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Director Jero Yun comes back with indie film about North Korean defector ‘Fighter’

From left: Director Jero Yun and actors Baek Seo-bin, Lim Seong-mi and Oh Kwang-rok pose after a press conference at Lotte Cinema in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, Thursday. (Indiestory)
From left: Director Jero Yun and actors Baek Seo-bin, Lim Seong-mi and Oh Kwang-rok pose after a press conference at Lotte Cinema in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, Thursday. (Indiestory)

Director Jero Yun, who directed the film “Beautiful Days” about a mysterious North Korean woman refugee in 2017, has returned with “Fighter,” about a female North Korean defector living in South Korea.

“I came up with the story for ‘Fighter,’ along with ‘Beautiful Days,’ back in 2012 when I was part of Cannes Film Festival’s residence program,” Yun said during a press conference held Thursday at Lotte Cinema in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul. “‘Beautiful Day’ has a more complicated plot about family, whereas the storyline of “Fighter” is simple and it mainly follows after protagonist Jin-ah.”

In Yun‘s film, North Korean refugee Jin-ah (Lim Seong-mi) juggles two different part-time jobs -- one at a restaurant and another at a boxing gym -- to earn money to bring her dad to South Korea. Jin-ah’s father escaped from North Korea and is in hiding in China. One day, the head boxing trainer (Oh Kwang-rok) discovers that Jin-ah has talent and encourages her to become a professional boxer.

The director said he tried to realistically show the fight that North Korean refugees are going through in the movie.

“It is a reality. Many of the North Korean refugees that I know face lots of prejudice in our society. It seems like there is an invisible wall,” Yun said.

Yun also hopes that audiences can relate to Jin-ah’s character.

“Not just North Korean refugees, but all of us are going through some sort of challenges in our society and are also fighting to achieve our own goals,” the director said.

During the press conference, he shared how he came up with the movie‘s main character Jin-ah.

“I picked a young woman as the protagonist because I wanted to do a story that is both light and serious,” Yun said. “I also put a lot of effort into directing Jun-ah’s love story.”

In the movie, Jin-ah falls in love with young boxing trainer Tae-su (Baek Seo-bin) who, like Jin-ah, has found the meaning of life through boxing.

To play Jin-ah, actor Lim said she spent lots of time training and also learning a North Korean accent.

“I wanted to practice different technics of boxing but it was hard to learn them in a short time,” Lim said, adding that she mainly focused on mastering basic technics like a jab.

For the North Korean accent, Lim said she learned it like how she would learn a new song. “I thought of it as writing music. It was difficult to speak the accent since it was not my natural accent,” Lim said.

Last year, “Fighter” became a highly anticipated independent film after winning two awards at the 25th Busan International Film Festival -- the NETPAC Award and Actress of the Year.

Although it failed to win any prizes, it was also invited to compete in the Berlin Film Festival’s Generation 14plus category.

“Fighter” will hit local theaters on March 18.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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