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Korea picks ‘Juvenile Offender’ as Oscars hopeful

Tough love drama hopes to correct Korea’s deficit in foreign-language race

HONG KONG — “Juvenile Offender,” a tough mother and son drama featuring a youngster released from a correctional facility, has been selected to represent South Korea in the foreign-language category of the Academy Awards.

Directed by Kang Yi-kwan, the film made a powerful impression at the Tokyo festival in November last year where it won the Special Jury award and the best actor prize for Seo Young-joo.

News of the selection was carried on the website of the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) and announced in a press statement by the film’s distributor and backer, Timestory Group.

“’Juvenile Offender’ stood out in terms of the detailed directing, it was a universal yet Korean story, and the film was complete to the point where it was hard to point out any flaws,” the selection committee was quoted as saying.

After release from a lockup for teenagers, a youngster is reunited with the mother he did not know he ever had. But the cycle of misery seems set to continue when the boy learns his teenage girlfriend had been pregnant and was forced to give up her child.

“Offender” had its premiere in Toronto last year and enjoyed a Korean commercial release in Nov 2012.

At the beginning of August KOFIC revealed that it had selected nine films for a shortlist. Others included “The Berlin File,” “A Werewolf Boy,” “The Terror Live,” “The Face Reader,” “Jiseul,” “Mai Ratima,” “Montage” and “National Security.”

South Korea has had a huge impact of cinema in Asia for more than a decade and submitted powerful titles including “Pieta,” “Mother,” “Secret Sunshine” and Kim Ki-duk’s “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring” but none have ever received a nomination.

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