(Salinui Chueoek)

Directed by Bong Joon-ho. 2003.

Talking Pictures alias







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Based on an actual series of murders in South Korea between the years 1986 and 1991, Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder is a well performed, thought-provoking film about the investigation into Korea's first serial killings. The film, which combines bleak reality with dark comedy, is less about the actual crimes than about the emotional toll it took on the police officers investigating the case.  

The film opens in 1986 when South Korea was still under the control of a repressive military dictatorship. A woman's body is found in Gyunggi province in a drainage pipe in a rural area outside of Seoul, raped and strangled by her own stockings. The crime scene is chaotic. Reporters and spectators mill about and a tractor rides over the area destroying footprints and other potential evidence. Local police officers Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho) and his aggressive partner, Cho Yong-ku (Kim Roe-ha) are in charge of the investigation but are joined later by a volunteer from Seoul, detective Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung).  

The police, however, are preoccupied with protest demonstrations against the government, and do not put the necessary manpower and resources into a proper investigation. A rivalry soon develops between the intuitive Park and the cerebral Seo. Park claims that he can detect a killer by simply looking into a suspect's eyes. Seo is more rational and scientific but both overlook crucial evidence and both do not hesitate to brutalize suspects. Although they force confessions from Baek Kwang-ho (Park No-shik), a retarded man, and a man who masturbates at the crime scene, they know that the confessions will not stand up in court. Showing signs of desperation, they torture an eyewitness to the murders to the point where he tries to escape and is run over by a passing train.  

Eventually the detectives locate a suspect who admits that he requested a song heard on the radio each night a murder has been committed, but not a shred of evidence is ever found. After they beat him, he tells the police, “People know you torture innocent people.... You’ll never victimize me.” Memories of Murder presents a powerfully haunting picture of a society so inured to violence and repression that a serial killer is a minor annoyance. As more strangled women are found, a sense of sadness and frustration begins to settle on the investigation and it becomes obvious that the police force is not prepared either by education or methodology to achieve results until the society it operates in can be purged of its authoritarian past.  


Howard Schumann
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