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10/02/2017 Interview > Alumni

Title

Don’t be Afraid to Follow Your Values

Life without value will make you void, Director Lee Chang-jae (Policy Studies, ’94)

김소연

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The third top box office hit in the history of Korean documentary films, Our President (2017) is directed by a Hanyang alumni, Lee Chang-jae (Policy Studies, ’94). He studied engineering before coming to Hanyang, and studied law in our school. After graduation, he worked in the field of journalism, then media. Now he is a documentary movie director, a writer, and a professor. News H visited Lee this week to have a closer look into his past and recent work.
 
Lee is enthusiastically explaining how leading one's life by oneself is important.


What seems like a winding path

 

“If I look back, it was not all so meaningless after all,” said Lee, thinking back to his past. Lee studied law because of his parent’s will. He originally wanted to study history, but his parents told him he would never get a job majoring in history. During his college years, he wanted to discover and prove what he liked and was good at. He figured writing was his path, and applied for numerous competitions, all of which he did not win. Dramatically, he won first place in the Hanyang Literature Competition. “Thinking ‘I wanted to walk this path’ in my mind only seemed like it would fly away so easily. I had to prove myself before really going into the other direction.”

After being discharged from the military, Lee felt that he must climb the tree to eat the fruit. Hoping to study journalism, he desperately felt the need for more information. There were not a lot of graduates, nor peers to help him. Therefore, he knocked on the doors of the Executive Vice President and Head of the Office of Planning. He demanded a preparation group for the press exam, which is now the preparation course for the press examination. In his first and second job, he felt he lost the dominance over his life once again. Leading a hectic life and being promoted fast, time flew, and he had sipped his bridle away. Hence, he went to Chicago to learn film.
 
Poster of Lee's latest movie, Our President (2017)
 

 

One step forward at the edge of a cliff
 

There is a saying in Buddhism, ‘百尺竿頭進一步’. It means to take a step forward at the edge of a hundred ‘chuck’ (a traditional measure length of a hand, 33.3cm.) cliff. Going to Chicago and coming back to Korea was a big step for Lee. Making a movie took about three years, and with him having nothing left in Korea made him feel heavy. That’s when he was offered a position with the school.
 
Lee makes movies on the topics he is interested in. The movie, On the Road (2013) was based on the reflection he had 20 years ago, seriously considering entering the Buddhist priesthood. The latest movie, Our President (2017) started on Lee’s hope to remind Korean citizens that we once had a time when people chose their own presidential candidates and the president. “Just like superheroes go and save the world when they are told of their super-power, I wanted to give our citizens a reminder that they own their country.” Lee mentioned that because another documentary movie on the late Roh’s life was released just a few months before Lee’s movie, he had to look for the clips that were not used in the other movie. Looking through the 60 hour long material, the last moment when Roh says, “I am Roh Moo-hyun” and turns his back caught Lee’s eyes. “It felt like the clip was left unused for me.” That’s when he decided the ending moment of the entire film.
 
“Out of 9000 minutes of the interview, only 40 minutes are used in the documentary. That’s why I need to look back at the materials and take some time for myself to contemplate.”

 
Lee always notices himself being changed after a film. “I have to be completely immersed into one’s life in order to make a documentary film. Change in my perspective is almost inevitable,” said Lee. He pointed that introspection and learning has to be balanced to form a truly dimensional self. That is why he always writes a book after a film. Lee plans to start on another project around the upcoming December. “Whenever I make a new movie, external success is not my goal. Only my inner values that I pursue truly fulfills me,” said Lee with a peaceful smile on his face.


Kim So-yun 
      dash070@hanyang.ac.kr
Photos by Kim Youn-soo
 
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