The Housemaid (1960 film)

The Housemaid (하녀, Hanyeo) is a 1960 black-and-white South Korean film. It was directed by Kim Ki-young and starred Lee Eun-shim, Ju Jeung-nyeo and Kim Jin-kyu. It has been described in as a "consensus pick as one of the top three Korean films of all time".[2] This was the first film in Kim's Housemaid trilogy followed by Woman of Fire and Woman of Fire '82. The film was remade in 2010 by director Im Sang-soo.

The Housemaid
The Housemaid (1960).jpg
Theatrical poster to The Housemaid (1960)
Revised RomanizationHanyeo
Directed byKim Ki-young[1]
Produced byKim Ki-young
Written byKim Ki-young
StarringKim Jin-kyu
Lee Eun-shim
Ju Jeung-ryu
Um Aing-ran
Music byHan Sang-gi
CinematographyKim Deok-jin
Edited byKim Ki-young
Distributed byKuk Dong
Seki Trading Co.
Release date
  • November 3, 1960 (1960-11-03)
Running time
108 minutes
CountrySouth Korea


The film is a domestic horror thriller telling of a family's destruction by the introduction of a sexually predatory femme fatale into the household.

The film begins with a scene of a composer, Dong-sik Kim, reading to his wife a newspaper story about a man falling in love with his maid.

The story then jumps to the composer working at a factory. The composer has just moved into a two-story house with his wife and two children. When his pregnant wife becomes exhausted from working at a sewing machine to support the family, the composer hires a housemaid, Myung-sook, to help with the work around the house. The new housemaid behaves strangely, catching rats with her hands, spying on the composer, seducing him and eventually becoming pregnant by him.

The composer's wife convinces the housemaid to induce a miscarriage by falling down a flight of stairs. After this incident, the housemaid's behavior becomes increasingly erratic. She threatens to kill the composer's newborn son. She tricks the composer's son Chang-soon into believing that he has ingested poisoned water, and in a panic, he falls to his death down a flight of stairs. Myung-sook persuades the composer to commit suicide with her by swallowing rat poison.

The film ends with the composer reading the story from a newspaper with his wife, returning to the very beginning of the film. The narrative of the film has apparently been told by the composer, who then smiles and warns the film audience that this is just the sort of thing that could happen to anyone.


Critical responseEdit

In 2003, Jean-Michel Frodon, editor-in-chief of Cahiers du cinéma, wrote that the discovery of The Housemaid by the West, over 40 years after the film's debut, was a "marvelous feeling—marvelous not just because one finds in writer-director Kim Ki-young a truly extraordinary image maker, but in his film such an utterly unpredictable work".

Comparing the director to Luis Buñuel, Frodon wrote Kim is "capable of probing deep into the human mind, its desires and impulses, while paying sarcastic attention to the details". He called The Housemaid "shocking", noting that "the shocking nature of the film is both disturbing and pleasurable". Frodon pointed out that The Housemaid was only one early major film in the director's career, and that Kim Ki-young would continue "running wild through obsessions and rebellion" with his films for decades to come.[3]


  1. ^ Infobox data from Frodon, Jean-Michel (2003). "Hanyeo (1960) The Housemaid". In Steven Jay Schneider (ed.). 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. New York: Barron's Educational Series. p. 385. ISBN 0-7641-5701-9.
  2. ^ Paquet, Darcy. "Darcy's Korean Film Page - 1960s". Archived from the original on July 7, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  3. ^ Frodon, Jean-Michel (2003). "Hayno (1960) The Housemaid". In Steven Jay Schneider (ed.). 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. New York: Barron's Educational Series. p. 385. ISBN 0-7641-5701-9.


External linksEdit