'Joint Security' Is Hailed in Berlin By Audiences No Stranger to Theme

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'Joint Security' Is Hailed in Berlin By Audiences No Stranger to Theme

BERLIN - "How could the tragic situation of the division of North and South Korea be described in such a manner? Can the North and South Korean soldiers really communicate with each other in the way shown in the film? If this film were shown in the North Korea, how would the North Koreans feel?"

The makers of "Joint Security Area" were flooded with such questions after it was screened at the 51st Berlin International Film Festival. The movie was highly praised at the festival, where it was screened on Monday as one of the 25 international competitors for the Golden Bear prize.

A journalist from Canal Plus, a large French movie magazine, spoke favorably about the film, saying, "The buoyant way of delivering a subject as serious as the two nations' conflicting ideologies was exceptional. This movie was quite thought-provoking, and I came away from it thinking about humanity."

A German artist remarked, "I have a better understanding of the reality of Korea as a divided nation as a result of viewing this film. I saw 'The Foul King,' which also starred Song Gang-ho, the main actor in 'Joint Security Area' and was quite impressed by the honesty of Korean movies and the fact that they don't distort reality."

The enthusiastic atmosphere at the press conference after the screening was proof of the success of "Joint Security Area" in Berlin. The Germans, who have gone through a similar tragedy, were quite interested in Korea's situation. The queries aimed at its makers illustrated their understanding, or lack thereof, of the situation in Korea. Several questions showed general naivete, in asking "Is the movie dealing with an incident that really happened?", while others showed considerable political acumen with, "Are the relations between North and South Korea improved enough to accept this kind of film?"

A German journalist praised the director, saying, "This movie is quite successful on the level that movies should deal with the absurdities of politics and society." The director, Park Chan-wook replied, "It is very encouraging to see that this movie appealed to foreigners. I just tried to show the similarities and the differences between North and South Korea through these soldiers. Frankly, I am not quite sure whether North Koreans could find consensus over this film because it was produced from a South Korean viewpoint. They are very proud of their political regime, which makes it harder for the two Koreas to be reunited. The main point of contention is economics, though economic difficulties on one side made reunification possible in Germany's case."

There is no doubt that "Joint Security Area" was well-received at the festival but it remains to be seen whether it will be deemed worthy of the award as well. The movies at the competition are all of a high standard and so the race will be very close. The nine-member jury of the Berlin International Film Festival is scheduled to choose the winner on its last day of competition, which is Sunday, February 18.

by Park Jeong-ho

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