(From Korea Expose)
By Haeryun Kang
Dramatic music swells up as the camera zooms in on a dying South Korean soldier, a plump and friendly character who wins immediate sympathy because he’s the loving father of an adorable baby. His head droops to the side in a moment of finality; the camera slowly shifts from his bloody face to the picture of his wife and daughter. The family photograph is burning slowly like the rest of the ship, bombarded by North Korean cannons.
On the thirteenth anniversary of a naval incident in South Korea’s Yellow Sea, which killed six South Korean soldiers and an estimated 30 North Korean soldiers on June 29, 2002, a blockbuster about the battle is sweeping the nation, having sold more than 1.4 million tickets in a nation of 50 million since its opening less than a week ago, with no sign of losing its momentum.
The movie, titled Northern Limit Line (NLL) after the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, attempts to highlight the human stories behind the 2002 battle, while suffering from the misconception that a “human story” is a de-politicized one. By omitting the very political reality that led to the deaths of soldiers — on both sides — the movie blurs out the various causes and consequences surrounding the tragedy in the Yellow Sea.
The event portrayed in NLL was eclipsed at the time by the euphoric frenzy of the World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, and downplayed by a progressive government trying to foster peace and dialogue with North Korea. The attack took place on the morning of June 29, 2002, the day many South Koreans still remember fondly for the football match against Turkey, not for the military encounter. Read more