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'Pacemaker' (2012)
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승인 2012.02.09  17:28:29
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▲ Photo courtesy Cinergy

Full disclosure: I remember it was last spring when my dear friend Darryl said that he was an extra in a film. He said it was a movie about a marathon partly filmed at Jeju World Cup Stadium. I just laughed and didn’t take it seriously, which I now regret. If I had remembered, I might have found the familiar-looking awkward actor in the movie, “Pacemaker.”

The story is about marathon runner Joo Man Ho (played by Kim Myung Min). Like most athletes, he undergoes strenuous training. However, unlike most athletes all his hard work is not to earn a medal, but to help a favored teammate win the race and take home the gold.

During a marathon, Joo’s mission is to run at a standard pace to the 30-kilometer mark, allowing his teammate to preserve his strength until the last stretch of the race, and then sprint to the end, and the podium.

Joo, who can run better than anyone for a 30-kilometer stretch, is the best man to set the pace and as the eponymous character, he is known as the pacemaker.

The rustic and pure-spirited marathoner was performed by the well-known character actor Kim Myung Min who in his career has taken on various roles including a charismatic conductor, a clear-sighted detective, and a patient with Lou Gehrig’s disease. For this role he tried every trick in the book to bring Joo to life through changing his appearance into an ugly and humble marathoner by wearing dentures and losing weight to undergoing marathon training for two months.

Kim convincingly portrayed the anguish of a marathoner who had to be a pacemaker to support his family. As the story progresses, he must make a difficult choice about whether to run what might be his last race; doctors warn he can no longer complete a race without sustaining a critical injury.

This turns out to be the film’s climatic scene. He attempts to finish a race that takes place in London during the upcoming Olympics. To create a realistic atmosphere of the London Olympic marathon, lots of money and extras were mobilized. And through the actual marathon course of the 2012 London Olympics including Greenwich Park and Tower Bridge, Joo Man Ho does a great job of being the pacemaker. When he gets to the Lloyd’s building, the 30 kilometer point of the race and the landmark signaling that he no longer has to continue running, Joo embarks on a race of his own.

In common with other Korean sports movies like “Malaton” (2005), which depicts the story of an autistic man who runs a marathon, or the recently released “Perfect Game” (2011), a story about competition between two Korean iconic baseball players, “Pacemaker” shows that challenging one’s limits and competing against oneself is more meaningful than simply winning a game or earning a medal.

Another reason this film is especially moving is that it sheds light on the real existence of pacemakers, embodied by Korean marathoner Hwang Young Cho who was a pacemaker in the 1991 Dong-A International Marathon and came in third place. Abel Kirui, the winner in the World Championships Marathon in 2009 and 2011 also used to be a pacemaker.

This is the first movie for veteran musical director Kim Dal Joong, who is well-known for his musical successes like “Hedwig,” “Thrill Me,” “Dancing Princesses,” and others. Given that he is new to the job, it’s impressive that he could manage the large-scale of the project, including filming multiple locations including Jeju Island and London, England. It’s a relatively big-budget picture as well. It was widely reported that just the airfare for the two-week shoot in London was 100 million won (US$90,000). It seems to be doing well at the box office, for its efforts.

And now, as a movie-going audience member, the film gives you the chance to ask yourself: would you choose to settle for what you do well or push yourself to achieve what lies beyond your reach?
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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