Ostensibly, Homebound tells the story of a housewife confronting the lure of another life. Moon Jung-suk plays Lee Jee-yeon, a housewife whose husband has been paralyzed since the Korean War (1950-1953) and now writes serial novels for a newspaper in Seoul. Jee-yeon's husband, Choi Dong-woo (played by Kim Jin-kyu), realizes the sacrifices that his wife has made on his behalf. He knows that only has she given up her own life in order to take care of him, she has also given up on her duties as a wife. Jee-yeon begins to have an affair with a reporter at the newspaper where her husband publishes his stories, and from there we see the struggle in Jee-yeon and her husband.
For cast and crew information, please visit KMDB.
However, apart from the temptation of marital infidelity, the main struggle represented within this film is that of Korea itself. At the beginning of the film, Jee-yeon tells her husband, "Have courage. Think of tomorrow, don't think of yesterday." (8:55, 용기를 내세요, 어제는 생각치 마세요 내일을 생각해요), and with this quote we can frame the entire film. The movie continues to ask how a nation moves forward, how a nation progresses when so much of it has been scarred and damaged by the war that ended just 14 years prior.
Director Lee Man-hee highlights these dueling trajectories by showing those scars of war at home. Darcy Paquet (website, Twitter) noted that cinematographer Lee Suck-ki highlights these differences as many of the shots at home are close and claustrophobic feeling while many of the shots in Seoul are of open spaces (2013).Apart from the obvious visuals of Dong-woo being in a wheelchair and on constant medication, we also see him asking to be dressed in his military uniform and even attempting to stand and salute as he once did, only to fall. However, upon entering Seoul we do not see a city torn apart by war, just as Jee-yeon and Dong-woo's home is, but instead we see a contemporary Seoul that has tranformed itself into an image of modernity, and as Jee-yeon might say, one that looks to tomorrow.
When Jee-yeon meets the reporter for the first time, she asks him "Who do you think is the most unfortunate person in the world?," only to answer her own question with, "Isn't it someone who can't be respected or hated?" And it is with this line that she carries herself to the final scene. In not being able to be respected in staying with her husband, or hated in leaving her husband -- she commits suicide.
Thanks to the Korean Film Archive, we can watch this film for free with subtitles on YouTube. Thank you.
Paquet, Darcy. "Gwi-ro (1967) GV Darcy Paquet." Presentation for the Korean Film Archive, August 8, 2013. Published January 1, 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5MwqtIqlwE.