A recently released film has raised controversy in South Korean society and political circles, though this may be expected considering its subject material.
Northern Limit Line (NLL), named for the inter-Korea naval boundary that has been the scene of several deadly clashes, realistically depicts the battle between two Koreas on June 29, 2002, during the FIFA World Cup South Korea co-hosted with Japan. As South Koreans everywhere concentrated on the score of the soccer match to determine the third-place finisher, the Second Battle of Yeonpyong was raging. The Northern side had suddenly attacked, and six South Korean soldiers were killed.
In the movie, young South Korean servicemen are depicted as ordinary neighbors, sons and husbands, which deepens the sorrow of the audience considering their ultimate fate. They love to cheer for the national soccer team, and the actual interview video taken on the ship shows them to be normal young men who hoped to join the red wave sweeping the Southern part of the peninsula as South Korea advanced all the way to the World Cup semis.
The main promotional poster of the movie highlights patriotism: “In June 2002, on the day the Republic of Korea was dyed red,” it reads, with the background image of the national flag of South Korea.
North Korean state media outlet Uriminjokkiri lambasted the movie, calling it “distorted” and an “anti-DPRK movie.”
For their part, South Korean conservative politicians are complimenting this movie. On Thursday, there was a movie screening at the National Assembly, and former President Lee Myung-bak watched the movie on Friday.
“There are various ways to protect the nation, but nothing more is patriotic than giving one’s life for the nation. This is the best patriotism,” Lee said to the press before watching the movie. He encouraged that they watch the movie through a Facebook post.
The movie criticized then-President Kim Dae-jung’s easygoing attitude toward North Korea. It shows a video of him watching the closing ceremony of the World Cup in Japan, despite the battle, and not even showing up at the soldiers’ funeral ceremony. The bereaved families are depicted as abandoned.
However, the former secretary to President Kim described this as a judgement call from the leader of the nation co-hosting the international event.
“The president cancelled his plans to watch the match, and vigorously protested to North Korea. North Korea said it was an accident, not directed by the central institution. If the ROK had issued a state of emergency, we would have had to cancel all the matches. He intended to imply confidence, that the South would never falter over such attacks,” Kim Han-jung told NK News.
Also, Kim said that the president did not ignore the funeral for those who died in battle.
“The president sent the chief presidential secretary to the funeral, and ran to the hospital in order to console the injured soldiers right after his return from Japan. Afterward, he invited bereaved families to the Blue House, then awarded them a medal,” he said.
Whether North Korea attacked the South Korean vessel intentionally or not is still unclear. The DPRK officially sent a written apology and suggested dialogue to South, but even Kim has questioned their explanation.
Featured image: NEW production company
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