Gil Bok-soon And Jae-yeong In ‘Kill Boksoon,’ Explained: How It Explores The Mother-Daughter Relationship?


Although the Korean action thriller film “Kill Boksoon” is mostly about the dangerous world of contract killing, there is also enough stress on the family drama side of things. This is evident in the very choice of the protagonist and also in the time of her life that has been selected for this flurry of changes. Not only is Bok-soon a single mother, which in itself is a taxing role for an assassin who has to stay away for long hours at odd times, but she is, more importantly, the mother of a teenager. As the daughter Jae-yeong is at an age when it is very natural for her to question every matter and challenge every authority, Bok-soon is perhaps at the most difficult stage of her motherhood. In fact, the woman does admit this, stating that the constant distance and figurative wall that Jae-yeong has been creating between them is what has been driving her crazy in recent times. Such is Bok-soon’s situation that she finds it much easier to live with the guilt and contempt of killing people for money than with the sharp quips and attitude of her teenage daughter.

From the very beginning, when we are first introduced to Bok-soon in her familial space and with Jae-yeong, the two watch news on TV that covers the scandal of the prime minister candidate and his attempt to get his son admitted to a college fraudulently. “Kill Boksoon” has an interesting structure of mentioning things in a manner as if they are insignificant that later go on to become major elements, and the scandal with the senator is one such instance. The news is perceived by the two characters in different manners, as Bok-soon immediately starts talking about how unfair the world was but how she did understand the concerns of the man as a parent to ensure that his son got a good education. Jae-yeong’s reaction is quite the opposite, especially after hearing her mother’s words, and she is understandably much more concerned about what is right and wrong. As much as Jae-yeong’s standard of moral judgment is still almost idealistic, as is to be expected from her age, Bok-soon’s morality is indeed highly flawed. Even though the woman makes choices that seem less harmful at times, the fact that she is a serial murderer cannot be forgotten. Therefore, in her mind, being a good mother, no matter what, is something that perhaps balances out all the wrongs that she does professionally. Bok-soon is very careful about keeping up the pretension of being an event manager in the eyes of her daughter as well as the other parents at Jae-yeong’s school.

To Bok-soon, the idea of being a woman rich enough to send her daughter to an esteemed private school in itself has a set of pretensions. This comes out when she sits down with some of the mothers of the other girls at the school, and they all discuss their lavish holidays during the summer. Bok-soon is very foreign to such a lifestyle, especially if her childhood is to be considered. Growing up in an abusive environment at home where her father would beat her up even when the girl was a teenager, her sense of morality had been marred by that very time. After helping Min-kyu kill her father, Bok-soon’s life took a complete and unusual turn, and she seemingly joined the world of violence from that very moment. So, spending time with her family for a rich and lavish holiday is something that Bok-soon cannot think of even now. Despite saying that she had to work overseas during the summer, which she indeed did, as we are shown a scene of her killing a man with the pyramids in Egypt in the background, Bok-soon does stick to this group. This pretension is primarily the reason, in my opinion, that Jae-yeong chooses to keep her mother far away from her personal life.

Jae-yeong is not the typical teenager of her age either, and it is clear that she has been feeling different from most others around. This is both due to her sexual orientation and also because of her thoughts and opinions. Jae-yeong discovers her physical interest in women after getting close to her best friend at school, So-ra, and she is obviously confident that it is part of her identity. But this choice itself creates a problem for Jae-yeong at her school when a boy named Cheol-woo finds out about the secret relationship between her and So-ra. Cheol-woo, who is interested in Jae-yeong and has been asking her out for quite some time now, takes photographs of the two girls in a compromising situation and uses them to blackmail Jae-yeong into dating him. But the girl, who is, after all, the daughter of a hardened killer, is not that easy to manipulate. In fact, Jae-yeong is most probably the daughter of not one but two hardened killers, as Cha Min-kyu seems to be her biological father. Therefore, the girl’s very first reaction is violence, as she tries to convince Cheol-woo to delete the photos and then happens to strike him with a pocketknife. This incident causes massive havoc at the school, and Jae-yeong is suspended for a week and is asked to either reveal why she had actually attacked the boy or be expelled.

This is the first time that we see Jae-yeong scared and anxious by her situation, for the confusion regarding the consequences of her action starts to creep into the teenager’s mind. But this incident also makes her discuss certain things with her mother that she had earlier kept from her. As was mentioned through the dialogs earlier, Jae-yeong had agreed when So-ra discussed how their mothers were all the same—how they pretended to love them dearly but would be enraged and cruel if they knew about their homosexuality. Perhaps Bok-soon’s decisions or attempts to stick with the other parents had made Jae-yeong feel that her mother, too, would be as shallow and unsupportive as the others. This and the obvious fact that Bok-soon was too busy to hardly ever spend a long time with her daughter made Jae-yeong keep her sexuality and the resulting angst in her mind a secret from her mother. It is now, while being questioned about her decision to attack Cheol-woo, that Jae-yeong finally tells her mother about everything. Even though Bok-soon does take a brief pause to process it all, she does tell her daughter that she should have shared all of this with her before. Even if this is not the first information that the middle-aged Bok-soon might have wanted to hear about her daughter, she does not let any such feelings out and genuinely supports Jae-yeong from here on.

Although the situation with her mother does get better after sharing all this, Jae-yeong goes through a very difficult phase when So-ra stops talking to her. So-ra was now scared of the consequences that their homosexual relationship might have on her and her family since it is still taboo in society that is shown. She tells Jae-yeong to forget it all and that it was all just casual experimentation, harshly dismissing all the feelings that Jae-yeong genuinely had for her. It is once again Bok-soon who makes the girl understand that such a decision was only So-ra’s to take and that she really could not do anything about it. Bok-soon explains how different people have different ways or methods of dealing with the situations in their lives, and to deny and escape from her situation was So-ra’s decision. Jae-yeong did indeed not have any other option but to accept this and move on.

During her most difficult time, Jae-yeong receives her mother’s support, and this is also why she is more accepting of Bok-soon towards the end of the film. This is also the reason why I find the possibility of Jae-yeong having actually watched the video of her mother fighting Min-kyu and yet not saying anything about it all the more convincing. It is the realization of who our family actually is and what they mean to us that forms a major understanding during the teenage years. In some ways, “Kill Boksoon” does cover this coming-of-age phase with respect to Jae-yeong, and therefore, her ultimate understanding from all the events is that she mends her relationship and bonds with her mother.

In the mid-credits scene, Jae-yeong is seen visiting her school for the last time, since she has decided to get expelled from there and join a new school. Her intention is to see So-ra for one last time, as their teenage romance is still very serious to Jae-yeong. Unlike her character previously, Jae-yeong is now quite intimidating, too, as she tells So-ra of her plan to initially kiss her or kill her right in front of everyone. She is brash enough to remind the cowardly Cheol-woo of the injury she had inflicted on his neck. But still, Jae-yeong knows that violence is not the answer to any problem. There is obviously the chance of Jae-yeong turning into a violent contract killer too. She definitely has the temperament, and Bok-soon only needed the presence of a Min-kyu to turn her life around. With a similar figure in her life, Jae-yeong might turn too, but the only certainty is that Bok-soon will surely advise her otherwise.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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