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JOINT SECURITY AREA 공동경비구역 2000 JSA

It's Korean Movies 101


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Director: Park Chan Wook
Starring: Lee Byung Hun (as Sgt. lee Su-Hyeok), Song Kang Ho (Sgt. Oh Kyung Pil), Lee Young Ae (Major Sophie Jean), Kim Tae woo (Private Nam Sung Shik), Shin Ha Kyun (Private Jung Woo Jin)
Screenplay: Kim Hyun Seok, Lee Moo Young and Park Chan Wook. Jeong Seong-san, Bangnidamae
Production Company: Myung Film Co., Ltd.
Release Date: September 8, 2000
Genre: Human Drama
Info: kmdb.or.kr
Award: Best film Blue Dragon Film Awards 2000 l Best Film Grand Bell Awards 2001
Best Actor (won jointly by Lee Byung-hun and Song Kang-ho) at the Pusan Film Critics Awards 2000
Jury Prize, Audience Prize and Best Actor (Song Kang-ho) at Deauville Asian Film Festival 2001
Nominated for best Asian film at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2002

A firefight occurs at the "Bridge of No Return" in the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone), and two North Korean soldiers are killed. The North claims that the incident was a flagrant attack by the South Koreans, while the South claims that one of their soldiers was kidnapped.In order to solve the dispute, the NNSC (Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission)dispatches half-Korean half-Swiss Army Intelligence Bureau officer, Major Sophie E. Jean.With no cooperation from either side, the case appears to be unsolvable. However, Major Jean discovers that the number of bullets fired from the pistols and the number found at the scene differ by one, and she begins to dig deeper into the backgrounds of the soldiers involved. Subsequently she finds out about an encounter previous to the firefight when North Korean soldiers saved a South Korean soldier from a mine. The story unravels to reveal a friendship developing among the soldiers. On the night of the firefight...

Related links imdb l wikipedia l the DMZ l koreanfilm.org l CINE21

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Synopsis When North Korean soldier Jung Woo-jin is found dead in a North Korean guard post, and Lee Soo-hyuk, a South Korean soldier, is found wounded on the middle of the Bridge of No Return, an investigation is immediately launched into the affair by the Neutral Nations Supervisory Committee, comprised of Swiss and Swedish delegates. The investigation is conducted by Sophie, an ethnic Korean-Swiss lieutenant in charge of the murder investigation.

Sophie begins the investigation by interrogating the prime suspect, South Korean sergeant Lee Soo-hyuk and his North Korean counterpart Oh Kyung-pil. Suspense heightens when both soldiers present completely disparate accounts of the incident in question. Deeply puzzled by the enigmatic testimony of the two soldiers, Sophie's suspicions are aroused following her interview with the eyewitness of the incident, Pvt. Nam Sung-shik. Terrified that he might reveal the truth under interrogation, Sung-shik attempts suicide, confirming Sophie's suspicion that the soldiers have something to hide.

Review "Joint Security Area" takes place entirely at the Panmunjom, Korea DMZ peace village at the 38th parallel border crossing where North and South Koreans face off with a military presence by a 50 year old treaty. The film tells of the shooting to death of a North and a South Korean soldier which is investigated by a Korean-Swiss military woman. The story is about a current investigation into the killings of two N. Korean border watchers by a S. Korean officer. If you were aware of the politics in today's Koreas, than you would know how easy a little spark could cause the two Koreas into war. But instead of dwelling on the aspect of politics of military, the writer chose to emphasize on the humane aspect and thus has managed to give us, the audience, a profound message in a world that is ever-more divided by race, religions, idealogies, etc.

The movie doesn't choose sides and instead create a 'neutral' character, Major Sophie, as the investigator of the 'truth' behind the killings. The film also intelligently unravels the real story behind the incident, through cuts of flashbacks between the survivors involved in it. The only lies were constructed by the government and military of both Koreas for the sake of division and war, instead of peace and union.

The performances by the lead actors were excellent. Their total immersion into their roles leaves you fixated and emotionally involved with their on-screen fate. By the end of the film, you would feel like you have been through a dark long tunnel and came out on a very bright and beautiful side. The last scene of the movie is one of the best visual conclusions to the essence of a story in decades. This film is not only a Korean blockbuster, but highly recommend in every aspect. See it, See it, SEE IT!!

"JSA" Draws Crowds Over Chusok
September 13, 2000: englishnews@chosun.com

A record number of people went to theaters during the Chusok holidays to see "Joint Security Area," a movie directed by Park Chan-wook questioning the possibilities of reconciliation between the two Koreas. The film was first released on the September 9 and attracted 900,000 movie goers nationwide in its first five days, 410,000 in Seoul alone. This is by far the biggest movie in Korea this year as "Mission Impossible 2" only drew 400,000 in its first six days. One reason behind its success is the number of theaters running the film, as in Seoul alone, there are 42 theaters showing the movie and 120, nationwide. Tickets at the major theaters in Seoul were all sold out during the Chusok holidays.

"Joint Security Area" is about the investigation into a mysterious shooting in the joint security area inside the truce village of Panmunjom and the relationships between two South and two North Korean soldiers, and the Korean-Swiss special investigator. Top stars Song Gang-ho, Lee Young-ae and Lee Byung-heon also played a role in attracting such a large of audience. The head of the film production company expects at least 1.5 million people will see the film in Seoul alone.

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JSA Review by Darcy Paquet at koreanfilm.org

For the second year in a row, the Korean film industry has struck gold with a movie about North Korea. Many expected Joint Security Area (or JSA) to do well at the box office, given the current level of interest in North Korean affairs, but it has done much more than that, spawning headlines and breaking box-office records with ease. The film drew close to half a million viewers in Seoul alone its first week. On the following Saturday it set a one-day box office record, drawing 104,000 viewers in the capital. It broke the one million admissions mark in only 15 days -- last year it took Shiri 21 days to reach the same mark. By early 2001 it had become the best-selling film in Korean history (though it was eclipsed by Friend a few months later).

Park Chan-wook's film opens with a shooting in the truce village of Panmunjom which leaves two North Korean soldiers dead and one South Korean soldier wounded. With each country giving conflicting reports on what happened, the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) is asked to send in a Swiss military officer to conduct an investigation. After her arrival, however, she finds that no one is willing to talk to her, and the soldiers involved all seem to be hiding some secret...

JSA is described as a mystery/ human drama, and its structure is clearly divided into two parts: the investigation by Korean-Swiss Major Sophie Jean, and an extended flashback to the incident between the soldiers. I think most would agree that the film's biggest strength is the flashback, with actors Song Kang-ho and Lee Byung-heon excelling in their roles. This part of the film also features some breathtaking cinematography for the scenes that take place along the Demilitarized Zone.

The mystery element contains less tension, particularly if the viewer knows too much about the plot beforehand. Attention is focused not so much on what happened, but why. This part also contains a large number of scenes in English, which may have to be redubbed if the film opens in English-speaking territories. Nonetheless it has been noted by critics and audience members alike for its rare casting of a female actor (Lee Young-ae) in a non-romantic part.

The producers of the film spared no expense in recreating the setting around Panmunjom. Since shooting at the actual site would obviously not be permitted, Myung Film built a 90% replica of the village of Panmunjom at a cost of some $800,000. The site can be visited to this day at the Seoul Cinema Complex. JSA is also notable for being the first Korean film ever to be shot on Super 35mm film, a special format used in some Hollywood blockbusters that allows for a wide screen (1:2.35) with very clear definition.

The film has won more or less unanimous praise from every sector of Korean society, with one exception: the army. Many in the military have derided the film as pure fantasy, based on an event which could never happen in real life (probably true). In a bizarre incident on September 26, twenty older members of the JSA Veterans' Association stormed into the office of Myung Film, breaking windows and physically threatening the employees of the company. They demanded that the production company issue a public apology to the army and insert notices at the beginning and end of the movie stating that it is a work of fiction. After four hours, the employees of Myung Film acquiesced, and despite vocal objection from the film industry, the group's demands are being met.

Some have compared this film to Shiri because of its superficial resemblance, but it really is a much different work. As relations with North Korea change and the two nations draw closer together, this film perhaps serves best as a record of South Koreans' fears and hopes for reconciliation. (Darcy Paquet)

Review by Anthony Leong mediacircus.net

If 1999's South Korean box office smash "Shiri (Swiri)" was dubbed by the local press as 'the little fish that sank Titanic', then "Joint Security Area (Gongdong Gyeongbi Guyeok JSA)" might as well be known as the blockbuster that ate "Shiri" for lunch. Within two weeks of its release during the fall of 2000, "Joint Security Area" took in one million admissions, a feat that had taken "Shiri" three weeks to accomplish, and went on to become the biggest box office draw in Korean history-- that is, until the gangland saga "Friend (Chingu)" bowed into theaters a few months later. And though it is not as action-oriented as "Shiri", "Joint Security Area" is an engaging and emotionally resonant military drama indicative of the continuing maturity of South Korean cinema.

Based on the Park Sang-yeon novel "DMZ", "Joint Security Area" centers on a modern-day cross-border incident in this flashpoint of North-South tensions, specifically at the 'Bridge of No Return', where prisoners-of-war were exchanged at the end of the Korean War. Swiss military officer Major Sophie Jang (Lee Yeong-ae, who appeared most recently in "One Fine Spring Day"), the daughter of a Korean expatriate and a Swiss mother, arrives in Panmumjeom to conduct an impartial investigation of the incident, which has resulted in two deaths. Not surprisingly, both sides remain tight-lipped about the details of the incident, and treat her investigation with suspicion.

Based on the depositions filed by each side, two possible scenarios arise, which are told in Rashomon"-style. According to the South, South Korean Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok (
Lee Byung Hun of "Bungee Jumping of Their Own") was abducted by North Korean soldiers and dragged across the Bridge of No Return. During his escape, Lee killed two soldiers and wounded another. This runs counter to the account given by the wounded North Korean officer, Sgt. Oh Kyeong-pil (Song Kang-ho of "Shiri"), who states that Lee deliberately crossed the bridge and started a shooting spree.

As Jang's investigation develops, she uncovers evidence suggesting that neither account is correct, such as how the number of bullets recovered at the crime scene are inconsistent with the number fired by Lee. With the use of extended flashbacks, the truth about the incident, as well as the unlikely connection between sergeants Lee and Oh, gradually comes to light, revealing a tragedy borne of a divided country.

One of the most striking aspects of "Joint Security Area" is its sumptuous cinematography, as it is the first Korea film to use the Super-35 format. This is most apparent in the flashback scenes, where director Park Chan-wook and cinematographer Kim Sung-bok (who also lensed "Shiri") have crafted a number of memorable scenes that drip in atmosphere, tension, and surprisingly, warmth, such as a night-time run-in between Lee and Oh amidst a field of billowing ferns and tall grass, or the well-staged firefight that ensues around Lee's escape. And though the story jumps back and forth between the present and the past, Park's poised direction and technical prowess ensures that the transitions are not only eye-catching, but also easily understood.

Though "Joint Security Area" may lack the firepower unleashed in "Shiri", it more than makes up for it with its compelling and emotionally resonant script. Like "Shiri", "Joint Security Area" offers complex North Korean characters, and a tragic tale about a friendship doomed by the entrenched political distrust and fear that have divided Korea for almost fifty years. When story finally comes full circle, revealing the truth about the shootings and the damage that it has wrought, the epiphany is devastating, which is best summed up in the poignant closing shot, a fleeting moment of friendship along the 38th parallel, forever frozen in time.

If there is a fault to be picked on, it would have to be the clumsy scenes conducted in English between Jang and her Swiss cohorts. Lee Yeong-ae's difficulties with the English language are readily apparent, which is both distracting and unintelligibly confusing (especially when she utters key expository dialogue). Likewise, the Swiss characters are occasionally difficult to understand with their thick accents and somewhat stilted line delivery. Thankfully, the Korean performances, including Lee's (who also has the distinction of playing a female character that is not a love interest in a Korean film), are much stronger.
Lee Byung Hun is convincing as a man torn by the truth, as is Kim Tae-woo, who plays his quiet but loyal sidekick. Shin Ha-kyun's ("Guns & Talks") turn as a North Korean soldier is also affecting, as the comic relief trappings of his character eventually give way as he becomes the epicenter of the tragedy. However, the standout performance would have to go to Song Kang-ho, who demonstrates his considerable dramatic range as a North Korean soldier whose sense of duty and honor transcends borders.

"Joint Security Area" is one of the most expensive film productions in South Korean history, and it shows. In addition to the immaculate production values and lensing, Myung Film actually spent close to $1 million to build an almost-exact replica of the Panmunjeom to house the production. Despite its 'blockbuster' status and financial success, there is still a lot of heart in "Joint Security Area", making it one of the more memorable and moving films of the 'Korean New Wave'. And though the film's release has mainly been limited to Asian-Pacific film markets, with a stateside release still in limbo, North American audiences can catch this modern classic via the recently released Hong Kong import DVD and VCD.

JSA trailer





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July 26, 2006

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An ear-splitting gun-firing sound echoes in the extremely tensioned Joint Security Area. After subsequent gun-firing sounds are heard, a soldier passes out in the middle of crossing the bridge of no return. The South and the North get into exchanging cross fire, with the soldier on the bridge right at the center.

Right after this bizarre incident, Seargent Lee, Suhyuk from the South and the First Lieutenant Oh, Kyungpil from the North, who survived the skirmish, tell different stories about what happened, plunging the case into a labyrinth.

To examine this case, the neutral nation supervision committee dispatches Major Jang, Sophi from the Military Judicial Office in Switzerland. However the two witnesses who hold the key to the case remain silent.

Learning that none of the inquiries are fruitful, Major Sophie tries to find a missing bullet. As one of the first witnesses, Private First Class Nam, Sungsik commits suicide by jumping out of the window of the interrogation room, and Seargent Lee, Suhyuk starts losing his mind. Meanwhile, Seargent Lee desperately tries to hide the fact that he used to cross over the military demarcation line to visit Oh, Kyungpil and Jeong, Woojin after he happened to make friends with them in the middle of an operation. In addition, Major Sophi starts getting pressure from a higher official to cover up the case.

Under such circumstances, Sophie makes Lee, Suhyuk a suggestion that she submit a report that does no harm to the people he cares about if he tells her the truth. Finally, Lee, Suhyuk does tell Jang, Sophie the whole story about what happened at the joint security zone. On hearing the truth, Sophie's face lightens up. On the other hand, a dark shadow is still cast on Suhyuk's face.

english.tour2korea.com

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Song, Gangho (Oh Gyeongpil)
Soldier of the North.
A charismatic person with the ability to cope with a crisis.

Shin, Hakyun (Jeong Ujin)
Soldier of the North.
A victim of the shooting case. A kind and pure character.

Lee, Byunghun (Lee Suhyeok)
Soldier of the South. He is the character who represents the young generation, who do not recognize the divided reality. His curiosity makes him a victim of the partition of the Korean peninsula.

Lee, Yeongae (Sophie)
A responsible investigator of the neutral supervision committee.
She is Korean-Swiss and has studied at the Zurich law school. She takes charge of the murder case which occurred at the Joint Security Area. She discloses the plot of concealment of the case by the upper organizations of the South and the North.

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