[A Look Back on Korea's 'Cheonman Movie' #7] Miracle in Cell No. 7

연합뉴스 / 2021-09-12 11:52:53
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by Ra Hwak Jin / Lee Hyo Yoon

[Episode 7] Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013 Directed by Lee Hwan-gyeong)

▲ This photo shows the actors of "Miracle in Cell No. 7." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 


▲ This photo, shows the poster for "Miracle in Cell No. 7." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

“Miracle in Cell No.7” which was released in January 2013 aiming for the Korean New Year’s Day holidays, became the first comedy film to attract over 10 million audiences (12.281 million). It has also ranked 7th place for the most popular Korean movie.

The film shows a father, Yong-gu (Ryu Seung-ryong), with an intelligence of a 6-year-old and smart, pretty 7-year-old daughter Ye-seung (Kal So-won)’s heart-touching family love against the world’s misconceptions and injustice. Yong-gu gets sent to prison for a mistaken accuse of having raped and murdered the daughter of the Chief of the National Police Agency. Events that happen from Yong-gu bringing Ye-seung into cell No. 7 with the help of the fellow prisoners are portrayed with laughter and tears.

Some commented that the film reminded of a Hollywood movie “I Am Sam” (2001) in that it also drew a desperate affection between an angel-like father with a child’s intelligence and a pretty daughter. But “Miracle in Cell No. 7” didn’t receive praising comments from the critics at the time, as it lacked probability and details for settings and the court-scene. However, the audiences went wild at Ryu’s acting and showed enthusiasm at the actors’ father-daughter chemistry.

▲ This photo shows Ryu Seung-ryeong and Kal So-won. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


◇ Ryu Seung-ryong+Kal So-won… the best father-daughter chemi
Veteran actor Ryu Seung-ryong is one of the biggest factors that led the film to such a huge hit. He successfully played an adult with a 6-year-old’s intelligence which could have been overly childish if not done well. Before the film, he emitted fearsome presence in “War of the Arrows” as the captain of the Manchu army. Ryu also played the irresistible casanova “Jang Sung-ki” in romantic-comedy “All About My Wife” and cold-blooded king-maker “Heo-gyun” in “Masquerade.” The actor blended into “Yong-gu” so well that it was impossible to remember his previous characters.

Ryu explained that he actually met several times with a young man in his late 20s with a mental disability examine his manner of speaking and characteristics. The smiling expression throughout the whole film, switching subjects and predications of the sentences or repeating words were all from the examination. His speaking manner has been parodied in many show programs.

Ryu who became a lead actor of a hit film for the first time, returned with a heavy character in “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” as the king of the Japanese pirates threatening General Yi Sun-sin (Choi Min-sik) next year. Later he came back to comedy in 2019 with “Extreme Job” as the head of a drug-criminal capturing squad. The actor now in his 50s has been actively working as an actor showing a wide range of characters until now.

Another hit factor is Kal So-won who played the 7-year-old daughter Ye-seung. The actress, born in 2006, was 7 as well when the film was released. 8 years have passed, and she is currently 15 years old, a middle school third grader. She impressed the audiences with her natural acting skills despite her young age at the time. Kal has been working as a junior actress and appeared in “King of Mask Singer” to show her vocals in 2020. YG Entertainment is currently managing for her.

The cast for the fellow prisoners in the cell, Oh Dal-soo. Kim Jung-tae. Park Won-sang. Jung Man-sik, Kim Ki-cheon have also played for key supporting roles in various hit movies as well.


▲ These photo shows (from the upper left, clockwise) actors Ryu Seung-ryeong, Oh Dal-soo, Park Won-sang, Kim Ki-cheon, Jung Man-sik and Kim Jung-tae. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 


◇ The producer NEW grows into major… Other producers legally disputed over sharing profit

NEW, which used to be a small investment and distribution company, miraculously grew to join No. 4 major film companies’ league in South Korea with “Miracle in Cell No.7.” Other major companies are CJ E&M, Lotte Entertainment and ShowBox which are all subsidiaries of large corporations and own cinema-chains as well.

The film’s net-cost for production was 3.5 billion won and with promotion marketing fee added, its total cost is around 6.1 billion won. It has recorded 91.4 billion won which is about 15 times its total cost.

Meanwhile, as the film became a mega hit, legal dispute over sharing the profit broke up between the other co-producers during which the directors and the actors’ amount of payments were disclosed.

The payments were revealed during CL Entertainmnet’s suing FineWorks claiming half of the net-profit according to their partnership terms. Ryu is known to have received 300 million won guarantee and after reaching the break-even point he was paid 100 won per exceeded viewer. As a result, Ryu earned 1.06 billion won for the running guarantee. Actor Jung Jin-young, who played as the security manager of the prison, received 200 million won guarantee and 520 million won for the running guarantee. Park Shin-hye, who took the role of the adult version of Ye-sung, did not deal for the running guarantee only receiving 30 million of guarantee.

The first trial adjudicated FineWorks to pay CL Entertainment 4.6 billion won but during the second trial the two companies reached to an agreement and the case was closed.

“Miracle in Cell No. 7” has signed a re-make publication rights contract with Spain’s “Rock and Ruz” and is planning to kick off its production. “Rock and Ruz” is a new production company found by Miguel Ruz, the producer of Netflix original series “Black Mirror.”


▲ This photo shows director Lee Hwan-gyeong. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

◇ Real-life stories in the film
The director and co-writer Lee Hwan-gyeong said that he plotted out the film based on a scene from a documentary where a single-father living with his daughter tells her, “Stay in school and don’t forget to pay 5,000 won for your lunch fee,” as he gets taken away by the police. The little girl answered “I will pay my lunch fee and I will not be scared in the nights.”

In addition, ‘Ye-seung’ is the real name of the director’s daughter.

The other writer, Kim Hwang-sung, included his actual experience of having confined in ‘cell No. 7’ for 4 months for delivering illegal sexual materials due to his wrong choice in the past. Kim said that he was inspired to live from a youngster living in regret for having committed murder for a split-second mistake and another young man who, although was abandoned by his parents and committed crimes, does not lose hopes and dreams of a new life.

Another real event, similar to the film, was later spotted as well. Jeong Won-seop, who was wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering a 9-year-old daughter of an executive police in September 1972 and has been in prison for 15 years, was found innocent through a retrial in 2008. It turned out that Jung faked a confess by the police’s pressure, torture and threatening, and that the evidence discovered in the crime scene had been manipulated. After being released, the innocent man studied theology and became a pastor. He passed away in March 2021, 87-year-old.




This photo shows (in the middle) Jeong Won-seop lifting his arms up in delight of having proved his innocence and resolved his wrong conviction. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap) 


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