Diary of June aka Bystanders (2005) by Im Kyeong-soo

‘’Diary of June’’ engages the mind and emotions of the viewer and is a must-see for the fans of thrillers.


‘’Diary of June’’ also going by the name ‘’Bystanders’’, is a crime thriller-suspense Korean movie. Behind the chair of the director is Im Kyung-Soo who also co-writes the ‘’Diary of June’’ with Go Jung-Woon and Lee Man-Hee.

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Chu Ja-young (Shin Eun-kyung) is a sassy, tempered, but fearless and determined detective who after the death of her sister looks after her high-schooler nephew Jun-ha (Lee Yo-seob). One day, while being off duty she is called to a crime scene with her rookie womanizer partner Kim Dong-wook (Eric Mun).  The crime scene is an apparent suicide of a high-schooler who jumped from a building.

Two days before on June 13, another high-schooler from the same school and the same class was murdered on a rainy night on a pedestrian overpass. Chu Ja-young, Kim Dong-wook and their team leader Yang (Yun Ju-sang) take into consideration the possibility of both cases being cases of murder by a serial killer. Chu Ja-young's intuition is proved correct when in the stomachs of both students, a red capsule is found, containing a scrap of paper from a diary reading the day and the name of the victim. Chu Ja-young and Kim Dong-wook continue their investigation by interviewing the home room teacher of the two high-schoolers, and their classmates.

Furthermore, their investigation is continued by comparing the handwriting on the scrap of the diary and the handwriting of the students. Scientific examination of the handwriting proves that the handwriting belongs to another classmate of the two victims named Jin-mo. To their surprise, Jin-mo has already died in a hit and run car accident the previous month and also was a victim of horrific bullying by his schoolmates. Furthermore, during this hectic investigation for apprehending the serial killer and stopping further killings, Chu Ja-young encounters an old best-friend of her, named Seo Yoon-hee  (Kim Yoon-jin) who has returned to South Korea after a quite long time.


The synopsis of ‘’Diary of June’’ does not prefigure the embodied humor in the movie. The presence of humor elevates the value of this production and the antithesis between the humorous scenes and the heart-whelming scenes make the film stand out from the typical, heavy crime-thriller movies.

Beyond the humor, ‘’ Diary of June’’ has also quite a few underlying messages about the shortcomings of Korean society. The social critique that is most noticeable regards the tough educational system of South Korea and the pressure that students have by their parents, not only to be good students but to be the best student in their class.

Besides the criticism of the problematic educational system,  the condemnation of bullying that some students have to endure and the neglect they have to face from their classmates, their teachers and even by their parents, is also obvious. The consequences of bullying on the lives of the students are also highlighted. The aforementioned is also facilitated by the director's brilliant choice to not show, clearly, the face of Jin-mo, the student that is bullied, in the whole duration of the movie. Jin-mo, in this manner, becomes a symbol of all the students that are victims of bullying and victims of the indifference of society and their family.

Another criticism is about the incompetence of the Korean police, which is frequently demonstrated, and also about the wrong treatment that women receive when they work in a line of job that is considered to be male-dominated.  Finally, the movie presents, in less extent, the ethical dilemmas and difficult decisions that someone has to take when he learns that a relative or friend has committed a crime.


The script-writers manage to create characters that have multiple layers. As an example, Chu Ja-young is carefree, but at the same time has a deep love and a fear for the well being of her nephew and makes sacrifices for him, even if her nephew does not appreciate this, at the beginning.  Also, Kim Dong-wook may look irresponsible, yet as the movie progresses, the complexity of his character is shown and the positive traits of his character come to the surface. Shin Eun-kyung and Eric Mun, who portray the aforementioned characters are exceptional, and the latter was also nominated for Best New Actor in Film at the 42nd Baeksang Arts Awards. Especially in the comic scenes, both protagonists demonstrate extremely natural acting while their excellent chemistry is evident.

The strong editing by Kyung Min-ho elaborates the story. The scene that stands out in terms of editing is the one with the interrogation of the students by the two detectives. While the children tell their ‘’truth’’ regarding their attitude towards Jin-mo, the fast editing and the rapid change of scenes show how they treated Jin-mo in reality. It is also worth mentioning that the music that accompanies the scenes is suitable and facilitates the building of tension.

Even though there are some plot holes in the film, these do not deprive it of its entertainment value. Moreover, the serial killer is also shown quite early and the audience immediately guesses who he/she is, although there is a major twist at the end of the movie that makes ‘’Diary of June’’ a worthy thriller movie. On a final note, ‘’Diary of June’’ engages the mind and emotions of the viewer and is a must-see for the fans of thrillers.

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Asian Film Vault: Diary of June aka Bystanders (2005) by Im Kyeong-soo
Diary of June aka Bystanders (2005) by Im Kyeong-soo
‘’Diary of June’’ engages the mind and emotions of the viewer and is a must-see for the fans of thrillers.
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