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MEMORIES OF MURDER
aka SALINUI CHUEOK
USA: Palm Pictures
UK: Optimum Releasing
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-Kyung, Kim Rwe-ha, Song Jae-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Ko Seo-hie, Park No-shik, Park Hae-il, Choi Jong-ryol, Jeon Mi-seon, Kim Ha-kyeong
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 127 mins
UK Certificate: 15 contains moderate violence, strong language and strong crime scene imagery
USA Release Date: 15 July 2005 (Limited Release)
USA Release Date: 14 June 2005 (Limited Release)
UK Release Date: 13 August 2004
Background - this is a true story.
1986 to 1991.
In a small town outside Seoul, over the course of six years 10 women were raped and murdered in a 2km radius. Korean society's first serial killer took the lives of 10 victims, ranging from a 71 year-old grandmother to a 13 year old schoolgirl.
As time went on, the methods of the killer grew more bold and well planned. One victim was stabbed 19 times in the chest, while another victim was found with nine pieces of a peach embedded inside her.
Other than the victims, the killer left not a single shred of evidence. Over 3,000 suspects were interrogated. At least 300,000 police took part in the massive investigation. But not a single person was indicted for the crimes.
This is a story about the detectives.
At a time in Korea when a murder investigation only meant grilling those who knew the victim, for these officers everything was a new experience. There was no profiling mechanism, nor any idea of preserving the crime scene for forensic investigation. Only search and interrogation based on the detectives' sense of duty and persistence. In this age of ignorance, there are only two detectives at the bottom of an ill-supported police force, who have only themselves to rely on to face this horrific series of events.
The film reminisces about a time of innocence when the inability to comprehend such heinous acts led to unbelievable mishaps and harrowing nightmares. Both death and laughter infuse the MEMORY OF MURDER.
The Murder file
Based on the real-life serial murders
As the only detective who was on the scene throughout the entire investigation, Detective Cho has since retired and runs his own business. However, he confesses that he still keeps copies of the main documents from the case. Once in a while, he comes across the file; he will probably never be able to throw it away.
As a reporter for the Kyung-in Daily News, Park was the only journalist who reported on all of the murders. He recalls the murderer this way: "The criminal was so calm about everything, in all that cold and darkness. There was no confusion or turmoil there. That bastard never lost his cool; it's amazing. He raped and killed the women, then concealed and abandoned their bodies. Women probably froze when they were confronted with this kind of coldness in the dark. They may have even taken their own clothes off, knowing; that was the power of his terror."
The police's desire to nab the killer led to some desperate measures. As the case dragged on, the anxious detectives searched out well-known fortune tellers in the area. When one fortune teller told them that the headquarters' northerly entrance brought bad luck, they moved it 10m eastward. Not surprisingly, the murders continued. Another fortune teller said that if they bathed nude in the western sea in an offering to the spirits, the killer would be caught within a month. Two high-ranking police officials chose the last night of January to strip and, trembling by the shore, pour freezing water over themselves with a bucket. Interrupted by a military sentry on patrol, they were forced to flee the comical scene without their clothes.
A scarecrow was erected near the crime scenes. Although it looked like something that had been put up by villagers, it was actually the handiwork of the police. On the scarecrow it read, "Turn yourself in, or else your limbs will rot and you will die."
At the time, scientific investigative methods had not been established in the police force, and they were ill-equipped to respond to the serial murders—a type of crime they had only heard about in western news. Ultimately, their confusion and experiences led to improvements that raised the level of investigative techniques.
The murderer is...?
...a resident of the village
The murderer was clearly familiar with the area. In the ninth murder, he must have known ahead of time that there was a clearing after about 150 meters of forest.
...a man with psychosexual disorders and a hatred of women
The corpses of the raped and murdered women were brutally disfigured. Sexual deviants are reportedly calmer than the average criminal and more careful after committing crimes.
...in his 30's or younger
The use of restraints and the scope of abductions indicated considerable strength. The crimes showed a particular obsession with sexual organs, suggesting someone who was relatively sexually inexperienced.
...persistent and determined
In the fifth murder that took place in January 1987, the murderer waited over an hour in -15C rain before seizing his victim and dragging her 700 meters away.
...daring and methodical
Despite the intense police investigation, the murderer brazenly continued his killing spree. He always used the victims' possessions as weapons, and the crime scenes were so thoroughly tidied that he did not leave behind even a single pubic hair.
...a man with type B blood
At the scene of the ninth murder on November 1990, traces of semen were found on the nylon stockings that were used to tie the victim's neck and hands.
This is the story of the detectives who were at the frontlines of the investigation.
A young woman who left for a blind date is later found naked in a drainpipe...
In a rural village in 1986, a young woman is found brutally raped and murdered. Two months later, a similar crime occurs, attracting the nation's attention. As the murder spree continues, women avoid leaving their homes after dark. The unfamiliar crime of serial murder soon engulfs the whole region in its terror.
A special taskforce is set up, joined by a detective from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Bureau, but the investigation is going nowhere. A special investigative taskforce is established in the area, led by Sergeant Koo Hee-bong (Byun Hee-bong), with detectives Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho) and Cho Yong-koo (Kim Rwe-ha), area natives, and Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-Kyung), a detective from Seoul who volunteered for the assignment. A man driven by his instincts and fists, Park goes around trying to beat a confession out of the village hooligans. In contrast, Seo studies the case files carefully in search of clues, and their clashing styles inevitably creates tension from the outset The end appears to be in sight when a suspect is arrested, but he denies being the killer at a crime scene verification that is witnessed by a large group of journalists. Following this chaotic incident, Koo is fired.
Who could the serial killer be?
Not a trace is left behind at meticulously cleaned-up crime scenes...
The complete lack of evidence mystifies the detectives. The killer uses only the victims' own clothing or possessions as weapons and restraints and doesn't even leave behind a single pubic hair, as is normal at a rape scene. The investigation is revitalized with the arrival of Shin Dong-chul (Song Jae-ho), Koo's replacement. Taking a clue from the fact that not a single hair has ever been found on the scene, Park scours the area's temples and bathhouses for people suffering from hairlessness. Meanwhile, Seo reviews the case files and discovers a pattern of victims wearing red on a rainy day.
A dark and endless enigma...
The killer strikes for a tenth time, still shrouded in mystery—how long will his reign of terror last?
The detectives decide to lay a trap one rainy day, planting an undercover officer dressed in red. To their dismay, the gruesome body of another woman is found the very next morning, and the investigation hits another dead end. The press has a field day criticizing their incompetence, driving the detectives to distraction.