North & South Korean Relationship
Korea is the only country in the world that is still in the ceasefire state. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (History Channel), Korea remains the only country that is divided into two states with different political systems. There has been constant tension between South Korea and North Korea throughout the history. Although there have been some years, under different diplomatic policies of the government, during which North Korea and South Korea displayed less hostile attitudes towards each other and hosted peace summits (Herskovitz, 2007) with the purpose of making the relationship better, the North-South relationship has worsened over the years with events such as the bombardment of Yeonpyeong and constant threats from North Korea to engage in nuclear and missile tests. Such events prompted many South Koreans to turn their backs at North Korea. In the past, there have been many movies with the theme of friendship and alliance between South and North Korea but the realities of the two Korean governments’ politics do not seem to align with the hopeful messages conveyed through the movies. Joint Security Area is a mystery thriller film released in 2000 in South Korea. It is considered one of the most successful Korean movies and was nominated to many international film festivals. Directed by Chan-wook Park, the movie tells a story of an investigation surrounding a shooting incident at the North Korean border house that resulted in deaths of two North Korean soldiers. A rifle was supposedly fired by Sergeant Lee Soo Hyuk, who claims that he was kidnapped by the North Koreans and shot the North Korean soldiers while trying to escape back to South Korea. The North Korean soldiers, however, claim that there was no kidnapping and the shooting was an act of terrorism by Sergeant Lee. Later in the movie, Sergeant Lee’s flashbacks reveal that Sergeant Lee and Private First Class Nam Sung Sik had gotten lost and ended up on the North Korean side of the border while patrolling at night. The two South Korean soldiers had been discovered by two North Korean soldiers and become friends. It was on one of the North Korean soldier’s birthday that the two South Korean soldiers crossed the border to meet their friends and celebrate. Unfortunately, Sergeant Lee and Private Nam were discovered by another North Korean soldier and, in panic, Private Nam shoots both the North Korean soldier and one of their friends. The North Korean friend who was not shot helps Sergeant Lee and Private Nam escape back to South Korea with an alibi of being kidnapped. While the genre of this move is a thriller with a rather heavy setting of the demilitarized zone in Korea, the theme of the movie is a heartwarming friendship of the four soldiers. There are also some comical elements that highlight the unbiased and pure friendship of these young men. Despite the comical elements, throughout the movie, there is a dark underlying tone that represents the sorrow and the sad history of the divided country. The most striking scene of the movie is the last scene that shows an accidentally taken picture of the DMZ North-South border that has all four soldiers in it. It is quite disturbing to realize that the four young soldiers who built and treasured friendship were forced to point their guns at each other and turn enemies because of the political and historical tension between the two states. The movie has a great emotional impact on the audience because throughout the movie, the audience realizes the friendship was terminated by the political hostility that has started such a long time ago, yet still going on. This movie was made and released during the Democratic government under the former president Kim Dae-Joong. During President Kim’s term, the North-South relationship had improved significantly. Under the “sunshine policy,” president Kim created optimism surrounding the North-South relationship (The Economist, 2009)....
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