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The Peninsula

Remembering History... On the Big Screen

Published September 29, 2021
Author: Korea View

History, politics, and geopolitics are ever-present in Northeast Asia – and they are increasingly part of the media landscape. The controversy surrounding the Chinese war movie “The Sacrifice” is only the most recent reminder. Produced to commemorate the anniversary of Beijing’s unofficial entry into the Korean War, the film depicts the last large-scale Chinese offensive of the war in 1953. When the film’s distributors announced their intention to release the movie in South Korea, however, the public backlash was large enough to force its cancellation.

This outcome should not have come as a surprise given that South Korea and the United States are depicted as antagonists in this movie – and particularly when you take into consideration the spate of recent frictions between Seoul and Beijing. But we can anticipate these controversies to occur more frequently as all the countries in the region are reexamining and grappling with the legacies of their recent history.

South Korea too is revisiting its history. President Moon Jae-in has made a commitment to acknowledging past tragedies – in many cases, this means admitting that past Korean administrations conducted atrocities against their own people. Popular examination of history also tends to unveil other unhealed wounds, including those committed by colonial authorities during Japan’s occupation of Korea. No doubt further fanned by tensions between the two countries, a series of recent movies depicted various stories of injustice.

Hollywood is also due to wade into the tense world of Northeast Asian historiography. Directed by J. D. Dillard, the upcoming movie Devotion will portray U.S. Navy fighter pilots in the Korean War. Based on the true story of pilots Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner, the movie is also likely to address the complex history of racial discrimination in the U.S. military. Korea View will keep an eye on how the region responds to the movie when it is released.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Yubin Huh, and Janet Hong. Picture from the movie Battle of Jangsari

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