The protagonist is one of the growing group of poor North Korean refugees who are trying to adapt in capitalist South Korea. The maker, former assistant director to Lee Chang-dong, has made a deeply moving and profound film about the position of the unwanted guest.
North Korean ‘defectors’ who survived their flight to South Korea and are seeking a place in society remain recognisable for employers and authorities because their registration number starts with 125. As a result, it is difficult for them to get a good job.
The introvert Jeon Seung-Chul, played by the director Park Jung-Bum himself, also ends up stuck in the middle. He tries to earn his living as honestly as possible on the fringes of the capitalist society and on the outskirts of the mega city Seoul - first sticking up posters, a job in which competition and territorial claims are murderous. His only comfort is a beautiful white stray dog he cares for. When he also starts working at night in a karaoke bar, he seems to be acquiring more perspectives, both economically and romantically. But he remains an outsider. His attempts to improve his position in some way are not without their down side.
In 2008, Park made the successful short film 125 Jeon Seung-Chul, which would form the basis for The Journals of Musan. In between, he worked as assistant to Lee Chang-Dong on his Poetry. Park’s first full-length feature, which has already won prizes at its world premiere at the Festival of Pusan, is profound, realistically shot and moving.