One of Korea’s most famous short stories, Lee Hyo-seok’s Buckwheat Season / When Buckwheat Flowers Bloom (메밀꽃 필 무렵, 1936) is to be brought to the cinema by the creators of Green Days (Korean title 소중한 날의 꿈, 2010). Green Days was LKL’s film of the year 2010 and was the stand-out film at the London Korean Film Festival that year (LKL’s review is here).
Although Buckwheat Season has found its way into the hearts of Koreans and is one of the most translated Korean short stories, LKL on first reading found it hard to “get”1. It’s also one of Charles Montgomery’s top Five Korean “Classics” To Avoid. He comments:
This is not a bad story, actually it can be quite affecting. But without the Korean context required to appreciate it, it comes across as a shaggy dog story without a dog. The central plot element is as obvious as the trunk on an elephant’s face, and the bucolic-romantic nature of the story depends partly on historical knowledge of Korea’s southwest region.
But An Jae-hoon and Han Hye-jin did such a good job of Green Days that I’m hoping their half-hour animation will provide some of that “Korean context”, showing what a Korean finds so touching about the story. In any event it will be interesting to see how the two directors who were so good at presenting the nostalgia for the freshness of youth in their full-length animation will deal with nostalgia for the simplicity of the countryside in Buckwheat Season.
Together the co-directors head Studio-MWP (which stands for Meditation with Pencil – and at the Q&A following the screening of Green Days at the ICA in 2010 the directors explained that their way of making animation did indeed involve a labour-intensive, manual process). Their press release below, which I set out exactly as it was sent to me (other than to correct a couple of misspellings), suggests that this might be the first in a series of animations of Korean short stories: in which case this should definitely be something worth looking forward to.
When Buckwheat Flowers Blossom
– the poetic work which expresses with plain and country emotion that an itinerant vendor who lived hard life without specialty had a crush on a woman in his life
Director An Hae Hoon / Han Hye Jin
The famous Korean novel “When Buckwheat Flowers Blossom” will be screened in Busan
Korean Culture reading by animation / The exhibition of Korean short story culture animation. The first story: “When Buckwheat Flowers Blossom”
In Green Days, the directors An Jae-hoon and Han Hye-jin draw the poetic images and the lives of ordinary people.
Introduction of the work
It is one of the Korean representative short novels, published in 1936. in the first part, there flows poetic emotion and it has been still read as a refreshing and heart-breaking work so far. 30 minutes / the work of 3 parts all together became a movie.
Hur Saeng-won, who was a left-hander and whose face was pitted with pockmarks was an itinerant vendor for all his life. Hur Sang-won said a story that he spent with a woman in water flour mill near a small stream at moonlight night when Buckwheat Flowers Blossomed white.
He went to the house in Chungju following Jo Seondal, fellow itinerant vendor. Then he met Dong-i there. He slapped him on the cheek and made him go away because he was angry with him to scheme on a woman from Chungju. He was not comfortable after that.
At that night, three of them came to walk on the mountain way when Buckwheat Flowers Blossomed White in the moonlight. Hur Saeng-won said about the dream night with a woman in water flour mill in the moonlight and Dong-i said about his mother. He said he didn’t know his own father at all and he lived with step father and suffered from the hard life and ran away from home. Old Hur Saeng-won lost his footing and Dong-i carried him on his back. After Hur Saeng-won knew Dong-i’s mother’s hometown was Bong-Pyeong and Dong-i was a left-hander like him, he gave himself to deep recollection.
They moved to buckwheat field to go Je-cheon where Dong-i’s mother lived recently together.
Original writer Lee Hyo-seok
He was born on February 23rd, 1907 in Pyeongchang, Kangwon-do. He published “When Buckwheat Flowers Blossom” on May 25th 1942 in an country emotion expression by the background of rivers and mountains of his hometown. The writer reveals that he wants to deal with mystery of love and lust.
I’d like to express that this private affair looks like a poem though it seems to be over glamorized. The story in buckwheat flowers’ field in Bongpyeong in the moonlight is “a poem.” I’d like to draw the country people’s rough language and sorrowful dream love and show the scenes dipped in the Korean language.
This is a new animation made by Studio MWP, which made the film animation, Green Days
The people who visit Busan can meet and enjoy this Korean novel as 2D animation.
Director An Jae Hoon will have a meeting at October 8th screening.
- Review of Chung Cong-Wha’s anthology of Modern Korean Literature, 1908-65 will be coming soon. [↩]