As we were watching “Kill Boksoon,” we were reminded of a character from one of our favorite books, “The Kite Runner.” He was the protagonist’s father, and he once told his son, Amir, that theft was the basis of every crime, and that murder is nothing but the theft of life. Now, “Kill Boksoon” is not nearly as serious as “The Kite Runner,” but this quote came to us as we couldn’t help but compare Boksoon to a thief.
If murder is a crime because of the cost of human life, we must ask what the value of her abusive father’s life was for Boksoon, who was her first kill. It is one thing to try to discipline your child; it is entirely another to give them a black eye and force them to eat a cigarette. Boksoon’s father was an officer, so it is possible that he was a stand-up citizen outside his home and an asset to society. But that is not the side of him that Boksoon saw every day. Living with him meant being under the constant threat of physical harm and emotional abuse. She must have seen two very different sides of him, and for an impressionable teenager, that might have very well shaped her view of the world. Her father’s death might be a loss for society, but it was a boon for her, and she couldn’t feel guilty about it. With his death, she was just taking back the life he was battered out of her. This is probably what made her see murder in a gray light.
Someone’s loss is somebody else’s gain, just like her father’s death had been, and Boksoon was not in the business of picking sides. The thing to remember here is that Boksoon could do her job because of a certain attitude she carried. It is possible that she separated her real morals from her job, as most of us do. She was proud of how good she was at her job, but she wasn’t proud of the work itself. That is why she lets her ego take over and battles Young Ji when incited by Director Cha. But she never tells her daughter what she does, not just because her work is socially unacceptable but also because she doesn’t want this life for Jae Young. Boksoon is not simply a cold-hearted killer, which is why she chooses not to kill the Prime Minister’s son. The moment the facts of that show became clear to her, her morals did not allow her to kill him.
It wouldn’t be unfair to assume that Boksoon’s daughter, Jae Young, shared a similar mindset. Jae Young has been growing distant from her mother for a while now, as can happen during the teenage years. Boksoon wants to be there for her daughter but doesn’t know how to. We don’t even mean her struggle to accept her daughter’s sexuality, but the simple fact that Boksoon kept interrupting Jae Young when she tried to talk to her about what had happened at school. Jae Young is a bit of a brat, just like any other teenager. As for Boksoon, she is trying too hard to be her daughter’s friend without knowing how to, just like any other parent. Throw some secrets into this mix, and it gets all the more difficult to navigate.
Jae Young was right when she said that she would never need to “come out” as heterosexual, but she couldn’t be oblivious to the fact that her mother may not take to the idea immediately. Additionally, she knows that her mother might have been involved in some shady business. She tells her mother that she found a gun and a fake passport in her bag, and she thinks that Boksoon works for the CIA. But before she had that talk with her mother, Jae Young must have had other doubts, at least initially. Whenever her mother said that she was at work, Jae Young probably knew that there was a bit of a lie there. We do believe that Boksoon and Jae Young’s relationship played a part in the latter’s attitude toward death. When Jae Young hurt Cheol Woo, she did it in a moment of anger. Cheol Woo was blackmailing her and So Ra. Even though Jae Young was ready to face the consequences of being outed, So Ra wasn’t, and Cheol Woo was trying to take advantage of that. Jae Young was being cornered, and she was not willing to take it lying down. Yes, attacking Cheol Woo was extreme and shouldn’t have happened, but her desire to get him out of her space wasn’t wrong.
When So Ra breaks up with her, a tearful Jae Young calls her mother but finds that she is in danger. When she comes back home safe, Jae Young is angry, but maybe her mother’s yelling at her to consider her apology sobers her up. When Boksoon tells her that everybody is just trying to survive, and So Ra must also have been doing that, Jae Young starts to see things beyond her tears. Fast forward to the next day when Jae Young receives a live video recording of her mother killing a man; she is in tears. Now, there was nothing in the conversation between Chairman Cha and Boksoon that would indicate that she was not working for the CIA. However, it is not about whether it is a lie or the truth. It is about seeing your mother as a killer. As much as this affects Jae Young, she chooses to pretend as if nothing has happened, as if she never received the video. There is also a bit where she tells her mother to leave the door open. Boksoon has often said that there is a wall between her and her daughter. By leaving the door open, Jae Young is signaling that she wants to let her in. They might never discuss Boksoon’s job, but Jae Young has accepted that side of her mother and, by extension, the fact that even she possesses some of it. Why else would she so instinctively stab someone in the neck? She might have been scared by that side of herself initially but knowing that there was a source of it and that she could live a normal life even with it, as her mother did, must have put her at ease.
In the mid-credits scene, she tells So Ra that she wanted to kiss her but could also kill her. While Jae Young understands that So Ra did not have much of a choice, she has owned her anger at her girlfriend for not having had more courage. We don’t think that she will harm So Ra, but that tiny insinuation in the classroom was probably revenge enough. When walking out, she reminds Cheol Woo of the injury on his neck with a smile. We understand that Jae Young doesn’t regret her actions, and she promises Cheol Woo that she won’t hesitate to do it again if he messes with her. This threat could also be her way of protecting So Ra from him.
The knowledge of her mother’s life has made Jae Young accept the violent part of herself. But we have a feeling that she might be a lot more unhinged than her mother. When Boksoon killed her father, she was not just saving herself but also venting out years worth of anger. In a particular sense, it can be termed as her justice for herself. But Jae Young’s actions go a step beyond. They are about revenge and protection while also carrying an element of fun in what she is doing, and that makes her far more dangerous than her mother could ever be.