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Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

The Yongsan tragedy featured in two LKFF documentaries

The Yongsan Tragedy begins to unfold
The Yongsan Tragedy begins to unfold as a shipping crate full of riot police is lowered onto the roof of a building where protesters are holding out (from Two Doors)

Those of you who have read and love Han Kang’s Human Acts will know that is is inspired not only by the Gwangju uprising but also the Yongsan tragedy. Hwang Jung-eun’s One Hundred Shadows is even more directly inspired by the same tragedy.

It was a news event that was little reported in the Western media, in which six people including a policeman died during a police SWAT team operation in January 2009 to evict protesters from the roof of a building scheduled for demolition as part of a large-scale planned redevelopment of the Yongsan area. Two documentaries at LKFF this year focus on the Yongsan tragedy, by directors Kim Il-rhan, Hong Ji-you and Lee Hyuk-sang.

The incident was a tragedy for many reasons, not just because of the deaths. The protesters who survived the conflagration which occurred during the operation were held jointly responsible for the deaths and were sent to prison. Ironically, because of the 2009 financial crisis the construction project was put on hold. The building was demolished two years later, and the space then lay idle for several years: waste ground that became a car park. The area is only now being redeveloped. One of the documentaries ends with the warning: “The remnants of the tragedy will now forever disappear of you too fail to remember.”

I’ll certainly be at the first of the documentaries, Two Doors, which sifts through the documents and extensive video footage, seeking to examine the actions of the police. The follow-up, The Remnants, focuses on the surviving protesters, following them as they try to make sense of the incident following their release from prison. Unfortunately it clashes with the first of the Bae Chang-ho screenings, so I won’t be able to make it.

To make it even more worth your while to see these important documentaries, the KCC is offering a free ticket for a screening at the Regent Street Cinema to anyone who buys tickets for both movies.

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