Eighteen-year-old Do Wan-deuk (Yoo Ah-in) lives with his hunchback father Gak-seol (Park Su-yeong) and stuttering uncle Min-gu (Kim Young-jae), former cabaret clowns now having to work in open-air markets after the closure of the nightclub they used for many years. Wan-deuk never knew his mother, who walked out 17 years ago, and has become a young brawler. His unconventional high school teacher, Lee Dong-ju (Kim Yoon-seok), who treats all his students with equal harshness, lives on the rooftop next door and is always on Wan-deuk's back. Both are perpetually insulted by a grouchy neighbor (Kim Sang-ho), who lives with his younger sister Lee Ho-jeong (Park Hyo-joo), a writer of "existential martial arts novels" under the pen-name Moonbow. When Gak-seol and Min-ju start going on the road looking for work, Gak-seol asks Dong-ju to keep an eye on his son, and the two become closer. Dong-ju tells Wan-deuk his mother, Lee Suk-gi (Jasmine B. Lee) is actually a Filipina and working in a restaurant in Seongnam, a satellite city south of Seoul. Thanks to Dong-ju, mother and son finally meet for the first time. Meanwhile, Jeong Yun-ha (Kang Byul), the brightest pupil in class, has taken a liking to Wan-deuk after splitting with her boyfriend Hyeok-ju (Kim Dong-yeong). When Wan-deuk takes up kickboxing to funnel his aggression, Yun-ha helps him. But just when Wan-deuk has come to rely on Dong-ju's tutorship, the latter is arrested by the police for helping illegal immigrant workers.Yoo Ah-in ... Do Wan-deukKim Yoon-seok ... Lee Dong-juJasmine B. Lee ... Lee Suk-giPark Su-yeong .... Do Gak-seolPark Hyo-joo ... Lee Ho-jeongKim Young-jae ... Min-guKang Byul ... Jeong Yun-haKim Dong-yeong ... Hyeok-juAhn Gil-kang ... next-door neighborSudip Banerjee ... HassamJo Duk-je ... director of studentsLee Jae-gu ... cabaret strongmanHan Eun-sun ... cabaret female employeeLee Sol-gu ... street market man 2Sung Yoo-bin ... young Wan-deuk
In a Q&A session after the world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival, director Lee Han stated that the female character Lee Ho-jeong, who was not in the original novel, was added as the love interest of high school teacher Lee Dong-ju to allow the audience to empathize with him more.
The ethnicity of Wan-deuk's mother was changed from Vietnamese in the novel to Filipina in the film.
Punch brought to the forefront several of the less recognized features of a changing Korean cultural landscape: intercultural marriage and multicultural households, a growing population of migrant workers, an education system narrowly focused on preparation for university entrance examinations, and the economic vulnerability of the disabled. As such, no one expected the film to make a lot of money.
But Punch sold 640,000 tickets on its opening week of release, then claimed the top spot at the box office for the second consecutive week by selling over two million tickets. The film's popularity grew through word of mouth, with an unprecedented number of schools, government offices, and private companies arranging for group viewings.
Punch eventually sold 5.3 million tickets in South Korea during its box office run. The movie ranks #3 for Korean film ticket sales in 2011 and #4 for ticket sales for all films released in South Korea in 2011.
It was also invited to the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival; it screened in Generation 14Plus, a competition section of Berlinale devoted to films for teens.
Commenting on the positive reception, director Lee Han told Yonhap News that the seemingly eclectic ensemble of characters who appear in Punch, though they rarely receive the limelight, are present and active as members of Korean society. Lee spoke of how the warmth and honesty with which he tried to portray these characters and introduce their daily lives has resonated with viewers.
Since the film's release, Filipina actress Jasmine B. Lee, a naturalized Korean, has become well known for playing the mother of the young protagonist. The recognition of her performance as an actress has also brought publicity to her social activities as the secretary general of Waterdrop, a charity she formed for migrant women, and as one of the first non-Korean civil servants at the Seoul Global Center. Her connection to the film has increased recognition of the variety of services available for foreigners living in Korea. She was later elected in 2012 as a proportional representative in South Korea’s National Assembly, the first Filipina and naturalized Korean to become a lawmaker.
2012 KOFRA Film Awards (Korea Film Reporters Association)Best Actor - Kim Yoon-seokDiscovery Award - Yoo Ah-inPublic Relation Award - Lee Yoon-jung
2012 Baeksang Arts AwardsNomination - Best FilmNomination - Best Director - Lee HanNomination - Best Actor - Kim Yoon-seok
2012 Buil Film AwardsBest Director - Lee HanNomination - Best Actor - Kim Yoon-seokNomination - Best Actor - Yoo Ah-in
2012 Film Festival ZlínEcumenical Jury Award
2012 Blue Dragon Film AwardsNomination - Best Actor - Kim Yoon-seokNomination - Best Supporting Actress - Park Hyo-joo