[DVD REVIEWS]Golden oldie provides a fresh view of Seoul

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[DVD REVIEWS]Golden oldie provides a fresh view of Seoul

The biggest film of the year in Korea, "Jibeuro" (The Way Home), is hardly the first film to compare the split in Korea between its modern bustling present and rustic recent past. Yu Hyeon-mok, one of Korea's best directors, explored similar themes in the 1960s. Yes, even then Koreans were aware of the changes modernization was bringing. And in Yu's "School Trip," he explored the ambiguity of those differences.

"Suhak Yeohaeng" (School Trip), 1969

Directed by Yu Hyeon-mok. Starring Gu Bong-seo and Mun Hi.

Yu was one of the best directors of Korean cinema's golden age in the 1960s, on a par with Shin Sang-ok and Im Kwon-taek. Yu's film "Obaltan" (The Aimless Bullet, 1961) was perhaps the first film of the "New Wave" movement in Korea.

A teacher from Seoul takes a job on a remote island 60 kilometers off the coast of Chungcheong province. The people there are poor, but happy, yet very aware of how isolated they are. Many of them have never been to the mainland. The island has nothing modern, no electricity, no cars, no bicycles, not even any carts.

The teacher decides he wants to take his students to Seoul, but their parents are wary. No one has the money for such a trip and they don't want strange ideas in their children's heads.

But the teacher and his students manage to go. Once in Seoul, the students are overwhelmed by the very different world ?cars, televisions, electric lights, skyscrapers.

An interesting part of watching old Korean films is recognizing the various parts of Seoul. When this film was made, Seoul existed only north of the Han River and had few large buildings.

"School Trip" presents a number of conflicting views. Most parents don't want their children going to Seoul, but some don't want them to come back, saying there is no future on the island. Yu gives no answers, showing how the modern and the traditional can't coexist, and choices must be made.

by Mark Russell

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