This weekend, BAM Cinematek in Brooklyn is showing a retrospective of the films of Korean director Park Chan-Wook. The only one of his movies I’ve seen is Joint Security Area (better known as JSA among Koreans), which begins with a murder at the border between north and south Korea and gradually unfolds into a fascinating exploration of the tensions and loyalties of the young soldiers who face each other each day across the border.
The film is definitely worth seeing if you’re interested in South Korean perceptions of the north. Enormously popular when it was released a couple of years ago in South Korea, JSA takes a perspective that is popular with the younger generation of South Koreans, casting the ongoing struggle between North and South as a sad, anomalous and artificial division of two populations that are essentially in sync. Whether this is actually true is unclear — I’ve read that defectors from the north have had a difficult time adjusting to life in the south, and we can only guess at the extent to which indoctrination and separation has made northerners different from southerners. Still, JSA gets at the deep sense most Koreans have that they are ultimately one people, that reunification is a historical inevitability.
Plus it’s a gripping film, and it involves Chocopie, so how can you go wrong?