YIDFF 2017 New Asian Currents
Bamseom Pirates, Seoul Inferno
An Interview with Jung Yoon-suk (Director)

The “Noise” in Society

Q: There is a very strong, aggressive energy that you can feel from the Bamseom Pirates duo. Why did you decide to film them?

JY: The lyrics of the Bamseom Pirates songs are very good, and have a poetic feel to them. The members sing about things like historical absurdities in Korea. They sing about Korean society, and about themselves. Rather than being political, or wanting to break something down, they are more interested in genuinely examining musicality and enjoying themselves. However, because most people can’t understand their lyrics or content, their music doesn’t get much airtime, and it’s often ruled out as raucous music. Because their music is raucous, listeners turn their backs on it, and I think this symbolizes something else. I think it’s the same in Japan—there’s a tendency to see this kind of raucous music as noise, right? For example, when the sinking of MV Sewol in Korea caused the loss of so many lives, various people took to the streets and held demonstrations. But I think there’s a culture that sees their views as noise. The Bamseom Pirates are trying to raise an awareness of the issues therein.

Q: Was there anything you were particular about while editing this film?

JY: I thought it was crucial to distinguish between the two characters. Kwon Yong-man is the one who entertains thoughts about breaking up the band, or tearing up something else. Jang Sung-gun is the one who takes each step one at a time, who works hard in a methodical manner. Both of these aspects exist in me, and I need both an attitude like Kwon Yong-man’s to be an artist, as well as an attitude like Jang Sung-gun’s to methodically complete a film. I’ve been friends with these two for 6 years, and whenever I think of my own identity, they’ve always made me think of this.

Q: Do the things that Bamseom Pirates talk about resonate with young people of the same generation in Korea?

JY: The response to Bamseom Pirates is split down the middle among twenty-somethings in Korea. One side is absolutely thrilled, and the other is deeply uncomfortable. Among the people who have seen the film, there are those who publicly say that it’s interesting, and then whisper terrible things about it when they’re out of the spotlight. I think the point of these terrible things usually amounts to something along the lines of, “You can do it because you’re rich.” In the past 10 years or so, there have been two major keywords in Korean society. One is “Hell Korea,” which means that it is that difficult to live in the present day. The other is “880,000 won generation.” It’s a word for those forced into non-regular employment, and it comes from the 880,000 won income of a non-regular company employee on hourly wage. This has become a keyword for youths in Korea. The term “880,000 won generation” gives off the sense of a label, so to speak, affixed to youths by the previous generation. It implies that one is among a crowd of losers, and it incenses the youths. The problem is that there is no outlet for these feelings of anger. Young people are forced into non-regular employment, and even if they try to take a stand against society, the situation is one where you simply can’t. If they’re going to let their anger out anywhere, it’s going to be on Twitter or other social networking sites.

(Compiled by Okuyama Shinichiro)

Interviewers: Okuyama Shinichiro, Abenoki Tatsuya / Interpreter: Tamura Mika / Translator: Joelle Tapas
Photography: Abe Shizuka / Video: Yoshimura Tatsuro / 2017-10-07