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Once Upon a Time in High School: The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do (2004)

Maljukgeori janhoksa (original title)
2:01 | Trailer
By "Fist of Fury", Kim Hyun-Soo (Sang-Woo Kwone) addicted to Bruce Lee. Year 1978. Hyun-Soo moved to KangNam, Seoul. Hyun-Soo transferred to JungMoon High, Maljuk Street, Kangnam, Seoul. He... See full summary »


Ha Yoo (as Ha Yu)


Ha Yoo (as Ha Yu)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Sang-Woo Kwon ... Hyeon-su
Jung-Jin Lee ... Woo-shik (as Jeong-jin Lee)
Ga-in Han ... Eun-ju
Hyo-jun Park Hyo-jun Park ... Hamburger
In-kwon Kim ... Jiksae (as Won-kwon Kim)
Jong-Hyuk Lee Jong-Hyuk Lee ... Jong-hun (as Jong-hyuk Lee)
Dong-won Seo ... Seong-hun
Byeong-chun Kim Byeong-chun Kim
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ho-jin Chun ... Hyeon-su's Father (Cameo)
Bu-seon Kim
Yeong-im Kim Yeong-im Kim
Han-seok Yang Han-seok Yang


By "Fist of Fury", Kim Hyun-Soo (Sang-Woo Kwone) addicted to Bruce Lee. Year 1978. Hyun-Soo moved to KangNam, Seoul. Hyun-Soo transferred to JungMoon High, Maljuk Street, Kangnam, Seoul. He goes schooling by No.78 Bus. First day a senior male took Hyun-Soo's collar and made Hyun-Soo being punished inside JungMoon playground because of forgetting collar Hyun-Soo made friends with Kim Woo-Sik (Bruce Lee fan) and Hamburger. Hamburger always bring adult magazines to school and was always being found by the school soldiers. Hyun-Soo father had his own TaeKwonDo Dojo - his wish is to see Hyun-Soo being the top 5 in his JungMoon High class, and got himself promoted to University. One day inside #78 bus, Hamburger and Hyun-Soo met Kang Eun-Ju (EunYang Female High), a female Bruce Lee fan who looks like "Olivia Hussey", whose music favorites are Agaetha (ABBA) and Celsia Chan, Hyun-Soo began to fall in love with Eun-Ju. Hyun-Soo and Woo-Sik became rivals of Cha Jung-Hoon (Triad Head, JungMoon ... Written by darkfaceR

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Action | Drama | History


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Official Sites:

official site


South Korea



Release Date:

16 January 2004 (South Korea) See more »

Also Known As:

The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Sidus See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film takes place in 1978. See more »

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User Reviews

Violence Begets Violence
13 July 2008 | by refresh_daemonSee all my reviews

Once Upon a Time in High School is poet-director Yu Ha's third feature and this time he chooses to tread a very different territory than his previous works, exploring the culture of violence in Corea via the lens of high school during the 1970s.

The story concerns a recent transferee to a new high school, Hyunsu, who quickly makes friends with the class tough guys. Complications arise when his crush and his new best friend end up liking each other. Add this to rivalries, belligerent teachers, administrators and a general culture of violence and you have a setup for enormous amounts of frustration and violence begetting more violence. Oh, and Bruce Lee. Not the actual Bruce Lee, but there's quite a bit of Bruce Lee in this film, as his star was bright at the time.

The story has several threads, but because it's so well weaved together, you never really get lost and although towards the end of the film, most of the plot elements vanish, I think it works well in this film, showing how a system of violence slowly drags its victims into reproducing that same violence, causing everything else to be lost. And yet, while the film criticizes the violence, it also seems to be glorifying the violence at the same time, which you can see in a number of rather impressive fight sequences (including two crazy rooftop rumbles). Clearly this is a complicated, but still nostalgic look back at the days of high school.

One thing that really impressed me was Kwon Sang Woo's performance as Hyunsu, especially that he handled a great deal of the stunts and fighting himself. But, he also did really well portraying a rather meek character and I liked his chemistry with his cohort, Wooshik, played by Lee Jungjin. In fact, most of the players do a pretty decent job with their roles. The setting is well articulated, the period dress is great and the technical aspects of the film are top notch.

I have to say this is a worthwhile film to watch, both for the seemingly honest look at a violent time in Corean history that still hasn't worked its way out of the culture, but also for its exploration of its impact on the people. The thing I like about Yu's films are that, despite their often critical gaze, is that they at the same time have some sort of respect as well. Once Upon a Time in High School is a decent watch. Martial combat lovers get that, ladies at least get some eye candy and in all that is still a rather decent story about the hardships of high school, first love and the difficulties faced in friendship. 8/10.

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