To Know Korea, Understand the War


By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

Tuesday is Memorial Day, a day when the entire nation honors the veterans who sacrificed their lives for their country and fellow Koreans during the Korean War.

Apart from a patriotic perspective, it is also important to understand the war and its aftermath still have a great influence on people’s lives although it has been 56 years since hostilities commenced.

To facilitate understanding of the tragedy, the Korean Film Archive (KOFA) is offering special program every weekend this month with a collection of eight films that were produced from 1950 to 2000.

The Korean War is one of most commonly used motifs in local
movies, but its portrayal has been varied depending on directors
and the time period. "Joint Security Area or JSA" (2000) by Park
Chan-wook is one of the first works that started to see North
Korea as a neighbor.

"Without understanding the war, you cannot understand Korea and its people," said Kim Bong-young, the team leader of the research and education department at KOFA. "The war has had a large influence on the social, political and cultural sectors of the nation."

Titled "Weekend Classics," the program collects movies concerning the war and its effects. To assist for foreign audience members, they will all be screened with English subtitles.

The movies are "Piagol" by Lee Kang-cheon from 1955; "The Red Muffler" by Shin Sang-ok, 1964; "Mismatched Nose" by Im Kwon-taek, 1980; "The Winter That Year Was Warm" by Bae Chang-ho, 1984; "North Korean Partisan in South Korea" by Jeong Ji-young, 1990; "To the Starry Island" by Park Kwang-su, 1993; "Spring in My Hometown" by Lee Kwang-mo, 1998; and "Joint Security Area" (JSA) by Park Chan-wook, 2000.

"The movies will also help people understand the changes in the view of the war and the relationship between the North and South as they have been portrayed differently depending on the directors and on the time period," Kim said.

Right after the war ended, most films dealt with propaganda issues as the government focused on spreading anti-socialism and, in many cases, abused it politically.

The early works such as "Piagol" and "The Red Muffler" show how people struggled to live in the war-torn country where they also suffered from ideological confusion.

But in 1990s and 2000s, people started to make an effort to see the North as a neighbor, not as a mere enemy. One of the most impressive works is "Joint Security Area," which looks at a friendship that develops among South and North Korean soldiers serving in the Demilitarized Zone near the border.

Along with "Weekend Classics," four movies set in the Choson Dynasty, will be screened at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the archive, starting with "Women of [the] Yi-Dynasty" (1969) by Shin Sang-ok on Wednesday, followed by "Eternal Empire" (1994) by Park Jong-won, "The Hut" (1980) by Lee Du-yong and "The Sino-Japanese War and Queen Min the Heroine" (1965) by Lim Won-shik.

The screenings take place at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets for each screening are 2,000 won. The Korean Film Archive is located in the Seoul Arts Center, near exit 5 of Nambu Bus Terminal Station on subway line 3. For more information, call (02) 521-2101 or visit

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