A Woman Judge
Director: Hong Eun-Won
Cast: Moon Jung-suk, Kim Seung-ho, Yu Gye-seon, Um Aing-ran
Film genre: Drama
Cert 12, 85 mins, 1962
Distributed by Korean Film Archive
“I will defend her to the end!” Heo Jin-suk, the titular protagonist of Hong Eun-won’s first film – and only the second Korean feature by a woman director – is defending her mother-in-law who has confessed to murder, but she could be speaking for all women’s rights. A model student from a modest background, Jin-suk defies familial and social barriers to become a judge, but succumbs to pressure to marry the handsome and wealthy Kwon Gyu-sik, although it’s really his father (and boss) who is keen on her. Into this modern comedy of manners comes first melodrama, as Gyu-sik falls for his secretary Miss Oh; then tragedy and tension, when a family member is poisoned. The investigation is intricately crafted in conflicting flashbacks, and the trial beautifully staged, as Jin-suk switches from the judge’s seat to mount her defence, save her family, and prove that honest, hard-working women can have it all in this almost-lost and lovingly-restored Golden Age drama.