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The Housemaid (1960)

The Housemaid (Hangul: 하녀, Hanja: 下女, Hanyeo) is a 1960 black-and-white South Korean film. It was directed by Kim Ki-young and starred Lee Eun-shim, Ju Jeung-nyeo and Kim Jin-kyu. It has been described in Koreanfilm.org as a "consensus pick as one of the top three Korean films of all time". This was the first film in Kim's Housemaid trilogy followed by Woman of Fire and Woman of Fire '82. The film was remade in 2010 by director Im Sang-soo.


The film is a domestic horror thriller telling of a family's destruction by the introduction of a sexually predatory femme fatale into the household.

The film begins with a scene of a composer, Dong-sik Kim, reading to his wife a newspaper story about a man falling in love with his maid.

The story then jumps to the composer working at a factory. The composer has just moved into a two-story house with his wife and two children. When his pregnant wife becomes exhausted from working at a sewing machine to support the family, the composer hires a housemaid, Myung-sook, to help with the work around the house. The new housemaid behaves strangely, catching rats with her hands, spying on the composer, seducing him and eventually becoming pregnant by him.

The composer's wife convinces the housemaid to induce a miscarriage by falling down a flight of stairs. After this incident, the housemaid's behavior becomes increasingly erratic. She threatens to kill the composer's newborn son. She tricks the composer's son Chang-soon into believing that he has ingested poisoned water, and in a panic, he falls to his death down a flight of stairs.

Instead of turning her in to the police, Mrs. Kim offers to support Myung-sook in order to keep her from losing her job, and she asks for the husband. The composer moves upstairs with the maid and his wife labors over her sewing machine, falling asleep at her work every day. Unable to stand their new arrangement, both the wife and daughter attempt to poison Myung-sook, but she outsmarts them. Finally, Myung-sook persuades the composer to commit suicide with her by swallowing rat poison. He crawls downstairs and dies next to his wife, asking her to "Take good care of the children."

The film ends with the composer reading the story from a newspaper with his wife, returning to the very beginning of the film. The narrative of the film has apparently been told by the composer, who then smiles and warns the film audience that this is just the sort of thing that could happen to anyone.