Chung Ji-young

Chung Ji-young (born November 19, 1946) is a South Korean film director and screenwriter. Among his most well-known films are North Korean Partisan in South Korea (1990), White Badge (1992), Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid (1994), Unbowed (2012) and National Security (2012).

Chung Ji-young
Chung Ji-young.jpg
Born (1946-11-19) November 19, 1946 (age 74)
EducationDongguk University
Korea University
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1976-present
Korean name
Revised RomanizationJeong Ji-yeong
McCune–ReischauerChung Jiyǒng


Chung Ji-young honed his directing skills by working as an assistant director to legendary filmmaker Kim Soo-yong. Chung, whose feature debut was an erotic mystery, The Mist Whispers Like a Woman (1982), also directed about 20 episodes of the MBC single-episode anthology drama series Best Theater. He spent the majority of the 1980s directing melodramatic fare before moving on to more politically-charged works following the end of the Chun Doo-hwan administration. During his heyday, Chung helmed some of the most hard-hitting and socially conscious films of the 1980s and 1990s such as North Korean Partisan in South Korea (1990), White Badge (1992), and Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid (1994). But his influence on the industry extended far beyond his filmography, as he was also a fierce advocate for governmental reform, particularly as it affected the Korean film industry. As a leading voice in the Chungmuro filmmaking community, he argued for the establishment of a screen quota system, the abolishment of the pre-censorship system, campaigned against direct distribution of foreign movies, and was opposed to the signing of the Korea-USA free trade agreement, among other issues confronting the industry at the time.[1]

However, following Naked Being (1998), Chung took an extended hiatus that finally ended thirteen years later when he returned with Unbowed at the 2011 Busan International Film Festival. A critique of corruption in the judicial system inspired by the real-life case of a math professor who fired a crossbow at a judge, the film caused a sensation subsequent to its commercial release in January 2012. Aside from the enormous critical acclaim it received, the ₩1.5 billion low-budget production was an unexpected box office success, drawing some 3.4 million viewers.[2][3] And Chung was awarded Best Director at the 33rd Blue Dragon Film Awards.

Later in 2012 he again turned to another politically sensitive, controversial topic for his next film. National Security is based on the true story of Kim Geun-tae, a democracy activist who was kidnapped and tortured by the Chun Doo-hwan regime over 22 days within the walls of Room 515 in the anti-communism division of the National Police Headquarters in Seoul's Namyeong neighborhood circa 1985 (from which the film's Korean title Namyeong-dong 1985 is derived). Boldly opting to spend 90% of its running time on the waterboarding and other acts of horrific torture inflicted on Kim (who subsequently became Korea's Minister of Health and Welfare), Chung's film was uncompromising and challenging. By the director's own admission, he found it difficult to shoot the most trying scenes. Though it focused almost exclusively on the torture itself, many viewers have found the film to be tremendously moving in the end, and Chung hoped that the film will be a reminder of the sacrifices that some endured in order for Korea to progress to its present state.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Chung appeared in Heo Chul's documentary Ari Ari the Korean Cinema, in which he and actress Yoon Jin-seo interviewed more than a hundred respected film professionals to discuss the industry's history and the issues it currently faces. Chung originally began the project as its co-director, but when his film Unbowed was green-lighted, he turned over the final editing to his collaborator, the US-trained director and professor Heo Chul. As a veteran director, it was Chung's connections in the film industry that helped the documentary to assemble its impressive cast, which includes directors Lee Chang-dong, Im Kwon-taek, Bong Joon-ho, and Park Chan-wook; and actors Ahn Sung-ki, Park Joong-hoon, Song Kang-ho, and Choi Min-sik; as well as producers, critics, and other industry figures. In the film, Chung questions why major film companies in the country prefer working with up-and-coming directors ― it turns out it is because it is easier for the companies to take control over the products ― and how challenging it is for older directors like himself to produce the kind of movies that they want to make. He also openly criticizes the current film distribution system which he thinks makes it difficult for independent or small-budget films to secure screens.[10][11][12][13]

He was the recipient of the Kim Dae-jung Nobel Peace Film Award at the 2012 Gwangju International Film Festival.[14] Chung said he believes "there's still a lot of passion in this industry, and that’s what keeps the diversity of Korean cinema against the dominance of the major production houses."[10] When asked why he keeps poking at sensitive areas of politics and society, Chung answered, "I wouldn’t do it if younger directors tackled this kind of topic. I'm only doing it because they aren’t saying what needs to be said. I decided that if making a film like this requires courage, I was going to show that courage."[15]


  • Project Cheonan Ship (2013) - producer[16][17]
  • Lee Heon's Odyssey (short film in A Journey with Korean Masters, 2013) - director
  • Ari Ari the Korean Cinema (2012) - actor
  • National Security (2012) - director, screenplay
  • Unbowed (2012) - director, screenplay, producer
  • Iri (2008) - cameo
  • Extra (1998) - cameo
  • Naked Being (1998) - director, cameo
  • Blackjack (1997) - director
  • 7 Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than a Lover (1996) - director
  • Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid (1994) - director, adaptation
  • Sun of Fire (1994) - cameo
  • White Badge (1992) - director, adaptation
  • Beyond the Mountain (1991) - director, adaptation
  • North Korean Partisan in South Korea (1990) - director, producer
  • Mountain Snake (1988) - director
  • A Forest Where a Woman Breathes (1988) - director, screenplay
  • A Woman on the Verge (1987) - director, cameo
  • A Street Musician (1987) - director, screenplay
  • The Light of Recollection (1984) - director
  • Mrs. Kim Ma-ri (1983) - cameo
  • The Mist Whispers Like a Woman (1982) - director, screenplay
  • A Woman's Trap (1982) - screenplay
  • Bird That Cries At Night (1982) - screenplay
  • White Smile (1980) - screenplay
  • Flower Woman (1979) - screenplay
  • The Terms of Love (1979) - assistant director
  • The Sound of Laughter (1978) - assistant director
  • The Swamp of Exile (1978) - assistant director
  • A Splendid Outing (1977) - assistant director
  • Scissors, Rock, and Wrap (1976) - assistant director


  1. ^ "CHUNG Ji-young". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  2. ^ "Unbowed flying high at box office, reviving attention to forgotten case". The Korea Herald. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  3. ^ "Low-Budget Film Unbowed Sweeps Box Office". The Chosun Ilbo. 31 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  4. ^ Conran, Pierce (16 November 2012). "In Focus: NATIONAL SECURITY". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  5. ^ Kim, Hyeon-min (30 November 2012). "CHUNG Ji-young, Director of NATIONAL SECURITY: A Must-See for the Young Generation". Korean Cinema Today. Retrieved 2012-12-07.
  6. ^ Kim, Sam (5 October 2012). "SKorean torture film raises ghost of military past". Associated Press via Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2012-11-18.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Controversial S Korea film highlights state torture". Agence France-Presse via France 24. 6 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Park, Soomee (6 October 2012). "Busan 2012: Embattled Director Targets South Korean Election With Latest Film". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  9. ^ Park, Eun-jee (9 November 2012). "Torture movie reopens wounds on the eve of presidential election". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  10. ^ a b Lee, Claire (22 November 2012). "Director examines the world of Korean cinema". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  11. ^ Park, Eun-jee (23 November 2012). "Documentary is a self-examination of Korea's stifling movie industry". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 3 December 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
  12. ^ Paquet, Darcy (7 December 2012). "In Focus: Ari Ari the Korean Cinema". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  13. ^ Bellmore, Thomas (3 October 2011). "Documentary at BIFF Features Soundtrack by Busan Expats". Busan Haps. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  14. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (12 November 2012). "Promoting Democracy, Human Rights and Peace Through Films". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  15. ^ Song, Ho-jin (14 August 2012). "New film portrays torture under dictatorship". The Hankyoreh. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  16. ^ Lee, Hyo-won (28 April 2013). "Project Cheonan Ship Filmmakers Spill Secrets Behind the Controversial Doc". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
  17. ^ Kim, Eun-jung (30 April 2013). "Military counters controversial documentary on Cheonan warship sinking". Yonhap. Retrieved 2013-05-14.

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