The Scarlet Letter (2004 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter 2004 poster.jpg
Revised RomanizationJuhong geulshi
McCune–ReischauerJuhong gǔlshi
Directed byByun Hyuk
Produced byLee Seung-jae
Written byByun Hyuk
Kang Hyeon-joo
StarringHan Suk-kyu
Lee Eun-ju
Sung Hyun-ah
Uhm Ji-won
Music byLee Jae-jin
CinematographyChoe Hyeon-gi
Edited byHahm Sung-won
Distributed byShowbox
Release date
  • October 28, 2004 (2004-10-28)
Running time
118 minutes
CountrySouth Korea

The Scarlet Letter is a 2004 South Korean erotic thriller film about a police detective who investigates a murder case while struggling to hang onto his relationships with his wife and mistress. It is the second film by La Femis-graduate and academic Byun Hyuk (Daniel H. Byun), and starred Han Suk-kyu, Lee Eun-ju, Sung Hyun-ah and Uhm Ji-won.[1] The film debuted as the closing film of the Pusan International Film Festival in 2004.[2] The film is based on novelist Kim Young-ha's short stories A Meditation On Mirror and Photo Shop Murder.[3]

Despite Lee Eun-ju's prior experience with depicting sex and nudity in Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000), she came under the scrutiny of Korean press and netizens, for the highly emotional sex scenes and the notorious "trunk scene" in The Scarlet Letter which is regarded as "one of the most shocking and intense scenes in the history of Korean film."[4] It is speculated her demanding role and its public scrutiny, had compounded and overlapped with an existing variety of family, financial, career, and insomnia issues. Her severe depression ended in suicide in February 2005,[5] and the tragic conclusion has since become the central focus in popular perception and interpretation of the film, this particular one being her last.

Director Kim Ki-duk, no stranger to controversy over his own films, is quoted by Chinese film magazine "Movie Watch" (看電影) in singling out The Scarlet Letter as among the key Korean dramas from recent years. He subsequently cast Sung Hyun-ah, who rose to prominence with her role in The Scarlet Letter, as the heroine in his Time.

At the film's premiere in Japan, veteran actress Kumiko Akiyoshi praised the lead performances and likened the film to a landmark in erotic thrillers after Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction.[6]


Lee Ki-hoon is an alpha male homicide detective; intelligent and with animal instincts. His wife, classical cellist Han Soo-hyun, is submissive and seemingly perfect. Meanwhile, he is carrying on a passionate affair with his mistress Choi Ga-hee, a sultry jazz singer at a nightclub. Ki-hoon lives a double life by moving back and forth between these two women, who also happen to be schoolmates from high school. One day Ki-hoon goes to a murder scene and there he meets Ji Kyung-hee, a woman accused of murdering her husband.[7][8]


Awards and nominations[edit]

2004 Korean Association of Film Critics Awards[9]
  • Top Ten Films of the Year
2004 Blue Dragon Film Awards[10]
  • Nomination – Best Actor – Han Suk-kyu
  • Nomination – Best Actress – Lee Eun-ju
  • Nomination – Best Supporting Actress – Uhm Ji-won
  • Nomination – Best Music – Lee Jae-jin
2005 Baeksang Arts Awards
2005 Grand Bell Awards
  • Nomination – Best Actress – Lee Eun-ju
  • Nomination – Best Art Direction – Kim Ji-soo
  • Nomination – Best Costume Design – Jo Yun-mi


  1. ^ Kim, Tae-jong (7 October 2004). "Scarlet Letter: Love, Murder by the Numbers". The Korea Times via Hancinema. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  2. ^ Thacker, Todd (15 October 2004). "Korea's 9th Busan Film Festival Wins Big". OhmyNews International. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  3. ^ "끝없는 욕망의 원죄, <주홍글씨>" (in Korean). Cine21. 2004-10-26. Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  4. ^ Kim, Gab-sik (20 October 2004). "The Scarlet Letter". The Dong-a Ilbo. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  5. ^ "Top Actress Lee Eun-ju's Suicide Shocks Nation". The Chosun Ilbo. 22 February 2005. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  6. ^ "Introductory dialogue at the Japanese premiere of The Scarlet Letter". Livedoor. 11 May 2005. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  7. ^ Yang, Sung-jin (30 October 2004). "The Scarlet Letter trains microscope on sexual desire". The Korea Herald via Hancinema. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  8. ^ Soh, Joon (28 October 2004). "Moody Scarlet Letter Turns Into a Hard Read". The Korea Times via Hancinema. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  9. ^ "Old Boy reigns at Critics Choice Awards". Korean Film Council. 26 November 2004. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  10. ^ "The Scarlet Letter - Awards". Cinemasie. Retrieved 2013-09-03.

External links[edit]