Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

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Not to be confused with Lady of Vengeance.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
SympathyForLadyVengeance Poster.jpg
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance teaser poster
Revised Romanization Chinjeolhan Geumja-ssi
McCune–Reischauer Ch'injŏlhan Kŭmja-ssi
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Produced by
Written by
  • Jeong Seo-kyeong
  • Park Chan-wook
Music by
Cinematography Chung Chung-hoon
Edited by
Distributed by CJ Entertainment
Release dates
  • 29 July 2005 (2005-07-29)
Running time
115 minutes[1]
Country South Korea
  • Korean
  • English
  • Japanese
Budget $4.5 million
Box office $23.8 million[2]

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Hangul친절한 금자씨; RRChinjeolhan geumjassi; lit. "Kind-hearted Geum-ja") is a 2005 South Korean film by director Park Chan-wook.[3] In North America and parts of Europe, the film has been screened under the title Lady Vengeance. The film is the third installment in Park's The Vengeance Trilogy, following Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Oldboy (2003). It stars Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja, a woman released from prison after serving the sentence for a murder she did not commit. The film tells her story of revenge against the real murderer.

The film debuted on 29 July 2005 in South Korea, and competed for the Golden Lion at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival in September 2005. While it failed to win in competition, it did walk away with Cinema of The Future, the Young Lion Award, and the Best Innovated Film Award in the non-competition section. It won the award for Best Film at the 26th Blue Dragon Film Awards. The film had its U.S. premiere on 30 September 2005 at the New York Film Festival. It began its limited release in North American theatres on 5 May 2006.


A Christian musical procession waits outside a prison for Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae), a recently reformed female prisoner, who had been convicted of murdering a young schoolboy, Won-mo. The case, a national sensation because of her young age at the time of the murder and innocent appearance, earns her a lengthy prison sentence, reduced because of her apparent spiritual transformation in prison and her good conduct toward other inmates, results in the nickname of the "Kind-Hearted Geum-Ja". As Lee Geum-ja emerges from prison, she immediately sidesteps the procession, intent on revenge.

Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik) extorts the aid of Lee Geum-ja, who aided him in the kidnapping of the murdered five-year-old child. It is implied in the movie that she was not the one who committed the murder as she was not aware of the missing marble or the colour of the pillow that was used as the murder weapon. In a formal re-enactment of the crime scene she had to take a hint from the case detective to decide the correct colour pillow to use on a mannequin. Lee Geum-ja confesses to the crime by order of Mr. Baek, who kidnapped and threatened to murder her newborn daughter if she were to refuse to aid him. Inside prison, Geum-ja makes a number of friends with her angelic, maternal demeanor, donating a kidney to one inmate, tenderly caring for others and poisoning the prison bully. Once paroled, Geum-Ja immediately visits the other paroled inmates, calling in favors that include food, shelter, and weapons. She also begins work at a local pastry shop, under the tutelage of a chef who previously volunteered at the prison. Further distancing herself from her kindhearted reputation, she wears red eye shadow, provocative high-heel pumps and chronically dreams about murdering Mr. Baek.

Geum-ja researches her daughter and discovers that she was adopted by Australian parents. Jenny, now a teenager, does not speak Korean and does not initially embrace her mother. After persuading her family to allow her to return to Seoul from Sydney, Jenny follows Geum-ja around the city as she plans to kidnap Mr. Baek with the help of his wife, another ex-convict. As these events unfold, Mr. Baek, who is now a children's teacher at a local preschool, discovers that Geum-ja is released and - aware of her plans - attacks his wife and hires thugs to ambush Geum-ja and Jenny. In the ensuing battle, Geum-ja kills both thugs, while Mr. Baek falls unconscious from the drugs that were slipped into his food by his wife.

Geum-ja, eager yet hesitant to kill the unconscious Mr. Baek, discovers several children's trinkets decorating his cell phone. Remembering that his modus operandi involved stealing an orange marble from Won-Mo following his murder, Geum-ja realises that they are souvenirs from victims and deduces that Mr. Baek murdered other children as well. She imprisons him and contacts the detective from the Won-Mo case, and they infiltrate Mr. Baek's apartment together and discover snuff tapes of the other children that Mr. Baek murdered.

Geum-ja and the detective contact and transport the parents or surviving relatives of the missing children to an abandoned school on the outskirts of Seoul. After showing them the tapes, the group deliberates on Mr. Baek's fate, ultimately deciding to murder him collectively, with the audio of their discussion amplified for him to hear. Wearing raincoats and wielding a variety of weapons, they approach Mr. Baek individually and torture him while the last person, an emotionless grandmother, kills Baek with the scissors of her murdered grand daughter. They take a group photo, ensuring that none of them can turn in the others without implicating themselves, and then bury the corpse outside.

Geum-ja, the investigator, and the parents all converge on Geum-ja's bakery, where they eat a cake and sing a collective birthday song for their deceased children. Afterwards, Geum-ja sees the ghost of the murdered child and demands long-awaited redemption. Before she can do so, he transforms into his grown self (the age that he would have been if he had lived) and then gags her before she can repent. When Geum-ja later approaches her apartment with a cake box, she notices Jenny. They embrace before Geum-ja opens the box to reveal a white cake that resembles a block of tofu. She instructs her daughter to "live white", as pure as tofu. Jenny tastes the cake and says Geum-ja should live even more purely. As they stare up into the snowy sky, Geum-ja weeps and sobs uncontrollably, her face buried in the white cake, while Jenny hugs her.


  • Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja
  • Choi Min-sik as Mr. Baek (Baek Han-sang)
  • Kwon Yea-young as Jenny
  • Kim Shi-hoo as Geun-shik
  • Oh Dal-su as Mr. Chang
  • Lee Seung-shin as Park Yi-jeong
  • Go Soo-hee as Ma-nyeo ("Witch")
  • Kim Byeong-ok as The Preacher
  • Ra Mi-ran as Oh Su-hee
  • Seo Young-ju as Kim Yang-hee
  • Kim Boo-seon as Woo So-young
  • Ko Chang-seok as So-young's husband
  • Lee Dae-yeon as parent of abducted child
  • Nam Il-woo as Detective Choi
  • Kim Hee-soo as Se-hyun
  • Oh Kwang-rok as Se-hyun's father
  • Lee Byung-joon as Dong-hwa
  • Choi Jung-woo as Dong-hwa's father
  • Ryoo Seung-wan as passerby
  • Song Kang-ho as assassin 1
  • Shin Ha-kyun as assassin 2
  • Yoo Ji-tae as grown-up Won-mo, as seen in a vision
  • Seo Ji-hee as Eun-joo
  • Won Mi-won as Eun-joo's grandmother
  • Kim Ik-tae as Won-mo's father
  • Kim Yoo-jung as Jae-kyung
  • Im Soo-kyung as prison officer
  • Choi Hee-jin as prisoner 3
  • Jeon Sung-ae as prisoner 4
  • Kim Jin-goo as Ko Seon-sook
  • Kang Hye-jung as TV announcer
  • Tony Barry as Jenny's adoptive father
  • Anne Cordiner as Jenny's adoptive mother



The film's score, composed by Choi Seung-hyun, is heavily baroque-themed, featuring many pieces with harpsichord, baroque guitars, and other instruments. The main theme is an edited version of Vivaldi's "Ah ch'infelice sempre" from "Cessate, omai cessate". The song is appropriate since the unedited version's melody is sung by a woman who is seeking revenge on a man who has betrayed her, much like the film itself. The 24th Caprice by Paganini also appears many times.

Fade to Black and White version[edit]

Two versions of the film exist, the standard version and the "Fade to Black and White version". The latter version begins in full colour, but throughout the film the colour gradually fades until it is totally black and white at the end of the film.[4] In conjunction with the camera technique of removing the colours, there is also a change in the environmental colours used in backgrounds and clothing. At the beginning of the film, the environments contain a lot of primary colours, whereas toward the end of the film pastel shades, blacks and whites are used. Geum-ja wears a blue coat in the early part of the film, but this is replaced with a black leather coat at the end. The brightly coloured walls of the prison and Geum-ja's bedroom are replaced with the grey walls of the school.

Both versions of the film were shown in Korean cinemas, although the fading version was presented only in digital format at a few DLP-equipped multiplexes. The film ends with the narrator saying, "Farewell..." followed by Jenny's line: "Miss Geum-ja."

This version has since been made available on the Korean Special Edition DVD of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (with DTS audio only), and in the Tartan Films DVD and Blu-ray boxset releases of the Vengeance trilogy. On the Tartan boxset packaging, the version is incorrectly titled "Fade to White version".


Box office[edit]

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance opened in Korea on 29 July 2005 to blockbuster business, grossing US$7,382,034 in its opening weekend and grossed a total of US$22,590,402 in South Korea alone.[2] In terms of total admissions, it was the seventh biggest domestic release in Korea that year, and the eighth biggest overall with 3,650,000 tickets sold nationwide.[5] It achieved great financial success.[6]

The film opened in limited release in two North American theatres on 28 April 2006 under the title Lady Vengeance. In its opening weekend, it earned US$9,850 (US$4,925 per screen). It grossed US$211,667 during its entire run, playing on 15 screens during its widest point and grossed US$23,809,504 worldwide.

Awards and nominations[edit]

2005 Blue Dragon Film Awards[7]
  • Best Film
  • Best Actress - Lee Young-ae
  • Nomination - Best Director - Park Chan-wook
  • Nomination - Best Cinematography - Chung Chung-hoon
  • Nomination - Best Lighting - Park Hyun-won
  • Nomination - Best Art Direction - Cho Hwa-sung
  • Nomination - Best Music - Jo Yeong-wook
  • Nomination - Technical Award - Kim Sang-bum, Kim Jae-bum (Editing)
2005 Korean Film Awards
  • Nomination - Best Actress - Lee Young-ae
  • Nomination - Best Cinematography - Chung Chung-hoon
  • Nomination - Best Editing - Kim Sang-bum, Kim Jae-bum
  • Nomination - Best Art Direction - Cho Hwa-sung
  • Nomination - Best Music - Jo Yeong-wook
2005 Director's Cut Awards
  • Best Actress - Lee Young-ae
2006 Baeksang Arts Awards
  • Best Actress - Lee Young-ae
  • Nomination - Best Film
  • Nomination - Best Director - Park Chan-wook
2006 Grand Bell Awards
  • Nomination - Best Film
  • Nomination - Best Director - Park Chan-wook
  • Nomination - Best Actress - Lee Young-ae
  • Nomination - Best New Actor - Kim Shi-hoo
2006 Hong Kong Film Awards
  • Nomination - Best Asian Film

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 9 November 2005. Retrieved 11 July 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Lady Vengeance (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  3. ^ "K-FILM REVIEWS: 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)". Twitch Film. 9 January 2006. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  4. ^ Ian, Jane (16 January 2006). "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance DTS Limited Edition (Region 3)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  5. ^ "Commercial Releases in 2005: Box-Office Results". Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  6. ^ Kim, Yong-jin (2007). "Park Chan-wook". Seoul Selection.
  7. ^ "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance - Awards". Cinemasie. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Blue Dragon Film Award for Best Film
Succeeded by
The Host