Cast: Yong Nyeo Lee, Ji Min Oh, Ye Jin Kim, Young Hwa Noh, Min Su Sung, Chae Kyung Lee, Hee Jae Yoo, Chang Yong Ahn
Crew: Producers: Aaron Schillinger, Boram Kang, Wesley Cho – Screenwriters: Jayil Pak
When the Korean Goddess of Birth visits a maternity ward to grant a couple their son, an unforeseen ghost alters her plan.
Jayil Pak: Growing up in a family of dramatists in the East Village of Manhattan, Jayil wrote and directed his first play at the age of 14. After graduating from NYU in 2008 with a degree in film production, Jayil has worked as a director and editor of commercials, music videos, and short films in both the US and South Korea. Jayil was nominated for the Silver Dragon at the Krakow Film Festival for his first short, The Housewife (2014), starring Ye Ji-Won. His second short, Pepper (2018), was shortlisted by the Lexus Short Films competition and premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival in April 2018.
“One well-raised daughter is worth ten sons.” This was the motto promulgated by the South Korean government as part of a nationwide campaign to increase the female birth rate in the 1980s. Sex-selective abortions were at an all-time high even up until the 1988 Seoul Olympics despite abortions being illegal nationally. Confucianism has brought great prosperity to South Korea in terms of education and economic growth, but within it exists an androcentric value system that favors sons over daughters. From the perspective of traditionalists, bearing a son is necessary to continue the family name and bloodline. But would a male baby retain his value as a son if he were born without the desire or capability to procreate? What do we do as a society when a woman’s right to choose clashes with a woman’s right to live? Sponsored by Yeosung Jeonhwa, a Korean women’s rights organization, Pepper (2018) tackles the familial and societal problems that women and gay men face in South Korea as a result of a preference for male offspring that still persists even today. As the second project in our human rights film series, Pepper is not only an insightful look at a disconcerting time for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights in South Korea but also an important message to all those suffering from societal oppression that life is always a better alternative to death.