[Marxism] Korea Romance: South Meets North

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Mon Nov 24 07:43:44 MST 2003

*****   The International Herald Tribune
October 14, 2003 Tuesday
LENGTH: 821 words
HEADLINE: Korea romance: South meets North
BYLINE: James Brooke
SOURCE: The New York Times

BODY: The daughter of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, is pouting 
in the suite of a luxury hotel in Seoul. She has just learned that 
Daddy has arranged a marriage for her in Pyongyang to a boring old 
nuclear scientist.

Not for Dear Leader's teenage princess! Donning a tight white blouse 
and a hot-red miniskirt, she eludes her amiable North Korean police 
chaperon and runs away to a disco, where she shouts in English, 
"Let's party!"

All goes swimmingly in the movie "Whistling Princess" until the 
Americans, dressed in black, arrive at a rock concert. As the 
princess kisses a hunky Seoul rocker, with a unification ballad 
reaching a crescendo, the Americans blow up the place with hand 
grenades and rocket launchers. "I thought I took a creative stance, 
changing the Americans from good guys to bad guys," said Peter Lee, 
the filmmaker, in the office of his film company here. "Actually, I 
like the U.S. I visit the U.S. two times a year."

Such is the world of South Korean cinema, which has seemingly 
embraced the government's "sunshine policy," started in 2000 to 
extend an open hand to North Korea. No longer are North Koreans 
portrayed as devils; that role now belongs to the Americans.

These new films are popular among young adults, feeding their 
anti-American politics. Last December, when "Whistling Princess" was 
released, Gallup Korea, a polling firm, found that 75 percent of 
South Koreans in their 20's had a negative view of the United States, 
compared with only 26 percent of Koreans over 50, the generation that 
lived through the Korean War.

"From those movies, we can sense that North Korea is no longer a 
competitor or enemy," said Park Sae Na, 23, a textbook researcher. 
"When we were young, we got a lot of anti-Communist education. 
However, we are turning toward reconciliation mood."

In fact, for the last three years, South Koreans have seen a number 
of sympathetic films about the North: "Shiri," a romance between a 
North Korean agent and a South Korean security agent; "Double Agent," 
a love story about two North Korean moles in South Korea; "Spy," 
about a hapless North Korean agent who falls in love with a South 
Korean art student, and "South Korean Man and North Korean Woman," a 
comedy about a playboy who tries to seduce the daughter of a 
high-ranking North Korean officer.

In the most acclaimed film, "Joint Security Area," soldiers from 
North and South fraternize across the demilitarized zone, playing 
cards and drinking. Six million South Koreans or 20 percent of the 
country's adults saw the movie in theaters. And it was shown 
nationally on television on July 27, the 50th anniversary of the 
armistice that ended the Korean War.

"I wanted to say North Koreans are the same human beings as South 
Koreans, we should see North Koreans as brothers," said Park Chan 
Wook, the 43-year-old director of the movie, which has won virtually 
every South Korean film award. "I didn't have any intention to make a 
movie which repeated those anti-Communist themes of my school years."

While older South Koreans have denounced the movie as naive and 
unrealistic, the film has had an enormous impact on current 
attitudes. Last spring, during joint military maneuvers near the 
border, several American soldiers complained that their 
English-speaking South Korean liaison soldiers said they would not 
fire on their Northern "brothers."

Park's next film is an account of No Gun Ri, a massacre in which 
American soldiers killed about 250 Korean refugees in July 1950, a 
few weeks after the Korean War broke out. According to a 2001 
Pentagon report, the Americans, largely inexperienced soldiers 
transferred from occupation duty in Japan, fired on the civilians 
believing that North Koreans soldiers had infiltrated the group.

Meanwhile, Shin Sang Ok, a renowned director of the Korean War 
generation, said he has had no luck finding financing for his 
project, a dramatization of fighting in North Korea near Heungnam 
Port that allowed for the evacuation of 100,000 refugees and 105,000 
troops to safety in the South. About 5,000 American and South Korean 
troops were killed.

Unlike the younger filmmakers, Shin knows North Korea. He and his 
wife, Choi Un Hui, say they were kidnapped in Hong Kong in the late 
1970's on the orders of Kim Jong Il. They had to make movies for Kim 
Il Sung, who ruled the North then, and his son, Kim Jong Il.

"In each movie, there has to be a minimum of three appearances of 
praise of Kim Il Sung," said Shin, who made about a dozen movies in 
the North in the 1980s. '

Shin was jailed three times for trying to flee before he and he wife 
finally escaped in 1986. "I want to make the 'Schindler's List' of 
North Korea," Shin said. "People there are suffering like the Jews in 
Auschwitz. The entire country is a gulag. I want to make a hit with 
such a movie feature. Then the world will know that North Korea is a 
land without human rights."   *****

_Joint Security Area_: 


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