Lady Vengeance

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Not to be confused with Lady of Vengeance.
Lady Vengeance
Lady Vengeance poster.png
Theatrical release 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 date
  • 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]

Lady Vengeance (Hangul친절한 금자씨; RRChinjeolhan geumjassi; lit. "Kind-hearted Geum-ja"; Korean English title: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is a 2005 South Korean psychological thriller film by director Park Chan-wook.[3] 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 with a symbolic block of tofu outside a prison for the release of Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae), a recently reformed female prisoner. Convicted of kidnapping and murdering a 5-year-old schoolboy, Won-mo, 13 years earlier, the case and Geum-ja became a national sensation because of her young age, angelic appearance, and eager confession to the crime. However, Geum-ja became an inspirational model for prisoner reform during her incarceration, and her apparent spiritual transformation in prison plus her beatific conduct toward other inmates, who gave her the nickname "Kind-Hearted Geum-Ja," earned Geum-ja an early release on her sentence. As Lee Geum-ja emerges from prison, she flips the tofu to the ground and sidesteps the procession, intent on revenge.

Donning blood-red eye shadow and cutting off her little finger, Geum-ja quickly shows that her "kind-hearted" and inspirational behavior in prison was a cover to earn favor and further her intricate revenge plans. She had, in fact, been the prison Witch, a title given to the most powerful female prisoner, and her angelic demeanor and assistance earned her many followers and loyal allies. Once paroled, Geum-Ja immediately visits the other paroled inmates, calling in favors that include food, shelter, and weapons. She also begins work in a pastry shop run by a chef who'd previously volunteered at the prison, and starts an affair with the shop assistant, a young man who would be the same age as her victim, Won-mo, had he not died.

After the detective from her case stops in the bakery by chance, it is revealed that Geum-ja did not smother Won-mo. The detective himself was aware of her innocence, but helped her fake certain crime-scene details, such as the color of a missing marble, to ensure her confession looked credible. As a young high school student, Geum-ja had become pregnant and, afraid to go home to her parents, turned to Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik), a teacher from her school who had said she was sexy, for help and a place to live. Mr. Baek was not altruistic in his aid and expected Geum-ja to provide sex and assist in his kidnapping/extortion racket. Mr. Baek used Geum-ja to lure 5-year-old Won-mo away and deliver the child to him, with the intent of ransoming the child, but Mr. Baek unintentionally killed the boy while Geum-ja was out. Mr. Baek then kidnapped Geum-ja's infant daughter and threatened to murder the baby if Geum-ja did not take the blame. Geum-ja spent 13 years in prison planning revenge on Mr. Baek for the murder of Won-mo, causing Geum-ja's child to grow up without a mother, and for sending Geum-ja to prison in his place.

Geum-ja searches for her daughter and discovers that she was adopted by Australian parents. Jenny, now an adolescent, does not speak Korean and does not initially embrace her mother, though she returns with Geum-ja to Seoul for a visit and to bond.

Geum-ja plans to kidnap and murder Mr. Baek, who is now a children's teacher at a preschool, with the aid of his wife, another ex-convict Geum-ja planted with him. Mr. Baek, who knows Geum-ja has been released and is 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 is subdued by his wife.

Mr. Baek wakes up gagged and tied to a chair in an abandoned school house in the middle of nowhere. Geum-ja, eager yet hesitant to kill him, threatens Mr. Baek until his phone alarm distracts her. Pulling it from his pocket, she discovers the red marble missing from Won-mo's crime scene hanging on his cell phone strap. It had been taken as a trophy. She is horrified to see several other children's trinket trophies also hanging from the strap. Geum-ja beats Mr. Baek and then rips his apartment apart to discover snuff tapes of the other children that Mr. Baek murdered. He had not been part of a ransoming racket, but would kidnap, torture, and murder a child from each school he worked at because he finds small children annoying. After killing each child, he would fake a ransom call to the parents, collect the money, and move on to a different school. He was saving up the ransom money to buy himself a yacht.

Sickened by the realization that four more children died because Geum-ja did not turn in the real killer 13 years ago, Geum-ja and the original case detective contact and transport the parents and surviving relatives of the missing children to the abandoned school. After watching each tape, and being told Mr. Baek is in the next room, 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. Prepared with raincoats and wielding a variety of weapons, they take turns on Mr. Baek until the last person, an emotionless grandmother, kills Baek with the school 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 bury the corpse outside.

Geum-ja, the detective, and the relatives all converge on Geum-ja's bakery, where they eat a cake and sing a collective birthday song for their deceased children, feeling lighter and noticing it is snowing outside. Afterwards, while removing her red eye shadow, Geum-ja sees the ghost of the murdered child and a chance to ask him for her 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 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.




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 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]

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]