1997: An incident happens at the Korean frontier on Park Chan Wook’s JSA

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산121 Eoryong-ri, Jinseo-myeon
Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
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1945 – After the Allies’ victory in World War II, the territories occupied by Japan are dismantled.

Korea, annexed by Japan since 1910, is temporarily divided into two territories under Soviet and American supervision.

1948 – The first president of South Korea is elected. Meanwhile, Marshall Kim Il-Sung establishes North Korea, known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

1950 – North and South Korea, respectively sponsored by China and the United States go to war against each other.
An armistice is signed in 1953, establishing a buffer zone between the two states. 250 km long and 4 km wide, it is known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

There’s no direct visual contact between the North and South Korean soldiers guarding the borders, except in a small outpost at the west.
Called the Joint Security Area (JSA) it is established as a military and diplomatic complex where at all times three soldiers of each side face each other.

1997 – An incident occurs in the DMZ, leaving two North Korean soldiers dead on Park Sang-yeon‘s novel DMZ.
Gunfire erupts, at the risk of sparking a war between the two countries…

Park Sang-yeon‘s novel DMZ has been adapted in 2000 by director Park Chan-Wook under the title Joint Security Area.
Focusing on the inquiry of a third party Major, the movie depicts in flashback the stranded, unlikely yet profoundly human relationship between soldiers of opposite camps.

JSA became an instant success the first week of its release on September 2000: in early 2001 nearly six millions South Korean had seen the movie.
It was however not the only box-office success to deal directly with the North-South Korea issue, as the action movie Shiri had already broken every box-office record the year before.
It wasn’t the last either: out of 3 movies who surpassed JSA’s attendance, two dealt with the Korean conflict – Silmido attracted 10 millions in 2003, only to be beaten by Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War in 2004 with more than 11 million tickets.

The success of JSA considerably changed the course of Park Chan Wook‘s career as a director. The drama wasn’t his first foray in film: after two unsuccessful movies in the 1990’s he had to resume his career as a film critic until he decided to adapt Park Sang-yeon novel.
Critically and publicly acclaimed, he had total freedom for his next move and launched his Vengeance Trilogy with Sympathy For Mr Vengeance in 2002, co-written by JSA co-writer Mu-yeong Lee.
A Vengeance Trilogy completed the next year with Oldboy and Lady Vengeance, then followed by a international career…

Buy JSA on Amazon.com | UK | FR

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Posted: August 15, 2014

Author: Fabien Hurelle

Category: Cinema

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