“Way Back Home” (집으로 가는 길)

By Jae-Ha Kim
August 28, 2017

Jeong-Yeon (played by Jeon Do-yeon)
Jong-Bae (played by Go Soo)

Note: Korean names denote the surname followed by the given name.

“Way Back Home” is based on the real-life case of Jang Mi-Jeong, a South Korean national who was arrested for smuggling almost 40 pounds of cocaine into France.

Jang maintained that she agreed to help out a family friend by carrying gemstones — not drugs. She was arrested and served time in Martinique, with little access to her family back home. In the aftermath of her arrest and eventual release from prison, Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was heavily criticized for “diplomatic negligence” in not helping their citizen.

Jeong-Yeon is the fictionalized version of Jang Mi-Jeong. Happily married to Jong-Bae, Jeong-Yeon dotes on their young child and the cozy life they’ve carved out for themselves. But after one of Jong-Bae’s friends commits suicide to escape his debts, they face financial ruin. As the co-signer on the friend’s loan, Jong-Bae and his wife now are responsible for paying off the dead friend’s debts.

Unable to handle the added financial burden and worried about the toll it is taking on her husband, Jeong-Yeon agrees to deliver diamonds from France to Korea for a sleazy friend, who guarantees her that the money she’ll earn for doing this will more than pay off their debts.

Of course, she is apprehended in Paris and jailed.

I’m not clear as to why she was transferred to a prison in Martinique. But there, unable to communicate with anyone, she is imprisoned for two years without having her day in court.

Knowing that she is poor, without any connections to a tony family, the Korean diplomats who should be advocating for her release view her and her husband as inconvenient burdens, who get in the way of their fine dining and relatively easy lives.

The first Korean film to be shot in the Caribbean, “Way Back Home” was shot in a real women’s prison, with some of the actual guards and detainees serving as background characters. The filmmakers clearly believe that while Jang Mi-Jeong (the woman on whom the movie is based) may have been guilty, her crime was less egregious than the way the Ministry of Foreign Affairs handled her case.

Release date: December 11, 2013. It placed second in box-office sales on its opening weekend.

Running time: 107 minutes.

© 2017 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

Comments (1)

  1. Melanie says:

    This was a really difficult movie for me to watch but I enjoyed it. It made me so angry to see all the bureaucrats not doing a thing to help her. They were all awful!

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