Paju (Korean파주; RRPaju) is a 2009 South Korean film. It tells the tale of a teenage schoolgirl (Seo Woo) and her complex relationship with her older sister’s husband (Lee Sun-kyun). Set in the city where it takes its name from – a longtime military area and now a developing city located close to the North/South Korean border – its narrative deals with guilt, mystery, love and redemption, as well as the psychological layers of its characters. The film also offers a glimpse into South Korean society and the struggles some residents of Paju face.

Wtb Paju english.jpg
Revised RomanizationPaju
Directed byPark Chan-ok
Written byPark Chan-ok
Produced byLee Eun
Kim Ju-kyung
Eom Ju-yung
StarringLee Sun-kyun
Seo Woo
CinematographyKim Woo-hyung
Edited byKim Hyeong-ju
Music byJang Young-gyu
TPS Company, Myung Films
Distributed byWarner Bros. Korea
Release date
  • October 29, 2009 (2009-10-29)
Running time
111 minutes
CountrySouth Korea
Box officeUS$818,676[1]

In 2010 Paju became the first ever Korean film to open the International Film Festival Rotterdam[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] and to compete at the Tribeca Film Festival.[9][10][11]


Twenty-something Eun-mo listens to a taxi driver drone on as she rides down a foggy highway. The story then cycles back eight years earlier, when a lustful Joong-shik accidentally causes a woman to neglect her baby with disastrous consequences. Suffering from guilt, Joong-shik goes on the lam and holes up in the titular city of Paju, an underdeveloped and desolate city just north of Seoul and near the North Korean border. Teaching religious classes to the town's schoolgirls, Joong-shik captures the heart of local house owner Eun-soo, despite the protestations of her pubescent younger sister and Joong-shik's student Eun-mo.

Back in the present day, Joong-shik is now the ringleader of a political protest group whose interests run from obstructing the city's plans of gentrification to strengthening relations with North Koreans. Squatting in Paju's derelict apartments, the group is under siege from an unidentified property developer who has engaged goons to bulldoze the buildings. With only the briefest of hints as to what has transpired, Eun-soo is nowhere to be seen and Joong-shik and Eun-mo are clearly at odds. While believing her brother-in-law killed her sister for insurance money, Eun-mo finds herself falling in love with him, the sole guardian and grownup in the lonely girl's life. Narrative flashes back twice more to sparingly fill in the gaps on their shifting lives.[12][13]



This is Park Chan-ok's long-awaited follow-up to her critically praised 2002 debut Jealousy Is My Middle Name.[20]

Park had found it difficult to secure funding for her sophomore film amidst Korean cinema's currently declining investment environment,[21][22] and though her screenplay won the Kodak Award and received ₩20 million (US$19,000) worth of negative film from the Pusan Promotion Plan in 2005,[23] it would eventually take almost seven years to complete Paju. Park said, "I stopped (filming) because I could not make any more modifications to it. I wanted to talk about emotions shared by two people who are similarly alone.[24] More than a love affair between a man and a woman, the relationship between Joong-shik and Eun-mo is more of compassion that those in agony are likely to develop for each other."[25]

Park said Paju is the perfect backdrop for this mysterious and gripping story.[26] "When I think of Paju, I always view it as a mysterious place because it was always foggy whenever I visited there and it also sits right next to the border area dividing the two Koreas. I wanted to portray that mysterious feeling in the film."[25]

Critical receptionEdit

Paju played to highly impressed reviews in its debut in the 14th Busan International Film Festival. The PIFF jury awarded it the NETPAC Award, describing it as "a fine example of passionate, high-quality filmmaking."[27]

Screen International said of director Park, "This should help to cement Park's reputation as one of [South] Korea's most talented arthouse directors"[28] while Variety praised the film's handling of elements of melodrama, action and mystery, saying they "make it function like a Bergmanesque thriller."[29] The Hollywood Reporter wrote that "Seo delivers one of the most believable depictions of conflicted female emotion as has ever been put on film in Korea."[30] called it "without question one of the best Korean films of 2009."[31][32][33]

In 2020, the film was ranked by The Guardian number 14 among the classics of modern South Korean cinema.[34]

Film festivalsEdit

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
2009 14th Pusan International Film Festival NETPAC Award Paju Won [27][35][36]
New Currents Award Paju Nominated
10th Women in Film Korea Awards Woman Filmmaker of the Year Park Chan-ok Won [37][38][39][40]
2010 13th Deauville Asian Film Festival Jury Prize Paju Won [41]
Best Film Paju Nominated
11th Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival Best Actor Lee Sun-kyun Won [42][43][44]
46th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Director Park Chan-ok Nominated
Best Actress Seo Woo Nominated
11th Busan Film Critics Awards Best Cinematography Kim Woo-hyung Won
4th Asia Pacific Screen Awards APSA NETPAC Development Prize Paju Won [45][46]
Best Feature Film Paju Nominated [47][48]
Best Actress Seo Woo Nominated [49][50]


  1. ^ "Paju-si (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  2. ^ "Paju opens IFFR 2010". International Film Festival Rotterdam. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  3. ^ Mundell, Ian (12 November 2009). "Paju to open Rotterdam Film Festival". Variety. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  4. ^ Shin, Hae-in (13 November 2009). "S. Korea's Paju to open Dutch film fest". Yonhap. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  5. ^ "Paju to Open Rocarno Film Festival". The Korea Times. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  6. ^ "Int'l Film Festival Rotterdam to Open with Paju". KBS World. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  7. ^ Mundell, Ian (28 January 2010). "Paju opens Rotterdam". Variety. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  8. ^ "Dutch courage". International Film Festival Rotterdam. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  9. ^ Frater, Patrick (11 March 2010). "Paju to compete at Tribeca". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  10. ^ "Tribeca '10: Haunting Love on the Lam: Park Chan-ok's Paju (World Narrative Competition)". IndieWire. 14 April 2010. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  11. ^ Miller, Jenni (30 April 2010). "Q&A: Paju". Tribeca Film Festival. Archived from the original on 10 December 2010. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  12. ^ Song, Woong-ki (30 March 2010). "Five must-sees at Busan film festival". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  13. ^ Beck, Una (30 October 2009). "PREVIEW: Movie Paju". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  14. ^ "Lee Seon-kyun Comments on His Role in Paju". KBS Global. 27 October 2009. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  15. ^ Beck, Una (7 April 2010). "INTERVIEW: Actor Lee Sun-kyun - Part 1". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  16. ^ Beck, Una (7 April 2010). "INTERVIEW: Actor Lee Sun-kyun - Part 3". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  17. ^ Choi, Ji-eun (28 April 2010). "INTERVIEW: Actress Seo Woo - Part 1". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  18. ^ Choi, Ji-eun (4 December 2009). "Seo Woo's Movie Picks: Movies with the strongest impression, regardless of genre". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  19. ^ "Seo Woo Courted by Foreign Directors". The Korea Times. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  20. ^ Moon Seok. "Return of the Masters". Korean Film Observatory No.28 Archived 2010-12-16 at the Wayback Machine, pp.16. Korean Film Council. 28 November 2008.
  21. ^ Park, Sun-young (22 October 2009). "Six filmmakers confront the struggle of the second time". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  22. ^ Park, Soo-mee (10 October 2009). "Pusan a sophomore curse, blessing". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  23. ^ "PIFF: Korean, Thai Directors Win Top PPP Prize". The Korea Times via Hancinema. 12 October 2005. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  24. ^ Shin, Hae-in (22 October 2009). "(Movie Review) 'Paju' examines female psyche through forbidden love, social disorder". Yonhap. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  25. ^ a b Park, Sun-young (16 October 2009). "An illicit love affair mixed with mystery". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  26. ^ "K-FILM REVIEWS: 파주 (Paju)". Twitch Film. 21 December 2009. Archived from the original on 28 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  27. ^ a b Kim, Lynn (16 October 2009). "Korean film Paju wins NETPAC Award at PIFF". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  28. ^ Paquet, Darcy (12 October 2009). "Paju". Screen International. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  29. ^ Edwards, Russell (19 October 2009). "Paju". Variety. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  30. ^ Kerr, Elizabeth (15 October 2009). "Paju -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  31. ^ Paquet, Darcy. "Paju". Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  32. ^ Mudge, James (20 February 2010). "Paju (2009) Movie Review". Beyond Hollywood. Archived from the original on 25 September 2010. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  33. ^ Raymond, Marc (18 April 2010). "In Review: PAJU (Park Chan-Ok, 2009)". The One One Four. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  34. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (13 February 2020). "Classics of modern South Korean cinema – ranked!". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  35. ^ Noh, Jean (16 October 2009). "Kick Off, Trouble take New Currents Award at PIFF". Screen International. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  36. ^ D'Sa, Nigel (22 October 2009). "14th PIFF Wraps With Awards". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  37. ^ Ko, Kyoung-seok (16 December 2009). "Dir. Park Chan-ok named top female film figure of year". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  38. ^ Garcia, Cathy Rose A. (15 December 2009). "Park Chan-ok Named Female Director of Year". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  39. ^ "Park Chan-ok Named Female Filmmaker of 2009". The Chosun Ilbo. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  40. ^ D'Sa, Nigel (24 December 2009). "PARK Chan-ok Named Best Femme Filmmaker". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  41. ^ "2009 - Festival du Film Asiatique de Deauville". Archived from the original on 2011-07-24.
  42. ^ Hong, Lucia (30 March 2010). "Lee Sun-kyun wins best male actor at Las Palmas film fest". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  43. ^ Lee, Claire (2 April 2010). "Actor Lee Sun-gyun wins prize at Las Palmas film fest". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  44. ^ D'Sa, Nigel (2 April 2010). "Paju lead wins best actor at Las Palmas". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  45. ^ "Korea's Park Chan-ok Wins APSA NETPAC Prize". Asia Pacific Screen Awards. 1 December 2010. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-07.
  46. ^ Hong, Lucia (2 December 2010). "Director of Korean film Paju wins award at film fest in Australia". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  47. ^ "Asia Pacific Screen Academy » Paju". Archived from the original on 2011-10-17. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  48. ^ George, Sandy (18 October 2010). "Chinese blockbuster Aftershock leads Asia Pacific Screen Awards nominations". Screen International. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  49. ^
  50. ^ Bulbeck, Pip (18 October 2010). "China's Aftershock Leads APSA Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-11-20.

External linksEdit