Advertisements

Spotlight on South Korean Cinema: Park Chan-wook and J.S.A.

For the next few months I’ll be doing a “Spotlight on S. Korea” series, in which I discuss some of the most exciting films to come out of that country in recent years. First up is a look at Park Chan-wook’s JSA: Joint Security Area from 2000.

park

While recently suffering through a screening of Im Sang-soo’s interminable The Taste of Money, a ham-fisted melodrama whose trite sociological insights (money corrupts!) seem to only serve as a thin pretext for copious amounts of sex and nudity, I had to ask myself, “Is the S. Korean New Wave finally dead?” Is this really the best of the recent Korean movies upon which the likes of the Cannes Film Festival and IFC Films has to draw? Some would say that the death knell first sounded in 2006: that’s when the S. Korean government, as part of a new “free trade” agreement with the U.S., struck down a “screen quota” law that required theaters to show locally produced movies for at least 40% of the year. Yet great S. Korean films continued to be made over the next several years, even if they were less frequent in number than in the halcyon days of 2002-2005. It now seems, however, that the S. Korean cinema might really be going the way of the formerly mighty film industry of Hong Kong: among the top tier of Korean directors, several have recently tried their luck working outside of their native country for the first time (Kim Ji-woon with the poorly received Arnold Schwarzenegger-vehicle The Last Stand, Park Chan-wook with the superb but under-promoted Nicole Kidman-starring Stoker and Bong Joon-ho with the forthcoming international co-production Snowpiercer). Lee Chang-dong, arguably the greatest contemporary S. Korean director, has always worked at a slow pace, directing just three of his uniquely novelistic movies since his breakout success with Peppermint Candy in 1999. That leaves only the prolific Hong Sang-soo to keep the home fires burning with the dependable annual releases of his patented intellectual take on the rom-com. So now seems like a good time to look back at the remarkable burst of creativity that the S. Korean directors showed in the early 21st century.

jsa

Whenever I am lucky enough to teach contemporary S. Korean cinema in a class, J.S.A.: Joint Security Area is always the movie I screen first, even if it might not come first chronologically among the films I’ve chosen to show. This is because J.S.A.‘s political-thriller plot lays out the entire history of the conflict between North and South Korea in a way that is succinct, accessible and informative without ever being didactic. It is also ideal because it was directed by Park Chan-wook, who is probably the single most popular and critically acclaimed director, on an international basis, to come out of S. Korea since the 1990s. Park was born in Seoul in 1963. He majored in Philosophy at Sogang University, where he also started a movie club (and many critics have seen a dovetailing of these interests in his highly regarded, philosophically inflected “Vengeance trilogy”). It was while in college that Park first decided to become a film director, after attending a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Upon graduation, he worked as a film critic, then as an assistant director before he made his feature directing debut in 1992 with a movie entitled The Moon is the Sun’s Dream. Both this debut film and Trio, his 1997 follow-up, were met with critical and commercial indifference. J.S.A., his third movie, was released in 2000 and quickly broke all box-office records to become the highest grossing Korean movie of all time.

J.S.A. tells the fictional story of a shooting at the “Joint Security Area” on the border between the two Koreas, an incident allegedly perpetrated by a South Korean soldier, that has left two North Korean soldiers dead and another seriously wounded. Because this event inflames an already highly sensitive diplomatic situation, the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission sends in a Swiss Army officer of Korean descent, Major Sophie Jang (Lee Yeong-ae, the future “Lady Vengeance”), to investigate. After interviewing participants on both sides of the incident and hearing conflicting accounts of what happened, Jang quickly realizes that nothing is what it seems. But who is lying and why? This present day story is intercut with lengthy flashbacks concerning the principles involved in the shooting — in particular, North Korean Sergeant Oh (the great Song Kang-ho) and South Korean Sergeant Lee (Lee Byung-hun). Without giving too much of the plot away, Park gradually leads viewers to realize that what both sides are trying to cover up is nothing more harmful than friendship, which pushes the story in directions both ironic and tragic.

jsa2

One of the things that surprised me the most when I started exploring S. Korean cinema years ago was the degree to which its filmmakers expressed a desire for reunification and reconciliation with the North, a country with which they are still technically at war. J.S.A., a movie without precedent, was widely acclaimed by S. Korean critics as well as audiences upon its first release. In fact, the only sector of S. Korean society that seemed to disapprove of the film was the military (whose members objected to a sympathetic portrayal of the N. Korean “enemy”). The movie’s plea for tolerance and peace was clearly a message that resonated far and wide in a country whose inhabitants have been raised to hate and fear a neighbor they know little about, despite sharing a common language and culture. Yet because film censorship laws had only been relaxed in S. Korea a few years prior to J.S.A. being made, it was a message that would not have been possible any earlier. Fortunately, Park Chan-wook was well-positioned to deliver such a message in making J.S.A. (not only as a young ambitious writer/director eager to bust taboos but also as a member of the Democratic Labor Party, the most progressive political party in his country).

One of the central ideas in J.S.A., posited, as is often the case with Park, in mostly visual terms, is the tragic notion that borders are man-made and therefore arbitrary. The motif of borders, whether physical or psychological (sometimes the division is within a single character), is one that recurs throughout S. Korean cinema and Park’s movies in particular. The notion of “being divided” seems almost ingrained in the Korean consciousness and Park fully explores the concept here, occasionally with a dash of absurd humor, in the film’s many bifurcated frames. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the final shot of J.S.A., a doozy that haunts in its evocative ambiguity: in a flashback to an event that occurred midway through the movie, Park allows his camera to pan across and zoom in and out of — Ken Burns-style — a black-and-white photograph of all four of the film’s main characters in happier times; two soldiers from the North and two from the South, each standing on opposite sides of the border that runs through the Joint Security Area, are united together in the same frame yet separated from each other by a government-enforced line of demarcation — a moment that is frozen in time forever.

jsa3

J.S.A.: Joint Security Area is available in a serviceable edition on DVD from Palm Pictures. An upgrade to Blu-ray, a format on which all of Park’s subsequent movies are available, would be most welcome.

Advertisements

About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

22 responses to “Spotlight on South Korean Cinema: Park Chan-wook and J.S.A.

  • Susan Doll

    Excellent piece. Very helpful for cinephiles and film scholars. I am so looking forward to other posts in this series.

  • Spotlight on South Korean Cinema: Nowhere to Hide | White City Cinema

    […] was totally ripped off by the Wachowski siblings for their third Matrix movie). If, as I speculated months ago, the golden age of South Korean cinema truly has come to an end, cinema lovers will still always […]

  • search

    Thanks for the marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.
    I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back down the road.
    I want to encourage yourself to continue your great work, have a nice morning!

  • shao jun huang

    I knew some Korean’s history as an Asian since I was young. I just heard and discussed some news about the North Korea with my friends few days ago. My friends told buying the import product in North Korea is crime. And only the president and some kind of important can use Internet to reach things outside the North Korea. I though they just kidding at that time, but now, I thought the reason may be the North Korea tried to stop their people compare themselves with the South Korean.
    The movie J.S.A. seems told the audience the tension situation between South and North Korea was made by the last generation. One point is the major Sophie Jang who was a Korean but grew up at other country would not have those hard feeling to any side of Korean. Even her father is a victim of the Korean War. Her knew the situation between South and North Korea, so she chose to listen to herself instead of listen to Sgt. Lee, Private Nam, and Sgt. Oh.
    Another point is Sgt. Oh and Private Jung chose to help Sgt. Lee instead of left or killed him when they first met. Sgt. Oh was a good and smart man. He seems understand the true of these two sides of the country. He was the first man to give a hand to both side people even he did it in private. He taught Sgt. Lee that they could be friend. Then Sgt. Lee would introduce Private Nam to Sgt. Oh and Private Jung.
    Unfortunately, the fifth man broke everything. At the same time, the movie showed a cruel true to the audience. The influence from last generation was too strong to make these four men trust each other. The killing started, and everything went back to the tension situation.

  • zhuyu ye

    The whole movie combines the traditional Korean specialties with a tragic ending, but not deliberately. A comment suddenly occures to me saying that Andersen’s fairy tale has a good development, but usually escape sa sad ending (daughter of the sea turned into foam, happy prince was sent to the furnace), it appears the ideal and the reality of the conflict. “JSA” is not a fairy tale, but it gives the same feeling.
    When it comes to the battle waged, we often praise the friendship between comrades, but “JSA” tells a story about a relationship between the “enemy”. War is not out intention, they always placed close relatives’ photos in pockets, they raised a puppy in the post, they would carry sketch book and pencil close at hand …… but this time, they were only tools under authority. During the investigation, because both sides refused to say the truth, Sophie had no choice but ask both sides to meet together. They were sitting on both sides of the table, standing behind them is their support forces. Sophie took the model to reproduce the case, was present on behalf of man-puppet characters, then in front of them committed suicide jumping through the window to play the South rose plant video. When the time Wu Jing saw Lee Soo-hyuck shaken expression, surprisely he pushed the table, punch down with Lee Soo-hyuck, shouting “Long live the Democratic People!.” Scene immediately became belligerent, tables were overturned models scattered on the ground, as a support officer drew a pistol, riding in the man-puppet. However, soldiers, they are like those who have been twisted to pieces puppets.
    Although the theme of war film, “JSA” contains only one scene of gun shoot. I always do not like no drama and bloody fight scenes, for this period, i was totally moved. Lens had been switched quickly. It is difficult to forget they flew across the border in the rain back to the post, drenched ground curled up in the corner of the room crying. Bullets flew across him, crushing glass and house utensils in one place; it is difficult to forget their anxious expression because they worried about whether Lee Soo-hyuck had returned safely; it is difficult to forget Lee Soo-hyuck’s limping leg, falling down as to run to the other side as fast as he can. One scene showed that he faced to the sky, at that moment rain mixed with tears .
    The movie gave me a deep impression on those little details. For example, in Northern outpost tried to adjust the camera angle; when on duty they spat with each other; for example, when a gust of wind blew caused a little panic ; for example flashing back and showing that black and white photographs at the end of the movie ……

  • Edmund Eng

    Honestly, I did not know much about the history of Korea, but after watching JSA, I have a better idea on it. I know more about Chinese history because im Chinese, but Korean history is something very new to me.
    Personally, I love the plot of this movie. The director, Park Chan-wook does a really good job at conveying emotion through relationships with other people. Even with all the conflict going on between North and South Korea, these group of soldiers from both North and South Korea managed to build a relationship that could not be broken. It was a strong relationship, like brothers. They were willing to sacrifice for each other and put their lives on the line for each other. I feel like that relationship made the movie a lot more interesting because we can all relate to that close bond.
    One other thing I wanted to point out is the use of people smoking together out of respect. Smoking is emphasized in the movie to show one’s respect to one another and a sign that they are comfortable with each other. This aspect of the movie really caught my eye and I found it a very unique addition to the movie.
    I really enjoyed this movie because it was very interesting and unique to me. I’m not a fan of Korean dramas or movies like this, but I can honestly say that this movie could make me a fan. Overall, this movie was great and I would love to watch more movies similar to this and learn more about Korean history.

  • Cristina Rosas

    I first didn’t understand what was going on. This film consists mostly of a long flashback . I’ve never understood the difference between North Korea and South Korea. After this film I now have a better sense of how it is. North Korea is considered very strict and both sides are raised to hate each other and be enemies. Basically a civil war was going on. The director took advantage of the changing times and got this film made otherwise it would not have been possible. The introduction of the film we see a mysterious shooting and the shooter is presumed to be Sergeant Lee. I agree with your post about the imaginary lines made by man. In the film the borders are feared as expressed in the scene where Sergeant Lee attempts to introduce Private Nam to his North Korean friends. When these two North soldiers were introduced they seemed dangerous but they ended up helping Sergeant Lee out of the trap. Private Nam is scared to even step one foot over the line. I like how you said the original style of the shot of the photograph in the end. It’s nice to know how this inspiring film technique was imitated and was used well. It really emphasized the theme of the whole film in literally one picture.

  • Mandukhai Damdinjav

    I am a big fan of Korean movies. This movie was really a great narrative about the South Korea and North Korea. I saw this movie, when I was a teenager before, but never really understood the story line of this movie. Now more than five years have past since I watched it the first time. Now I truly understand the movie. It is truly a tear jerker melodrama.
    The scene’s are always evolved around the and at the border. Sgt. Lee and Sgt. Oh met at the field, when Sgt. Lee got stuck on a minefield. Ever since Sgt. Oh saved Sgt. Lee, they became friends, who would send each other letters, and even crossed the border to hang out and talk to Sgt. Oh and his other soldier Jeong. Sgt. Lee keeps sneaking to the North Korean border line to Sgt. Oh. Over the course of days and weeks they became good friends. They would play games with each other, and talk about their personal life. The end scene of the photograph of the four soldiers was a great technique zooming and out to show us the regular happy they were. Until the reality hit them with their country. Neither of them wanted to reveal the truth to protect the country.
    Major Sophie E. comes in two solve what really happened between the four soldiers. Sgt. Lee and soldier and friend Nam Sung. They both were just normal guys, who were friends. Close friends. Sgt. Oh and soldier Jeong Woo were on the North Korean border.
    Both sides were lying to Major Sophie. She tried to find out and tried to push both sides to find out, but she got stuck because neither soldiers wouldn’t talk to protect their side. In the end she found out that they were both side were lying, and they were actually friends.
    This movie has a lot of the physical and psychological motif that appears through out the scene. When Nam Sung was questioned that his wapon was fired, he got scared, and tempted suicide. He threw himself of the window. Sgt. Lee kills himself in the end. Jeong dies, when all four of them got caught by the North Korean Sgt.
    In this film we had the main colors of green, dark blue, brown, white, and black colors. The plot is that those four soldiers got entangled in their friendship with each other. The emotions are and feelings aren’t hold back in the end.
    It is truly a sad melodrama,that shows the tension between North Korea and the South Korea film.

  • Mercedes Abreu

    There are very few movies that I will watch again and very few movies I will brag about. But J.S.A I enjoyed, and will watch again. Compared to what I’ve watched in theatres lately, I enjoy my Saturdays at HWC. I had an idea of the strife between North and South Korea, but only from a PBS WTTW view point. It was not until Private Nam jumps from the window do I become hooked. At first I thought the premise was a soldier gay love affair, and even thought it might have a resemblance to A Few Good Men (Reiner, 1992) – Even better, Park Chan-Wook does an incredibly thing,- J.S.A- an unlikely friendship between soldiers fighting/ standing for different sides, although they do share a language and culture, they are divided. They also share the psychological border that stops their boots in their tracks. I can agree Sargent Oh, is an extraordinary character, for example his loyalty as a person, as a brother speaks a bit- when he is indulging into a chocolate moon pie and Sargent Lee suggest that in being part of South Korea, he’ll get to eat as many moon pies as he’d like. Sargent Oh removes the entire pie from his mouth to say he would continue to eat the North’s horrible version of moon pie than convert. J.S.A does expressed the desire for reunification and reconciliation among both sides. I can agree this movie is a bold statement for peace. J.S.A a great thriller melodrama -I enjoyed it greatly. I am looking forward to see Stoker, the trailer was intriguing.

  • Lakita Flowers

    Nice post, I really like how you pointed out how the boarder that divides north and South Korean being man made. Park Chan-wook did a good job in show casting the division amongst North and South Korea. I knew a little about the division of N and S Korea but I had no idea how serious it was. J S A gave me a lot of insight on this issue. It really doesn’t make sense to divide people of the same culture because of what happened in the past then to teach the future generations to dislike the other side. For them to have that hate it must be taught. This movie is very sad, people died just for having a friendship with the so called “enemies.” The final shoot of the movie is amazing. Seeing all four of them happy and looking right into the camera but only being divided by a government line is really sad.

  • Julie Vera

    I truly admire Korean Films, and I never knew I would enjoy them. This is my first time watching a Korean film and I was wondering if Park Chan-Woo the director of J.S.A made this movie to send a message. I knew that North Korea and South Korea had been enemies for a long time. In the movie you have Major Sophie Jang trying to figure who was responsible for the death of two soldiers, and how did it all started. It’s amazing to see how the director showed the bright side of each soldiers, and that they seem tired of all the hate that is going on between N. Korean, and S. Korean. Sgt. Lee was rescued by a North Korean Sgt, which was Sgt. Oh. The director showed his viewers that one good act can change everything, just like it even made Private Nam change his view about N.Korea. In the movie you see the goofy side of all four soldiers. After reading your article I was not surprised that the military disapprove of this magnificent film. Especially when lots of hate has been going on for years.

  • Shield K.

    I didn’t think that I would enjoy a political thriller, but JSA was an excellent movie. The style of movie, as well as its script, was what made this movie so easy to watch. With the flashbacks throughout this film, its gives you a chance to try to figure out yourself with what really happened. As the story starts to unfold you realized how tragic it all was. It wasn’t so much as a political motive but the protection their friendship and the love that they had for one another regardless of the man-made boarder.

    I also like that this movie was educational while entertaining. This film gives those who are unaware or know little of Korea’s history a chance to explore it and try to understand how one country turned into two. I think that it’s a tragic history. The North Korea people are in limbo, very unaware of the changing outside world. They believe in a great leader who has done little for them, even causing North Korean famine. As the North is left behind, South Korea became a thriving, technological, modern day society. South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced country in the world and they aren’t stopping anytime soon. They have come very from since the Japanese occupation of Korea/Korean War. And I think that only time can tell the fate of these two countries.

  • Andrew Klapp

    JSA is a very obvious plea for reunification. The pivotal event in the film is the two North Korean and South Korean soldiers losing the ability to remain friends, and that event is made clear only after most of the film’s time is spent showing the depth of their friendship. From the initial building of trust with Sgt. Oh disarming the mine that Sgt. Lee was standing on to the seemingly endless nights of playing games in the guard house.

    I agree that the film emphasizes that borders are arbitrary, but the ending makes it obvious that while crossing them is a good start, actually removing them is far more complicated than that.

    The story is told largely in flashbacks, which is often done poorly and results in a frustrating and confusing film experience. This story, however, really benefits from this method because it uncovers the details as Mjr. Jean does.

  • Doug Jones

    I haven’t really been familiar with Korean film and cinema but I was so amazed on how well this film really puts is the audience in such enjoyment and in some ways at “the end of our seat” throughout the film. The most important aspect of this film is that it is told through flashbacks and its like a puzzling type of way the film is made. We the audience put the film in chronological order since we are putting what went down with who in JSA. It is familiar to other American films that use the flashback techniques that has the audience intrigued and kept the attention all to the screen.

    Another big aspect of the film that is used In a different Spotlight and different form of way is that it conveys the “forbidden love” but in this case it’s the forbidden “friendship” that separates the North and the South. The forbidden “feel” to it is similar to (for example) “Romeo and Juliet”. Just like in that case if they were seen together it would bring outrage and hate between the two sides. Just like in JSA, if the soldiers were caught in their opposing side’s territory, they would be in huge trouble and will most likely face severe consequences and maybe even death.

    JSA is a film that stands out for itself and provides all types of emotion. Where it’s happy and good feeling such as the soldiers bonding and creating a “brotherhood” with one another. Then at other times it provides, sad and emotionally disturbing feels, such as the final scenes where they have to be done with each other for good and they even start to kill each other or themselves at a point. It really is a film to remember.

  • Derian Avalos

    JSA surprised me. It was fantastically well-made, but that’s not what surprised me. Instead, it’s the idea, as you point out, that South Koreans pine for unification, especially since when I learned about the demilitarized zone in high school, and by learning about what conditions are like in North Korea, where famine is widespread and a dictatorship is in place, I got the feeling that North and South Korea truly wanted nothing to do with each other. And yet what this film and your lecture showed is that it’s not quite as clear-cut as that (it hardly ever is, right?), and that there is another side to the situation that gets ignored by western education and the media.

    And so, the notion that South Koreans want to be unified with their people is tragic, since the border in place makes it impossible. And as you (once again) point out, it’s made even more tragic by the fact that the borders are man-made. In JSA, we get the notion that borders can just be arbitrary and silly. We, in a way, learn to fear them, because they keep things out, and sometimes give us the idea of being kept safe from something else. Much like when Private Nam first fears crossing the border; he has been conditioned to fear the North because of the border. And yet, when Sergeant Lee and Private Jeong begin spitting over the border and at each other, we see the true silliness of the situation; the border is truly just as absurd as that short interaction.

    I have to say that I really enjoy more tragic films that have friendship as their theme, like Stand by Me, and JSA was not a disappointment. I really didn’t expect the flashback scene to be so long, but it was brilliant nonetheless, and really is the meat of the movie, in my opinion. Because of its tragic nature, I get the feeling that the film is calling for some sort of impossible change, as depicted by the scene in the outpost, where the murder takes place; human nature is near impossible to change, and someone will always get in the way, but there is always a small ray of hope that the impossible can somehow be achieved.

  • Jessica Diaz

    I had never watched a Korean political thriller before and thought I was not going to like it but I honestly really enjoyed it. At first I didnt undestand it because it showed the ending first then went on to a flashback but then I started to get it when the action started happening. I never knew Korea was divided into a north and south. I think its sad that its still going on today. It was a really good political thriller that showed the history of Koreans conflict between north and south being informative, funny, sad and intriguing. It was interesting how the man made border divided them and couldnt even show their shadow on the other side. The relationship of Sergeant Lee, Private Nam and Sergeant Oh, Private Jung was a strong bond of friendship that showed that their was no harm in bonding with the other side because they are all human. I thought the comedy in the film such as when the four guys would play around silly games like standing on one leg or the guards spitting at each other brought humar to the film instead of being all about depressing war. The ending was really sad because it was like the bond of like four brothers who had become soo close ended up with them shooting one another because they were discovered. The shooting was soo bloody and tragic. When Sergeant Lee said to forget the brotherly crap because at the end they were enemies something of that sort had me dissappointed because he had a point. Even though they had formed a friendship they were at war with one another. Even though Sergeant Lee and Sergeant Oh were on different sides they still tried to protect one another. They had a strong connection especially since Sergeant Oh had saved Sergeant Lee when he disactivated a mine he had stepped on. I thought it was a sad ending because Sergeant Lee killed himself and Sergeant Oh was discharged. The image at the end was really significant because it showed the four guys on their side divided by the border and was surprising to see that a picture taken during the film throughout the beginning would be used at the end closing up on the four of them. I thought it was key in the fillm because it was unexpecting and didnt occur to me that the ones who were at the front of the border line would have formed a friendship that ended up tragic.

  • Yeongjae Nam

    “J.S.A: Joint Security Area” is a South Korean movie in 2000. This movie is about sad Korean history which is divided by regime that communism and democratic. Our country is always hoping to reunification each other someday. When I was in elementary school and ten years old, this movie released and it was sensational at that time. I watched it with my family and I recalled that my father highly recommended to watch this movie because the atmosphere at that time most Korean should watch this film. South Korean government and North Korean government tried to reconcile and very favorable to each other at that time. The previous president Dae-jung Kim and Jung-il were close to each other and met several times for good relationship. That time was most peaceful time with South and North Korea after the Korean War. In school, teacher always highlighted that South and North Korea have to reunify as soon as possible and teacher let students to sing “Our hope is reunification.”
    I think Korean movies are highly related to Korean politics at that specific time. When the government tend to open mind to distribution of any kinds of movie, Korean movie industry is very active and well make movie. During the Democratic Party’s president in South Korea, from 1998 to 2008 year, Korean movie was golden age. However, when the government controls the movie distribution, Korean movie technically make common story and common movie.
    J.S.A is very well made Korean movie. The editing technique is really good and sound track is great harmonize with the sad feeling of protagonists. Specially, zoom in and zoom out technique is great. The scenes have overtones. The flashbacks are greatly organized and appropriate in whole story. The protagonists shares deep and sad feeling why our nations are divided by two. Sgt. Lee and Sgt. Oh are very close friends like family. They share same emotion of Korean song and taste of cookie. They both shared too many things except same nation. When they played like children, that scene showed natural and pure instinct of human being. Only physical barrier which is system is exist between them. There was no barrier in their mind.
    It was third time I watched this film. First was when I was ten years old, second is three years ago, and last was 1 weeks ago. Every time I discovered new things in this film. This movie is one of my favorite. This movie is not just movie. It is our record of our country’s sad history and good example of introducing South and North Korea’s history to other country through movie form. Someday, I hope to make separated family in South and North Korea and I hope that movie impacts South and North Korea’s relationship and help to reunify as soon as possible.

  • Seoyeon Jang

    The movie, J.S.A: Joint Security Area, is a war film made in 2000 by a famous director in South Korea, Chan-wook Park. This movie is about the friendship of four soldiers, Sgt. Lee, Private Nam, Sgt. Oh, and Private Jung. They are the soldiers guarding the border called “Military Demarcation Line (MDL),” which divides Korea into two, South Korea, and North Korea after the Korean War. The setting that the sympathetic between South and North Korea was the first attempt and fresh content in the 20th century, and it aroused the hope of reunification for many people at the time. However, it also showed the tragic reality in Korea that the conflict between South Korea and North Korea cannot be easily solved, through the setting that South and North Korean soldiers could not continue their friendship ever and that eventually the movie ended in the tragic conclusion, death and suicide.
    The film, J.S.A: Joint Security Area, is special because it not only used a new subject matter, but it also used a new expression style. It distinctly revealed the personality and the emotional side of characters in the movie through actions and facial expressions of the characters, and it implicitly delivered a philosophical message through the object device. For example, Sgt. Lee and Private Nam gift a chocolate pie, a lighter, a shoe shine, and painted tools to North Korea’s soldiers, and it shows how much and truly they think about the North Korean friends. In addition, through the scene that four soldiers are kidding and laughing, it highlights that they are pure and childlike people. Also, in my opinion, the military demarcation line, which is simply drawn on the floor, seems like as a mental border not a physical border. As a result, people could be more shaken and got a stronger message after watching the movie, J.S.A: Joint Security Area. And this is a feature and attractiveness of contemporary South Korea Cinema compared with other countries.

  • aspic

    Joint Security Areas in Korea connect the two political halves of North and South. The Bridge between the two checkpoints is a symbol between the territories and their undeniable connection. As the neutral Maj. Sophie is uncovering the truth about the relationship between these soldiers she ultimately encourages the suicide of Sgt. Lee and Nam. Honesty is innocent. It is purely itself and those who understand the truth bring weight to it. All Koreans have similarities the same as all humans have similarities. The boundaries we set, physically,mentally and institutionally, creates conflict.

  • Alex

    The Korean films we have been watching in class lately have been very intriguing, interesting and entertaining. Before this class the thought of Korean films had crossed my mind, I always thought well I don’t know which foreign movies to look for so i didn’t. none the less i thought this movie was great very fun to see the different techniques used in films from here and film from Korea. So far I feel this film had been my favorite, minus the obnoxious song that gets repeated many times through out the film and the fact that the film was ended with that track(the song is good but it got overplayed). Great film I’ve already recommended it along with some others I’ve seen. p.s just figured out how to do these hence the late post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: