Memories of Murder

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Memories of Murder
Memories of Murder poster.jpg
Hangul살인 추억
Revised RomanizationSarinui Chueok
McCune–ReischauerSarinŭi Ch'uǒk
Directed byBong Joon-ho
Produced byCha Seung-jae
Written byBong Joon-ho
Shim Sung-bo
Based onMemories of Murder (play)
by Kim Kwang-rim
StarringSong Kang-ho
Kim Sang-kyung
Kim Roi-ha
Park Hae-il
Byun Hee-bong
Music byTarō Iwashiro
CinematographyKim Hyung-koo
Edited byKim Sun-min
Distributed byCJ Entertainment
Release date
  • 2 May 2003 (2003-05-02)
Running time
131 minutes
CountrySouth Korea
BudgetUS$2.8 million[1]

Memories of Murder (Korean살인의 추억; RRSarinui chueok) is a 2003 South Korean crime drama film[2] co-written and directed by Bong Joon-ho. It is based on the true story of Korea's first serial murders in history, which took place between 1986 and 1991 in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. Song Kang-ho and Kim Sang-kyung star as Detective Park and Detective Seo, respectively, two of the detectives trying to solve the crimes.

The film was the second feature film directed by Bong, following his 2000 debut film Barking Dogs Never Bite. The screenplay was adapted by Bong and Shim Sung-bo from Kim Kwang-rim's 1996 stage play about the same subject. The film's cinematography, as well as Song Kang-ho's performance, earned it wide praise.[3]


In October 1986, a young woman is found raped and murdered in a ditch near a field. Soon after, another woman is found raped and murdered in a field. Local detective Park Doo-man, not having dealt with such a serious case before, is overwhelmed; key evidence is improperly collected, the police's investigative methods are suspect, and their forensic technology is near non-existent. Park claims he has a way of determining suspects by eye contact. He learns from his wife that a scarred mentally handicapped boy, Baek Kwang-ho, resides in the town, and decides to question him first. He finds him and uses his eye contact method, instinctively thinking Baek is responsible. Park has his partner Cho beat confessions out of Baek and secretly record him talking about one of the murders.

Seo Tae-yoon, a detective from Seoul, volunteers to assist them. However he and Park's methods clash, and they get into a fight during a party. Seo looks at Baek's hands and deems them too weak and scarred to be able to commit such an elaborate crime, clearing his name. After more murders are committed they realize that the killer waits until a rainy night, and only kills women wearing red. A female police officer Kwon Kwi-ok realizes that a local radio station is always requested to play a particular song during the nights the murders are committed. Park continues to search for the killer, but finds nothing. At the latest crime scene, Park, Cho and Seo all arrive to investigate in different ways, but then a local man arrives, pulls out undergarments, and masturbates in a woman's red lingerie. Cho accidentally steps on a twig, prompting the man to run. They chase him into a crowd. Seo attempts to find a way to get everyone's attention, but Park identifies the man first after seeing him bend over and partially exposing the red lingerie underneath his pants. Despite already having identified him, he acts as if he is using his eye contact method once more, and has Cho apprehend him.

Park and Cho continue their tactic and brutally beat the man. Seo finds a survivor of the killer after tracing rumors around the local school with the help of Kwon. Upon learning from the survivor that the killer's hands were noticeably soft, Seo manages to clear the man as his hands are very rough. Infuriated that they lost their suspect, Park scuffles with Seo, until Kwon alerts them that the same song the murderer requested is playing. They realize it's raining, and arrive too late to find another woman murdered. Park and Seo and Cho decide to all work together. Upon doing an autopsy of the latest victim, they discover pieces of what looks like a peach in the body. Seo talks to a schoolgirl about a possible suspect, and supplies her with a band-aid for an injury on her waist. They follow a trail of clues to a factory worker Park Hyeon-gyu who had only moved to the area a short time before the first murder. They track the song using documents (a source that Seo always trusts, saying, "The documents never lie.") from the radio station to his address. The detectives are initially unable to pin anything on him. However, Seo notes that his hands are soft, like the survivor he questioned earlier had described. Hyeon-gyu begins to show discomfort when Seo presents the peaches, and thinks he's found the killer. Before he can question more, Cho loses control and beats Hyeon-gyu, prompting their superior to ban him from the interrogation room.

Park and Seo listen to Baek's earlier confession to a previous murder. Seo points out that he talks as if someone else did it, and they realize he knew details of the murder because he witnessed it. They go to Baek's father's restaurant, only to discover a drunken Cho there. As people make fun of Cho on the TV, he beats everyone in the restaurant. Baek arrives partway through the brawl and joins the fray, swinging a wooden board at Cho's leg and accidentally piercing it with a rusty nail. Park and Seo chase Baek and question him, but he gets frightened and runs into the path of an oncoming train, where he is hit and killed.

Park learns that Cho's leg will have to be amputated, because the rusty nail caused tetanus, leaving Park feeling guilty about what he had gotten his partner and best friend into.

They discover a trace of semen on one of the bodies, but because of lack of forensic technology, the sample has to be sent to the United States to confirm if suspect Hyeon-gyu is the killer with DNA evidence.

Seo tries to follow Hyeon-gyu, but he dozes off and misses his chance. That night, Park's wife walks through the forest, watched by an unknown figure in the shadows, but a younger girl passes by and she is captured and killed instead. The next morning, her body is discovered. Seo recognizes her as the same school girl that he befriended while investigating the murders. Enraged at the loss, Seo's frustrations finally flow over and he snaps. He attacks Hyeon-gyu until he is interrupted by Park bringing documents from America regarding the semen sample. However, the papers state the sample does not match Hyeon-gyu's DNA. Seo shouts that the documents are lying and that he knows Hyeon-gyu is the murderer. Seo attempts to shoot the suspect, but Park stops him and lets Hyeon-gyu go.

In the end, the crimes remain unsolved. While visiting the crime scene years later in 2003, Park Doo-man, now a businessman, learns from a little girl that the scene had recently been visited by another, unknown man, with a 'normal' face. The little girl had asked the man why he was looking at the ditch, and was told that he was reminiscing about something he had done there a long time ago. The film ends as Park, realizing this, looks straight at the camera, seemingly using his eye-contact method to spot the killer among the audience.


  • Song Kang-ho – Park Doo-man, the detective in charge of solving the murders
  • Kim Sang-kyung – Seo Tae-yoon, a younger but also much more experienced detective from Seoul who volunteers to help Park
  • Kim Roi-ha – Cho Yong-koo, Park's partner who enjoys beating suspects, and is popular among women
  • Song Jae-ho – Sergeant Shin Dong-chul, the detectives' superior
  • Byun Hee-bong – Sergeant Koo Hee-bong, another superior working on the case
  • Go Seo-hee – Officer Kwon Kwi-ok, a female police officer who works with the other detectives to solve the case
  • Park No-shik – Baek Kwang-ho, an intellectually disabled man and one of the suspects
  • Park Hae-il – Park Hyeon-gyu, a factory worker and another suspect of the case
  • Jeon Mi-seon – Kwok Seol-yung, Park Doo-man's wife
  • Yeom Hye-ran – So-hyeon's mother


Memories of Murder was well received by both critics and audiences. The film won the South Korean film industry's 2003 Grand Bell Awards for best film, while Bong Joon-ho and Song Kang-ho won the awards for best director and best leading actor respectively.

By the end of the film's domestic run it had been seen by 5,101,645 people,[4] making it the most watched film during the year 2003 in South Korea. While it was eventually outgained by Silmido, which was released in the same year, most of Silmido's audience did not see it until 2004. At the end of the film's run, Memories of Murder was also the fourth most viewed film of all time in the country, after Shiri, Friend and Joint Security Area. The commercial success of the film has been credited as saving one of its production companies, Sidus Pictures, from bankruptcy.[5]

Memories of Murder received screenings at several international film festivals, including Cannes Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, London International Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival and San Sebastian International Film Festival, where Bong Joon-ho won the Best Director Award.

Director Quentin Tarantino named it, along with Bong's The Host, as one of his Top 20 favorite movies since 1992.[6] And it was also chosen as the best Korean film of the century.[7]

Correspondence with real events[edit]

While a total body count was never mentioned in the film, at least 10 similar murders were committed in the Hwaseong area between October 1986 and April 1991. This killing spree, which became known as the Hwaseong serial murders, includes one murder which was determined to be a copycat crime.

Some of the details of the murders, such as the killer gagging the women with their underwear, were also taken from the case.[8] As in the film, the investigators found bodily fluids suspected to belong to the murderer in the crime scenes, but did not have access to equipment to determine whether the DNA matched with the suspects until late in the investigations. After the ninth murder, DNA evidence was sent to Japan (unlike the film, where it was sent to America) for analysis, but the results did not correspond with the suspects.[9]

As in the film, at the time of its release, the actual murderer had not yet been caught. As the case was growing closer to reaching the statute of limitations, South Korea's leading Uri Party sought to amend the law to give the prosecutors more time to find the murderer. However, in 2006, the statute of limitations was reached for the last-known victim.[10] More than 13 years later, on 18 September 2019, police announced that a man in his 50s, Lee Choon-jae, had been identified as a suspect in the killings.[11] He was identified after DNA from the underwear of one of the victims was matched with his, and subsequent evidence linked him to four of the nine unsolved murders.[12] At the time he was identified he was already serving a life sentence at a prison in Busan for the rape and murder of his sister-in-law.[13]

Lee initially denied any involvement in the serial murders,[14][15] but on 2 October 2019, police announced that Lee had confessed to killing 14 people, including all 9 unsolved serial murders and 5 others. Three of those murders happened in Hwaseong but had not previously been attributed to the serial killer, and the other two happened in Cheongju. As of October 2019, details about those 5 victims have not been released because the investigation is ongoing.[16] In addition to the murders, he also confessed to more than 30 rapes and attempted rapes.[17][18]


2003 Chunsa Film Art Awards
2003 Busan Film Critics Awards[19]
2003 Grand Bell Awards
2003 Tokyo International Film Festival
  • Best Asian Film
2003 Blue Dragon Film Awards
  • Best Cinematography – Kim Hyung-koo
2003 Korean Film Awards
2003 Director's Cut Awards
2004 Festival du Film Policier de Cognac
  • First Prize
  • Premier Prize


Screenwriter Kim Eun-hee (Sign, Phantom) was attached to a television adaptation with the working title Signal, which aired on tvN in 2016.[20]

Gap-dong, which aired on tvN in 2014, was also loosely inspired by the film.


  1. ^ Cheong, Sung-il; Paquet, Darcy (2004). Korean Cinema 2003, Korean Film Commission. p.92.
  2. ^ "Memories of Murder (2003) - Joon-ho Bong". AllMovie.
  3. ^ Kim, June (April 1, 2015). "MEMORIES OF MURDER Makes Cinema Scope's Top Ten Films of the Decade". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  4. ^ 2003 Korean film reviews and box-office report at
  5. ^ Cheong, Sung-il; Paquet, Darcy (2004). Korean Cinema 2003, Korean Film Commission. p.7.
  6. ^ Youtube - Quentin Tarantino's Favourite Movies from 1992 to 2009...
  7. ^ "한국영화 100년, 최고의 작품 '살인의 추억'". (in Korean). Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  8. ^ Unsolved murders may escape prosecution Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine,, March 2, 2006, retrieved March 11, 2006.
  9. ^ Hwang Ho-taek, DNA Evidence,, January 21, 2006, retrieved March 11, 2006.
  10. ^ Lee Sun-young, Uri seeks extension of prosecution time limits, The Korea Herald, November 23, 2005.
  11. ^ "South Korean serial killer who inspired 'Memories of Murder' identified after 30 years". BNO News. 2019-09-18.
  12. ^ "Hwaseong serial murderer may have confessed as chances of parole dimmed". Yonhap News Agency. 2 October 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Police find suspect in 30-year-old Hwaseong serial murder case". Lprea Herald. September 18, 2019. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  14. ^ "30-year mystery solved as South Korea's worst serial killer likely identified". RT. September 18, 2019. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  15. ^ "Suspect denies involvement in S. Korea's worst serial murder case". Yonhap News Agency. September 19, 2019. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Suspect in Hwaseong serial murder case confesses to killings: police
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Memories of Murder - Awards". Cinemasie. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  20. ^ Kim, June (February 12, 2015). "MEMORIES OF MURDER to Be Reborn as TV Series". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved February 15, 2015.

External links[edit]