Crime film re­vis­its Lone Star case

The Korea Times - - CULTURE - By Lee Gyu-lee [email protected]­re­

The new white-col­lar crime film, “Black Money” aims to reignite di­a­logue about a prom­i­nent fi­nan­cial scan­dal that hit Korea in the early 2000s.

“The pur­pose of this film is to share the story of the case, so we can dis­cuss and de­bate what hap­pened to make this so­ci­ety bet­ter,” di­rec­tor and writer Chung Ji-young said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence for the film held at Yongsan CGV in Seoul, Mon­day.

The film is based on the fi­nan­cial scan­dal trig­gered by the U.S.-based pri­vate eq­uity firm Lone Star Funds’ in­vest­ment in Korea. The firm ac­quired Korean Ex­change Bank (KEB) in 2003 by tak­ing a 51.02 per­cent stake. It ex­ited Korea in 2012 af­ter mak­ing a profit of 4.9 tril­lion won.

The le­gal­ity and pro­ce­dure of the firm’s ac­qui­si­tion stirred a de­bate as Korea’s fifth-largest bank was ap­proved to be sold, de­spite a lo­cal law lim­it­ing pri­vate firms own­ing a cer­tain per­cent­age of the con­trol­ling shares of a bank, at an ex­tremely low price.

The ar­bi­tra­tion case be­tween an in­vestor and the state is on­go­ing since the firm filed a suit against the Korean gov­ern­ment in Novem­ber 2012 seek­ing over $4.7 bil­lion for de­lay­ing the ap­proval of selling KEB shares.

The real-world case in­spired Chung to shoot a film on the topic.

He created fic­tional char­ac­ters and added sto­ries to turn it into a film. Prose­cu­tor Yang Min-hyeok (Cho Jin-woong) is falsely ac­cused of sex­u­ally harassing a woman he was in­ves­ti­gat­ing. She com­mits sui­cide and leaves a note that tells the story. As he digs into her sui­cide case to clear his name, he finds out that she was a key wit­ness in a fi­nan­cial scan­dal in­volv­ing gov­ern­ment fig­ures.

As he was writ­ing the film, Chung said he spent years study­ing the case and met over 600 peo­ple re­lated to the scan­dal.

“I, my­self, do not know much about how the econ­omy works, so I had to study a lot. It was such a na­tion-rock­ing scan­dal from the early 2000s to 2012, so I’d heard about it. But when I ac­tu­ally tried to get to the bot­tom of the case, it didn’t come easy,” said the di­rec­tor.

As he had to ap­proach such a com­pli­cated case, he said his big­gest goal was to lay the story out sim­ply but also as com­pre­hen­sively and in­ter­est­ingly as pos­si­ble. The di­rec­tor is fa­mous for films based on true sto­ries, such as “Un­bowed” (2011) and “Na­tional Se­cu­rity” (2012), which shed light on cor­rup­tion in so­ci­ety.

But un­like his pre­vi­ous work, he said he tried to stay away from putting an em­pha­sis on re­al­is­tic de­pic­tions to make it into a more en­joy­able film. “For my pre­vi­ous films, I fo­cused on mak­ing them as sim­i­lar to the real story as pos­si­ble, but for this one, I thought more about mak­ing such a dif­fi­cult sub­ject eas­ier for peo­ple to un­der­stand.”

“The story is about the econ­omy and re­veal­ing cor­rup­tion. But most peo­ple want to watch a hu­mor­ous film that they can make sense of,” he said. “Many peo­ple would say ‘my life is al­ready hard enough, why would I want to watch an in­ves­tiga­tive film’, so I had do my best to make it fun and con­vinc­ing.”

Min-hyeok un­in­ten­tion­ally gets in­volved in a fi­nan­cial case, although he had noth­ing to do with fi­nan­cial-re­lated prose­cu­tion. He learns the terms and the field as he goes, which helps the au­di­ence to take in com­plex is­sues in a sim­pler sense.

The di­rec­tor re­vealed that he in­ten­tion­ally set the char­ac­ter as a non-eco­nomic expert be­cause he wanted the au­di­ence to fol­low along with the char­ac­ter.

As the di­rec­tor in­tended, ac­tor Cho leads as a head­strong char­ac­ter fiercely chas­ing af­ter clues to a gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­volve­ment in the scan­dal.

Cho said he felt like he was get­ting ripped off when he read the script. “I knew about the case but I got so mad af­ter learn­ing about the back­ground of the scan­dal and how it faded from the public’s at­ten­tion,” he said.

Re­fer­ring to the film as a “vac­cine,” he em­pha­sized how im­por­tant it is to be aware of the is­sue. “For those who have ne­glected and ig­nored so­ci­etal is­sues, this film could serve as a vac­cine, as it made me re­al­ize and open my eyes to such is­sues.”


Ac­tor Cho Jin-woong, from left, di­rec­tor Chung Ji-young and ac­tress Lee Ha-nee pose for pic­tures dur­ing a me­dia con­fer­ence for new crime drama film “Black Money” held at Yongsan CGV in Seoul, Mon­day.

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