Im studied sociology at Seoul's Yonsei University before making a move to The Korean Academy of Film Arts in 1989. He began working in film that same year, landing his first job as Park Jeong-won's assistant director on Kuro Arrirang (was coincidentally also the first film of Choi Min-sik, who also acted in Shiri and Oldboy).
In 1998 Im landed his first directorial gig. Girls' Night Out, a drama about three women in Korea, caused a controversy upon release due to the frank and sexually driven dialogue and has received mixed, almost polarized, reviews.
Tears, a hard drama about the lives of 4 runaway teenagers in Seoul, came next. Im spent five months in the Garibong-dong district of Seoul amongst homeless runaway teens before writing the script for the film. This film was shot in 2000 on miniDV to save the budget. Im opted to not use actors for the roles for a greater reality of the piece.
2003's A Good Lawyer's Wife was Im's first film to reach #1 at the South Korean box office, thanks in large part to the suggestive poster and trailer campaign and star Moon So-ri (who was cast after Kim Hye-soo dropped out to pursue a TV career). This film was also screened in the main competition program at the 2003 Venice International Film Festival.
Next in Im's string of controversial films was 2005's The President's Last Bang, about the night President Park Chung-hee was assassinated by his CIA Director. The controversy started before it was released to the public (a press screening had already been held), with President Park's family suing MK Pictures over the films content. A Korean court ordered the removal of 3 minutes and 50 seconds worth of documentary footage from the film as it was thought the documentary footage might confuse the public into thinking the film was based on hard facts, which Im admits is not the case.
The Old Garden, Im's fifth film, will see theatrical release in fall 2006. It debuted at the 2006 San Sebastian Film Festival. Early 2007 will see Im's 6th film, entitled A Good Woman in Paris, begin production. It has been described, appropriately enough, as "A Good Lawyer's Wife in Paris".
In August 2006 this ruling was overturned, with the court issuing the following statement: "We must broadly confirm the right of free expression concerning the depiction of public historical figures." The court has also ordered MK Pictures, the production company that financed the film, to pay President Park's family 100 million won (roughly $105,000 USD).
The film has been released in South Korea and America on DVD in 2005. Both discs contain a plain black screen where the footage was removed. There has been no release date set for a DVD containing the cut footage.
A Good Lawyer's Wife (바람난 가족)
The President's Last Bang (그때 그사람들)