Paper Moon, Jong-idal, is a dark twisting tale of a neglected woman, a bored housewife called Yoo Lee-hwa living what ostensively appears to be a happy and comfortable life, who starts working as a contract employee at a bank. A minor indiscretion at the bank with an important client’s account generates an unstoppable spiral of dangerous decisions.
Lee-hwa’s colleagues and the bank’s customers consider her a trustworthy hardworking and meticulous member of the bank’s team. However, her husband’s lack of interest in her and the suffocating nature of her life have left her with a debilitating emptiness and a cannibalizing sense of despair. She needs fulfillment and is in search of true happiness, but as she discovers destiny can easily be derailed.
Kakuta’s novel, which won the 25th Renzaburo Shibata Prize, has also been successfully adapted for both television and film in Japan. The Japanese film adaptation, directed by Daihachi Yoshida, stared Rie Miyazawa, one of Japan’s most famous actresses.
The film like the book, which sold in the hundreds of thousands, and both the Japanese and Korean television adaptations, was extremely well received. The new Korean television adaptation was aired on Mondays and Tuesdays over a one-month period earlier this year.
As a bank clerk the protagonist, Lee-hwa, slowly grows in confidence in her working domain away from her indifferent and ambitious husband, but the narrative evolves into a dark distorted romance and a tale of twisted empowerment, after an encounter with a younger man, a college student, a film major called Yoon Min-jae, played by Lee Si-woo.
Inevitably the two start spending more time together. The drama quickly draws in its audience, leaving viewers transfixed and wondering how this unusual relationship will end up.
The initial small error at the bank with a high denomination banknote that leads to it being “borrowed” spirals irreversibly into uncontrolled embezzlement of funds belonging to a VIP client and the bank clerk running wild, as she falls for the young male student.
The original novel, set in 1994 after the Japanese economic bubble had burst, was initially serialised in a cluster of local and regional newspapers between September 2007 and April 2008. Giving Kakuta’s gripping twisting tale national exposure in Japan before being published in book format in 2012 in hardback, tanko-bon, and then in paperback, bunko-bon in 2014 to coincide with the release of the Japanese television and film adaptations.
Kim, who gives a riveting performance in this new adaption capturing the character’s “gloomy loneliness perfectly” according to Kakuta who attended the launch of the TV series in Seoul, is starting to gain recognition outside Korea. She won an award at the Madrid International Film Festival for Best Lead Actress in a Foreign Language Film for her performance in Late Spring, a romantic melodrama directed by Cho Geun-hyu, in 2014.
Kakuta has had many of her works, not just this crime romance thriller, adapted for film and television in Japan, many with amazing success creating unmissable television and films. Something that has helped Kakuta become one of the most read contemporary female authors in Japan.
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