Whether you liked late President Roh or not, his movie is a hit

December 23, 2013
The Attorney is the first Korean movie to eclipse 1.2 million moviegoer mark in only three days. (Yonhap)

The Attorney is the first Korean movie to eclipse the 1.2 million moviegoer mark in only three days. (Yonhap)

“The Attorney” starring Song Kang-ho off to record-breaking start at the box office

Whether you liked him or not, the movie inspired by late President Roh Moo-hyun during his days as a lawyer, “The Attorney,” is off to a torrid start at the box office.

The movie eclipsed the one million mark just three days after opening, and sold 1.2 million tickets through Saturday, according to the Korean Film Council. It represents a quicker pace than the previous record-holders – “Miracle in Cell No. 7 ” (2013) and “Gwanghae: The Man Who Became King” (2012) – as they both needed four days to garner one million sold tickets.

Tickets sold through online reservations for “The Attorney” reached 34 percent over the weekend, with “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” coming in at a distant second (15.4 percent of online tickets sold).

Directed by Yang Woo-seok, the film portrays how an opportunistic tax lawyer emerges as an influential human rights attorney while defending a student activist under the oppressive government of military dictator Chun Doo-hwan in the 1980s.

The story is loosely based on the famous “Burim” incident of 1981, when the Chun regime arrested 22 students and teachers belonging to a book reading club without warrants on fabricated charges of them being North Korean sympathizers. Roh, along with his future political ally Moon Jae-in and the late lawyer Kim Kwang-il, had led the legal team that defended the arrested individuals.

In the movie, Song Kang-ho stars as the lawyer Song Woo-seok, the character based on Roh. Enraged by the arrest of Jinwoo, the son of a widow who owns a small restaurant he frequently visits, Song agrees to defend the young man in court in a case that increasingly becomes a broader fight for civil liberties.

“The movie generated significant online buzz because it involved the incident that allowed Roh to rise as a public figure,” said film critic Park Woo-sung. “It’s not a biographical story of the late Roh, but a movie that depicts lawyers’ role during the dictatorial regime during the 1980s and how such historical events influenced them to become humanists from being materialists. Song’s acting takes these historical facts to the next level, allowing people with all political views, even supporters of conservative politics, to enjoy the movie even if they don’t like Roh.”

Films featuring Song Kang-ho this year have already gathered 18 million viewers with “Snow Piercer” garnering 9.3 million and “The Face Reader” 9.1 million.