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Saturday, July 2, 2011

North vs South in Film: War Between Two Koreas



Just had a Korean-style movie marathon and I decided to watch three highly-acclaimed war movies to satisfy my interest in the Korean War as portrayed by the Koreans themselves. It's quite an intriguing genre to watch considering the controversial relations between the North and the South and dark history between the two similar yet different Koreas.


I never realized how fortunate South Koreans are. They have one of the most robust economies in Asia with their people enjoying high standards of living. They seem to enjoy the good life if you compare it with the average Filipinos. As many of them flocking our malls, specialized English-language schools, beaches, and public places, we may wonder if one them can still recall what life was sixty years ago. The may have moved on from the horrors of the Korean War but there are many things that is casting a dark shadow upon them.



The remnants of the war is still apparent in the border that separated brothers and sisters, Koreans and fellow Koreans, and northerners and southerners. I was fortunate enough to watch one of the most sentimental and heartwarming war movies I ever watched. Perhaps, Taegukgi is the best Korean War movies I ever saw. It's not because it portrayed the victorious UN armed forces (United States and its Allies) but I appreciate the fact that it showed how Koreans were splintered into different camps either for greed, vanity, glory, patriotism, and political opportunism. Two brothers were forced to fight for their country against the Communist North. Reluctant as they are, they fought on. The older brother tried his best to make sure his younger brother will survive the war and take care of the family. Complications, however, further drifted them apart as the older brother becomes more interested as a war hero and the younger realized the futility and horrors of war. I never thought emotionally draining war is until you see people killing each other. War is like a double-edged sword because it brings the best and worst in people. In the critical and all-important scene, both brothers lay all their cards on the line as they fought each other. War has forever lost their innocence... Even if you cry, the sorrow remains.




If you think Oceans Eleven or the Dirty Dozen were the kick-ass group in movies, think again. Silmido is another award-winning South Korean film that features a relatively unknown episode in Korean history. Antebellum Korea has moved on from the bloodshed of the war but both Koreas are under an "authoritarian and oppressive" regimes with the North under the communist bloc while the South under the iron fist of right-wing dictator Park Chung Hee. Under strong and powerful leaders, the relations between two countries is tested as the North planned a daring and audacious attempt to "decapitate" the South Korean leadership with the assassination of the president. The ill-fated Unit 124 managed to infiltrate the Blue House but was eventually repulsed by South Korean Army and Police. As a result, the South decided to create a similar team of its own. Known as Unit 684, it was composed of criminals and outcasts who were promised of good "rewards" if they kill North Korean premier Kim Il-Sung. Unfortunately, the changing political situation forced the military leaders to "liquidate" this unneeded "commando" unit. Think about the Jabidah Massacre and you will know these men were eventually hunted down or killed. Until now, it remains a highly-debated topic as to what actually happened in Silmido island.


On the lighter side of the war, Welcome to Dongmakgol is a welcome relief to see the conflict in a different perspective. Sure, many people have died but it doesn't mean that we don't have to laugh. If take Albert Einstein's view on war as being fought by stones why not with laughter and jokes? As the war was fought in heightened ferocity, American pilot Neil Smith crash-landed into a remote and secluded Korean village untouched by the carnage of war. In fact, the people didn't know that there is a war tearing their country apart. With different circumstances, surviving North Korean soldiers and South Korean deserters made it to the village. As the Americans plan to rescue Smith, a bombing mission was ordered and the village was the target. The days and weeks that the enemies (Smith and the Koreans) spent together have changed them from adversaries to friends. Unfortunately, they don't have time left to save the village from utter destruction so decided to create a decoy by making a 'fake' village. Both North and South Korean soldiers die smiling while the bombs destroyed the replica Dongmakgol. Though the village was saved, the lives of the former enemies who had later become friends were sacrificed.

There is beauty and madness in war because it has always been a factor in shaping human consciousness. It has made what we are. At the end of the day, human nature allows us to kill and protect, to destroy and rebuild, and to bring about change and ultimate destruction.

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1 comments:

  1. Amazing Korean movies...these films are must-watch for those who want to know about the Korean War...

    ReplyDelete

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