“A fascinating snapshot of Korea’s evolving national psyche in the 1990s.” - Twitch
- Berlin International Film Festival
- New York Film Festival
- Sheffield Doc/Fest
- Vancouver Int. Film Festival
- Busan International Film Festival
Weaving together several notorious, and seemingly unrelated, episodes from 1980s and 1990s South Korea, this deft exploration of crime and punishment illuminates the power structure and cultural awakening of the country as it emerged into democracy.
Non-fiction Diary (논픽션 다이어리) begins by recounting the case of the “Jijon Clan”, a group of impoverished rural youths arrested in 1994 for committing a series of savage murders, in a warped form of class warfare amidst growing social inequity. It proceeds to provocatively compare and contrast this case with two disasters of the era -- the Seongsu Bridge collapse in 1994 and the death of 502 people in the Sampoong Department Store collapse of 1995, revealing layers of corruption, negligence, and unaccountability embedded more deeply in the society.
The Jijon Clan’s rapid trial and capital punishment sentencing was pressured in the name of social purification by the new administration of President Kim Young-sam, the first civilian leader of South Korea in more than three decades. In the media, it was debated whether they were born evil or made evil by their environment. Leading up to the executions, their process of religious conversion to various Christian denominations was followed with vested interest by those communities.
In the subsequent year, the country witnessed the arrest and imprisonment of its two preceding presidents, former generals Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan, the latter receiving a capital punishment sentence for leading the 1979 coup d’état and the 1980 massacre of democracy activists in Gwangju. However, each of their sentences were soon commuted by the Supreme Court, and both men were pardoned and released in December 1997 by the outgoing president. On a single day one week later, the Ministry of Justice carried out the execution of 23 convicts citing “congestion on death row”.
Guided by detectives and other first-hand observers involved in these various episodes, Non-fiction Diary methodically juxtaposes recent South Korean history to suggest a series of uncomfortable conclusions, highlighting some of the growing pains that accompanied the country’s rapid ascension from military rule into a prosperous democracy.
93 Minutes | Korean with English subtitles.
Directed by: Jung Yoon-suk
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