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A Purple Handkerchief

Borabic Sugun

Director, Script, Photography, Editing: Kim Tae-il
Producer: Kim Dong-won, MYNKAHYUP
Production Company, Source: PURN PRODUCTION
Cheonggang Bld.3F, Shindaebang 2 Dong,
343-5, Dongjak-gu, Seoul KOREA
Phone: 82-2-823-9124 / Fax: 82-2-823-9125
KOREA / 1995 / Korean / Color / Video / 48 min

Kim Tae-il

Born in 1963. Currently lives in Korea. He started filmmaking through Independent Film Workshop in 1991 and directed several films including People Who Overcame the Division (95), A Mother's Purple Handkerchief (95), and Aging Grass Stays Greener When Together (96). His work focuses on the division of the Korean peninsula and the political and personal ramifications of the 38th parallel. He is currently working as a producer at Purn Production, an independent film company that tackles issues like re-unification, labor, prostitution, and environment.


The title refers to the purple scarf worn by mothers of long-term prisoners of conscience in their weekly demonstrations in Seoul. No political slogans carry the same weight as footage of the reunion of a man with his mother after over 40 years in prison.

Director's Statement

Through this film I wanted to raise the question of human rights in Korean society. Our lives are still ruled by the turmoil of contemporary history from the colonial liberation from Japan to the division of the country. The unavoidable wall created by the reality of our national anticommunism must be overcome. It is not related to the pain brought about by the cause and context of the division.
We cannot help but become more sensitive to the problem of our political prisoners. The reality of the structure of a divided nation prohibits freedom of thought being guaranteed as a fundamental right. This film covers over seven years of the lives of political prisoners who have been handed down long sentences. It is also a film about the mothers of these prisoners whose children have been stolen from them. In the course of contemporary history perhaps the mothers who have suffered the deepest pain, the pain of not being able to challenge the sending of their own children to jail. They have lived with the harsh gaze of society heavy upon their chests.

I tried to describe these people's lives in the form of a documentary but it was difficult to visualize their pain. With the wall of division still in place, there were many things that could not be fully expressed.
I would like to dedicate this work to the mothers of the Family Movement Association for Democratic Practice who today, in Pagoda Park with purple scarves wrapped around their heads, are still fighting for the abolition of the national security law and the release of political prisoners.


Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee