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Jiseul poster.jpg
Hangul 지슬 2
Revised Romanization Jiseul
McCune–Reischauer Chisŭl
Directed by O Muel
Produced by Ko Hyeok-jin
Written by O Muel
Starring Lee Kyeong-joon
Hong Sang-pyo
Moon Seok-beom
Yang Jeong-won
Music by Jeon Song-yi
Cinematography Yang Jeong-hoon
Edited by Lee Do-hyeon
Japari Films
Distributed by JinJin Films
Release date
  • October 6, 2012 (2012-10-06) (BIFF)
  • March 21, 2013 (2013-03-21) (South Korea)
Running time
108 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Jeju
Budget US$190,000

Jiseul (Hangul지슬) is a 2012 South Korean war drama film written and directed by Jeju Island native O Muel. The film is shot in black and white with the entire cast composed of local actors speaking their natural dialect.[1] "Jiseul" means "potato" in Jeju dialect.[2] O said he picked it as the title of his film because "potatoes are considered a staple food in many countries, often symbolizing survival and hope."[3] Set during the Jeju Uprising on the island in 1948, O said the film does not focus on the large-scale struggle, but on a forgotten true story about a group of villagers who hid in a cave for 60 days to escape from a military attack. They hid underground for months, cold and numb, far too close for comfort—just like the potatoes to which the title refers.

The film had a small budget of ₩210 million (US$190,000), part of which was raised through crowdfunding.[4] It premiered at the 2012 Busan International Film Festival where it received 3 awards—the CGV Movie Collage Award, the Director's Guild of Korea Award for Best Director, and the NETPAC Jury Award.[5][6][7]

Jiseul later won the prestigious World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[8] It became the first Korean film ever to win the top prize in this category. Festival organizers said that the jury’s decision was unanimous, and their deliberation lasted less than one minute. It also won the Cyclo d'Or, the top prize at the 2013 Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema,[9][10] and Best Film at the inaugural Wildflower Film Awards in 2014.[11][12] The broader response from critics and international audiences was more mixed, with some viewers feeling frustration at not being given more background information in the film.[13]


In November, 1948, the U.S. military stationed in South Korea issues an order that all people living five kilometers outside the coast line of Jeju island are labelled as communist rebels and can be executed on sight.

When a small village on Jeju Island (located off Korea's Southern coast) receives the eviction order, its barely literate inhabitants simply can't gauge the order's import. Some 120 villagers flee to a cave and hide for 60 days from armed soldiers. Many of the soldiers are young recruits, shivering in the November snow, who are aware that the people they are shooting are not communists. Meanwhile, the villagers, huddled in the cave, grow more and more anxious about the people and livestock they have left behind. They suffer from severe cold and hunger but retain their sanity by making jokes and holding on to the hope that their wait is almost over. Eventually their endurance wanes, and fear begins to test the group's mettle.[14][15][16][17]


  • Sung Min-chul - Man-chul
  • Yang Jung-won - Yong-pil
  • Oh Young-soon - Mu-dong's mother
  • Park Soon-dong - Mu-dong
  • Moon Suk-bum - Won-shik
  • Jang Kyung-sub - Master Sergeant Kim
  • Uh Sung-wook - Sang-deok
  • Kim Dong-ho - Soon-deok's father
  • Kim Soon-deok - Soon-deok's mother
  • Son Wook - Byung-ho
  • Lee Kyung-joon - Kyung-joon
  • Choi Eun-mi - Mu-dong's wife
  • Hong Sang-pyo - Sang-pyo
  • Jo Eun - Chun-ji
  • Kang Hee - Soon-deok
  • Son Yoo-kyung - Chun-seob
  • Jo Yi-joon - Mu-dong's daughter
  • Lee Kyung-shik - Sergeant Go
  • Ju Jeong-ae - Ju Jeong-gil
  • Baek Jong-hwan - Corporal Baek
  • Kim Hyeong-jin - Dong-soo


The events in Jiseul was triggered by the Jeju Uprising in April 1948, which began in response to police firing on a demonstration commemorating the Korean struggle against Japanese rule, morphed into an armed rebellion against the U.S.-backed military government in South Korea, and devolved into the republic's second biggest massacre that lasted until September 1954.[citation needed] Until the late 1990s, mention of the incident, which reportedly destroyed more than two-thirds of the island's villages and killed 30,000 people, the vast number of them innocent civilians, was a criminal offense.[18][19]

Filming location[edit]

Many of the scenes were shot in Dongbaekdongsan Wetland, a Ramsar Wetland.[citation needed]

Box office[edit]

After winning a major award at Sundance, the film rode enthusiastic word-of-mouth to rack up a box office score almost unheard of for small-budget independent films in Korea.[4][20][21] With 144,602 admissions, it became the most viewed indie dramatic film, beating the 2009 record of Yang Ik-june's Breathless (122,918).[22]

The only other independent feature of this type to break out so dramatically was the documentary Old Partner, which amassed close to 3 million admissions during its 2009 release.[23]


  1. ^ Yun, Suh-young (18 March 2013). "Requiem for Jeju's forgotten masscre". The Korea Times. Archived from the original on 28 March 2014. Retrieved 2013-03-20. 
  2. ^ Lee, Eun-sun (26 February 2013). "The Hottest Potato of Them All". Korean Cinema Today. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  3. ^ "Jeju Native's Film Wins Jury Prize at Sundance". The Chosun Ilbo. 28 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  4. ^ a b Park, Sui (28 March 2013). "Arthouse film Jiseul trailblazing at box office". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2013-04-04. 
  5. ^ "O Muel's Jiseul wins the NETPAC award at the 17th Busan International Film Festival". NETPAC Blogs. 15 October 2012. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  6. ^ Conran, Pierce (12 October 2012). "BIFF 2012: Awards Announced, JISEUL Picks Up 3". Twitch Film. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  7. ^ Bechervaise, Jason (20 December 2012). "Jiseul". Screen International. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  8. ^ Conran, Pierce (28 January 2013). "JISEUL Picks up Grand Prize at Sundance Film Festival". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  9. ^ "Vesoul 2013 : Jiseul d'O Muel et With you, without you de Prasanna Vithanage se partagent le Cyclo d'or". Le Blog d'Ecran Noir (in French). 13 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  10. ^ Conran, Pierce (13 February 2013). "JISEUL Picks up Cyclo d'Or in Vesoul". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  11. ^ "Wildflower Film Awards". Koreanfilm.org. 10 February 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  12. ^ Frater, Patrick (1 April 2014). "Jiseul Plucks First Wildflower Korea Award". Variety. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  13. ^ Paquet, Darcy (4 February 2013). "A New Kind of Film, from Jeju Island". Daum. Retrieved 2013-02-10. 
  14. ^ Elley, Derek (17 December 2012). "Jiseul". Film Business Asia. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  15. ^ Lee, Maggie (22 January 2013). "Jiseul". Variety. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  16. ^ Lowe, Justin (28 January 2013). "Jiseul: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  17. ^ Kim, Kyu Hyun. "Jiseul". Koreanfilm.org. Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  18. ^ Jeon, Chan-il. "Jiseul". BIFF.kr. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  19. ^ "Jiseul". Sundance Institute. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  20. ^ Baek, Byung-yeul (14 April 2013). "Jiseul hits 100,000 audience mark". The Korea Times. Archived from the original on 28 May 2015. Retrieved 2013-04-16. 
  21. ^ Lee, Claire (17 April 2013). "Triumph of Jiseul continues". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
  22. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (24 April 2013). "JISEUL Becomes Most Viewed Independent Film". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  23. ^ Paquet, Darcy (18 April 2013). "Box Office: April 4-17, 2013". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Violeta Went to Heaven
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: World Cinema Dramatic
Succeeded by
To Kill a Man