Are newly poor people who were once flush with cash more likely to compromise their integrity in order to become rich again? That would certainly explain the strictly mercenary decision of flat-broke Captain Kang Chul-joo (Kim Yun-seok) who has chosen to smuggle Chinese emigrants of Korean heritage across the border. Once he's committed himself and his crew to this bit of political lawlessness, however, the real dastardly crimes begin. One of your passengers gets all "equal rights"? Throw him overboard. Anyone accidentally die in the fish-hold? Chop up the body and throw it into the sea for the fishies to eat. Got a mutinous engineer? You know what to do.
Because the Captain's been in the seafaring biz for so long, his crew tends to do as instructed, too, no matter how repugnant the request. Really, the only one who stands up against the Cap is Dong-sik (Park Yoo-chun), a young sailor (arguably on the spectrum) who lives with his grandmother and has basically kidnapped a female passenger (Han Ye-ri) in hopes of turning her into his wife. That budding romance is one of the movie's creepiest components and the scene in which the two young not-truly-lovers end up fornicating after witnessing a murder ranks up there as one of the grossest sex scenes in Korean movie history.
That may be intentional. After all, Sea Fog's script is by auteur Bong Joon-ho and Shim Sung-bo who'd previously worked with Bong on the incredibly complex Memories of Murder. If Sea Fog isn't quite as nuanced as their previous collaboration, well what is? Plus, the shortcomings are probably due in part to this being Shim's directorial debut. And while the finale is a mess and the female characters are woefully underdeveloped, Shim fares well overall. He's recruited a strong supporting cast (Mun Seong-kun, Kim Sang-ho, Jo Kyung-sook) and cinematographer Hong Kyung-po to ensure a high level of quality on both sides of the camera. Waterlogged, this movie is not.