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Wonju Confidential

Posted March. 25, 2013 05:34,   


A scandal surrounding a building contractor and the allegation that he hired prostitutes to service former and incumbent high-ranking officials has something in common with the plot of the 1997 movie “L.A. Confidential.” In the film, a builder has would-be actresses get plastic surgery and gets them to have sex with influential men, including prosecutors, city councilors and police. He takes photos of them having sex and uses them for blackmail. The corruption network is vast, covering people from different backgrounds such as prosecutors, politicians, builders, entertainers and drug dealers. Even police or the media who are supposed to crack down on criminals are not free from the network.

The movie is based on the novel by American crime fiction writer James Ellroy of the same name. The book is more complicated than the movie, which covers just a few months while the novel depicts the dark side of Los Angeles in the 1950s over eight years. Certain scenes in the novel are too gross to read, and the ending is gloomier than the movie`s. In the movie, prosecutors and police solve the problem but cannot publicize the whole truth. But in the novel, the main culprit is not even identified. What the satirical novel says is society overall and not certain people or class is rotten to the core.

“L.A. Confidential” is the third of the writer`s four books set in Los Angeles in the late 1940s to the 50s. After World War II, the U.S. enjoyed unprecedented economic prosperity thanks to mass production and consumption. Many movies and novels have depicted this time as the golden age of America. The American spirit, however, was being destroyed in the same period. McCarthyism, a witchhunt caused by collective anxiety, and the Beat Generation, a direct-less rebellion stemming from a feeling of vanity, were introduced in the era. The protagonist of the classic novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” Holden Caulfield, wandered the streets in the Beat Generation with the belief that the older generation was full of hypocrisy and pretense.

The “Wonju Confidential” scandal is a huge shock to Korean society because it apparently is not an isolated case confined to the builder and certain officials. What were the housewives and graduate students thinking when they had sex with the men for money? What made certain media reproduce the scene to attract viewers? These things show how corrupt morality in Korea has gotten. Had this scandal merely been a part of a movie or novel, it would be easy to stop watching or reading. Unlike in “L.A. Confidential,” all the culprits of Wonju Confidential must be brought to justice.

Industry News Reporter Jang Kang-myeong (tesomiom@donga.com)