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Daring Movie Tells Plight of N.Korean Refugees

2008/03/17 Source

Amid growing interest from the global community in the Chosun Ilbo documentary "On the Border", another Korean film about North Korean refugees is set to be released in May.

"Crossing" is the first Korean feature film to deal with the miserable reality faced by North Korean defectors, including laborers in a logging camp and teenagers who survive by begging and stealing. The 2006 movie "South of the Border" dealt with the story of separated North Korean lovers, but "Crossing" focuses on the refugees' struggle to survive.

"Crossing" is a heartbreaking human drama about a man (Cha In-pyo) who escapes from a mining village in North Korea's North Hamgyong Province to find medicine and food for his family. Later the man's 11-year-old son leaves home to find his father.

The work is based on the true stories of dozens of North Korean defectors, including some involved in the March 2002 incident in which 25 defectors pushed their way past Chinese guards into the Spanish Embassy in Beijing.

Production on the movie was kept secret because parts of it were shot on location on an 8,000-km route stretching from China to Mongolia, as well as out of fear of threats from the North to the safety of interviewees and staff. Actor Cha In-pyo had to promise to reveal nothing about the film until shooting was done.

It took more than a year to interview people and gather information before shooting began. North Korean Kim Chul-yong, who was a member of North Korean arts propaganda squads and defected to the South in 2001, helped out as an assistant director. He also participated in the making of "South of the Border".

The movie cost W4 billion (US$1=W997) to produce, which is the average budget for a commercial film in Korea. The producers did everything they could to minimize the budget, but they had little luck finding investors and had to keep postponing shooting. While the topic is important, it's not one that generally appeals to young viewers so the movie is less likely to succeed at the box office.

Things turned around when new investment and distribution company Vantage Holdings decided to shoulder almost half the production costs. Vantage also invested in the latest hit thriller "The Chaser". Kim Sun-yong, the youngest son of former Daewoo chairman Kim Woo-jung, is a shareholder and board director of Vantage.

The film was directed by Kim Tae-gyoon, whose filmography includes the 2001 movie "Volcano High", "Temptation of Wolves" (2004) and "A Millionaire's First Love" (2006). The producers will hold a press conference on Tuesday to reveal the story behind the production and release the teaser trailers.

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