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Two Korean Films Make U.S. Debut

2005/10/08 Source

'The President's Last Bang' and 'Empress Chung' open in New York

Ronda Hauben (netizen2)

Several Korean films are making their U.S. debut in New York City this fall. "Empress Chung" was shown by the Korea Society on Sept. 21, 2005. This animation is directed by Nelson Shin. Much of the work on creating the animation was done as part of a joint project employing animators in North Korean to do the animation work and South Koreans to do the story line and complete the film.

At its most fundamental level, the film is about reunification. The film portrays a classic story of honest folk being fleeced by crooks. Chung's father is presented as a loyal Minister who refuses to join those plotting against the King. He loses his lovely wife in a fire started by those who are part of the plot against the King. The Minister is blinded, but manages to save his baby daughter Chung, from the fire.

Chung grows to become a lovely young woman who is willing to sacrifice even her life to help her father get his eyesight back. She becomes a victim of a plot to take advantage of her concern for her father. She is to be killed and offered as a sacrifice to appease the sea dragon. She is saved but is separated from her father. The scene is set for Chung and her father to seek a way to be reunited.

Taken as a tale of separation, and then the struggle for reunification, the film "Empress Chung" can be seen as an analogy with the desire of Koreans for reunification. The film opened in several cinemas in South Korea in August 2005 and six theaters in North Korea shortly afterwards.

In the creation of the film as well as in the content, the film helps to highlight that there are ways being found to lay the ground for a peaceful reunification of North and South Korea.

Another film being shown in New York this fall is "The President's Last Bang", written and directed by Lim Sang Soo. It was chosen to be part of the 43rd New York Film Festival.

At one of the showings in New York City, the film's director introduced the film, describing how he intended to portray the presidency of General Park Chung Hee and the plot to assassinate him by KCIA agents, as Mafia-like activity. The film presents an irreverent portrayal of both the South Korean President and the KCIA officials plotting his murder.

An example is how the film depicts Park as listening to Japanese songs just before he is murdered. This associates Park with the injuries suffered by the Korean people during the years of the Japanese occupation of Korea.

At the film showing I attended, the director was supposed to answer questions after the film. For some unexplained reason this was cancelled without the audience being notified in advance. Many in the audience expressed their disappointment.

Both films present a review of Korea's past, whether by the animation of a well known Korean folk tale as in "Empress Chung", or by the portrayal of a historical event, the assassination of General Park, in "The President's Last Bang", in a farcical and irreverent manner. These films are proving interesting to an international audience who appreciate the opportunity to learn about Korea's historical and cultural heritage.

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