Korean Film Nights April – June 2017: On Foreign Ground

The second season of films at the KCC this year has been curated by students from the Film Studies Programming and Curation MA programme at the National Film and Television School.

The season is entitled On Foreign Ground: Visions of Migration, and focuses on stories of immigration in South Korean cinema, a theme that was chosen for its relevance in the world today.

There are six screenings, with further details in the press release section below.

27 April Burmese On The Roof 1 June The Journal of Musan
4 May Bandhobi 8 June Seoul Searching
11 May Scenery 15 June He’s on Duty

All screenings are at the KCC. Pre-registration is required via info@kccuk.org.uk

On Foreign Ground: Visions of Migration

South Korea is considered one of the “Four Asian Tigers” – countries that have experienced an extended period of economic growth and rapid industrialisation in the decades before the 21st century. This has made it a common destination fro economic migrants from neighbouring countries. This season wants to highlight such experiences through six films across a wide range of genres and styles.

These are the stories of a North Korean defector, migrant workers hailing from a variety of countries including Burma, Vietnam and Bangladesh as well as second-generation Korean emigrants returning to the country their parents left behind.

By exploring different facets of their everyday life, we are invited to understand their living and working conditions. We follow the characters in their humble homes or at work in factories. We feel their fear towards the authorities, their worries over sending money home; we also bear witness as they embark upon new personal relationships.

The variety of genres explored enables this season to offer a range of perspectives on a complicated international issue. From the romantic drama between an immigrant and a troublesome adolescent in Bandhobi, to the grim portrait of corruption and manipulation immigrants face in The Journals of Musan, and the community spirit born out of shared circumstances in the comedy He’s on Duty, we also hear from a number of migrant workers who share with us their hopes and dreams in the documentary Scenery.

The UK premiere of Burmese on the Roof will open this season. Taking a very human perspective, this observational documentary looks at how the benefits of economic wealth can, in turn, threaten physical and psychological well-being, whilst also examining the difficulties of returning home and struggling to maintain a national identity in the face of long term emigration. This is the theme also explored, in much lighter fashion, in Seoul Searching, in which foreign-born Korean teenagers from different nations visit the country for the first time. The film is a Korean pastiche of American teen comedies, and as such adds to the feeling of the vibrant and multicultural Korea we want to highlight in this programme.

Maureen Gueunet

Burmese On The Roof

Directors: Oh Hyun-jin, Ko Duhyin
Soe, Tommy, Joe
90 min / Eng Subs
27 April, 7:00pm

Burmese on the Rooftop


In the industrial suburb of Masoek we find three foreign workers sharing a prefab hut built on their factory’s rooftop. This documentary offers a gaze into their lives, shifting its focus away from issues often associated with immigrants, taking a look at their personalities and everyday existence instead. Through very concise interviews, their plans and the challenges they face are slowly unveiled. We learn about the sacrifices they make for their families and their longing to return to a country that offers an uncertain future. We also witness both the camaraderie and the frictions that arise from living with strangers in such a confined space.

These dignifying human portraits are crafted with an austere visual style, complemented with a strong sense of place through distinct urban landscapes. And whilst we never learn these men’s full names, the film ensures they will not remain anonymous. (Roberto Gonzalez)


Director: Shin Dong-il
Mahbub Alam, Baek Jin-hee, Choi In-sook
107 min / Eng Subs / 18 Cert
4 May, 7:00pm



Bandhobi is a story about the crossover between two different cultures and the friendship it can spark. As the title suggests, “female friend” in Bengali, the film follows the evolving relationship between Min-seo, a 17-year old rebellious Korean girl, and Karim, a 29-year old Muslim migrant worker from Bangladesh. This character-driven film subtly explores many areas of importance: racism, illegal immigration, family dynamics, the education system and working conditions with great sensitivity and realism. Both characters bring distinctive critical outlooks: Min struggles with a broken relationship with her mother and an absent father while Karim is desperately trying to retrieve the unpaid wages from his employer. Both are lost souls in a society they feel disenfranchised from. Their unique friendship helps them finally address and voice the questions so quietly hidden under social conventions and ignorance.


Director: Zhang Lu
95 min / Eng Subs
11 May, 7:00pm



Chinese-Korean director Zhang Lu’s eighth feature follows fourteen foreigners from nine different countries who have left their home to work in South Korea. In this documentary, Lu asks each of these men to reveal the most vivid dream that remains in their memory since arriving in Korea.

Bordering the surreal, Lu conjures an evocative reflection on South Korea’s evolving social landscape.
The dreams of all men seem to merge into one, as we learn about their longing to return to their hometowns, reunite with their lost families and embrace their mothers. In their dreams, their anxieties are juxtaposed with nostalgia for their childhood. By alternating these oniric recollections with images of the heavy machinery they operate in their work, Lu accentuates the striking contrast between the immensity of the equipment they employ and the fragility of the hopes they harbour.

The Journal of Musan

Director: Park Jung-bum
127 min / Eng Subs
1 June, 7:00pm



The Journals of Musan stars (and is written/directed by) Park Jung-bum as Seung-chul, a North Korean refugee who has defected to South Korea. He attempts to adjust to Seoul with a shy and submissive attitude. When Seung-chul is harassed by the authorities, he takes a new job at a karaoke bar to gain stability, an appropriate income, and less prejudice for being a defector. Seung-chul attends Mass every week in the hope that his spirituality will help him embrace his new surroundings.

The Journals of Musan is a precise character study in its detailed portrayal of alienation. But Park Jung-bum’s film also works as a broader exploration of the refugee experience; it illustrates the wide array of emotional adversity immigrants withstand: isolation, shame, hope, faith and even some humour. These are all on the spectrum of feelings that Seung-chul experiences and, we as an audience, experience with him.

Seoul Searching

Director: Benson Lee
105 min / Eng Subs
8 June, 7:00pm

Seoul Searching


Heavily influenced by the 1980s teen comedies of US director John Hughes, Seoul Searching follows a group of foreign-born Korean teenagers as they visit a summer camp near Seoul that aims to reconnect them with their lost cultural heritage, with varying degrees of success. As you’d expect from a teen comedy, the film has a catchy soundtrack and is full of memorable characters and outlandish comedy situations.

Benson Lee’s film is as concerned with matters of love, sex, underage drinking and partying as any of the other films associated with the genre, but it is the treatment of identity which is most pertinent. All teen comedies are about coming to terms with who you are as you approach adulthood, what Seoul Searching does is amplify this well-worn theme to encompass an acceptance, as a second generation immigrant, of a lost cultural heritage and national identity.

He’s on Duty

Director: Yook Sanh-Hyo
Running Time: 110 min / Eng Subs
Event Date: 15 June, 7:00pm

He's on Duty


Bang Tae-sik is a perennially unemployed South Korean man who, based on his physical appearance, could pass for a foreigner. He is as a result often confused for an outsider and, having nothing much to do, he takes advantage of his own situation. Tae-sik adopts a fake foreign accent and pretends to come from Bhutan. Very clumsy, the newly named Bang-ga gains confidence little by little and becomes more and more influential among his friends and co-workers. He also starts romancing the lovely Jang-mi who works in the same factory as him.

With He’s on Duty, Yook Sanh-Hyo presents a light-hearted and vigorous comedy that nonetheless delivers uncommonly powerful commentaries on immigration, discrimination and racism.


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