Memories of Murder

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    Directed by:

    Bong Joon-ho

    1986. In a rural district of South Korea, two women have been recently raped and murdered. Working on the case are detectives Park Doo-man and Cho Yong-koo. Their efforts are impeded by some sloppy crime scene procedure by the police. Their methods of solving cases are also quite basic, essentially amounting to beating confessions out of suspects. All this leads to nothing and the police chief brings in a more sophisticated and intelligent detective from Seoul, Seo Tae-yoon. With his arrival the methods improve but they still don't have the killer. Then another woman is found murdered and a pattern emerges. Based on a true case.


    • Song Kang-ho – Park Doo-man, the detective in charge of solving the murders
    • Kim Sang-kyung – Seo Tae-yoon, a younger, but much more professional, detective from Seoul, who volunteers to help Park
    • Kim Roi-ha – Cho Yong-koo, Park's partner, who beats suspects
    • Song Jae-ho – Sergeant Shin Dong-chul, the detectives' superior, who takes over partway through the investigation

    Critical Response:

    Within a year of its debut, Memories of Murder was received as a cult film. Later in the decade, it was praised by numerous international publications, referred to as one of the greatest films of 2000s, one of the best crime films ever made, and one of the best South Korean films of all time. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 94% based on 63 reviews, with an average rating of 8.20/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Memories of Murder blends the familiar crime genre with social satire and comedy, capturing the all-too human desperation of its key characters."

    On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100 based on 15 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". The film won the South Korean film industry's 2003 Grand Bell Award for Best Film, while Bong Joon-ho and Song Kang-ho won the awards for Best Director and Best Leading Actor, respectively.

    Box Office:

    By the end of the film's domestic run, it had been seen by 5,101,645 people, making it the most watched film during the year 2003 in South Korea. While it was eventually outgained by Silmido, which was released in the same year, most of Silmido's audience did not see it until 2004. At the end of the film's run, Memories of Murder was also the fourth most viewed film of all time in the country, after Shiri, Friend and Joint Security Area. The commercial success of the film has been credited as saving one of its production companies, Sidus Pictures, from bankruptcy.

    Real Life Case:

    While a total body count was never mentioned in the film, at least 10 similar murders were committed in the Hwaseong area between October 1986 and April 1991. This killing spree became known as the Hwaseong Serial Murders.

    More than 13 years later, on 18 September 2019, police announced that a man in his 50s, Lee Choon-jae, had been identified as a suspect in the killings. He was identified after DNA from the underwear of one victim was matched with his, and subsequent DNA testing linked him to four of other unsolved serial murders. At the time he was identified, he was already serving a life sentence in a prison in Busan for the rape and murder of his sister-in-law.

    After Lee's arrest, Bong Joon-ho commented, "When I made the film, I was very curious, and I also thought a lot about this murderer. I wondered what he look[ed] like." He later added, "I was able to see a photo of his face. And I think I need more time to really explain my emotions from that, but right now I’d just like to applaud the police force for their endless effort to find the culprit.”