Lee-Song Hee-il is a trailblazer in making gay films in South Korea, His work speaks from the heart. As an openly gay man, he espouses films that tell stories of gay boys and men – their romance, their struggles, their frustrations, and their dreams. While many gay films of his time concluded in tragedy, Lee-Song Hee-Il’s movies end with a happy, hopeful note.

Director Lee-Song Hee-il studied filmmaking at the Independent Film Society. He collaborates with Generation Blue Films, a production company based in South Korea. Generation Blue produces No Regret, one of Hee-il’s best-known works.

Body of Work

  • Sugar Hill (2000)
  • Good Romance (2001)
  • Four Letter Words (2002)
  • Say That You Want To Fuck With Me (2003)
  • Camellia Project (2004)
  • No Regret (2006)
  • Break Away (2010)
  • Going South (2012)
  • Suddenly, Last Summer (2012)
  • White Night (2012)
  • Night Flight (2014)
  • Sparrow (2020)

Lee-Song Hee-il Top 3 Gay movie trilogy

No Regret – 후회하지 않아 (2006)

Lee Yeong Hoon in a scene from No Regret | Photo Credit Han Cinema

In 2006 when No Regret was released, there were hardly any gay Korean films to speak of. This award-winning film tells the story of Lee Su-min (Lee Yeong Hoon), a lost soul who was forced to leave the country orphanage. He sets his sight on Seoul and balances work with computer studies. A friend entices him to work as a male escort. A rich client falls hard for Su-min.

One of the best aspects of this film is how we aren’t provided the obligatory caricatures of gay ‘types’ on prime-time sitcoms in the United States… Refusing to follow the path towards Queer liberation espoused by sitcoms, [No Regret] is freed to provide some refreshingly, rip-roaring hilarious moments.

Adam Hartzell of Koreanfilm.org | Excerpt @The Wiki

White Night – 백야 (2012)

Lee Yi-Kyung and Won Tae Hee in White Night | Photo Credit Cinema DAL, courtesy Han Cinema

White Night happens during one snowy, quiet night in downtown Seoul. An attractive yet pensive flight steward, Won Gyu (Won Tae Hee) returns to the city under a gloomy night sky. He stayed abroad for more than 2 years as a result of an incident. He met Lee Tae Joon (Lee Yi Kyung) for a night of tryst. It was supposed to be a one-night stand but things started to escalate when Won Gyu saw someone from his past and starts to confront him.

Among the trilogy, White Night is the most reserved and romantic (perhaps) and had some steamy sex between the lead characters. It also has the most surprising ending – one that is up to speculation and personal point-of-view. This film is available for viewing at GagaOOala.

In an interview, dir. Lee-Song Hee-il notes that White Night was “inspired by an actual case of random street assault by a homophobe in Jong No.”

Night Flight – 야간비행 (2014)

Night Flight starring Lee Jae Joon and Kwak Si Yang | Photo Credit Cinema DAL, courtesy Han Cinema

Lee-Song Hee-il states that he found the motif of the film Night Flight from a “CCTV video clip, which showed a high school student crying in an elevator just before he killed himself. After seeing that, Lee-Song decided to make a film exploring teenage sexual minorities and the dehumanization they face in order to survive the bullying and violence they experience at school.”

Night Flight is the tale of three kids – Shin Yong-Joo (Kwak Si Yang), Han Ki Woong (Lee Jae Joon), and Ko Ki-Taek (Choi Joon Ha) – who drifted apart. Ki-Woong becomes part of a gang and has resorted to street fighting. Yong-Joo and Ki Taek remain friends and diligently attend school. Yong Joo always has the hots for Ki Woong and pursues the latter. Late one night, Yong-Joo started to kiss Ki Woong. The official trailer of Night Flight is shown below:

Official trailer | CinemaDAL, Sansoo Ventures, Inc.

At the Berlinale in 2014, film critic Pierce Conran states:

The ‘Night Flight’ of the title is actually an abandoned gay bar in a part of town that is slowly being demolished, presumably to make way for redevelopment. High schools, though permanent institutions, are merely transient experiences for the students that pass through them. Yet, short-lived though they may be, they are also heightened microcosms of the societies that surround them. In Korea, that means that power and hierarchy are king, and minorities, particularly those deemed socially unacceptable, are swiftly singled out and maligned but, worst of all, they have nowhere to hide.

Excerpts: Berlinale 2014 Review: Subdued Yet Powerful, NIGHT FLIGHT Soars by Pierce Conran

Heartwrenching, violent, and utterly endearing, Night Flight is – arguably – Lee-Song Hee-il’s masterpiece. While No Regret puts him in the spotlight, it’s Night Flight where he realizes his full potential as a filmmaker.

The exploration of gay-themed series in South Korea in Boys Love form is having a boom! You may want to read about these new, fresh Korean BL drama series:

Once Again | Choco Milk Shake | A Shoulder to Cry On | Semantic Error