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Film / Yesterday (2002)

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You know, that's a really good question.
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Yesterday (or 예스터데이/Yeseuteodeyi in Korean) is a 2002 science fiction/detective drama movie directed by Chong Yun-su. It stars Kim Seung-woo, Yunjin Kim, Choi Min-soo. It also features Kim Sun-a, who first debuted in her first movie role after being initially active in the Korean acting industry since 1996, but didn't get much recognition from Korean viewers.

When it first debuted, the FIFA 2002 World Cup was being held. As such, the box office revenue was $2 million dollars with a budget of $5 million dollars was when it debuted on June 13, 2002. It was widely released in parts of Asia, Europe and in the Americas.

Jung Han-chul won a Silver Price award at the Golden Cinema Festival for his cinematography work on the movie.

The movie takes place in the year 2020 when North and South Korea were successfully unified. During that time, Korean law enforcement established the Special Investigations Unit (SI or SIU), a crack anti-criminal unit formed from seconded law enforcement officers from disbanded North and South Korean law enforcement agencies. Among them is Yun Suk, an experienced SI officer who has been tasked to investigate the case of a mysterious serious killer known as Goliath. Goliath was reported to be involved in the deaths of certain government VIPs.

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Yun Suk's life began to take a spiral after he was involved in a raid in the Chinese-Korean border region where Goliath was reported to hold his son, Hanbyul, hostage in order to lure him out. While his men were killed, it also included Hanbyul after he was posed to make him look like him from a distance. After the raid, It's Personal for Suk to investigate and hunt down Goliath for what he did.

Kim Hisu, a well-known forensic profiler, is involved in an incident where her father, the Commissioner of the Korean National Police Agency is held hostage during a terrorist incident.

In both incidents, Goliath leaves behind a pendant that's somehow linked to the mysterious headaches and visions they've been receiving. As the two work with the rest of SI to investigate Goliath, it somehow leads to a mysterious black ops project launched by the former South Korean government in a gene enhancing project that was shelved for unknown reasons after children were kidnapped in the 1990s.

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The Korean trailer can be seen here.


The film contains examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The movie starts when the SI is deployed to the Chinese-Korean border in cooperation with the Korean military against Goliath.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: Suk and Hisu were able to defeat Goliath, ending his serial killings. However, it comes at a price when most of the SI's manpower was taken out by Goliath and his Hired Guns. Suk decides to keep Hanbyul's memories alive by having his remains cremated and move on from his mistake after he wanted to preserve his body to be cloned.
  • Cold Sniper: Most of the mercenaries recruited by Goliath are ex-Border Rangers.
  • Driving Question: Why is Goliath after the VIPs? What's his game with Yun Suk and Kim Hisu? And what does the pendant and headaches they have been encountering lately have to do with the abduction of children in the 90s?
  • Dynamic Entry: The SI team led by Suk breached the cabin in the prologue by using a tunnel underneath with the place breached by flashbangs and by simultaneous breaching to take down Goliath's men. This plan also led to Hanbyul's death.
    • During the raid on the immigrant ghetto, a SWAT element conducts a door breach by using a shotgun loaded with 12 gauge explosive rounds.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The SI unit of the Korean National Police Agency. However, certain parts of the movie doesn't stop from making them to either Men of Sherwood or Red Shirts, depending on the scenes.
  • Fast-Roping: During the raid on the immigrant ghetto camp, a SWAT element rappels into a building where the KNP commissioner is reported to be held prisoner. However, a mook hired by Goliath was hiding on the ceiling and shot the SWAT operators after they breached the room. It also helps that he was a former ranger-trained soldier stationed at the border.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: The Border Rangers unit, being supposedly from the unified Korean Army. According to the movie, most of them have become armed criminals in order to survive. The movie implies that it's been the case if SI gets in a criminal case concerning murder or ex-rangers get recruited after their discharges as Hired Guns.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Both SI and SWAT use Heckler & Koch MP5s, G36s and Beretta 92Fs. The bad guys mostly use AK-type assault rifles, but some use the Heckler & Koch MP5K and the MK23 SOCOM.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The Koreas would have unified before 2020. As of this article being publishednote , there are signs that the North is willing to denuclearize itself of nukes if the Americans are willing to drop some sanctions.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: SI calls on SWAT units to accompany them in incidents concerning Goliath. Since the SI are mostly full-time officers with little to no anti-crime/terrorist training and rely on the presence of using their Beretta 92Fs and Heckler & Koch G36s to overwhelm the opposition, the SWAT units serves as armed backup in order to even the odds.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The SI.
  • Hostage Situation: A few take place in the movie. One concerns Hanbyul. The other concerns Commissioner Kim and the other concerns Hisu. Although the latter is Played for Laughs since SI doesn't even care, her hostage taker looks like a molester and he's not holding the fork close to her. Plus Hisu is frustrated at his attempt.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Between the SI and the BRs. Justified that the movie implies that some of the rank and file of the BRs have turned to criminal activity and are the usual suspects if a criminal case falls into SI jurisdiction.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The visions of the missing children Suk and Goliath see on the abandoned research ship before the explosives destroyed it.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The article mentions that the movie can be looked at from a historical/social context of modern-day Korea after its liberation from Japanese occupation by the Allies and the dictator governments it once had.
    • Yunjin Kim being casted can speak of her presence in the movie as an American-raised woman born of Korean parents who made her luck in the Korean entertainment industry before she became known outside of Asia in shows like LOST and The Mistresses, following the first example.
    • Scenes where homeless people abound and the presence of a ghetto full of foreign refugees stream from the question on whether Korean unification is worth it, especially since it can be an economic burden if the South does go and pay for the economic costs alone.
  • Spiritual Successor: Yesterday can be seen as a Korean version of Ghost in the Shell.note  Both contain societies with high technology advancement, but have problems with the influx of refugees, the divide between the upper/middle and lower classes and the economic disadvantages. Both also centers on small elite units meant to tackle cases when urgently needed by the government with Cool Guns being used in their arsenals.
  • SWAT Team: A KNPA SWAT team works with SI in the movie. But like the SI, they are either helpful or they get turned to a Redshirt Army.
    • The Faceless: The SWAT team operators are seen with facemasks covering their mouths with balaclavas and ballistic goggles.
  • Zeerust: The video boxes seen throughout Korea.
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