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Mal-Mo-E: The Secret Mission (Korean말모이) is a 2019 South Korean historical drama film written and directed by Eom Yu-na. It was released on January 9, 2019.[2] The title refers to an old Korean dialect word which roughly translates to "collecting vocabularies."[3]

Mal-Mo-E: The Secret Mission
Mal-Mo-E - The Secret Mission.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Revised RomanizationMalmo-i
Directed byEom Yu-na
Written byEom Yu-na
StarringYoo Hae-jin
Yoon Kye-sang
Music byJo Yeong-wook
CinematographyChoi Young-hwan
Edited byKim Sang-bum
The Lamp
Distributed byLotte Cultureworks
Release date
  • January 9, 2019 (2019-01-09)
Running time
135 minutes
CountrySouth Korea
Box officeUS$21.4 million[1]



Imprisoned several times during the 1940s, when Korea was under Japanese occupation, Kim Pan-Soo is illiterate and does not know how to read or write Korean or any other language. The teaching of Korean in the schools is banned by the Imperial government. He meets a representative of the Korean Language Society and join forces to publish a dictionary of the Korean language.[4][5]


  • Yoo Hae-jin as Kim Pan-soo
  • Yoon Kye-sang as Ryu Jung-hwan
  • Jo Hyun-do as Kim Duk-jin
  • Park Ye-na as Kim Soon-hee
  • Kim Sun-young as Goo Ja-young
  • Kim Hong-fa as Mr. Jo
  • Kim Tae-hoon as Park-hoon
  • Woo Hyun as Im Dongik
  • Min Jin-woong as Min Woo-chul
  • Heo Sung-tae as Ueda
  • Lee Sung-wook as Jang Choon-sam
  • Cho Hyun-chul as Park Bong-doo
  • Song Young-chang as Ryu Wan-taek
  • Choi Gwi-hwa as Mailman (cameo)
  • Lee Jung-eun as Jeju teacher (cameo)
  • Yoon Kyung-ho as Optometrist (cameo)
  • Yoo Eun-mi as Soon-hee (cameo)
  • Ye Soo-jung as Jo Gap-yoon's wife (special appearance)
  • Yoo Jae-myung as Kim Doo-bong (special appearance)
  • Kim Dong-young as Adult Deok-jin (special appearance)

Historical contextEdit

The film is based on historical events in Korea during the late 1930s to 1940s. When Korea was under Japanese Imperial rule, the Korean language was "demoted" in status and significance and eventually outright banned in 1938 in favor of the Japanese language.[6] The characters were based on the real-life scholars and members of the Korean Language Society who continued working on the dictionary even after the ban was enforced. In 1942, more than thirty of the group were arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese and two died in prison. The Korean Language Society did not resume activities until Korea re-gained independence after Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945.[7]


The film debuted on top of the South Korean box office, where it earned $8.96 million from 1.19 million admissions between Wednesday and Sunday.[8]

Local reviews of the film were largely positive, with South Korean English-language newspaper The Korea Times commending the film for being able to tell "the same old story of these historical figures....but in a fashionable way".[3][2]


  1. ^ "MAL·MO·E: The Secret Mission (2019)". Korean Film Biz Zone.
  2. ^ a b Yoon, Min-sik (December 19, 2018). "[Herald Review] 'Mal-Mo-E' has heart, comedy, great characters and a beautiful story". The Korea Herald.
  3. ^ a b Kang, Hyun-kyung (January 13, 2019). "'Mal-Mo-E': an analog film that captivates digital generation". The Korea Times.
  4. ^ "[여의도 책방] 영화 '말모이'와 함께 보는 우리말의 탄생". KBS 뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  5. ^ "'말모이' 실제 주인공, 이극로 선생의 눈물겨운 삶". 오마이뉴스. 2019-01-14. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  6. ^ Yoon, Min-sik (December 3, 2018). "Period piece 'Mal-Mo-E' shows fight to keep alive Korean identity". The Korea Herald.
  7. ^ King, R. (2007) "Part II East Asia — North and South Korea". In Simpson, A. (ed) Language and National Identity in Asia (1st ed.) (pp.200-234). Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Kil, Sonia (15 January 2019). "Korea Box Office: Local Titles 'Mal-Mo-E' and 'Dude' Beat 'Ralph Breaks the Internet'". Variety. Retrieved 18 January 2019.

External linksEdit