A synopsis in English can be found here, while a longer synopsis in Korean is here, and a poster (likely a vhs cover) is here. I was at the Korean Film Archive in Digital Media City this week (which is now very close due to the AREX line being completed) to catch a screening of Declaration of Idiots, and afterward went up to the film library to see if Queen Bee was available. It was (on VHS), and armed with a camera I took shots of some of the more interesting parts of the film. It seems it was shown on TV last year, so there are .avi files floating around on the internet (but to join Korean sites to download it you need all ten fingerprints, a blood sample and a dodo feather, so that might take awhile).
Here's the poster for the film:
I'm sure you'll never guess from the poster what happens in the film or how foreigners are portrayed.
Queen Bee begins with a woman dressed as a traditional dancer and using what looks like a traditional iron, heated in flames, to burn lines into a drawing (of a threesome) on a piece of paper. Then a mostly-unseen black man bursts in and rapes her.
The woman is the mother of Mee-hee (played by Lee Hye-young, who played the principal in Boys over Flowers) and the synopsis of the movie (found on many sites in Korean) says she was with an foreign English teacher and when they broke up, she felt ruined and became an Itaewon girl. I don't remember hearing any mention of English teachers in the film (there were no subtitles, so I may well have missed it, though it would be odd not to pick up those particular words). In fact, many of the foreign men we see - at least at the beginning - speak some Korean.
At any rate, the film then cuts to the present day and we see Mee-hee practicing in her dance studio and teaching young girls traditional dance.
We then meet her sister, Jeong-hee (who's a student, played by then 17 year-old Jo Yong-won (seen here two years earlier)), and they wash each other at the sauna.
(Photo from here.)
From there we move into the hive of scum and villainy known as... Itaewon. Mind you, it's Itaewon in 1984 or 1985, so it looks a bit different than today. The action mostly takes place at the Hippodrome club, where 80s music and fashions abound. Below, Mee-hee verbally fends off a foreign woman who has accused her of taking her guy. It's about the only time in the movie a foreign woman has a speaking part.
We meet a few of her female friends, all 'Itaewon girls,' and then she leaves with the guy below, whose name I forget.
They're confronted by Gyeong-su, a friend of Mee-hee's who has feelings for her and who wants her to change her ways (but whose job - working at a pig farm apparently on the bank of the Jungnangcheon near where the girls live - may not be so appealing). The foreign guy leaves him in the dust and sneers at him.
The foreign guy doesn't end up in much better shape, however. After passing through another club (where a woman is having sex with a foreigner on a chair in the corner), they have a meal at a haejangguk place, where the foreigners speak varying degrees of Korean (and apparently like Korean food; "Where's the kkaktugi?" asks someone). She teaches him to order and after eating they go to his place and Mee-hee whips him and then lets him climb all over her, but before he can do the deed, Mee-hee uses her whip to knock him off of her and walks away. He isn't too happy.
She returns home, and the next day her sister asks about her night ("I didn't hear you come in last night"). Mee-hee meets another bearded American the next night who she admonishes for not speaking Korean to her. He tells her, "I thought I'd practice my English." Also at the restaurant is the guy from last night, who is friendly enough with her.
Mee-hee's sister Jeong-hee goes out with a less-than attractive Korean friend that night to Itaewon (of all places!) and he is apparently affected by the lust in the air, and upon seeing a yeogwan, tries to pull Jeong-hee towards it. She refuses and flees down the steps (the tall ones at Itaewon's east end) and is almost hit by a car. The driver, a foreigner, steps in when her date arrives and she makes it clear she doesn't want to talk to him.
She gets in the car to escape and they drive off. Her date yells, "This is Sadaejuui! Sadaejuui!!" (following the strong, or toadyism).
The guy offers to drive her home and tells her his name is Richard, and that he's a professional photographer. She thanks him and says she's a student. He tells her "I pray for God to see you again" (he sounds German, but is supposed to be American). He gets his wish, meeting her on a bridge while out taking photos a few days later, and he takes her to his studio. On the walls are artistic photos he's taken which seem to have a lot of breasts in them.
Mee-hee is shown teaching and practicing at the dance studio where other dancers rehearse a performance which seems to mix traditional Korean and modern dance. She heads off to Itaewon and bumps into the foreign guy we saw first who tells her, "You tease me - try me! I've got to show you how good I can be in bed!" Jeong-hee, meanwhile finds out what her sister is up to in Itaewon, and follows her. This helps her to feel it's okay to date Richard, who takes her out to dinner and then they head to Itaewon to go clubbing. They walk by Wendys (anyone remember where in Itaewon that was, exactly?).
At Wendy's is the foreign guy from the first night and his friend (who sounds Scottish).
What follows is this conversation:
A: ____ will come from Hong Kong in a few days with the goods.
B: Are you sure nothing will go wrong?
A: Don’t worry about it. I will not let anything happen to spoil your dream life of Itaewon.
B: You can have your three essences of life here: women, liquor and joints. That’s why I like this country so much. I’m gonna make a record of having affairs with a hundred girls.
A: Meehee’s always on her high horse like a queen bee.
B: I’m afraid it’s not that easy for you. She’s not like other Itaewon girls. She chooses her own men, and doesn’t give a damn about the guy when she conquers them.
A: I’ll wait and see. Hey, your visa has expired, hasn’t it?
B: I’ll have to rip off a girl.
Just then a girl sits down, and the guys smile at each other.
Jeong-hee is out dancing with Richard; Mee-hee sees this and walks away in disappointment.
The first foreign guy sees Mee-hee leave and is disappointed, but Mee-hee's friend decides to cheer him up with a little bathroom sex. However, they are disturbed by evil black man, who asks him where the hell Steve is.
Steve was seen at the beginning of the movie with another of Mee-hee's friends.
The film cuts to Steve, who is currently having sex with the girl above, who tells him she loves him and that he belongs to her. Suddenly, evil black man bursts into the room, pulls Steve off of her and throws him to the ground saying, "How can you have fun here while I was in jail!?"
Steve tells him that the girl on the bed is a gift for him, which cheers him up. Evil black man smiles and strips, while the girl looks on in horror. As he rapes her, Steve watches with an amused look on his face.
Just to clarify, this is a South Korean movie.
Jeong-hee and Richard leave Itaewon, but they guy she went on a date with earlier tries to approach them once they're in the car. Richard slams the door into him and knocks him down before driving off.
Mee-hee's friend Gyeong-su (who is trying to save he from this life) finds him and helps him up. They go off drinking makkeolli together. Meanwhile, Steve and evil black man exit the motel they were in (without the girl).
Evil black man says, (with an Australian accent, by the way) "Yeah man, that was a good time. That’s what friends are supposed to be like. She was terrific. In fact, I think we’ll have to do this every night."
The hotel owner splashes water (or soju?) like holy water upon their path after they’ve left and spits after them.
The scene then cuts to Mee-hee walking down the street. Evil black man has obviously met up with the foreign guy from the beginning, who obviously devises a plan for revenge: sic evil black man on Mee-hee. He points her out and says how hot she is, which accomplishes the desired effect:
Evil black man approaches, and the usually calm and cool Mee-hee is scared. He pushes her off the street and up against a wall where he starts pulling off her clothes. Gyeong-su walks by and sees this and intervenes, but is knocked down. Foreign guy grabs him and seems to want to force him to watch:
Instead, evil black man slaps him around until police sirens scare them away. Mee-hee is thankful to Gyeong-su and takes him to a yeogwan where she undresses and offers to sleep with him. He instead covers her up, tells her to get her act together, and leaves.
Meanwhile, after promising to be his model, Jeong-hee poses for Richard. He happily takes photos, which progress to nudes...
...which progress to a happy Richard and... well, I can't tell if Jeong-hee is enjoying herself or in great pain (anyone who has seen Gang Su-yeon in the Surrogate Womb will have seen a similar performance).
The next day we see them embracing in front of Jeong-hee's apartment, where Richard tells her, "I love you baby, I want to marry you." Mee-hee sees this and confronts Jeong-hee, telling her not to make the mistake she did. The argument becomes heated, Mee-hee slaps Jeong-hee, and then the conversation continues as Jeong-hee takes a shower (when I tried to find this movie on Emule, that scene was the only clip that turned up, for some strange reason).
Mee-hee can't make the danger that foreigners pose sink in, though it does for the viewers, who are treated to a flashback of her mother's rape by another evil black man.
Alas, Mee-hee was right. Foreign men are scum. Jeong-hee learns this the hard way, when she goes to Richard's apartment and enters despite Richard not answering the door:
Though Richard is having sex with another girl, he isn't the least bit surprised:
When she stammers that he said he loved her, he replies, "Yes, we loved each other… but love is one thing; marriage is another." Then from nowhere his friend grabs Jeong-hee:
Richard tells her, "He’s my friend. And friends share everything." With no reaction from the Korean woman he was having sex with, he then gets up and, saying, "Come on, let’s have fun together," watches as his friend rapes her (the third time in the film someone has watched another person rape (or attempt to) a woman they're dating).
Cut to Steve's ex-girlfriend walking through the streets of Itaewon, enchanting tourists as she hands out flowers saying, "I love you Steve," and talking about marriage as she flutters about, obviously having lost her mind. Jeong-hee runs along a bridge over the Han River (the 63 building visible in the background) and sees the girl standing at the railing.
Jeong-hee later talks to Mee-hee and tells her what happened, saying, "We’ll be queen bees together." She then goes to the disco club and dances alone. The dance floor fills and suddenly we see this sign:
There were quite a few clubs like this at the time (50 in Itaewon), as I noted last week.
At any rate, the foreigners-only sign suddenly smashes (shades of Fist of Fury?) as a coffin is pushed through it (presumably belonging to Steve's ex-girlfriend). Koreans dressed in traditional clothing enter the club:
While Jeong-hee stands with the confused foreigners, we all know she'll eventually reject the dark side. The Korean friend she went on a date with earlier in the movie is part of the group of mourners, who break into the mix of traditional and modern dance seen being rehearsed earlier in the film. He takes her hand, and though reluctant at first, joins in the dance.
She has rejoined the Korean nation, and has been saved. The Korean mourners, having won this challenge, leave the den of western corruption the way they came. Mee-hee, however, wants more than her sister's redemption - she wants revenge. She dresses up and lingers in front of Richard's apartment, asking for a ride to her dance studio.
He offers to take photos of her dancing. She seduces him and they have sex, while she has flashbacks to her rape by an evil black man.
Finished, she climbs off and reaches for a knife, and Richard's blood splatters over the drawing she was working on when she was raped. We then see her dancing a traditional dance:
She dances in the dark as the camera pulls back from her. Just as she's about to disappear in the distance, still dancing, a shot of the Han River fades in, and she appears to disappear into it. Cut to Jeong-hee and Gyeong-su standing next to the river as part of Mee-hee's costume floats away. Jeong-hee walks away, and the film ends.
The message seems to be: Foreigners who can rape, do; those who can't, watch.
Luckily, as I've noted here and here, things have changed a great deal in the 25 years since this film was released. The portrayal of foreign English teachers in films and TV today is far more positive, right?
Even Min-seo's revenge on her English teacher Haines in Bandhobi is rather similar:
I suppose one thing absent in Queen Bee is foreigners molesting children:
Mind you, I haven't yet gotten to the 1984 film Between The Knees, another that seouldout suggested.
I'll save that for another day, however.