Title   Cast   Director   Year Shown  Other Info    Country  Notes 


South Korea, 1987, 95 min

Shown in 1988 / 1998


Im Kwon-taek
Jung Do-hwan
Song Gil-han
Goo Joong-mo
Bak Sun-duk
Kang Soo-yeon, Lee Goo-soon, Han Eun-jin, Bang Hee, Yoon Yang-ha


Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corporation, 206-46 Chongny ongni Dong, Tongdamun-gu, Seoul, South Korea. FAX: 82-2-9587-550


Screened when Im Kwon-taek received the Akira Kurosawa award in 1998; Im Kwon-taek and Kang Soo-yeon appeared in person.
Surrogate Mother

Set towards the end of the Yi Dynasty (the late 19h century in the Western calendar), Surrogate Mother uses a historical setting to pinpoint the roots of problems which remain endemic in Korean culture. Im’s specific target is the principle of male lineage, strong in all Confucian societies but still capable of ruining lives in present-day Korea. Well born and prosperous, Shin and his wife Yoon lack a male heir. Behind Shin’s back but with the complicity of his wife, others in the family pick a young working-class woman to bear Shin a son; she is Ok-nyo, the daughter of a woman who once tried to serve as a surrogate mother for another family. Despite strong misgivings, Shin is persuaded to meet Ok-nyo... and falls in love with her at first sight. By the time that Ok-nyo is pregnant with his child, she has forgotten that she is in the house only as a servant. Some Western viewers have blanched at what they see as the film’s undue emphasis on female suffering, but it’s clear that Im sees the manhandling and abuse of women as an intrinsic part of the ancestor-worshiping habits and rituals in a male-dominant society. This was Im’s first film with the remarkable Kang Soo-yeon, and it won her a deserved Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival.

—Tony Rayns

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