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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a 2002 South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook which follows the character Ryu trying to earn enough money for his sister's kidney transplant and the path of vengeance that follows. It is the first part of The Vengeance Trilogy and is succeeded by Oldboy (2003) and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005). The original Korean title means "Vengeance is Mine" or "Revenge is Mine".


Ryu, a deaf-mute, works in a factory to support his ailing sister who is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. After being laid off from his job by the factory boss Dong-jin, Ryu contacts a black market organ dealer who agrees to sell him a kidney for 10,000,000 Korean won (approximately $10,000). He takes out his life savings and offers the money to the organ dealers, who knock him unconscious and steal one of his kidneys before disappearing completely. Three weeks later, Ryu learns from his doctor that a kidney has been found for his sister and that the operation will cost 10,000,000 won, but since the organ dealers stole his money, he won't be able to pay for it.

In need of money for the operation (and in retaliation for his being fired), Ryu and his friend Yeong-mi, a radical leftist, conspire to kidnap Yu-sun (the daughter of the factory boss who sacked Ryu). The girl stays with Ryu's sister, who takes care of her while the distraught Dong-jin arranges for a ransom. After Ryu collects the money and returns home, he learns that his sister has discovered his scheme and unwilling to be involved or burden Ryu further, has killed herself. Ryu takes Yu-sun and his sister's body into the countryside to bury her by a riverbed. While Ryu mourns, Yu-sun slips into the river and drowns.

Hours later, as Dong-jin mourns his daughter and swears revenge at the river bank, Ryu ambushes and murders the organ dealers, stealing and eating their kidneys. Dong-jin, having investigated the identities of the kidnappers, finds Yeong-mi and begins interrogating her. Yeong-mi apologizes for Yu-sun's death but warns him of her membership in a terrorist organization which, knowing Dong-jin's identity, will kill him if she dies. Dong-jin, unfazed by the threats, tortures her to death. Ryu returns to Yeong-mi's apartment building and discovers the police removing her body on a stretcher. Ryu, consumed with grief, swears vengeance on Dong-jin.

Ryu and Dong-jin stake out each other's homes, each waiting patiently for the other to return. Ryu relents first, returning to his apartment where he is ambushed by Dong-jin. Dong-jin knocks Ryu unconscious and returns him to the riverbed where Yu-sun died. After binding Ryu's hands, an emotional Dong-jin acknowledges that Ryu is a good man but that he has no choice, and slashes Ryu's Achilles tendons, forcing him beneath the water, where he drowns. Dong-jin drags Ryu back to shore, and then drives off to a desolate location to bury the body. Once there he begins to dig a hole, but soon men arrive. They surround and stab Dong-jin to death, finally attaching a note to his chest identifying themselves as the terrorist group of which Yeong-mi was a part. The group leaves Dong-jin dying beside his car and the bloody tools and bags he used to chop up, dismember, and package Ryu's body.


Actor Role
Song Kang-ho Park Dong-jin
Shin Ha-kyun Ryu
Bae Doona Cha Yeong-mi
Lim Ji-eun Ryu's sister


Elaine Perrone from commented on the cinematography of Kim Byung-il, saying that the film is "far more visually striking" than its successor Oldboy.


Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance opened in South Korea on March 29, 2002 and had a worldwide box office gross of $1,954,937. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance received a low-profile North American theatrical release from Tartan Films beginning August 19, 2005 - over three years after it debuted in South Korea. In its opening weekend, it collected $9,827 ($3,276 per screen) from three New York city theaters. It played on six screens at its most widespread, and its total North American box office take was $45,243.

The film was declared the best movie of 2002 by Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, who praised the acting and the story. Bobo Deng from compliments the director of his visuals and the gruesome effects. The reviewer states although the film has extreme violence, it is used to help develop the story.


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