|Answer: < The Hand of Destiny (Unmyeong-ui son) > (Han Hyeong-mo, 1954)
The first kiss scene in Korean film history was presented in director Han Hyeong-mo’s second work, < The Hand of Destiny (Unmyeong-ui son) >, after he gained a name for himself through < Madame Freedom (Ja-yubu-in) (1956). From today’s standards this scene was merely a brush of the lips that lasted for about 2 seconds, but resulted in a huge sensation marking an epoch in Korean film history back then when Confucianism ruled social conventions. For instance, the husband of Yun In-ja, the heroine of the film, wanted to sue director Han Hyeong-mo. As funny as it may sound now, these things were quite serious back then.
The film captured the trends and sentiments of the time and its artistic quality was very high, proving director Han Hyeong-mo’s abilities once again. The heroine of the movie, Yun In-ja, has two names; Margaret and Jeong-ae.
Margaret, who buys suits for the men she likes and pays for his education, is positive and provocative, unafraid to confess her love. She lives a life surrounded by what was known as the ‘new culture’ ? American culture, products, apparel, and highrise apartments. But when she becomes a sacrificing and passive women to her men, she is called by her real name, Jeong-ae. These two names suggest the contradicting and doubled-faced fantasy of Margaret, who hearts the new trend of women who were represented by foreigners’ mistresses. That is, it criticizes the fact that she is fascinated by the freedom and materialistic wealth of the modern woman but nevertheless wishes to be a passive female-figure at the same time. The kiss scene, in particular, which may have seemed lewd in those times, is the moment Margaret becomes her purest at heart, as the once out-spoken and honest woman falls submissive to her man’s desires.
Margaret, who is a spy from North Korea, falls in love with Yeong-cheol (played by Lee Hyang), who is a poor student. But she finds out that he is a captain of the South Korean army, she becomes torn between her love for Yeong-cheol and her loyalty to North Korea. Pressured by threats, Margaret lures Yeong-cheol to the secret hideout of North Korean spies but in the end, sacrifices herself for Yeong-cheol’s life (in this sequence, Margaret wears the traditional Korean dress instead of her sophisticated Western suit, and a white lace veil that symbolizes repentance, purity, and sacrifice. She satisfies the male fantasy of being a enchantress and a submissive female character at the same time). In the last sequence with the kiss scene, Yeong-cheol kisses Margaret as if he is absolving her sins and then shoots her. < Swiri(Swili) > (Kang Je-gyu, 1998), a film of the late 1990s that dealt with a similar subject matter, portrays a female North Korean spy who sacrifices her life for her lover who is a South Korean spy. In this sense, female characters have not changed almost at all in several decades.
The fact that the first kiss scene appeared in Korean film history in 1954, right after the Korean War is very significant. As was mentioned shortly above, Margaret, who is a North Korean spy and a ‘bar girl’, represented an ‘apres-girl’ figure that symbolized the values of the post-war society. With US intervention in the war, American culture, armed with the free sex mentality and capitalistic products, flowed into the country and young women were at the heart of this new culture. So this kiss scene could be seen as a direct expression of the radical shift to a free sex mentality amidst the chaotic post-war society. Despite the ascetic Confucianism social atmosphere, Yun In-ja gained tremendous popularity playing the sumptuous and provocative role of Margaret. After gaining the ‘apres-girl’ image from this film, Yun In-jae went on to play the fatally seductive ‘apres-girl’ figure in various other movies such as < The Postwar Generation (Jeonhupa)> (1957). The image of the apres-girl who is honest to her desires but yields to satisfy the males’ desires in the end and accepts the punishment to go back to being a submissive woman may be seen as a reflection of women suppressed by the paternalist system and morals despite the freedom and capitalist mentalities that spread with the inflow of American culture and the environment that encouraged consumption of pleasure.