Just because: Comedy, melodrama and youth violence in attack the gas station

Nancy Abelmann, Jung Ah Choi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Attack the Gas Station (Juyuso sŭpgyŏksagŏn, 1999, dir. Kim Sang-jin) is a violent comedy: despite the considerable violence that runs the entire course of the film, the film has been widely appreciated as hysterically funny. In the words of one critic, ‘This is the first truly comedy-like South Korean comedy action film that I've seen in a long time’. The plot is this: four young men attack a petrol station, holding its ‘president’ (sajang) and workers hostage. Viewers laugh hard, for example, at radical role reversals: at the petrol station ‘president’ who offers to relinquish his presidency the moment he is instructed to ‘bow down, head down!’ because he is the ‘president’; or at the dumbfounded response of petrol-station customers who are told that ‘today is a cash and full-tank-only day’. This humour aside, there are moments that make us wince – when the violence, some of it misogynistic, is simply too ruthless to laugh away: for example, when the attackers lock a defiant woman in the boot of her car and proceed to hack at the boot (the film ends having left her and another customer locked away); or when, time after time, one of the attackers smashes the painstakingly repaired telephones that he had commanded the ‘president’ to fix. A box-office success, Attack the Gas Station ranked second among domestic films in 1999 (garnering slightly less than one-half of the viewers of history-making Shiri [Swiri] – 962,000 in Seoul by its eleventh week) and third overall (only slightly overshadowed by the American film The Mummy) (see www://koreanfilm.org).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Korean Cinema
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780748680627
ISBN (Print)9780748618514
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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