Korea at War: A Retrospective of Chung Ji-Young’s Films

Details of a mini Korean film festival in Cambridge. Well worth going to.

Friday 23 April & Saturday 24 April, 2010
Robinson College, Cambridge
Korea at War: A Retrospective of Chung Ji-Young’s Films

Chung Ji-youngTo mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, Robinson College is pleased to present a retrospective of films by South Korean director Chung Ji-Young. Over two evenings the director will be joining us to discuss his work with Dr Mark Morris of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. To complement Chung’s famous partisan film “Nambugun”, and his Vietnam film “White Badge”, the retrospective will also include the classic 1950s parti- san film “Piagol” by Lee Kang-cheon.

Director Chung Ji-Young was born in 1946, in Cheongju, South Korea. After graduat- ing from Korea University in 1975, he made his directorial debut in 1982 with “Mist Whispers Like Women”. He went on to make “Nambugun” in 1990, “White Badge” in 1992 and “Life of the Hollywood Kid” in 1994, earning a reputation for films examin- ing the major social and political issues of the day.

Friday 23 April

Piagol poster17:00 “Piagol” (1955)
Dir. by Lee Kang-cheon
106 mins
Umney Theatre
Robinson College

Followed by discussion with Dr. Mark Morris and director Chung Ji-Young

After the end of the Korean War, a group of communist partisans led by “Agari” (Le Ye-chun) continue their struggle in a remote valley in the Jirisan Mountains. Cheol-su (Kim Jin-gyu), who is tired of communism, is loved by cold-minded Ae-ran (No Gyeong-hui), who is still committed to the party. One day So-ju, a female partisan from another unit, comes to Piagol with a wounded shoulder and is raped by Man-su (Heo Jang- gang). So-ju dies and Man-su kills one of his comrades to hide what he has done, pinning the blame on another partisan. The guerrillas are about to be wiped out by a government offensive, but Ae-ran and Cheol-su plan to escape. However, their conversation is overheard by the leader Agari.

Lee Kang-cheon graduated from Tokyo Art School and began his film career as art director for Lee Man-heung’s 1948 film, “An Interrupted Route”. He made his directorial debut with “Arirang” (1954). “Piagol” (1955) is his most famous work, but was banned from being shown at the time because it was in violation of the anticommunist laws, and the final scene had to be edited.

Saturday 24 April

Nambugun poster15:00 “Nambugun” (1990)
Dir. by Chung Ji-Young
157 mins
Auditorium
Robinson College

Followed by discussion with Dr. Mark Morris and director Chung Ji-Young

“Nambugun” is based on the autobiographical novel by Lee Tae, who was himself a North Korean guerilla during the Korean War. The film carefully recreates the activities of communist guerilla forces during the Korean War. Such an effort had not been made since “Piagol” in 1955, and the gap between the two films is manifested in their divergent perspectives. Chung Ji-young’s film does not go so far as to portray North Korean guerillas as heroes, but it does deliver a humane depiction of the communist partisans. The film therefore reflects the changed social atmosphere in South Korea after the June Uprising of 1987. The hero of the film Lee Tae (Ahn Sung-ki) is a war correspondent for the Korean Central News Agency working in North Korean-occupied Jeonju. When the town comes under threat from the US-ROK forces, Lee leaves to join a guerrilla unit in the Yeobunsan mountains. Commissioned as a platoon leader, Lee leads his men, including Kim Young (Choi Min-soo), on various guerilla missions. In June 1951, he is transferred to the Southern Force (nambugun) and travels to the Jirisan mountains, where he wages an initially successful guerilla struggle along with Lee Bong-gak (Dokko Young-jae) and Kim Hee-sook (Lee Hye-young). However, in late 1951 the unit is forced to make a painful retreat when it is endangered by a South Korean counterinsurgency operation.

White Badge poster19:00 “White Badge” (1992)
Dir. by Chung Ji-Young
124 mins
Umney Theatre
Robinson College

Followed by discussion with Dr. Mark Morris

Chung Ji-young’s “White Badge” looks at South Korea’s participation in the Vietnam conflict in a very different way to previous films, portraying the Korean soldiers in the war as mercenaries of sorts. The film realistically de- picts the pervasive and lingering evils of war by showing how it destroys not only the lives of those who are killed but also the souls of those who do the killing. At the time its budget of 2 billion won was unprecedented and the spectacular battle scenes far surpass anything in previous Korean war films. The film centres on novelist Han Ki-ju (Ahn Sung-ki) who is wallowing in inexplicable lethargy since his return from the Vietnam War. He has separated from his wife and is living a bleak life. He begins writing a novel about the war and the work stirs up his nightmarish memories of Vietnam. Then one day, he gets an unexpected phone call from Byeon Jin-su (Lee Kyeong-young), a fellow soldier who fought alongside him in the war.

This event is free. For further information please contact Owen Miller: om248@cam.ac.uk // 07780 009338

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