a good example of how the New Korean Wave director using a topic that is a familiar movie genre to do much larger topic ideas.

  • Branden Wagner

    “Memories of Murder” was quite a roller coaster when it comes to action and quiet detective work because in one scene there would be action and then there would be some quiet detective work in the next and sometimes something unexpected would happen during the detective work like where Detective Cho drop-kicked the suspect. Altogether, the three main detectives were all different. It appeared to me that Park was the one who wanted to solve the case no matter what and showed perseverance and was acting cunning in his methods. Cho was the unprofessional detective that did not care about the rules and used violence whenever possible to beat the answers out of people and put fear into them. Seo was definitely the professional one that followed the rules and did things the right way and, if anything, connected to the audience and represented the audience in a way by acting like the audience most likely would. He was very careful during his detective like scenes and he paid very close attention to minor details and, if anything, was probably the smartest and most experienced of the three and was also the detective that said that Baek couldn’t have done it because of how damaged and beaten up his fingers were which meant that he would not have been able to strangle someone or tie a rope. Eventually in the film, Park finds out that Baek saw the murder but due to how hard Cho and Park were on him, he is afraid to talk to them and stands on train tracks and lets the train kill him. Later on, they get a semen sample from the killer which was found on one of the corpses and so they take a DNA sample from one of their prime suspects and they have the two delivered to America to have the two tested to see if they match. It eventually comes back and is stated that they don’t match and now they have no leads and have no idea who the killer is. Soon after, there is a scene where a little girl says she saw the killer but says that he has a plain face and looks like most people which means that he doesn’t stand out which means that he blends in with the crowd. Then the film ends and has the viewers wondering who did it but we shall never know nor will anyone because it was never found out who did it and so, the serial killer got away with what they did. This is definitely a haunting ending and is completely different from any other detective film because usually the criminal is found and brought to justice… but not this time, this time the criminal gets away with their horrible, dreadful, horrendous, appalling, vile actions.

  • Matthew J. Strehler

    Memories of Murder was an interesting film in which the director seems to investigate the notion of what reality is. The film starts with the detectives beating their own reality into their suspects, forcing them to confess to crimes they hadn’t committed and torturing them while they questioned them. The movie was very cool in the way that it focused on representing everyone in the way that they would be in the real world. i.e the cops didn’t have super expensive houses and super expensive cars but lived within their pay grade. As you said in your essay on the movie, with the detectives basically switching positions; When the cops from the big city arrive to help with the investigation, we see a shift from making one’s own truth to trying to find out what the actual truth is through evidence. The detectives that were in the small town become more like the big city detectives over time, but then the big city detectives start to become like the small town detectives were. They came up with their own version of the truth and almost killed a guy over it until the papers from america arrived which said that they couldn’t prove that the guy they thought was the serial killer was actually the serial killer. It would have been so easy to find out who the killer was if they had just been a little more sensitive to the special needs boy, but instead they got caught up and chased him onto the train tracks where he was hit by a train. I think that the director was trying to say something about how making assumptions can ruin everything you are trying to achieve. It was very frustrating how because the detectives were idiots, they let the serial killer slip away. It would have been so easy for them to just analyze the evidence and find the actual killer, but they were too busy being absorbed in their assumptions.

  • Lorenz Coballes

    Out of the three Korean films you’ve shown in class, “Memories of Murder” is probably my favorite of the three. “JSA” was Korean cinema tackling the thriller genre, “Nowhere to Hide” tackled the action genre, and “Memories of Murder” tackled the mystery genre. One thing “JSA” and “Memories of Murder” share is the male lead Song Kang-ho. Song played a very serious North Korean soldier in JSA but a somewhat wild local cop in “Memories of Murder”. Seeing Song in this film shows his versatility as an actor and that he is certainly a very talented actor.

    A common theme in the Korean films we’ve been shown are the political statements they make. “JSA” was about the longing for a joint Korea as some South Korean soldiers form a friendship with some North Korean Soldiers. “Memories of Murder” focussed on the mass murdering of women in Korea and the scary things women have to face. Although it mostly revolved around the murders of these helpless women, there are also some very important female characters that push the film forward. At the beginning when Detective Park was looking for suspects, his wife was actually the one to tell him about a plausible suspect that was actually a witness to the crime. The next important female character was Miss Kwon. Throughout the first half of the film she was pretty much an invisible background character that brought coffee and was even used as bait. She becomes a lot more important in the second half when she figures out that the killer murders someone when a certain song is played, but some of her male co workers disregard her. Even the school girl played a vital role in directing Detective Suh to go to the stalls behind the school, the female teacher he bumps into then tells him to go to the hills and he was able to find a victim who wasn’t killed. The director seems to be saying that even though in society we put women below men and that women aren’t the “stars” of the show, they still shine and play an important role.

    Overall “Memories of Murder” was a great mystery film with lots of surprises. It is definitely something I would recommend.

  • Emily Belga

    This was a disturbing and enthralling film to watch, typically not one from a genre I would prefer to view, but definitely a movie which I acknowledge is well thought out and powerfully crafted. Bong makes the entire town and the fields a haunting place to be, and in some scenes I experienced the effect that I can only imagine Bong intended; I felt like someone was looking over my shoulder. His techniques in characterization almost propelled the movie, even down to the character of the killer himself. Every character is pitiful, even the protagonists. The town as a whole is essentially a scattered messy slum in the middle of nowhere. As the movie goes on the town begins to feel smaller and smaller and the killer feels omnipresent. From torturing a mentally ill child, constantly wrestling each other, and mangling almost every lead they have, the cops were frustrating to watch. But over the course of the film I began to not only feel bad for them, but believe in them, so it was disappointing when at the end, it is revealed that the suspect was not responsible for the murders. All throughout the film are understated but elegant techniques. My favorite scene is when the camera pans across the field where the cops are wrestling and Kwang Ho is trying to get to his father and the town has crowded the rice patties. It’s in slow motion, but the audio is in real time. The karaoke scene is also nice, and the dark but bright color scheme sets a grungy mood and grimey intoxicated mood. The movie at its conclusion puts into perspective the concept of truth and how our perceptions and beliefs play a role.

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