N.Korean Refugees Film Strikes Chord at U.S. Screening

On Monday afternoon, a film depicting the misery and challenges faced by North Korean refugees was screened for an audience at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. "Crossing" was shown as part of North Korea Freedom Week, a series of events organized by the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC), a union of American groups concerned with human rights in North Korea.

About 100 people attended the screening, including congressional staffers such as House International Relations Committee specialists Dennis Halpin and Doug Anderson; Peter Beck, executive director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea; Kim Sung-min, a former North Korean refugee and head of Free North Korea Radio; Shimada Yoichi, a representative of an association for Japanese victims of North Korean abductions and a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University; and officials from the Japanese Embassy in Washington.

A scene from the film "Crossing", which deals with the human rights situation in North Korea

The screening was a somber affair. The audience began shedding tears during a scene in which the main character, Kim Yong-soo (Cha In-pyo), a former player for the South Hamgyong provincial soccer team, leaves his sick and starving wife (Seo Young-hwa) and his 11-year-old son Juni (Shin Myung-chul) and sets out for China in search of food.

More tears came as Kim's wife succumbed and a distraught Juni chased after the truck carrying off his mother's body, crying that she not be taken away. Kim eventually makes his way to South Korea, but it's there, through a refugee settlement broker, that he learns of his wife's passing. "Why does Jesus exist only in the South?" he laments. "Why do you neglect North Korea?"

An In-ok, a former North Korean refugee, cried bitterly in the back of the theater, watching as the film told a story reminiscent of her own. An was separated from her 13-year-old son Lee Myung-ju while being chased by Chinese police after fleeing from the North in 2003. Eventually the audience, which had been quietly wiping tears away, started crying together. Even after the film finished at around 5 p.m., many in the theater sat frozen in their seats, overcome with sadness.

Dennis Halpin called the film a "Masterpiece", and said it made clear the North Korean tragedy. He compared the film to "The Diary of Anne Frank", saying the movie could reveal to the world the miserable fate facing millions of North Koreans just as "Diary" exposed the horrors of the Holocaust. Peter Beck called "Crossing" the best film yet made about the subject, and said he hoped many people would see it to gain a better understanding of the situation in the communist country.

The film was based on real stories, its creators said. Patrick Cheh, 43, the Korean-American president of Unity Media and the producer of "Crossing", and screenwriter Lee Yu-jin, 38, said they interviewed hundreds of North Korean refugees in South Korea and many in China so that people could know their reality. But Nam Sin-U, vice chairman of the NKFC and the organizer of the screening, regretted the absence of South Korean Embassy staff. "Four officials came from the Japanese Embassy in Washington", he said, "but nobody came from the South Korean Embassy".