Hungkat’s review published on Letterboxd:
A few thoughts on Hae-mi (since I have talked enough about Jong-su’s character and Ben’s sinister smirk)
Hae-mi lives in a dilapidated apartment, facing north, that relies on reflections off a much fancier building, Namsan Seoul Tower, for barely just a few minutes of sunlight. That time when Jong-su made love to Hae-mi, he was lucky enough to witness the light reflecting onto her window. It was a beautiful and wonderful moment, as the flashy pleasure pulled him toward a notion that he loved Hae-Mi. I wonder if this is true. I wonder if he really loves Hae-mi or he loves the sight of the magical light beam reflected upon the wall for a mere few seconds before it fades off like a newborn hope that dies before one can realize its existence.
As for Hae-mi, I kept thinking about her relationship with the light around her, which she probably looked at wistfully through the windowpane hoping she could get far past Namsan Tower to the other side; the better half of the world. She is a lonely girl lost in a lonely world; always stuck in that cramped, suffocating room, she waits for the rays of the sun to shine in even if it only lasts for a brief instance. I imagine her standing alone, trapped in the heart of African desert, the Chalbi desert or the Sahara or the Kalahari – alone between the wind and the sand, alone in the unfathomable distance between the earth and the sky. I see her standing there, eagerly waiting for sunset and the purple dust of twilight near the horizon, as far away as no one could reach, and per usual the light slowly dissolves in the dark of day, and the shadow of time before she can fully cherish its radiance. Her tears fall abruptly, in that restaurant with Ben and Jong-su. She weeps. It is no longer the kind of loneliness resulted from an individual’s external detachment in the vastness of space; instead, it is the loneliness that internally resides in the heart, which is more woeful than death.
She knows how to pantomime and as a matter of fact, she does it very well. She can pick up a tangerine at any given moment and eat it whenever and wherever she wants. She lives in the domain of the forgotten, the one not visible enough for the human eyes to see. She wants to go away because she seeks to escape reality. Africa, a place so far beyond the Namsan Tower, is the definitive answer to her yearning, in other words, her big hunger for a reason to exist. To put it in Ben’s words, there seems to be a stone in Hae-mi’s heart; a stone that makes her suffer. That’s why she can’t fully enjoy things. That’s why she can’t enjoy tasty food. When talking about Hae-mi in the context of the film, Burning becomes dreadfully sad, because she is seen no more than an object that Ben, the affluent yuppie, possesses and an excuse for Jong-su to do what he did in the final uproar. However, she is more than that. She epitomizes the loneliness that I feel almost daily; the feeling resembles something that has stripped the “self” off from the core only to leave behind an empty husk. Hae-mi is so lost, so lost that it drives her to the edge of the world, and hence this drives up her urge to dissolve into thin air. Maybe it is better to disappear. To disappear means to float in the shadow of twilight, to swim naked in the sea and throw away the aimless life and let the ashes soar towards the sky.