Presently, South Korea is considered a modern, democratic country with advanced technology in every sector, hip music, and penchant for creating and catching onto new trends. Given the current state of the nation, it is hard to believe that South Korea only had its first democratic election 30 years ago in 1988.
Before 1988, the country was under a string of dictatorships and military regimes. On the one hand, during this period the government built infrastructure and moved the nation into an economic golden age. However, on the other side, the rapid development came with brutal suppression and massacre in regards to the events that occurred on May 18, 1980, in Gwangju. As a result of the killings, the people of the city came together in a people-led uprising that would change history.
These two events, the Gwangju Massacre and the Gwangju Uprising are known together at the May 18 Democrative Movement. These events gave birth to a national fight for democracy. In honor of that day, we have compiled four films that highlight these important events in Korean history.
May 18 (화려한 휴가)
Director: Kim Ji-Hoon
Starring: Kim Sang-Kyung, Ahn Sung-Ki, Lee Yo-Won, Lee Joon-Gi
Released in 2007, the film May 18 details the events that lead up to the Gwangju massacre that occurred on May 18, 1980, from the perspective of Min-woo and his younger brother Jin-woo.
Min-woo and his brother had relatively peaceful lives until soldiers under the order of dictator Chun Doo-hwan attack the citizens of Gwangju with lethal results. The command of which was made in an attempt to eliminate insurgents and silence critics of the military regime. However, as the soldiers descend on the city, Min-woo and Jin-woo find themselves caught in the middles of the clash.
A Taxi Driver (택시 운전사)
Director: Jang Hoon
Starring: Song Kang-Ho, Thomas Kretschmann, Yu Hae-Jin, Ryoo Joon-Yeol
In May 1980 taxi driver Kim Man-seob struggles to make ends while he takes care of his daughter. One day he overhears that one foreigner, a German reporter named Peter, is willing to pay a significant amount of money to anyone willing to drive him to Gwangju. Unaware of the events taking place in the city, Kim takes Peter up on the offer and take off from Seoul to Gwangju entirely unprepared for the many lives lost, but willing to put their lives at stake to save others.
The March for the Lost (임을 위한 행진곡)
Director: Park Ki-bok
Starring: Kim Kkot-bi, Kim Bu-seon, Jeon Su-hyeon, Kim Chae-hee
The true number of the lives lost during the Gwangju massacre have never been determined. Along with those who remain unaccounted for decades later are those who continue to be tormented by the events that unfolded on May 18, 2018.
The newest film on our list, The March for the Lost, explores the story of a family living with scars from the past. The father mysteriously disappeared during the massacre; the mother who lives day-by-day unable to forget and their daughter Hee-soo, who has become a great comedian.
Director: Lee Chang-dong
Starring: Sol Kyung-gu, Moon So-ri, Kim Yeo-jin
Peppermint Candy recounts five phases of Yong-ho exploring different events in his life that led him to commit suicide.
While the other films in this list focused on the victims of the May 18 Democratic Movement, Peppermint Candy looks at a person someone who served in the army on that fateful day. This is considered one of the best films to come out of Korea and is highly recommended.