The Best South Korean Film of 2021: Lee Tae-gyeom’s I Don’t Fire Myself | Far Flungers

The work turns out to be a lot more difficult and dangerous than Jeong-eun thought at first. For example, they work on high transmission lines that have thin transmission lines between them. Jeong-eun is soon paralyzed by her fear of heights, and medication doesn’t help. Jeong-eun subsequently comes to request some help from one of the small subcontractors, who is reluctant at first. But he eventually accepts her request because she offers some money for his coaching while he needs to earn more for himself and his young kids. Although she understandably fumbles a lot at first, Jeong-eun becomes more accustomed to climbing up the transmission tower thanks to his good coaching. There’s a lovely, peaceful moment when they spend some little private time together while being safely tethered to transmission lines.

The screenplay by director Lee Tae-gyeom and his co-writer Kim Ja-un, which is inspired by a real-life story of one female worker not so different from Jeong-un, thankfully does not push its two main characters into a conventional romance. Instead, it focuses more on a genuine sense of compassion and solidarity being developed between them. Jeong-eun comes to see more of the cruel and heartless side of the company, one that constantly exploits its subcontractors as pushing them into more danger and competition in the name of efficiency and profit. There are not enough safety measures and proper tools for them, and they even have to buy a special safety uniform for themselves, which is quite expensive to say the least. Nevertheless, they cannot possibly complain without losing their jobs.

And that takes me back to a shocking recent local news article which came out in last month. This article was about the unfortunate death of a young subcontractor working under KEPCO, a tragic death that chillingly and maddeningly resonates with what I observed from the film. For instance, just because this young man was technically not its employee, KEPCO did not provide him anything to protect him from many risky tasks he was demanded to do. And for Christ’s sake, he was not even given safety gloves, which he was actually trying to purchase for himself before his death.

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