South Korean filmmakers have started a hunger strike relay in support of the Sewol Ferry disaster victims’ families.
They announced it Saturday (Aug 9) on Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square where family members and other supporters having been staging protests for an independent probe into the April ferry sinking in which more than 300 people died.
Most notable among these is Kim Yung-oh, father of one of the high school students who died in the disaster. Kim is in his 29th day on hunger strike in record summer temperatures.
Actress Moon So-ri, whose performance in Oasis won her the 2002 Venice Film Festival’s Marcello Mastroianni Award, and her husband, director Jang Joon-hwan of Hwayi: A Monster Boy and Save The Green Planet, spearheaded the movement for fellow film industry people to take part in the hunger strike.
Participants include veteran director Chung Ji-young, well-known for films such as National Security and Unbowed as well as his previous Screen Quota activism; The Berlin File director Ryoo Seung-wang and his wife, producer Kang Hae-jung; director Park Jung-bum, whose latest film Alive is screening in the Locarno film festival’s competition; and documentary sleeper hit Old Partner director Lee Chung-ryoul.
The way the relay works is five to six filmmakers go on hunger strike together for a day, most of them sitting out under a canopy on Gwanghwamun Square, and then another group takes over the next day.
Producer Lee Eun who, with his wife Jaime Shim runs the powerhouse production company Myung Films (JSA, Architecture 101), was in the first group to start the hunger strike relay on Saturday.
“Our offices are not far from here and every time we passed by we talked with our employees about how we could support the protest,” said Lee.
“Then, in the film industry, the mother of a very young child - actress Moon So-ri - came out with this suggestion. She and her husband are busy people and they are both participating.
“We are the parents of a bigger child, so we as a couple are participating, too. The politicians are pushing through a nonsensical special law for investigation, and we felt the victims’ families would be feeling too lonely in all of this.
“Right after the Sewol Ferry disaster, the government was trying to dispose of the incident by offering the families compensation and special privileges. But what the families really want is a thorough investigation into the causes so that no other children in this country or any other will ever have to die like that again.”
The ferry, which capsized April 16, was overloaded and a criminal investigation is ongoing about dangerous modifications that regulators may have overlooked.
Protestors, disturbed by the rescue procedure and subsequent investigation, are asking for an independent panel with special powers to subpoena information and prosecute. A Sewol Ferry special law proposal the National Assembly put forth a few days ago specifically did not contain any endowment of those two powers.
Chung said: “This proposal that the ruling and opposition parties have agreed to seems to say they have no real intention of investigating the truth. That makes us think the politicians might be complicit in the Sewol Ferry disaster. And if we citizens stay silent, we could also be colluding with them. So that’s why we are participating in the hunger strike.”