Chungmuro/Film News
26 Years opens in first place at the box office
by | December 1, 2012 | 76 Comments

It’s a good day for revenge film 26 Years — after losing investors due to its politically sticky subject matter, languishing in development for four more years, and then resurrected by collecting donations from netizens online (reportedly 5 million won from over 13,000 people), the movie finally saw the light of day, and opened in theaters at number one. Slow clap, people. Slow clap.

The project is based on a 2006 webtoon of the same name by Kang Pool, about a group of individuals who set out to get revenge for the Gwangju Massacre of 1980, 26 years after the fact. The target of their assassination plot? Ex-president Chun Doo-hwan. You can see why it’s controversial — a wish-fulfillment revenge plot against a living ex-president is not for the faint of heart.

A little background: Chun Doo-hwan was the last dictator of South Korea who ruled from 1979 to 1988. He was technically only a military dictator from 1979 to 1980, and then won an “election” to the presidency in 1980, wherein he was the only candidate on the ballot. His term marks one the most turbulent political eras in modern Korean history, and his was the regime against which citizens rose up in organized demonstrations in May 1980, culminating in the Gwangju Massacre.

The movement and rebellion calling for democracy rose up in various parts of the country, but was most heated and most organized in Gwangju, where students took up arms in protest. The demonstration lasted days until the military came and quelled the movement. The death toll is still unknown to this day. Chun was belatedly tried for his crimes and sentenced to death, later overturned by life imprisonment, later overturned again with a reduced fine.

The film takes up 26 years after that event, when five characters who each lost a family member in May 1980 come together to find their own justice. Jin Gu (Moby Dick) plays a gangster; Han Hye-jin (Syndrome) a professional shooter (the athlete kind); Bae Soo-bin (49 Days) plays a businessman; Im Seul-ong (Acoustic) a young policeman, and Lee Kyung-young (Vampire Prosecutor 2) the head of a private security team. Jang Kwang plays a character they only call “That Man,” aka ex-president Chun.

The directorial debut from Jo Geun-hyun (art director on The Royal Concubine) opened on November 29 with over 110,000 tickets sold, taking first place at the box office, and easily doubled the figure and then some on its second day out. Not bad for a movie partially funded by donations online. Sometimes, the internet rules.

26 Years is in theaters now.

Via Xports News, Star News


76 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. ilovedramas

    sounds so depressing.

  2. birdscout

    This movie looks intense. I hope it comes to my city with subs. Would love to watch this with my kids. It would be a great starting point to learn about this period in Korea’s history.

    (Bae Soo-bin is looking mighty fine and intense himself.)

    • 2.1 cynkdf

      Hi birdscout, your words about BSB are like music to my ears πŸ™‚ We (meaning fans of the movie) are hoping that “26 Years” will be able to recover what the investors have put into it (about two million admissions required) and then we hope it will break box office records. πŸ™‚ It would be great if it is shown in countries outside S Korea but for that to happen, overseas distributors would have to be contacted, yes?

      • 2.1.1 JoAnne

        I can only see these online with subs but I would be so happy to find a place to pay for a story with so much heart behind it

        • cynkdf

          Joanne, well said. Do you mean with our without subs? My two posts with links to the Eng-subbed videos are awaiting moderation by GF but if you just go to Youtube and type in the words “Highlights 26 Years English subtitles” you’ll see at least one of the videos with Eng subs. πŸ™‚

          • JoAnne

            with! On the way to see now!

    • 2.2 Ruky

      I would recommend you watch May 18 first before watching this movie. It shows you the massacre, that way it is easier to sympathize with the characters and their cause for revenge

  3. mud

    Whoah, this sounds amazing and intense. I hope it comes out with subs. And yep, sometimes the Internet is all kinds of amazeballs.

    • 3.1 cynkdf

      GF, please do forgive me for posting so much, I promise not to type here again .. for the next hour or so.

      mud, I have only watched a 5-min highlights clip, the teaser, the trailer (final version), making of the Flower OST complete with a scene from the movie and a few other clips The experience has been transformed (in a good way) by those clips being provided with English subs by Onsemiro.

      To relate my own experience of watching a clip first without Γ‰ng subs (I don’t understand Korean ) and then watching it again, this time with English subs by Onsemiro. I watched the Vvdeo about the making of the Flower OST, and it had a scene where the characters played by Jin Goo and Han Hye Jin stood in a memorial hall looking at the photos of their respective parents who had been killed in the Gwangju Massacre.

      When I watched the vid without Eng subs, I thought the music was wonderful but didn’t really understand what the two of them were talking about. However once I watched the video with English subs, I cried when I watched the scene. Having those English subs truly made a difference.

      • 3.1.1 mud

        Thank you for pointing that out! Here’s the link for others who may need the Eng subs:

        • cynkdf

          mud, many thanks.

          I wish to thank GF again for her excellent post about 26 years as this will be read by a lot of K-film fans, who we hope will ask their respective country’s film distributors to bring 26 Years to their country. πŸ™‚

          If you go to Youtube and look for videos by m26years and movie26years (the movie’s official YTubers??) – you’ll see some interesting vids. And if you go to dearkorea’s channel, Γ½ou’ll find some great English-subbed clips (relating to 26 Years and non-26 Years related). May I suggest you look for the Flower video featuring Lee Seung Hwan (main backer behind the 26 years project) and a very young Park Shin Hye (vid made in 2003) – that is an awesome MV (IMHO).

          Many thanks, all. Apologies for so many posts on this, just got a tad excited at seeing BSB’s name mentioned here πŸ™‚ It’s been eons since I saw that…

      • 3.1.2 plywood

        with or without English sub, the human heart will hear the sorrow even if the mind cannot understand the words spoken.

  4. ailee

    i’m so watching this πŸ˜€

  5. cynkdf

    GF, thank you so much for writing about this (I was hoping you would). For people who don’t know Korean, Onsemiru of mydearKorea has provided many of the 26 Years videos with Eng subs (in my next post, I’ll post the links).

  6. cynkdf

    Many thanks to Onsemiru for providing wonderful Eng subs:

    Highlights (5 min)


    Trailer – final version

    Flower OST

    Movie 26 Years cast interview

    26 Years concert on 16 Nov to promote the movie

    If it’s OK, can I provide a few more links in later posts?

    26 Years Fighting!

    • 6.1 cynkdf

      Many thanks to GF for posting about 26 Years. I must apologize for posting a couple of wrong links .. to the Flower OST and trailer (final version).

      There are many more videos on Youtube (eg many videos of stage greetings uploaded by fans who attended – the cast and director have been working very hard on this, and stage greetings were held in cities like Gwangju (emotional session for BSB, Han Hye Jin etc)

      We’d also recommend that you watch a video of Lee Seung Hwan and KangFull on “Taxi ” talking about 26 Years – both come across as such nice guys.

      There are some of us (Alex1999 who posted here, myself – I am a BSB fan) a Han Hye Jin fan, BSB’s wonderful Korean fans, who have been following the filming/publicity etc of 26 Years ever since we learnt of our biases’ joining the cast. So please feel free to ask any questions and we’ll try our best to answer them.

      26 Years fighting!

  7. Fab

    I am really looking forward to this movie, partially because obviously that political movement could never get on film. Correctly if I am wrong…

    And gosh those citizens on the net can either make or break you..

    • 7.1 Fab

      *correct me…*

  8. cynkdf

    GF, pl forgive me for spamming – I love that you put Bae Soo Bin’s poster near the start of your post. He’s actually the fourth lead and although I’d dearly love for my K-drama crush to be the main lead, Jin Goo is deservedly the main actor. Yes, BSB does look intense and charismatic – I think one of the best experience for him is that many tweets from Koreans who have seen the movie have complimented him on looking so good in suits in the movie. πŸ™‚

  9. Quiet Thought

    Fabulous. Maybe it will educate a few of us foreigners about modern Korean history.

  10. 10 Ivoire

    Thank you!

  11. 11 ck1Oz

    Wow. The theme is impressive.
    And the thought that Netizens care enough for it to be made by donating— wow.

  12. 12 Sabah

    Well, I feel ignorant! UK’s international news coverage has always been poor but that really isn’t any excuse. Thank you for posting about this because it has brought my attention to a piece of recent history that really shouldn’t be forgotten.

    I think it is kind of befitting that it was ‘people power’ that got this movie made.

    • 12.1 pillowhead

      Me too. I know embarrassingly little about these tragic events. I would love to support this movie, but I doubt it will come in the theaters here. Hope it’s a blockbuster!!
      Also so impressed with netizens! Love to them and all those that suffered through those times.

      • 12.1.1 cynkdf

        Pillowhead, I was a working adult when the Gwangju massacre happened but cannot for the life of me remember reading about it here in Singapore (it could be that information to the world outside S Korea was distorted/suppressed then). Had it not been for Bae Soo Bin’s participation in this movie ( in July this year he decided to accept a part in), I think I would not have followed this movie so closely.

        Love the netizens of S Korea for how they have supported “26 Years”.

        • pillowhead

          Hi Cynkdf,
          So true. thanks for the reply. πŸ˜€

  13. 13 cynkdf

    GF, I just clicked on some of the links I posted – apologies, may not have posted them correctly. Here they are:

    Final version of trailer


    Flower OST

    Sorry again.

  14. 14 Minnetter (aka: Min)

    *I REALLY want to see this movie!! it’s impressive what positive things netizens can do when they want to!

  15. 15 shiku

    I definitely want to see the movie but I have to wait.

  16. 16 Alex1999

    Thank you for posting about this movie. I’m Bae Soo Bin fan from Thailand. I have been waiting for this movie since it was in production. BSB decided to be the 4th lead in this movie instead of being the first lead in another drama. So I think this movie means so much to him. I wish I was in Korea right now to see it even though I don’t understand Korean. Similar to cynkdf, I have watched the trailer with English sub and cried.

    This movie should be a good reunion of Han Hye Jin and BSB after Jumong. They were so close (in roles) back then. Plus BSB and Jin Goo are in the same agency. They are good friends. They must have had great time filming this movie. Im Seolong is awesome as well. They all look good together!!

    Hope it will gain more and more good feedback from the viewers. 26 Years fighting.

    • 16.1 Butterfly

      Really? I know that BSB choses his roles carefully which is one of many reasons why I respect him as an actor bc it proves that he is passionate and serious about acting. And also a diverse and versatile performer. But chosing to be 4th lead in such a controversial movie like this one instead of a 1st lead role of a drama has again gain more respect from me.
      Now, I can’t wait for the movie to be subbed.

  17. 17 Maysoon

    I watched “May18” couple of weeks ago and it was depressing. Tears were streaming down my cheeks throughout the whole movie. The teaser looks great so I cant wait to watch it!!

  18. 18 Schmazel

    This event sounds very much like what happened in Mexico in 1968, if I’m not mistaken. I wish the movie all the best in the box office. It seems like this year is a good one for Chungmuro.

  19. 19 Village Mrembo

    Has that ‘Hotel Rwanda’ feel to it, a story that must be told to ensure it’s never forgotten or repeated…

  20. 20 Funkypicklez

    Im Seoul Ong is in this? Wow. Mad respects to him and JYP for letting him star in such a controversial film!

    • 20.1 cynkdf

      Yep. I must confess to knowing nothing about ISO or indeed any other idol singer. But reading accounts about him such as how his 26 Years script was tattered because he was so studious in preparing for his role, and how despite being in a wheelchair (he had a foot injury and had to undergo surery) he took part in the concert on 16 November – well, respect to him.

      ISO has been very polite and respectful in talking about his seniors in the 26 Years cast – kudos to him!

      Despite the difficult circumstances surrounding the making of this film (in particular difficulty in getting funding) there has been some uplifting/funny moments eg Han Hye Jin & Bae Soo Bin doing live Twitter session with their fans on 27 November via the Movie’s Official Twitter. BSB’s wonderful Korean fan says that this is the first time in six years BSB has gone “live online – such a funny session too (especially HHJ – she’s got a great sense of humour).

      26 Years fighting!

      • 20.1.1 news

        The only thing I know about ISO is that Shin Min-Ah is his ideal type. In one of the cutest and funniest Strong Heart episode ever, SMA was a guest star so he was super nervous and adorable towards her. πŸ˜€

        • cynkdf

          He’s gained my respect … he had surgery on his broken foot on 31 Oct, yet I think the next day or so he was in Japan performing at a concert given by 2 AM

          On 16 November he was one of the many musicians & singers who joined Lee Seung Hwan in peforming at a concert to promote “26 Years”” — this while sitting in his wheelchair, on a cold and rainy evening in Seoul.

  21. 21 danna

    Wow, these netizens are truly awesome…I saw the trailer a couple of days ago and it looks intense…can’t wait to see it when its released with subs…also even though I checked it out for Bae Soo Bin, who I adore, I was more taken aback by the bits of Jin Goo that I saw in the trailer…lovely transformation… nothing like I’ve ever seen him in before

    • 21.1 cynkdf

      Hi danna – good to see another member of the BSB fan club. I’ll be completely honest and admit that if ever 26 Years makes it to Singapore, I’ll be watching it mainly because of BSB (although I like HHJ after watching her in “Jumong”). He himself said this is the best he has ever looked in a movie (or did he say movie and drama, I can’t remember) and after watching a few ’26 Years’ related videos, must say I agree with him.

      If you go to Youtube and copy and paste
      μ˜ν™” 26λ…„ 캐릭터 μ˜μƒ 곡개!!
      in search, you’ll see a video about the making of the character stills. 1:17 to 1:47 – BSB scenes …

  22. 22 Lemon

    Wow! I’m impressed by how supportive the netizens were, or maybe there still are many people out there bitter about the Gwangju massacre and want to see the ex-president assassinated onscreen. Haha.

    • 22.1 cynkdf

      :One of the videos found on Youtube shows about 15,000 names in Korean in the ending credits of the movie – names of the supportive netizens .. cool or what? πŸ™‚

    • 22.2 Orion

      Netizens in Korea can be a very big plague, but they can also do some very impressive and good things. This is one of them.

  23. 23 singingzombies

    Is that Han Hye Jin rocking a makeshift flamethrower in the pic? With a gunsight? Because you would need such accuracy with a flamethrower? Or a rifle disguised as a makeshift flamethrower? It’s got a rifle butt so I’m thoroughly confused here, but it’s a little sexy and bad*** to such a ridiculously looking weapon on such a small woman.

    Love Han Hye Jin, Im Seul-ong, and almost everyone in this movie. Can’t believe it make it completely past development with that premise but now I really want to see it lol.

    • 23.1 cynkdf

      singingzombies – perhaps you could ask HHJ herself on Twitter -just kidding. Her English is good.

      Translation of a tweet on 30 Nov from Han Hye Jin, thanks to one of her most fervent fans:

      Han Hye Jin tweeted some moments ago

      ν•œν˜œμ§„ [email protected]

      λ°•μŠ€μ˜€ν”ΌμŠ€ 지각변동 β€˜26년’ κ°œλ΄‰ 첫날 1μœ„ κ°μ‚¬ν•©λ‹ˆλ‹€ γ… γ…  우리 μ˜ν™”.. μ†Œμ€‘ν•œ 우리 μ˜ν™”.. 많이많이 μ‚¬λž‘ν•΄ μ£Όμ„Έμš” ^^

      – I believe 26 Years opened at no. 1 at the box office, surpassing Wolf Boy and Breaking Dawn 2!!!!

      Congratulations indeed!! Let’s continue to help promote this movie to the English speaking world so that it would also get some international distributors interested!!! ^^

  24. 24 Meeyeong

    μ œμž‘ μ „λΆ€ν„° λ―Όκ°ν•œ μ†Œμž¬μ™€ μ™Έμ••μ„€λ‘œ ν™”μ œλ₯Ό λͺ¨μ•˜λ˜ ’26λ…„’은 μ˜ˆλΉ„ 관객듀이 μ˜ν™”μ— νˆ¬μžν•˜λŠ” μ œμž‘λ‘λ ˆ λ°©μ‹μœΌλ‘œ μ œμž‘λΉ„λ₯Ό λͺ¨κΈˆν•΄ 7μ–΅ 원이 λ„˜λŠ” μ œμž‘λΉ„λ₯Ό μΆ©λ‹Ήν•΄ κ°œλ΄‰ μ „λΆ€ν„° 뜨거운 관심을 λͺ¨μ•˜λ‹€.

    You’re about 695 million won short, but nice try.

    • 24.1 cynkdf

      TherΓ© appears to be a typo in GF’s post – online donations are much more than 5 million won (I think the figure is about US$650,000). Figures as of an earlier date: 500 million won were donated online, ref this article:

    • 24.2 cynkdf

      There appears to be a typo in GF’s post which I hope she’ll kindly correct -the figure is 500 million (or more) won donated online.

      • 24.2.1 Kiara

        Maybe she meant 5 million USD.

  25. 25 JC

    This sounds like an amazing film!
    I have so much respect for the producer, director, cast and crew of this show, and the people who helped fund it.
    I’m not Korean, but I hope that this movie will be available soon for those of us in North America/elsewhere.

  26. 26 Kiara

    Thanks for the background info. I’m glad its doing well and props to those who helped make it happen.

  27. 27 Orion

    Very interested in this. My country had the same crisis at the time. Dictatorship/junta followed by student uprising and massacre, in 1973. I’ve seen the era depicted in Korean dramas and films, so it’s very interesting to see the similarities and also the same type of pain felt.

    I wasn’t born then, but we learn about those in school and there is a lot of talk about lately, when the country is again close to being a junta “off the record”.

  28. 28 ladymoxie

    Crying here… I’m not Korean but anything that involves the Gwangju Massacre always makes me cry. I might just rewatch Sandglass tonight T.T

    • 28.1 Kiara

      I love love love Sandglass. Wish they’d make more high quality dramas like that.

  29. 29 ladymoxie

    OMG, I just realized Han Hye Jin and Bae Soo Bin are in this together. Reminds me of Jumong hehehe

  30. 30 WM

    I so want to see this movie. I’d love if there was a theater around here that would show this sort of story, but unfortunately there’s not. I really just want to show support for it, because the subject matter is an important one, and because I believe part of the future of movie making is using the internet for backing, monetary and otherwise.

    Can’t wait until I can get my hands on this!

  31. 31 risa

    The more I learn about Korea, the more impressed I am by what Korea has become in a relatively short time, given its very painful history. I’m actually glad that the film had the financial problems it did and had to resort to soliciting donations from netizens– it sends a clear “we’re (still) mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore” message. And all the people flocking to see the film this weekend are adding their voices to the chorus. *continues slow clap*

    • 31.1 bjharm

      indeed what is 26 year but a single generation. But the echos are still strong in the way koreans still protray big bussiness and politics as totally corupted in mainstream TV dramas, and why not most of the men behind killings and beating back in the 80’s are still in power even now.

  32. 32 cynkdf

    risa, like you, I am full of admiration for Koreans and how well they have used social media and their technology expertise to solicit donations from citizens. Love what you said about the people adding their voices to the chorus.

    If you go to youtube and look for videos uploaded by movie26years, you’ll find a video showing rolling credits at the end of the movie – Korean names of the netizens who donated a certain amount, and this is a token of appreciation shown by the movie’s producers (incidentally the movie has an awesome marketing team which has worked tirelessly to promote the film).

  33. 33 Quiet Thought

    As Korea has freed itself from corrupt Chaebol rule since the 1980s, so the United States has been fighting to prevent corrupt Chaebol rule since the 1980s. Things like this movie are encouraging.

  34. 34 news

    Aw Im Seul-ong kept his word; he’s working super hard so that one day he’ll get a chance to star in a movie/drama with Shin Min-ah, his dream girl.

  35. 35 shansanwawa

    In Seul Ong without manliner… hmmm….

  36. 36 Melmax

    I soo want to see this, will this be coming to any theater in the U S, preferably L A? Thanks so much, having been thru oppression with a dictatorship, I’d like to see film.. Thanks..

    • 36.1 cynkdf

      Hi Melmax, I don’t know but maybe you can tweet the movie’s official twitter (she’s handling the marketing) ? The lady is awesome, you can write to her in English πŸ™‚ @movie26years

      • 36.1.1 Melmax

        @cynkdf Thank you

  37. 37 cynkdf

    Melmax, me bad – I’m told the person behind @movie26years is not a woman. However, he is being inundated with tweets from Koreans so if you don’t get an answer, it’s not that you are being ignored. Perhaps you could write to your local film distributor to ask if they are bringing 26 years to LA theatres? Thanks.

    • 37.1 Melmax

      @cynkdf thanks once again….. Maybe patience will pay off, I hope this will soon arrive in the US.

      • 37.1.1 cynkdf

        You’d prob know this … if you go to the KoBiz website, you can see the box office returns – 800,000 admissions so far for “26 Years” … 26 Years fighting!

  38. 38 Sammy

    This is the kind of movie right up my alley…and respect to all those netizens who contributed and made this happen. Venomous fangirls aren’t all what the internet has to offer.

  39. 39 scarlett

    am so glad my country’s move to oust a tyrant through people power ended well and with zero casualty or else i would be seeing the same movie plot as the one above.

    • 39.1 cheekbones

      And which country are you from ? Because I would think zero casualty is almost impossible ?

  40. 40 cheekbones

    There’s something about Jin Gu in these pics……..

  41. 41 dewaanifordrama

    Ooh! I want to see this!

  42. 42 Aj

    Really really surprised by this movie given it resonates with the current political climate and the upcoming presidential election.

    We have a Korea that was seemingly on the verge of electing the daughter of a former president / dictator and a movie that references one of the most democratic movements in Korea’s history.

    I really would be curious to see what the public discussion and debate on this is.

    • 42.1 cynkdf

      Hi the producers of “26 Years” worked mighty hard to make sure that the movie would be ready for a 29 Novemer release, before the upcoming elections. This has, I was told, given rise to some movie critics saying that the movie shows signs of being rushed (can’t confirm this s I don’t understand Korean). I disagree but then I am a rabid fan of Bae Soo Bin and have only just seen this 6-min clip of the movie. If it’s representative of the rest of the movie, then we have one film that we should put on our must-watchlist.

      Thanks to uploader of this :

      pl go to Youtube and copy & paste this in Search:
      μ ‘μ†λ¬΄λΉ„μ›”λ“œ 진ꡬ, ν•œν˜œμ§„,μž„μŠ¬μ˜Ή,배수빈,이경영의 26λ…„

  43. 43 Butterfly

    It’s so nice to see both BSB and HHJ working together again after ‘Jumong’.

    BSB looks smokingly hot, what an attractive man! Though it seems that his part won’t get much screen time (which is a shame bc he’s a great actor) I’m happy that he’s part of such a great project.

    I didn’t know about that part of Korean’s history. Sounds a lot like the Tianmen-demonstration 30 years ago in China. Interesting.
    And it’s amazing, that this movie got realized on crowd funding after the project was dropped before. Just proves how strong the sentiments of the people still are.

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