Interview with Kim-Gun’s Director KANG Sang-woo

KANG Sang-Woo

In this year’s Film Festival director KANG Sang-woo is proud to present the

viewers his documentary called Kim Gun. We asked him some questions concerning his choice of career and about his documentary Kim Gun:

Interviewer: How did you decide to become a director or involved in the movie industry?

KANG: Like a lot of directors, I was always into films since I was young. After graduating from college and working in a non-film-related company for a year, I thought I should give it a try and began making films in 2008.

Interviewer: How long did it take to develop the movie? For example, coming up with this idea?

KANG: It all started in the spring of 2015, a lady who participated in the 1980 Gwangju Uprising visited the archives, and saw a picture of a civilian militia member and remembered him as “Kim-gun,” who used to frequent her family’s restaurant. At the same time, the right-wing website users began to claim that the man is from North Korea. The film sort of chronicles our search for the man in the photo.

Interviewer: What role does the audience play? What feelings and thoughts do you want to convey?

KANG: I come from a generation born after the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, so even though we learned in school that the uprising was an important moment in the democratization of South Korea, the event still felt distant. I hope the film will help those who aren’t really familiar with the issue to feel what the survivors have gone through for the past 40 years.

Interviewer: Which scenes were the hardest to shoot and why?

KANG: It took us two years to find the last witness who testified about the whereabouts of Kim-gun. It was a deeply traumatizing event for him to even talk about, so we waited for another six months until the witness was ready to talk about what he saw.

Interviewer: How would you describe the atmosphere on set?

KANG: For most of the times, a team of four people visited a witness’s home or workplace to shoot the conversation, so it was usually a small amount of people and quiet.

Interviewer: Seeing the finished movie for the first time, were there any scenes that you wished you had shot / portrayed differently?


Interviewer: What was your favorite part while making this movie?


KANG: Lee Chang-seong, the photojournalist who shot photos of Kim-gun in 1980, allowed us to examine his uprising photo archive, consisting of 2300 14-kilo-pixel photographs. It was exciting to see so many high-quality images showing scenes of the 1980 uprising.

Interviewer: What are you working on next? Any future plans?

KANG: I am preparing for a fiction film this time.

Interviewer: #SaveOurCinema, what does it mean to you personally and as a director?

KANG: To me as an independent filmmaker, a film is not completed when the editing and the mastering is done, but when people actually watch it together at the movie theatre and talk about it afterwards. It’s important to keep such platforms for small independent films.

Interviewer: What do you think each and every one of us can do to #SaveOurCinema?

KANG: Can’t think of anything other than watching films at the independent theatres. The whole communal experience of watching films together needs to continue especially for independent films.