Save My Seoul
Directed by Jason Y. Lee
Jason Lee in attendance!
Back in 2012 when social philanthropy entrepreneurs Jason and Eddie Lee made BACK TO INNOCENCE, their short film on sex trafficking, as part of “The Jubliee Project,” their fledgling social justice media making non-profit, they unknowingly planted the seed for this insightful and unflinchingly bold documentary feature on prostitution in Korea today. Commissioned by Pastor Eddie Byun (who serves as executive producer) to create a work that would illuminate the severity of abuse faced by young women and girls in the industry, the brothers, with tremendous assistance from writer and producer Jean Rheem, conceived of this investigative journalistic project. Embedding themselves in the heart of Seoul’s red-light districts, the filmmakers go sleuthing for subjects to interview often finding themselves fleeing the scene from belligerent pimps who don’t take kindly to their truthseeking. In other instances, they employ, at great security risk to themselves, hidden cameras in recording clandestine conversations with police, brothel employees, clients, bouncers, and various members of prostitution rings they encounter. Most significantly, their befriending of two working girls, Crystal and Esther, who agree to be their key interview subjects, buoy the power of this work.
Interspersing Crystal and Esther’s stories with talking head interviews with key experts in academia and activist organizations, the filmmakers fashion a high octane, participatory documentary straddling the balance between hard-hitting and empathetic that would put key practitioner Michael Moore on alert. Of particular fascination and value remain their ad-hoc “(wo)man on the streets” verité interviews with a cross-section of Korean society living in Seoul. Asking individuals their respective feelings about prostitution in Korea, the various reactions provoked—from offence, shame, apathy, to condemnation—strike at the heart of the conflicted zeitgeist they are determined to explore.
Despite this sensitive subject matter, Lee and company temper the proceedings with humor and levity when they let the girls take their cameras and shoot them, even advising them on how to mask their identities or when they capture casual moments of the girls talking about their favorite Hollywood actors (can you remember if you were Team Edward or Jacob?) over bubble tea and snacks.
— Lindy Leong
Jason is a storyteller, activist, and entrepreneur. After graduating from University of Pennsylvania with a degree in finance and management, he worked at Bain & Company. In 2010, he founded Jubilee Project a non-profit to tell stories to inspire change. SAVE MY SEOUL is Jason’s first feature-length film.
Producers: Jason Y. Lee, Jean Rheem
Director: Jason Y. Lee
Writers: Jason Y. Lee, Jean Rheem
Cinematographer: Ray Huang
Editor: Jean Rheem