29 March 2008

Saying "I'm Sorry"

When I was in law school, I took a course in Asian Legal Systems and also had a number of South Korean L.L.M. students as colleagues. According to these sources, in Korean and Japanese judicial proceedings an apology to the victims is a standard part of almost every criminal proceeding.

But apologies aren't limited to court room settings. This week I saw the movie, "The Host" on DVD. Like most DVDs it had, in addition to the movie, some extras. There were deleted scenes, and then there was a featurette entitled "Director Bong Joon-Ho Reflections," a title that didn't precisely capture its substance.

It was a five to ten minute apology track. Seriously, the director of a medium to big budget movie made one non-stop apology after another. He apologized to actors whose lines or scenes were cut. He apologized to actors who were hard to recognize because their role in the film required them to wear masks or other obscuring head gear. He apologized to the gophers who had to carry large numbers of bicycles away from one of the shooting locations and then put them back when the scene was over. He apologized to citizens of Seoul whose commutes and leisure time were disrupted by his movie shoot and to crew members who had to deal with annoyed citizens. He apologized to prop makers whose work was hard to see because there were short scene cuts from a distance in their scene. And so on, and so on, and so forth. It was amazing. I've never seen such a thing in any other DVD I've ever watched. Movie directors in English language films, as a rule, are an arrogant lot who never apologize for anything.

But Korea is not the United States and that makes all the difference.

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