In a society which believes in adults taking care of their elderly parents, South Korea is seeing more senior citizens struggling for living as the society progresses. With the rising living costs, more adults are getting married at a later age or choose not to getting married at all, since they may not be able to sustain the rising cost of living. It has become a concern that more senior citizens are not being taken care of by their children, especially when South Korea government's elderly benefit system fails to cover all aging citizens. For some elderly women, they were forced to dive into the world's oldest profession, prostitution, in order to make a living. Korean director Lee Je-Yong's latest feature, The Bacchus Lady, explores the issue of elderly prostitution and elderly struggling with poverty through the eyes of an aging prostitute, So-Young (played by veteran actress Yoon Yeo-Jeon). So-Young works as an elderly prostitute who provides cheap sex services to male senior citizens under the pretext of selling Bacchus, a type of Korean bottled energy drinks. (Hence the name The Bacchus Lady, which refers to elderly prostitutes selling Bacchus) She, just like the many Bacchus ladies, hangs around in neighborhood parks soliciting sex. While she was diagnosed with gonorrhea at a clinic, she witness her male doctor stabbed by his Filipino lover after a conflict over their Kopino son named Min-Ho. (Kopino is a jargon which refers to a anyone with parentage of Korean and Filipino) So-Young picks Min-Ho from the street and take care of him while his mother was serving her prison sentence. Struggling with poverty, So-Young lives in a rented room together with Jae-Woo, a young designer who lost his right leg, and Tina, their male-to-female transsexual landlady. So-Young get in touch with her former clients during work, which the reunion wasn't a happy one for all of them. One of them was bedridden after a stroke, which his married son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren are not keen to visit him, let along taking care of him; another was feeling lonely after his wife passed away and the couple was childless; the third was a single man who is on daily medication and dementia. When they fail to see any future for themselves, they seek So-Young's assistance to end their life, which leads So-Young into a path of confusion. Unlike his previous works such as Untold Scandal (a Korean blockbuster remake of Dangerous Liaisons) and An Affair (which explores extramarital affairs between married couples), Lee Je-Yong bring the social issues faced in the aging society onto the big screen. Through the eyes of So-Young, it is not difficult for the audience to understand why the elderly Koreans are seeing negativity in their golden age. The rising cost of living and South Korea government's measure to support the senior citizens has many of them to fall through the cracks, where many of them are still living in poverty. Hence, the services were mainly performed in budget motels and quiet corners in the park, since they are unable to afford a decent hotel for the services to be performed. For a childless lady such as So-Young, prostitution is the only way for her to earn an income, since she did not have other skills to earn her a living, and her age forbids her to work as a maid or a factory worker, the job she had during her younger days. To the other childless seniors, it is either they have to find a simple job to earn a living, or they will have to choose to end their life, since they are unable to keep it up with the rising living costs. While it seems that the rich elderly is taken care of by their children guarantees no worries for their future life, Lee Je-Yong is telling us the story from the other side of coin. So-Young's client, a rich businessman who was bedridden after a stroke, feels that he was leading a life with no dignity. His son and daughter-in-law refuse to take care of him and only visit him once in a while; his grandchildren are more interested in online games than him. While So-Young was the only one who bothers to visit him, she was seen as a gold-digger by the daughter-in-law. This is a reflection on how the children grow up in a modern Western-influenced environment, which serves a big contrast to the Confucian values practiced by the Koreans. Hence it is no wonder that the client has chosen death over living on support. The Bacchus Lady also touches on other social issues, though it is not covered in depth. For instance, Min-Ho's appearance shows that South Korea is seeing an increase in immigrants from developing countries seeking a better life in South Korea. While So-Young could have simply ignored Min-Ho's appearance, she takes care of him and hopes that she can return Min-Ho to his mother upon her release. It is also a rarity to see the issue of trans gendered people being covered towards the end of the movie, where Tina works as a performer in a transgender nightclub. To sum up, you will not see any handsome hunks or pretty girls in The Bacchus Lady. Instead, the elderly are taking up the lead to showcase the actual hidden facts in the developed society. If you are tired of the usual K-pop like Korean movies and prefer something more realistic, The Bacchus Lady will serve you well.
The Bacchus Lady
The Bacchus Lady
The Bacchus Lady looks into the issue of elderly prostitution in South Korea. So-Young, an elderly lady who provides sex services to the male senior citizens using the pretext of selling ...
September 26, 2020