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   Ji-Yoon Park

Reflective Essay on ‘Like You Know It All’  

When listening to a song by Lim Kim - ‘Without Knowing It All’, I was attracted by the phrase ‘Like you know it all’ and thought it would be an appropriate title for this film. I hope it will be able to be the best title for the film, because even if the film deals with an issue of suicide in South Korea, ultimately it is a film about the proper understanding of others and an attitude towards problems of others.

I’ve always wanted to address the suicide issue in Korea, but it was a difficult topic. I did not want to make a documentary film about persons who had tried to kill themselves or the bereaved of suicide. Maybe it can lead to ethical problems, and sensational things can be emphasised unintentionally. I longed for a protagonist capable of presenting a new perspective about the issue above. It’s because I wanted to ask a question about an ‘attitude’, that is, how we should see and talk about the issue of suicide in our society. Therefore, I had an interview with a counsellor at ‘Lifeline Korea’. She had been getting calls from lots of people and training many counsellors for 45 years, so she had plenty of stories to tell about the suicide issue in Korea from various sides.

In Korean society, there is still prejudice against going to a psychiatrist. So, the ratio of going to a shrink is lower than that of suicide. Beginning from prejudice against depression, the film brings together stories of the rapidly increasing suicide rate after the Korean Financial Crisis in 1997, moments of an emergency call with a person on the bridge and personal narratives of the counsellor at Lifeline Korea. And in such a process, her personal narrative engages with the universal narrative of Korean society.

Considering that counsellors at Lifeline Korea talk with anonymous people with the voice only, only audio interviews were conducted. Furthermore, hearing the interview recordings again and again, I shot images corresponding to the stories in a new manner. In the film, one cannot see the face. Instead, certain places and movements appear, through which you can imagine stories from interviews. It was a process for making the invisible visible.

In the film, ‘imagination’ was important. It would not be possible to know under what situation others are positioned or what inner intention they have and also who they are. I think the fundamental cause of suicide matters lies in our interpreting, defining, explaining or shooting our mouth off over others like we know it all. Particularly, in Korean society where ‘collectivism’ is rampant, it’s easy to butt in on the problems of others. Accordingly, though we can’t know everything on other people’s mind, I wanted to explore what effort we should make to understand it constantly, while imaging its riddling depth. In addition, I constructed images and sound by thinking over the theme above.

According to data by Statistics Korea, the suicide rate for women in their twenties increased rapidly by 43% in the first half of 2020. From January to August in 2020, the number of those who attempted suicide was 15,090, increasing by 10% year on year, and females in their 20s occupied much. The film does not deal with the issue of their suicide only, but I made the film by considering the experience I went through as a woman born in the 90s. Moreover, I heard the news about their rapidly increasing suicide while editing this film. 

- Written by Ji-Yoon Park, April 2021


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