Ed Park at The Current:
In September 2019, about halfway between claiming the Palme d’Or at Cannes in May and earning multiple Oscar nominations in January 2020, Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite was briefly upstaged by a movie from the director’s past. His second feature, Memories of Murder (2003), had grappled with South Korea’s most chilling cold case: a spree in which ten women and girls were raped and murdered near Hwaseong, about twenty-six miles south of Seoul. (Song Kang Ho, a star of Parasite, plays one of the police detectives obsessed with nabbing the culprit.) According to a May 2020 CNN story, “About 226,000 people lived in the area, scattered among a number of villages between forested hills and rice paddies,” in a region that previously had reported “no real crime to speak of.” The slaughter began in 1986 and continued for five years. A suspect was jailed for one of the crimes in 1989 and released on parole in 2009; the others, however, went unanswered. The specter of what have been called Korea’s first serial killings profoundly spooked the nation: Police investigated over 20,000 people, some even after the statute of limitations expired in 2006. Over two million “man-days” were devoted to the case—nearly 5,500 years, longer by a millennium than Korea itself has been around. You could think of the investigation as an entire civilization built around a singular depravity.