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‘The Sympathizer’ adapted into TV series by Park Chan-wook

‘The Sympathizer’ adapted into TV series by Park Chan-wook

Posted April. 17, 2024 07:23,   

Updated April. 17, 2024 07:23


Park Chan-wook, the director who served as the ‘show runner’ overseeing the entire production, scriptwriting, and directing process, unveiled the U.S. HBO drama "The Sympathizer" in South Korea through Coupang Play on Monday. Director Park adapted the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name penned by author Viet Thanh Nguyen. This is Park's first work since winning the Cannes Film Festival Best Director Award for "Decision to Leave" in 2022 and his second television series.

“The Sympathizer" begins in 1975, as the Vietnam War nears its end. The protagonist is a lieutenant (played by Hoa Xuande) serving a South Vietnamese general. However, his identity is far more complex. Born to a French father and a Vietnamese mother, he lives under the derogatory term "bastard." As a North Vietnamese defector, he starts working as an intelligence agent for the CIA, ending up studying in the United States, where he harbors both admiration and hatred towards the country. Upon returning to Vietnam, he serves the South Vietnamese general while spying for the North.

"When I first read the original novel 'The Sympathizer,' it felt like watching fireworks. The expression‎ and style were very colorful and tumultuous," Director Park remarked. "The scene in the first episode where the protagonist tries to escape South Vietnam with the runway engulfed in bombing and flames was inspired by that feeling." Author Nguyen said he visualized the images of Park's 2003 film "Oldboy," adding, “Park is the perfect person to adapt my novel into a drama."

Robert Downey Jr., who sparked attention for playing four roles in this production, portrayed the elderly CIA agent Claude in the first episode. "The Sympathizer" consists of seven episodes, with each episode released every Monday.

Ji-Sun Choi aurinko@donga.com