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Yim Soon-rye (임순례), born in 1961, hails from Incheon, South Korea. She went to Hanyang University and majored in English Literature. After graduating in 1985 with a BA in English Literature and a MA in Theater and Film, she attended Université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis, France to receive her master’s degree in Film Studies. She studied Japanese filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi for her master’s thesis and graduated in 1992. Her filmmaking style, which includes the use of long takes and infrequent cuts, reflects that of Mizoguchi’s (Simms).
When she came back to South Korea in 1993, she worked on Yeo Kyun-dong’s Out to the World as the assistant director. She directed her first short film Promenade in the Rain in 1994. The awards that she received for this film at the first season of the Seoul International Short Film Festival jump-started her career, and she released her first feature film Three Friends in 1996. Yim’s films often explore South Korea’s social issues, and Three Friends is no exception as it examines masculinity and marginalization through the story of three young men who are considered outcasts by South Korea’s social attitudes surrounding education and military culture (Simms). This film won the NETPAC Award at the first season of the Busan International Film Festival.
Her second film, Waikiki Brothers (2001), follows struggling young musicians in a cover band. This film opened for the 2nd Jeonju International Film Festival in 2001. Awards that this film received include Baeksang Arts Award for Best Film and the Korean Association of Film Critics Award for Best Director.
Yim proceeded to work on Keeping the Vision Alive (2001), a documentary about women and gender discrimination within the Korean film industry. In an interview, Yim spoke about her activism: “I belong to the first generation of female filmmakers in South Korea, and I feel this responsibility [to advocate for women in film]” (Rosati). Yim is one of the leaders of the Center for Gender Equality in Korean Cinema. Women in Film Korea and the Korean Film Council established the Center for Gender Equality in Korean Cinema in response to the Me Too movement. The center aims to “combat inequality in the film industry and deal with sexual harrassment and violence” (Noh).
Yim continued to focus on women in male-dominated spaces in her third feature film Forever the Moment (2008). This film is based on the South Korean women’s national handball team that won silver at the Athens Olympics in 2004. The film explores social issues such as “discrimination, job insecurity, debt, infertility, and divorce” (Simms). This film was a huge success at the box office and won the Baeksang Arts Award for Best Film and the Blue Dragon Film Award for Best Film.
Yim’s more recent films include South Bound (2013), Whistle Blower (2014), and Little Forest (2018). South Bound, based on the Okuda Hideo’s novel of the same name, is about a family who goes against the mainstream social values of South Korean society and is “willing to step ahead and achieve what they want by breaking away from social norms and traditions” (Simms). Whistle Blower is based on the true story of Hwang Woo-suk, a scientist who committed grave ethical violations for his stem cell research. Little Forest follows a young woman who goes back to rural life. This film features meat-free meals as well, which connects to Yim’s animal rights activism; she has been a pescatarian for 15 years (Rosati).
Yim not only is one of the leaders of the Korean New Wave, but also continues to be one of the leaders of South Korea’s cine-feminist movement today.
Three Friends (1996)
Waikiki Brothers (2001)
If You Were Me (“The Weight of Her”) (2003)
Forever the Moment (2008)
Fly Penguin (2009)
Rolling Home with a Bull (2010)
Sorry, Thanks (“A Cat Kiss”) (2011)
South Bound (2013)
Whistle Blower (2014)
Little Forest (2018)
“2nd Jeonju International Film Festival (2001).” JEONJU Intl. Film Festival, eng-archive.jeonjufest.kr/db/festivalList.asp?EP_NUM=2.
“BIFF Archive 1996.” Busan International Film Festival, www.biff.kr/eng/html/archive/arc_history_1.asp?pyear=1996.
Byrd, Lauren C. “52 Weeks of Directors: Yim Soon-Rye.” Lauren C. Byrd, 23 Nov. 2015, laurencbyrd.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/52-weeks-of-directors-yim-soon-rye/.
“KOFIC and Women in Film Korea Open 'Center for Gender Equality in Korean Cinema'.” Korean Film Biz Zone, www.koreanfilm.or.kr/eng/news/news.jsp?blbdComCd=601006&seq=4739&mode=VIEW.
Noh, Jean. “Film Industry Gender Equality Centre Launches in Korea.” Screen International, 13 Mar. 2018, www.screendaily.com/news/film-industry-gender-equality-centre-launches-in-korea/5127402.article.
Ree, Christina. “WAIKIKI BROTHERS.” San Diego Asian Film Festival, Pacific Arts Movement, sdaff.org/2018/movies/waikiki-brothers/.
Rosati, Adriana. “Interview with Yim Soon-Rye.” Asian Movie Pulse, 14 Apr. 2020.
Simms, Tiffany. “Spotlight on Korean Directors: Yim Soon-Rye.” SnackFever, 14 June 2019, snackfever.com/blogs/magazine/spotlight-on-korean-directors-yim-soon-rye.
“YIM Soon-Rye.” Korean Film Biz Zone, koreanfilm.or.kr/eng/films/index/peopleView.jsp?peopleCd=10058650.
To cite this biofilmography, please use this reference: Ko, Emily (2021) "Yim Soon-Rye's biofilmography" Gynocine Project, Barbara Zecchi, ed.