10 May 2021

K Movie Review: 1987: When the Day Comes (2017) 4.9 || 4.8

It's been a while since our last political K movie. We watched A Taxi Driver about 8 months ago. And a lazy Sunday afternoon while in between dramas was a perfect time to watch another one.


1987: When the Day Comes shows us the events that led to the democratic uprising in South Korea in that year. 

It all started with the death of Park Jong Chul (Yeo Jin Goo of House on Wheels, Hotel Del Luna, and Start-Up). Jong Chul, a student activist who was being interrogated, died while undergoing water torture. The government tried to cover up the incident but thanks to real patriots, the story leaked, which eventually led to an uprising. 


It was sad that the techniques used by the government officials in the movie are still the very same stuff current oppressive leaders are using - anyone who are not for them are against them. And the easiest way to do that is to come up with fabricated stories that will red tag the opposition. And brainwashing people to believe that when they support the government (despite its wrongdoings), they were being patriotic. 

There were a lot of characters here and I won't go through each one of them because I might miss some. So I'll just go through the relevant group of characters. 

The death of Jong Chul triggered the uprising but his appearance was very minimal. It was more of a cameo when his torture was shown as a flashback. Although it was short, that scene was very heavy and difficult to watch. With his face being plunged into water until he finally ran out of breath. Jin Goo might have had a short stint in this movie but he made the most out of the few seconds/minutes that he had. 

I loved how the movie showed that the uprising was not due to one particular hero. Whatever transpired was brought about by the collective effort of the opposition. No matter how little they contributed, they all helped bring out the truth.

The Prosecutors

It was Prosecutor Choi Hwan's (Ha Jung Woo) persistence that first helped unearth the truth. Although the communist hunter group/torturers (led by Kim Yun Seok as Park Cheo Won) refused to allow others to interfere in the investigation, Choi Hwan somehow found a way for an autopsy to be performed before Jong Chul's body was cremated. 

With his colleagues, Prosecutors Lee (Seo Hyun Woo of Juror 8, A Taxi Driver, and My Mister) and Pyo (Lee Chang Hoon of Something in the Rain and Record of Youth), Choi Hwan was able to leak some information to the media that got them digging into what really happened. 

Initially, I thought Choi Hwan was going to be the hero here, but turns out that he just helped kickstart everything. 

The Doctor

It's a shame that I can't find the doctor's name in the list of characters. I believe the doctor who was called to revive Jong Chul and who later on performed the autopsy was also instrumental in revealing the truth. His hands were tied due to the pressure from higher ups but when he had the chance, he secretly leaked the cause of the death to a reporter, which made the media even more curious about this case. 

The Prison Guards

Prison Guard Han Byeong Yong (Yu Hae Jin of A Taxi Driver) was another very important character in this story. He was assigned to man the jail where two of Cheo Won's fall guys were detained. In the course of his duty, he overheard some incriminating information. He passed this on to some of the high ranking activists that he communicated with. 

Warden Ahn Yoo (Choi Kwang Il of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, Vagabond, and Prison Playbook), Byeong Yong's boss, was actually the one who overheard one of the fall guys (Park Hee Soon as Jo Han Kyung) confess the details of Jong Chul's torture and death. However, he was afraid to divulge that information because he was threatened by Cheo Won. Ahn Yoo also believed that as a public servant, his duty was just to do his job and he had to turn a blind eye on the irregularities happening around him. But thanks to Byeong Yong's persistence, Ahn Yoo finally yielded and narrated everything he heard about the incident. 

The Students

My knowledge on this matter is limited but I believe most modern day uprisings have students as one of the major movers. The same is true in this 1987 uprising. It was a student activist's death that triggered these events. And the outraged student activists who were left behind carried on the fight for their fallen comrade. 

The students led by Lee Han Yeol (Gang Dong Won) organized various activities like protests and film showings about the Gwangju uprising disguised as a comic club film showing event. This was how Han Yeol met Byeong Yong's niece, Yeon Hee (Kim Tae Ri). 

Yeon Hee was her uncle's runner whenever he had to send a message to his contacts and he felt it was unsafe for him. Yeon Hee was hesitant at first but when Byeong Yong was abducted by Cheo Won's group, she finally delivered the final and important message that led to the disclosure of the truth. 

As the movie ends and after Cheo Won and his team were arrested and Byeong Yong was released, Yeon Hee sees the newspaper with Han Yeol's photo on the front page. It's revealed that he died after he was hit by a tear gas can during one of the protests. Yeon Hee, probably appalled by all the injustices she witnessed, now joins the protests. 

Apart from Jong Chul's death, Han Yeol's death also solidified the people's support for the uprising. Over 1.6 million people attended his funeral. 

The Clergy

Byeong Yong's messages were being transmitted to members of the clergy, including Ham Se Woong (Lee Hwa Ryong of Something in the Rain). The initial meeting place was a temple and when their cover was blown, they moved to a Catholic church. 

When the final message was delivered, it was the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice that made the announcement to the media. 

The Media

The nosy media people never backed down despite threats from other government officials. They bravely carried on their duty of revealing the truth to the public. And because they were not afraid, they were able to expose the injustices that finally pushed the people to join the uprising. 

The Common Man

Everyone did their part. The taxi drivers. And the shopkeepers who hid the protesters whenever they were pursued by government officials.  

Artistically speaking, I have no complaints. All the actors were great. And the story was solid even if they probably made some embellishments here and there. 

With all these numerous people involved, all I can say is it really takes a village to bring down an evil regime. The uprising here might not have exactly brought down the government right away but it was a big step towards that. 

Movies like this never get old. It becomes relevant now that a lot of people are just so jaded about government leaders and when it's sometimes difficult to find a reason to love your country. This movie is a very good reminder that no matter how tired we are of fighting for what is just and right for our country, we should never give up. Otherwise, we will be doing a great disservice to those who sacrificed their lives so we can have the freedom (imperfect as it may be) we're enjoying right now. 

Oppa says...4.9.

Noona says...4.8.