Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The front line


Silmido is an uninhabited island next to Muuido Island in the Yellow Sea. Silmido is located in the west coast of South Korea. It has 0.25081km2 land area and 6 km circumference. It is 20 km from Incheon Metropolitan City of southwest and is about 5 km away from Incheon International Airport. Silmido is connected two times a day to Muuido as mud flat. Most of this island consists of mountains that are around 80m high.[1]
Silmido became historically significant when it was used as the training ground of Unit 684 army group. On 1968, January 21, North Korea’s guerrillas infiltrated the border and reached till Segumjunggogae (Sinyeong-dong, Jongno-gu), a suburb  of Seoul, to attack the Blue House to assassinate the President Park Chung-hee.[2] Due to this incident the Central Intelligence Agency of South Korea built 209th Detachment, 2325th Group (unit 684- 1968. April) in revenge.  unit 684 members had to endure hellish training for 3 years and 4 months. However, during the training period, South Korean government decided to follow policy that ties the two countries. Unit 684 members escaped Silmido by mutiny. However, they were stoped by government troops in Youngdungpo-gu Daebang-dong. Then, Unit 684 group committed suicide in a stolen bus (they exploded grenades , 4 members survive) on August 23rd 1971.[3]

After the novel ‘Silmido’(1999) of Baek Dong-ho was published, Silmido became known.

Silmido is a 2003 South Korean film, directed by Kang Woo-suk. It is based on the true story of Unit 684, though parts of the film are extrapolations as the actual details of events are unknown. The film was both critically well received and a financial success, and was the first film in South Korea to attract a box office audience of over 10 million viewers.

On 21 January 1968, 31 North Korean commandos of Unit 124 are shown to have infiltrated South Korea in a failed mission to assassinate President Park Chung-hee.
As a means of retaliation, the South Korean military assembled a team of 31 social outcasts including criminals on death row and life imprisonment, in a plot to kill Kim Il-sung. The team is designated 'Unit 684'. The recruits are taken to the island of Silmido for training. The mission is offered to the recruits as the only way to redeem themselves and show their loyalty to their country. If they succeed, they will win their freedom and a new life. With this goal in mind, they endure their training. The training is shown over several months, with the recruits enduring various forms of extremely vigorous training and regular physical punishment, including being branded. One recruit is killed after he falls from a ropes course.
At the end of their training, they are dispatched on their mission to North Korea, but are recalled not long after their departure. It is revealed that the project has been called off, as the government attempts a peaceful reunification with the North. The recruits return to Silmido discouraged and frustrated. Shortly afterwards two of the Unit 684 members escape from their barracks and rape a female doctor. They are quickly discovered, and believing that they will be executed, decide to commit suicide. One kills the other at his request but is apprehended before he is able to kill himself. The apprehended soldier is then returned to the camp, tied up, and made to watch his fellow Unit 684 members being beaten by the guards for the two men's betrayal. Enraged, one of the Unit 684 members being beaten is able to take his guard's bat and kills the tied up soldier for bringing disgrace to the unit.
To keep the plot to kill Kim Il-sung unknown to the outside world, the South Korean intelligence agency decide to kill all the members of Unit 684. The unit's commander protests, but is told that if his troops failed to follow this order, they too would be killed alongside Unit 684. Torn between his duty to follow orders and his personal honor, the commander intentionally leaks this information to one of the Unit 684 members. Unit 684, realizing they are going to be killed that same night, make plans to mutiny. They attack and kill the majority of their guards, and find out from one of the guards that they legally no longer exist, and never would have received recognition for their mission if it succeeded, nor even be allowed to return to society. Unit 684 decide to escape from the island and make their story known. The 20 remaining members of Unit 684 capture a bus containing civilians and head to Seoul. An official pronouncement is heard over the radio that 20 "armed communist agents" have infiltrated the country, and a state of emergency is declared. After charging through one army roadblock and winning a firefight they are eventually stopped and surrounded by soldiers in front of the Yuhan Corporation building in Dongjak District, Seoul. A firefight ensures, with the South Korean army showing no regard for the welfare of the civilians on board the bus. All of the Unit 684 members are either killed or wounded, and many South Korean soldiers are also killed. The surviving Unit 684 members release the civilians who have not been killed by the South Korean army, before committing suicide using their own hand grenades. An investigation into the incident is shown to have been carried out; however the report is not read and is seen to be filed away in storage.

The release of this film brought public attention to Unit 684, and in 2006 the South Korean government released an official report on the unit and the uprising, officially acknowledging its existence for the first time.[4] Brigadier general Nam Dae Yeon said that the 31 Silmido recruits who made up Unit 684 were part of an air force squadron. Seven died in training and 20 were killed in the uprising. The four who survived were executed after a military trial in 1972.[5] Nam stated that documents describing Unit 684's mission no longer exist, but the government has not denied that its mission was to kill Kim Il-sung.[5]
What actually caused the uprising on August 23, 1971, is unclear. The film shows the government deciding that the recruits had to be killed because they knew too much. The recruits find out and revolt. Jonathan Kim, the film's producer, acknowledges that history is unclear at this point.[5]
Six guards survived the Silmido uprising. One of the guards, Yang Dong Su, confirmed that the unit's mission had been to infiltrate North Korea and kill Kim Il-sung. Yang stated that though the film portrays the 31 recruits as death-row inmates, most were petty criminals. Yang stated that "They were the kind who would get into street fights a lot". Yang also gives his version of why the uprising occurred.
They revolted because they felt that they were never going to get the chance to go to North Korea and that they would never be allowed to leave the island. They were in despair.[5]
—Yang Dong Su
On May 19, 2010, the Seoul Central District Court ordered that the government pay 273 million won in compensation to the families of 21 members of Unit 684. The court found that "the Silmido agents were not informed of the level of danger involved with their training, and the harshness of the training violated their basic human rights" and also acknowledged the emotional pain the government caused by not officially disclosing the agents’ deaths to family members until 2006.[4]

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Le Transperceneige

Snowpiercer (Korean: 설국열차; hanja: 雪國列車; RR: Seolgungnyeolcha) is a South Korean sci-fi action thriller film based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob & Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. The film is directed by Bong Joon-ho,[4][5] and co-written by Bong and Kelly Masterson. The film stars Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris. The film marks Bong's English-language debut; he has mentioned that approximately 80% of the film was shot in English.[6][7] On November 9, 2012, The Weinstein Company secured distribution rights in North America, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Le Transperceneige est une bande dessinée de science-fiction post-apocalyptique française en noir et blanc créée par Jacques Lob (scénario) et Jean-Marc Rochette (dessin), publiée du 1 au 2 dans le magazine (À suivre) et éditée de à par Casterman. La série a été poursuivie et terminée par le scénariste Benjamin Legrand, remplaçant Jacques Lob en 1999.
Le premier album est récompensé du Prix Témoignage chrétien au Festival d'Angoulême 1985. Le réalisateur coréen Bong Joon-ho l'adapte au cinéma en 2013 sous le nom de Snowpiercer, le Transperceneige avec Chris Evans.

The much-anticipated film Snowpiercer has been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. Renowned Korean director Bong Joon-ho helms a stunningly crafted film with a solid, recognizable cast including Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer, not to mention award-winning  Korean actors Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung.
This film is a major breakthrough for both Bong Joon-ho and Korea as it would be the first Korean film to get a major American release with the potential to do very well with American audiences. Snowpiercer, almost entirely in English, has already been released in Korea and France (with upcoming releases in Japan, Germany, Sweden and other non-English-speaking countries ) to both great financial and critical success.
So why has no release been scheduled in the U.S?
The Weinstein Company secured the rights to distribute Snowpiercer in the U.S (in addition to the UK, Australia and New Zealand, which are also being deprived of the director's cut). However the company, and namely Harvey Weinstein, has demanded 25 minutes of the director’s final cut be removed in addition to placing voice-overs within the film to make it more marketable to a general American audience. Director Bong Joon-ho stands by his original cut, as does much of the cast and crew, believing the film will suffer a loss of message, character development and depth should this happen. Additionally many believe American audiences are more than capable of understanding and appreciating this film without the aid of further cuts and voice-overs. Many consider the Weinstein cut will turn a powerfully-themed film with a distinct message into an action/thriller movie with no more depth than many of the mediocre action movies plaguing US theaters currently.
It comes down to a question of ethics and the dictation of what American audiences are capable of understanding.
"The goal, said TWC [The Weinstein Company] when explaining the request to Bong, is to make sure his film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa… and Oklahoma.’ Weinstein also asked for introductory and closing voice-overs to be added in” [].
If artistic imports such as Snowpiercer are continuously reconditioned to cater to a perceived American inability to think outside our own borders and comfort zone then that inability will only continue indefinitely, and the international perception of our own self-serving narrowmindedness will remain deserved.
Kaori Shoji of The Japan Times said this of the film: “As far as I’m concerned, this is required viewing for every human being on the planet” [].
Let us show Mr. Weinstein that holding this film hostage until the director concedes to his unreasonable demands are not acceptable. The vision of the artist, in this case the director, should be given priority in cooperation with marketing strategies. Altering a work of art to the point where its meaning is lost and no longer discernable to simply make it more palatable is not acceptable. This film, which many have been anticipating for so long, has the potential to make a very stunning point about social classes and the dangers of elitism, an issue that has become prominent in the United States recently.
We must show Mr. Weinstein that we, as Americans, will not stand to be insulted by the insinuation that the general American populace is incapable or unwilling to appreciate a ground-breaking dramatic film from an Asian director, focusing on relevant anthropological issues.
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