The rousing ‘1987: When the Day Comes’ is the perfect political mirror for this season of activism and protest

Posted on December 26, 2019


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As I write this, a German student has been asked to leave India after attending a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He’d carried a poster that made a reference to the Nazi rule in his own country: “1933 to 1945 – we have been there”. As I write this, another student – a 20-year-old who participated in the anti-CAA protests in Uttar Pradesh – is dead. The bullet in his body has been revealed to have come from the service pistol of a police constable. This week, therefore, let’s talk about protest cinema. Let’s talk about 1987: When the Day Comes, the 2017 South Korean political thriller that’s drawn from real life and deals with the aftermath of the death of a student activist.


The boy’s name is Park Jong-chul. He was a student of Seoul National University, an activist protesting President Chun Doo-hwan’s dictatorship. A bit of history is necessary here. In 1980, following rumours of North Korean infiltration into South Korea, Chun Doo-hwan imposed martial law in the country. Universities were closed. Political rallies were banned. Freedom of the press was curtailed. On 18 May, 1980, when the citizens of Gwangju gathered to form what would become known as the Gwangju Democratisation Movement, Chun Doo-hwan unleashed his forces on the people. A bloody massacre ensued. Chun Doo-hwan earned the nickname “The Butcher of Gwangju.”

Continued at the link above.

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