February 9, 2014

Hide and Seek: The Proper Way to Address a Murderer

One of the unforeseen but enjoyable side-effects of studying the Korean language is being able to spot when characters in Korean movies are speaking to each other with respect. And when they're not! In the serial killer thriller Hide and Seek, for example, there's a scene in which the murderer is terrorizing two children (Jeong Joon-won, Kim Soo-an) trapped in a car. Given the killer's age, expensive coat, and real estate holdings, I would've expected these two kids to speak to their attacker with greater deference. I guess the rule of thumb however is to automatically default to a more casual form of address when screaming at a murderer. I would've missed this nuance in the movie if I hadn't started taking Korean!

It could also be that writer-director Jung Huh is making an intergenerational statement in Hide and Seek. Maybe these two kids don't respect any adults because their parents are so inadequate. Their mom (Jeon Mi-seon) is a negligent whiner who lets them play in a ghetto alleyway while she yammers away with her stateside mother on the phone. Their dad (Son Hyeon-ju) is a withdrawn enigma who exhibits creepy obsessive compulsive behavior and breaks out into unprovoked violence in the middle of the night. Why speak to adults with respect when they're so messed up? Come to think of it, that's a question every generation must ask.

I'm guessing that Pyaong-hwa (Kim Ji-yeong), the pirate-patched daughter of the poor, harried mom that lives next door to the long-lost, potentially-deranged brother (Kim Won-hae) of the OCD dad, already has her own answer. From the looks of it, this little girl has taken it upon herself to is learn English -- and is taking to it quickly -- because the language doesn't require such differentiations in respectful address. She's not about to "sir" or "ma'am" anyone. Everything is casual in the US. Even, some may argue, murder.

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