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Posted on July 30th, 2012, by

Historical Background

In 1945 Korea was freed from the invaders, but still it was left departed on two parts. The Civil War started after the ending of the Second World War. It tool away the lives of five million of Koreans, it was1/6 part of the whole population of the country. In 1953 both sides supported from one side by the United States of America and Soviet Union from the others signed an armistice. The demilitarization zone was created within the village  Panmunjeom and a commission was created, certainly it included the representatives of neutral countries. Both sides and the United Nations Organizations created Joint Security line. That is what bout short historical background, which became the central part of the plot structure and influenced the whole film itself more than the main plot line itself.

Plot summary

On the post within the Joint Security Area was committed a murder of two North Korean soldiers, to prevent potential conflict Major Sophie E. Jang, Swiss investigator, arrived to the Joint Security Area. Young and beautiful woman of Korean origin was introduced as representative of neutral side. The tragedy happened and the survivors of the incident refuse to tell a thing. The military of the South Koreans insist on that fact that one of their soldiers by Northern Koreans. Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok killed two soldiers and he is considered to be a hero. Major Jang states that the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission and nobody could visit him without a permission of the Commission.

The story is placed as a detective, but it shows all the depth and inner relationship. It is the story about historically based enmity and abhorrence.

Cultural relations and parallels within historically-military film

The relations of North and South Koreas are perfectly showed in this particular story. It will be also very important to note that this film was also oriented on European and American audience. The whole atmosphere totally unfamiliar to the audience and he director made the right decision, if he wanted to attract the viewers to the serious problem of the cultural conflict and inner relation within two countries.

The critics often make parallels between the development of Chinese film industry and Korean ones. They seem to be very alike in many aspects especially when it comes to their breakthrough to the Western viewer: In both South Korea and China, the debate is heavily colored by local memories of colonialism and forced modernization. The encounter with the West began in both countries with demands for free access to Korean and Chinese markets that resonate all too easily with Hollywood’s demands today (Chris Berry, 221), recent Korean movies recorded the highest share of any local movie market worldwide except for France (Chris Berry, 224). Joint Security Area’ was that huge breakthrough that created good perspectives for further development. The period described in the film is very important for the both Koreas from the historical point of view as it is a great tragedy, that the nation was separated.

This idea that a united Korea without a centre is expressed when the young Korean soldier crosses the border for the first time. WE do not witness him crossing the line. He is shown walking to the bridge and then stopping. The camera moves in the opposite direction, only to revert to its original course, undermining any sense of geographical space. When the camera stops, the soldier has crossed the border and is in the North Korea. This scene demonstrates why Joint Security Area is not a film about erasing the divide, not a film about unity. Instead, the film argues that as the centre divides, it simultaneously provides a fragile balance (Gombeau, 237-238). We see that the aim of film was to show the real state of things but not propaganda of unity of North and South Korea. Till now the relations between these two countries carry complicated character.



I think that the director of the film succeeded in his aim: Pak Chan-wook uses the screen to compose symmetrical filmic space where the screen represents a centre zhong between spectators and North Korea. Watching the less realistic narrative of joint Security area unfold (it was notedin the South Korean Press shortly after film’s release that any encounter between North and South soldiers is impossible), one may not be close to the political truth, but one is closer to the North that ever before (Gombeau, 237-238). It is essential that such films with deep historical background, even it is not fully demonstrates the relationships within two countries are always welcome by Korean audience as they are familiar for the viewers. As for the European and American audience they got a detective with historical elements.

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