|Answer: Screen-and-stage play < Fight for Justice (Uilijeog guto) > / Dramatic film < The Vow Made below the Moon (Weolha-ui mangseo)>
As a matter of fact, the debate about the first Korean movie is still ongoing. The foremost problem is that the film recognized until now as the first in Korea’s film history, < Fight for Justice(Uilijeog guto) >, is not completely a dramatic film but a screen-and-stage play, where a performance on an outside stage was recorded on camera and displayed on screen. The director of Shingeukja Productions, Kim Do-san, directed this film with the funds from Park Seung-pil, the manager of Danseongsa and was released in 1919. It was a film to be played in a small section out of the whole theatrical performance so the question about whether this should be regarded as a true film in itself still remains. There are also debates regarding the exact wording of the title, but an advertisement in Maeil Newspaper right about the time the film was released in 1919 writes the title as < Fight for Justice(Uilijeog guto) >. In any case, the Korean film industry views October 27th, 1919, the day of the first premiere of < Fight for Justice(Uilijeog guto) >, as the birth of the Korean film industry and October 27th is commemorated as Film Day. Many people have different interpretations about the content of this movie, but film historian Ahn Jong-hwa refers to it as the story of a man who defeats the schemes of his evil step-mother who has her greedy eyes set on his family assets.
Meanwhile, if we were to consider the first dramatic film as the true first film work, the 1923 film < The Vow Made below the Moon> should be recognized as the first Korean movie. Still, there are people who disagree with this, too. Some Korean film historians such as Jo Hee-mun argue that < The Border (Gukgyeong)>, which was released in January of 1923, should be considered as the first Korean film. However, since the production of this film was mainly directed a Japanese production company, Shochiku, and the producer was also Japanese, most people find it meaningless to recognize this as Korea’s first film. Also, since < The Vow Made Below the Moon(Weolha-ui mangseo) > was funded by Japanese capital, some argue that < The Story of Jang-hwa and Hong-ryeon (JanghwaHongryeonjeon) > made in 1924 and funded by Park Seung-pil, the president of Danseongsa, should be considered as the first Korean film. But this is not a widely accepted view either. At present, the 1923 film < The Vow Made below the Moon(Weolha-ui mangseo) > should be considered as the first dramatic film of Korea.
< The Vow Made below the Moon(Weolha-ui mangseo) > is a film planned and funded by the government to enlighten Korean citizens about saving. This 1923 film was directed by a Korean director Yun Baek-nam and according to film historian Lee Young-il, the storyline goes like this. Yeong-deuk and Jeong-sun are engaged, but Yeong-deuk, who is an intellect with a degree from Seoul, becomes addicted to gambling and other sensual pleasures. His debauchery leads his family to near bankruptcy, and that is when his wife, Jeong-sun, resolves his debt with the money she had saved up until then. Yeong-deuk pulls himself together, promising to turn over a new leaf, and the two become happy again.
After < The Vow Made below the Moon(Weolha-ui mangseo) >, a Japanese director, Hashikawa Koju, made < The story of Chun-hyang (Chunhyangjeon )> which became a huge box office hit. Finally, in 1924, < The Story of Jang-hwa and Hong-ryeon(JanghwaHongryeonjeon) > is made with Korean capital (from Park Seung-pil’s Danseongsa, motion picture filming division) and with a Korean producer (Kim Yeong-hwan) and cameraman (Lee Pil-woo). Shortly following this, the history of Korean film enters into the era of silent films represented by Na Wun-gyu.
Director Yun Baek-nam (1888-1954) who made < The Vow Made below the Moon(Weolha-ui mangseo) > is a man who left firm footprints during the years of Japanese rule as a novelist, teacher, and film director. After directing < The Vow Made below the Moon(Weolha-ui mangseo) > in 1923, he made < The Story of Un-yong (Un-yeongjeon)> (1925) with Joseon Kinema Company, which is well-known as Na Wun-gyu’s debut film. He went on to establish Yun Baek-nam Productions, a purely Korean film company, and produced < The Story of Shim-cheong (Shimcheongjeon)> and < A Pioneer (Gaecheokja)>.
After independence, he was nominated as the chairman of ‘Joseon Film Construction Headquarters’ and in his later years of life, strived to raise aspiring students of film as the dean of Seorabeol Arts College.