South Korean Films: How Do They Portray North Koreans? Part 2

South Korean Films: How Do They Portray North Koreans? Part 2

Final Remarks

As you can see through the different films, the North Korean characters depicted in South Korean films have complex motivations and a set of emotions. So far however, most of the North Korean roles are either spies or military personnel.

There is a prevailing theme throughout most of the films that contain the relations between South-North Korea as a backdrop. It is this sentiment that the two countries being split up isn’t something the people want but inevitable because of the government or outside forces. I would like to describe it as “Han.”

“Han” is strongly prevalent within themes of Korean culture. (In literature, TV, and Films) “Han” describes a Korean cultural trait which can be described of a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds and also a feeling of unresolved resentment against injustice. Of course, the reason for “Han” stems back to the annexation of South Korea by Japan and North and South Korea being spilt up.

Almost every film on this list has “Han” expressed in some way:

Swiri: The doomed relationship between Yu Jong Won and Lee Bang Hee is juxtaposed against a backdrop of the clash between North and South Korean agents. Both sides wants reunification, albeit through different means.

Silmido: The situation that the Silmido inmates/agents are placed in is a perfect representation of “Han.”

Taegukgi “The Brotherhood of War”: Because this film is based during the Korean War, the film is really a more literal expression of “Han.”

Poongsan: The character Poongsan himself is a vehicle to alleviate “Han.” He travels back and forth between North-South Korea to transport letters between estranged families.

Secret Reunion: The main character Song Ji Won is placed in an impossible position. On one hand, he has to do his duty as a North Korean spy for his family’s safety. However, on the other hand he has this newfound friendship with Lee Han Gyoo.

South of the Border: For me personally there are two moments of true “Han.” One is when Cha Seung Won’s character ends up in South Korea and can’t do anything about bringing his lover down to South Korea. The other is when the past lover does return but their relationship can’t go anywhere.

Welcome to Dongmakgol: This film took a lighter approach and you can’t really feel the “Han.” Due to the North and South Korean forces working together, it does make the war going on outside of the town absurd.

Joint Security Area: Friendship is made between North and South Korean troops. However, in the end there is an element of mistrust that can never go away.

The Front Line: The

“Han” depicted in this film is expressed in the mindless back and forth that goes on between the South and North Korean forces. A big question asked is, “Who is the war meant for?”

Anyways, here was my not-so-in-depth look at these films depicting the situation between North and South Korea. Please leave comments about what you think!

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