Negligence of Duty/Social Service Agent (복무태만) is a short story about a man who has delayed his military service. At 32 years old he has left his duty rather late, and instead of real military training he is given the task of a social service agent at a care centre. The man has no direction, no ambition, and creates conflict in his life in order to make it interesting. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of director Kim Tae-yong (김태영), it is not.
The ‘slacker’ sub-genre can be a humourous and/or insightful exploration of people without aspirations, such as the excellent Trainspotting (1996). Negligence of Duty/Social Service Agent however is lacking in every sense, as the main protagonist is utterly uncompelling. He is simply an irritation and his 26 minute narrative ‘journey’, which reveals how his arrogance destroys what little semblance of life he has obtained, is unimaginative and unconvincing.
The one moment of interest comes from an argument between the central protagonist and the delivery man, which is amusing to witness how lack of respect for age and one’s job can create conflict in contemporary Korea. Yet rather than continue to explore this area, Negligence of Duty/Social Service Agent opts instead to dismantle the social service agent’s ‘life.’ But as it’s a dull and uninteresting one that the audience are not invested in, the film ultimately fails in creating empathy.