The Korean War in Cinematography


Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Kim, Hyo Jin



Bibliography
Criteria for Selection
Filmography
Second Draft
First Draft



Bibliography (as of June 9th) . go to Teacher's Comment




Criteria for the Selection of Films (as of June 9th) . go to Teacher's Comment

I. Serious Reflection, Contemplation of the Past War (U.S. Films)
            Many of the American films fall into this category, including "Pork Chop Hill", "The Bridges at Toko-ri", "Battle Hymn", and "Steel Helmet". These pieces are those which are praised for their overall accuracy of depiction and the significance of their themes.

II. Korean War Used as Mere Background (U.S. Films)
            Films such as "M.A.S.H", and "Sayonara" are included in this category. In such movies, the focus of the films is not the Korean War itself. The Korean War is rather used as a mere setting that adds a dramatic element. In some cases, historical details are not that accurate.

III. About the actual Korean War (Korean Films)
            "Takgukgi: Brotherhood of War", "Welcome to Dongmakgol" "Abenko Green Berets" fall in this category. Although the subtle tones may vary from movie to movie, in general, these films depict the Korean War in a rather serious matter from a 'Korean' point of view. Yet, an noticeable factor is that because the Korean War still remains as a sensitive topic in Korean society, a political voice is rarely involved.

IV. Serious Post Korean War Movies (Korean Films)
            Films such as "Joint Security Area", "Silmido", "Swiri" depict the divided Koreas after the War. Although the Korean War may not be directly shown, these movies implicitly involve the Korean War by depicting the aftermath and impact of it: the divided nation. Therefore, they represent a certain view, worthy to review, involving the Korean War.

V. Korean War involved not that Seriously (Korean Films)
            "A Bold Family" is not a serious movie; instead, it is a comedy film that uses the Korean War as a motif. The Korean War is not directly involved in such movies, yet the depiction of the divided state is worthy to review.
            Unlike my initial intentions, which were inducing a general comparison between U.S. films and Korean films, further research has made me alter my plan. Because the nationality of the staff or production company of films do not define the general characteristics of the movie, this paper will not focus on the difference between U.S. produced films and Korea produced films, but compare many Korean movies according to a subjective categorization of the movies.



Filmography (as of June 9th) . go to Teacher's Comment

I. American Films
a) Pork Chop Hill
b) The Bridges at Toko-ri
c) Steel Helmet
d) Battle Hymn
e) MASH (film version)
f) The Manchurian Candidate
g) Men in War
h) Time Limit
i) Sayonara
j) Cease Fire !
k) All the Young Men
l) War is Hell
II. Korean Films
a) Taegukgi: Brotherhood of War
b) Welcome to Dongmakgol
c) Abenko Green Berets
d) Hae-Byung-Mook-Shi-Rok (Silent Observation of the Marines?)
e) Joint Security Area
f) Swiri
g) Silmido
h) A Bold Family



Second Draft (as of June 6th) . go to Teacher's Comment

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Brief Overview of the Movies
II.1 Pork Chop Hill
II.1.1 General
II.1.2 Plot
II.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
II.2.1 General
II.2.2 Plot
II.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
II.3.1 General
II.3.2 Plot
III. Comparative Analysis
III.1 Theme and Delivery
III.1.1 Pork Chop Hill
III.1.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
III.1.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
III.2 Historical Accuracy of Details
III.2.1 Pork Chop Hill
III.2.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
III.2.3 Tae Guk Ki : Brotherhood of War
II.3 Historical Context and Significance
III.3.1 Pork Chop Hill
III.3.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
III.3.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
IV. Conclusion
V. Notes
VI. Bbliography



I. Introduction
            In English language publications, the Korean War has often been dubbed as the "forgotten war" because of its relatively smaller scale compared to adjacent wars such as World War II and the Vietnam War. Consequently, it is less illustrated in movies, yet there are some memorable pieces to look over. The three Korean War movies that will be discussed are the following: Pork Chop Hill (1959), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), and TaeGukGi: Brotherhood of War (2004). This paper will focus on the depiction of the Korean War and its historical significance.

II. Brief Overview of the Movies

II.1 Pork Chop Hill

II.1.1 General
            Pork Chop Hill is a war film produced in 1959, only six years after the Korean War has ended. It is based on the eponymous book by military historian S. L. A Marshall that recounts the bitterly fierce first Battle of Pork Chop Hill between soldiers of the U.S. Army and the Chinese Communist Forces in the end of the Korean War, in April of 1953 (1).

II.1.2 Plot
            Even until the last minute of the war, when cease-fire negotiations are to be signed, American soldiers are sent to recapture Pork Chop Hill from the Chinese Army force. The soldiers apparently do not welcome the order because they do not want to spare their lives when the war is almost over, yet loyal lieutenant Joe Clemons leads a troop of 135 men to the front.
            Overwhelmed by the counterattack of the Chinese forces, only 25 men survive when the American forces recapture the hill. Lieutenant Clemons requests for reinforcement and supplies, but the headquarter hesitates due to its consideration of diplomatic factors.
            At the negotiation table of Panmunjom, the U.S. wants expeditious progress, but the Chinese refuse to compromise. The Chinese, instead, prepare for another battle to recapture the hill. The U.S. headquarters finally decide to send reinforcements, leading to American victory.

II.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri

II.2.1 General
            The Bridges at Toko-Ri is a 1954 film based on a novel by James Michener about a Korean War pilot assigned to bomb a group of heavily defended bridges (2). The movie portrays the internal conflict pilot Brubaker go through as he undertakes a mission to destroy a series of bridges at Toko-ri.

II.2.2 Plot
            In this drama that focuses on the futility of war, Harry Brubaker is a former military pilot who served in World War II. He feels disappointment when he is called up from reserve status to serve the country once again in the Korean War. Despite his bitterness towards the war, Brubaker accepts his new mission to blow up a series of strategically crucial bridges without much complaint. (3)
            Before the mission commences, Brubaker has a chance to meet his wife and two daughters in Tokyo. Yet, the reunion triggers internal conflict inside Brubaker between his responsibility as a member of a family and a pilot serving his country. While the reunion weakens his military spirit, Brubaker ultimately devotes himself to what he is asked for during the bombing mission. In the end, Brubaker dies during executing his mission.

II.3. TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War

II.3.1 General
            Released in 2004, TaeGukGi is a Korean film about two brothers that go through the turmoil of the Korean War. With a grand budget of \14,700,000,000, the movie concentrates on the altered life of the two brothers and the tragic fate of the older brother Jin-tae faces to save his younger brother Jin-suk. (4)

II.3.2 Plot
            Jin-tae is the head of his family, responsible for his aphasic mother, fianc? Young-shin, and younger brother Jin-suk. Jin-tae works assiduously not only to sustain his family¡¯s life in Seoul, but also to earn tuition for Jin-suk, the only person being educated in the family.
            At the outbreak of the War, the brothers are drafted to the South Korean army. While searching any possible way to exempt his brother from conscription, Jin-tae finds out that he can discharge his younger brother from military service if Jin-tae earns a national medal of recognition. Jin-tae gradually, but conspicuously, becomes a war addict for the sole purpose to save his younger brother.
            Jin-tae joins the North Korean army to seek revenge, as he misunderstood that the South Korean army killed his brother. The two brothers fight on different sides until their dramatic reunion in the middle of a fierce battle. Yet, Jin-tae tragically faces death as he once again attempts to save Jin-suk.

III. Comparative Analysis

III.1. Theme and its Delivery
            The common factor the three films share is, of course, the depiction of the futility of the Korean War. Yet, there are both major and subtle differences that differentiate the three films from each other

III.1.1 Pork Chop Hill
            In the movie, the sole purpose of recapturing the hill for both Americans and Chinese is to show each side¡¯s resolve and serious attitude towards the war. Although it is obvious for both that the war will end as a truce anyhow, whether who occupies the hill, battles do not cease, and men continue to die in these meaningless fights. The prevalent question the movie brings up is, therefore, "Why must precious lives be taken away in this meaningless fight ?" (5)
            A rather complicated method is adopted to convey its theme of futility, because soldiers in this movie fight bravely, without much complaint. The soldiers do not retreat in unfavorable situations, and the commanders nobly lead their men in the way front. Even characters that seem a bit stupid or dull stay in combat bravely, adding a sense of reality and touching the audience emotionally. The problem is that it is not easy to raise the question of why men are fighting and portray courageous soldiers simultaneously. To effectively convey its central question, the Chinese propaganda broadcasting becomes an important element in the movie. (6) The American soldiers are depicted as honest and loyal all the way, and the Chinese propaganda broadcasting explains the meaningless aspects of this war. Chinese propaganda talks about "the futility of war", "the invaluableness of life", and "the irony of combat during truce negotiations." As a result, the audience can watch the courageous American soldiers while questioning the meaninglessness of war at the same time.
            The message of the movie can be affirmed in the ending scene of the movie, where protagonist lieutenant Clemons talks about the ironic value of Pork Chop Hill. Pork Chop Hill is a place that has gained strategic value because it had no value to begin with. The reason people value diamonds is not that it provides any immediate convenience to us, but that people consider it rare and precious. Yet, so many men have died to recapture a small hill that does not have any value except for the fact that it has no value; Clemons says this hill is valuable because so many men have died for it. This is a self-ridicule and, at the same time, a philosophical paradox.

III.1.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
            The protagonist Lieutenant Harry Brubaker is a character loved by many people in the movie. Not only is he the husband of a lovely woman and a father of two girls, but he is a pilot that reminds his boss Admiral Tarrant of his dead son, and a trusted colleague of his fellow crewmen. As he was recruited to the Korean War, he left behind his successful legal career behind. At first glance, this movie could look like a propaganda film because the protagonist pilot Brubaker places his responsibility as a pilot above his love of his family. Although Brubaker was told that he did not have to participate in the mission if he did not want to, Brubaker decides to join the bombing mission. It is only at the ending where the central theme explicitly reveals itself; the central question of "The Bridges of Toko-Ri" is "What is the justification for a war that takes away the lives of our men ?" (7)
            A considerable portion of the movie is dedicated to describing the internal conflict Brubaker goes through. He possesses ambivalence towards this war because he is disappointed that he had to leave behind his beloved ones and his legal career, yet at the same time feels obligation to serve his country that needs his skills as an adroit pilot. Throughout the movie, obstacles are placed before Brubaker. From the beginning, he is bitter about the fact that he is called from reserve status; his reunion with his family in Tokyo undermines his devotion to the war; when he is sick after he is allocated of a mission, his physical conditions reflect his mental instability of undertaking this mission. Despite all these unfavorable conditions, Brubaker participates in the mission and dies during battle.
            Yet, the heroic depiction of Brubaker no longer receives spotlight when Admiral Tarrant questions himself "Where do we get such men ?" after he is informed of the death of Brubaker. Because Brubaker was an existence that reminded Tarrant of his son that died in WWII, the question Tarrant asks himself involves the audience to question the justification of a war that brings so much tragedy into an individual's life. Consequently, more emphasis is put on lamenting the death of a pilot than commemorating his bravery or responsibility.

III.1.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
            Although there is a common factor that connects the three movies, the theme of "TaeGukGi is quite different from those of the two previous ones. Rather than questioning the cause, justification, responsibility of the tragic event, this movie focuses more on the emotional and mental devastation of the Korean people and the nation. To achieve its purpose to depict the psychological devastation of the Korean people and connect emotionally with the audience, various dramatic elements are placed throughout the movie.
            The most noticeable is definitely the dramatic, almost too dramatic, elements placed throughout the whole movie. The less-educated, older one Jin-tae tries to protect the educated, na?ve, younger one Jin-suk, who represents the family¡¯s hopes and dreams. The two brothers are forcefully drafted in front of their aphasic mother, who can do nothing but shed tears before the two brothers, whom she might never see again. Jin-tae's fianc? is shot before Jin-tae's eyes as she was accused for helping communists. Jin-tae slowly becomes a war addict because of his obsession with the national medal, the only method to exempt Jin-suk from military service. Jin-tae faces a tragic and lonely death after a dramatic reunion of the two brothers. From the beginning to the end, dramatic elements are thoroughly penetrated so that the audience could empathize with the characters.
            Another method to deliver the theme is the complex depiction of Jin-tae's transformation of this personality. In the beginning of the movie, Jin-tae is an uneducated, bright, innocent, and responsible young man that is devoted to his family, especially his beloved brother. Then, he becomes a sacrificing, compelling older brother that is respected as a war hero by others. In the end, he turns into an insane war addict that cannot even recognize his brother, the reason he fought this war, at first glance. The gradual, but conspicuous, transformation of Jin-tae emphasizes the tragedy that an individual or a family had to experience because of this war.

III.2. Historical Accuracy of details

III.2.1 Pork Chop Hill
            Some details mentioned in the movie show much historical accuracy. One of the most noticeable is the usage of bulletproof vests. In the front part of the movie, a few soldiers hold a conversation about their bullet proof vests. This is historically accurate because it is from the Korean War, when the U.S. army began to provide its soldiers with bulletproof vests, M1952A, made of fiberglass. Even until World War II, the U.S. army used armor vests.
            Another noticeable detail is the appearance of Japanese and African American soldiers. It was only from after the Korean War that diverse ethnicities were allocated to the same troop. Before the Korean War, troops consisted of mainly one ethnicity, so Japanese or African Americans would not be fighting together with Caucasians as depicted in this movie. (8)

III.2.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
            This movie also depicts the war rather similarly to the reality. Although the appearing carriers and jets are not the exact same model, the movie succeeded in conveying the mood or environment of the war with the technical support from the U.S. navy.

III.2.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
            In contrast to the normal expectations, the historical accuracy of TaeGukGi is quite dubious, probably because of the dramatic effect it wanted to achieve.
            The most obvious flaw is its depiction of battles. The most dominant method of battle in the movie is hand-to-hand combat; close fights occur throughout the movie. Furthermore, the soldiers frequently abandon their weapons and fight with their bare fists. However, a hand-to-hand combat of a large scale practically did not occur in the real war and forces that were either damaged or killed due to such hand-to-hand battles were less than 1%. (9)
            Another flaw is the depiction of the streets of Seoul. While the markets of Seoul are full of people in the movie, the streets were not that lively or full in reality. Also, in the last scene, the scenery of Seoul is dramatized because it contains so much people in the severely damaged streets. (10) It could add literary elements by contrasting the liveliness and brutality more strikingly, the accuracy of historical depiction is rather questionable.

III.3. Historical Context and Significance

III.3.1 Pork Chop Hill
            Pork Chop Hill is memorable for the fact that it portrays the typical type of battles of the latter part of the Korean War. Large scale battles occurred mainly during the first 10 months (June 1950 - April 1951) when General MacArthur was in command. (11) After MacArthur was replaced by Matthew Ridgway, the direction of the war was maintaining the status quo for the UN army. After truce negotiations began in July 1951, most large scale battles no longer happened, and most of the conflicts would be small scale battles to gain comparative advantage in certain regions. (12)
            Yet, the negotiations were protracted and such small scale, exhausting battles were held for another two years. In other words, small scale conflicts were the typical battles that occurred during most of the war period. In such a sense, Pork Chop Hill gains significance because it portrays, with reliable accuracy, the frequently held small battles in Korea, where there are many mountains and hills. It depicts the meaningless wars that happened during the two years when the negotiations were in a stalemate, delivering a pretty precise image of what the energy-consuming Korean War was like during the latter two years.
            Another noticeable fact is that the movie is apparently in line with the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s as it tells the true story of the assault on Pork Chop Hill by American troops during the peace talks as they were determined to the communists that the war would continue indefinitely if the peace negotiations fell through (13). At the negotiation tables, the Chinese are illustrated as the obstacles to reaching a conclusion.

III.3.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
            The Bridges of Toko-Ri has ambiguous aspects. It illustrates Brubaker as a brave and appraised pilot while questioning the cause of the war at the same time. In other words, it has the potential to be defined either as a propaganda film or an anti-war film. Yet, considering its serious and professional tone throughout the movie, it is more convincible to say the heroic description is rather a tribute to the war veterans or propaganda of the glory of the American troops rather than an active propaganda to attract young men to the army.
            Also, the protagonist Brubaker does not necessarily have to be interpreted as a Korean War veteran, but a veteran that has participated in any war the U.S. was involved. It does not concentrate on any distinctively Korean features or any unique circumstance the Korean War was under. Also, the communist side is not presented much, and the movie is extensively concentrated on the 'individual' Brubaker.
            Therefore, this movie has a characteristic of commemorating the participants of the war and showing the human and professional resolution, organization and sacrifice that prosecution of war requires, rather than questioning particularly the Korean War (14).

III.3.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
            A movie about the Korean War, produced by a Korean director, targeted for a Korean audience inevitably gains more significance to the Korean society than can other war films have. Although the Korean War is often dubbed as the "forgotten war", it was obviously the most devastating war the Korean people have ever experienced and the pivotal point in modern Korean history (15). Even until now, the generation that directly experienced the war and remembers its tragedy are alive and has social power in the Korean society. Furthermore, the phenomenal records at the box office also prove that this movie has some social and historical significance in the Korean society.
            One of the most noticeable facts about this movie is that it avoided showing any political inclination or ideological background. Instead, the main conflict occurs between the individual and the nation. Both North Korea and South Korea are depicted as brutal states that sacrifice the lives of so many innocent people for a theoretical fight; neither one is shown as more favorable. Such an approach could be explained by the movie¡¯s ultimate purpose: commercial success. The younger generation, the main target for the film industry, did not directly experience the war nor do they put value on ideology. Therefore, the producers excluded political elements and replaced it with a Hollywood formula: family values (16).
            Another historical significance of this movie is the social impact it has brought. Over a quarter of the South Korean population, approximately 12,000,000 people, watched this movie. When the movie was released, it was literally a social phenomenon. The movie provided an opportunity in which Koreans could once again commemorate the pain of the Korean War that the older generation had to bare.
            However, there are some limits as well. As the critique's say, the ultimate purpose of a movie, especially a blockbuster like this one, is to gain economic profit. While such commercial nature could beget a novel style or approach, it also has the potential ending up as a mere amusement for the contemporary audience. The lack of the depiction of the Korean War is also a limit. Because the main force of this movie is emotional elements rather than a strong and convincing story line, accurate depictions of the Korean War is not necessary. In other words, this story could be applied to any two brothers that participated in war together. Although the Korean people would almost automatically connect ¡®the war¡¯ with the 'Korean War' even without any further explanation, the lack of the details of the Korean War undermines the historical value of the film.

IV Conclusion
            Although commonly including the "futility of the Korean War" the styles and approaches of each of the movies differ. Pork Chop Hill attempted to show the unique features of the Korean War with a realistic point of view. It also had some anti-communist elements as well. The Bridges of Toko-Ri had less of a 'Korean' touch since it did not deal with the meaninglessness of the Korean War in particular, but mainly dealt with an individual's struggle facing war. TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War is almost completely excluded any political implications and even put in false details of the Korean War for a more dramatic effect.
            Even with these different approaches and styles, the three movies have succeeded in delivering its unique message to the audience, and deserve to be remembered amng the greatest Korean War films.


Notes

(1)      Article : Pork Chop Hill, from Wikipedia
(2)      Article: The Bridges at Toko-Ri, from Wikipedia
(3)      The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), from The Internet Movie Database
(4)      Tae Guk Gi : Brotherhood Of War, 2003, from NAVER films
(5)      Article : Pork Chop Hill, from Wikipedia
(6)      Pork Chop Hill, U.S. 1959, from eFilmCritic
(7)      The Bridges at Toko-Ri, from Wikipedia
(8)      Pork Chop Hill, U.S. 1959, from eFilmCritic
(9)      TaeGukGi: Brotherhood Of War, 2003, from NAVER films
(10)      Article : Korean War, from Wikipedia
(11)      ibid.
(12      Article : Pork Chop Hill, from Wikipedia
(13      Classic Korean War Films, from KoreanWar.com
(14      The Bridges at Toko-Ri, U.S. 1954, from eFilmCritic
(15      Cumings, 2005
(16      TaeGukGi: Brotherhood Of War, 2003, from NAVER films


Bibliography

Note : websites quoted below were visited in April 2008.
1.      Cumings, Bruce. Korea's Place in the Sun. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005
2.      Goldstein, Donald M., The Korean War. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's, 2001
3.      Sandler, Stanley, ed. The Korean War. New York: Garland Pub., 1995
4.      Article : Battle of Pork Chop Hill, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pork_Chop_Hill, last revised 19 May 2008
5.      Article : Korean War, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_war, last revised 3 June 2008
6.      Article : Pork Chop Hill, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork_Chop_Hill, last revised 16 March 2008
7.      Article : Taegukgi (film), from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taegukgi_%28film%29, last revised 27 May 2008
8.      Article : The Bridges at Toko-ri, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bridges_at_Toko-Ri, last revised 27 May 2008
9.      Article : Pork Chop Hill (1959), from "The Internet Movie Database", http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053183/
10.      Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo (2004), from The Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386064/
11.      The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), from The Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046806/
12.      Article : Classic Korean War Films, from KoreanWar.com, http://www.koreanwar.com/movies_of_the_korean_war.htm
13.      South Korean Films About the Korean War (1950-53): A Tool for Reference, from KoreanFilm.org, http://www.koreanfilm.org/warfilms.html
14.      TaeGukGi: Brotherhood Of War, 2003, from NAVER films, http://movie.naver.com/movie/bi/mi/basic.nhn?code=36666
15.      Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War, from eFilmCritic, http://www.stevenh.co.kr/entry/%ED%8F%AD-%EC%B0%B9-%ED%9E%90-Pork-Chop-Hill-1959%EB%85%84-%EB%AF%B8%EA%B5%AD
16.      The Bridges at Toko-Ri, U.S. 1954, from eFilmCritic, http://www.stevenh.co.kr/entry/%EC%9B%90%ED%95%9C%EC%9D%98-%EB%8F%84%EA%B3%A1%EB%A6%AC-%EB%8B%A4%EB%A6%AC-The-Bridges-At-Toko-Ri-1954%EB%85%84-%EB%AF%B8%EA%B5%AD
17.      Pork Chop Hill, U.S. 1959, from eFilmCritic, http://www.stevenh.co.kr/entry/%ED%8F%AD-%EC%B0%B9-%ED%9E%90-Pork-Chop-Hill-1959%EB%85%84-%EB%AF%B8%EA%B5%AD



First Draft (as of April 2008) . go to Teacher's Comment

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Brief Overview of the Movies
II.1 Pork Chop Hill
II.1.1 General
II.1.2 Plot
II.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
II.2.1 General
II.2.2 Plot
II.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
II.3.1 General
II.3.2 Plot
III. Comparative Analysis
III.1 Theme and Delivery
III.1.1 Pork Chop Hill
III.1.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
III.1.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
III.2 Historical Accuracy of Details
III.2.1 Pork Chop Hill
III.2.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
III.2.3 Tae Guk Ki : Brotherhood of War
II.3 Historical Context and Significance
III.3.1 Pork Chop Hill
III.3.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
III.3.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
IV. Conclusion
V. Notes
VI. Bbliography



I. Introduction
            In English language publications, the Korean War has often been dubbed as the "forgotten war" because of its relatively smaller scale compared to adjacent wars such as World War II and the Vietnam War. Consequently, it is less illustrated in movies, yet there are some memorable pieces to look over. The three Korean War movies that will be discussed are the following: Pork Chop Hill (1959), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), and TaeGukGi: Brotherhood of War (2004). This paper will focus on the depiction of the Korean War and its historical significance.

II. Brief Overview of the Movies

II.1 Pork Chop Hill

II.1.1 General
            Pork Chop Hill is a war film produced in 1959, only six years after the Korean War has ended. It is based on the eponymous book by military historian S. L. A Marshall that recounts the bitterly fierce first Battle of Pork Chop Hill between soldiers of the U.S. Army and the Chinese Communist Forces in the end of the Korean War, in April of 1953.

II.1.2 Plot
            Even until the last minute of the war, when cease-fire negotiations are to be signed, American soldiers are sent to recapture Pork Chop Hill from the Chinese Army force. The soldiers apparently do not welcome the order because they do not want to spare their lives when the war is almost over, yet loyal lieutenant Joe Clemons leads a troop of 135 men to the front. Overwhelmed by the counterattack of the Chinese forces, only 25 men survive when the American forces recapture the hill. Lieutenant Clemons requests for reinforcement and supplies, but the headquarter hesitates due to its consideration of diplomatic factors. At the negotiation table of Panmunjom, the U.S. wants expeditious progress, but the Chinese refuse to compromise. The Chinese, instead, prepare for another battle to recapture the hill. The U.S. headquarters finally decide to send reinforcements, leading to American victory.

II.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri

II.2.1 General
            The Bridges at Toko-Ri is a 1954 film based on a novel by James Michener about a Korean War pilot assigned to bomb a group of heavily defended bridges (Wikipedia). The movie portrays the internal conflict pilot Brubaker go through as he undertakes a mission to destroy a series of bridges at Toko-ri.

II.2.2 Plot
            In this drama that focuses on the futility of war, Harry Brubaker is a former military pilot who served in World War II. He feels disappointment when he is called up from reserve status to serve the country once again in the Korean War. Despite his bitterness towards the war, Brubaker accepts his new mission to blow up a series of strategically crucial bridges without much complaint.
            Before the mission commences, Brubaker has a chance to meet his wife and two daughters in Tokyo. Yet, the reunion triggers internal conflict inside Brubaker between his responsibility as a member of a family and a pilot serving his country. While the reunion weakens his military spirit, Brubaker ultimately devotes himself to what he is asked for during the bombing mission. In the end, Brubaker dies during executing his mission.

II.3. TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War

II.3.1 General
            Released in 2004, TaeGukGi is a Korean film about two brothers that go through the turmoil of the Korean War. With a grand budget of \14,700,000,000, the movie concentrates on the altered life of the two brothers and the tragic fate of the older brother Jin-tae faces to save his younger brother Jin-suk.

II.3.2 Plot
            Jin-tae is the head of his family, responsible for his aphasic mother, fianc? Young-shin, and younger brother Jin-suk. Jin-tae works assiduously not only to sustain his family¡¯s life in Seoul, but also to earn tuition for Jin-suk, the only person being educated in the family.
            At the outbreak of the War, the brothers are drafted to the South Korean army. While searching any possible way to exempt his brother from conscription, Jin-tae finds out that he can discharge his younger brother from military service if Jin-tae earns a national medal of recognition. Jin-tae gradually, but conspicuously, becomes a war addict for the sole purpose to save his younger brother.
            Jin-tae joins the North Korean army to seek revenge, as he misunderstood that the South Korean army killed his brother. The two brothers fight on different sides until their dramatic reunion in the middle of a fierce battle. Yet, Jin-tae tragically faces death as he once again attempts to save Jin-suk.

III. Comparative Analysis

III.1. Theme and its Delivery
            The common factor the three films share is, of course, the depiction of the futility of the Korean War. Yet, there are both major and subtle differences that differentiate the three films from each other

III.1.1 Pork Chop Hill
            In the movie, the sole purpose of recapturing the hill for both Americans and Chinese is to show each side¡¯s resolve and serious attitude towards the war. Although it is obvious for both that the war will end as a truce anyhow, whether who occupies the hill, battles do not cease, and men continue to die in these meaningless fights. The prevalent question the movie brings up is, therefore, "Why must precious lives be taken away in this meaningless fight ?"
            A rather complicated method is adopted to convey its theme of futility, because soldiers in this movie fight bravely, without much complaint. The soldiers do not retreat in unfavorable situations, and the commanders nobly lead their men in the way front. Even characters that seem a bit stupid or dull stay in combat bravely, adding a sense of reality and touching the audience emotionally. The problem is that it is not easy to raise the question of why men are fighting and portray courageous soldiers simultaneously. To effectively convey its central question, the Chinese propaganda broadcasting becomes an important element in the movie. The American soldiers are depicted as honest and loyal all the way, and the Chinese propaganda broadcasting explains the meaningless aspects of this war. Chinese propaganda talks about "the futility of war", "the invaluableness of life", and "the irony of combat during truce negotiations." As a result, the audience can watch the courageous American soldiers while questioning the meaninglessness of war at the same time.
            The message of the movie can be affirmed in the ending scene of the movie, where protagonist lieutenant Clemons talks about the ironic value of Pork Chop Hill. Pork Chop Hill is a place that has gained strategic value because it had no value to begin with. The reason people value diamonds is not that it provides any immediate convenience to us, but that people consider it rare and precious. Yet, so many men have died to recapture a small hill that does not have any value except for the fact that it has no value; Clemons says this hill is valuable because so many men have died for it. This is a self-ridicule and, at the same time, a philosophical paradox.

III.1.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
            The protagonist Lieutenant Harry Brubaker is a character loved by many people in the movie. Not only is he the husband of a lovely woman and a father of two girls, but he is a pilot that reminds his boss Admiral Tarrant of his dead son, and a trusted colleague of his fellow crewmen. As he was recruited to the Korean War, he left behind his successful legal career behind. At first glance, this movie could look like a propaganda film because the protagonist pilot Brubaker places his responsibility as a pilot above his love of his family. Although Brubaker was told that he did not have to participate in the mission if he did not want to, Brubaker decides to join the bombing mission. It is only at the ending where the central theme explicitly reveals itself; the central question of "The Bridges of Toko-Ri" is "What is the justification for a war that takes away the lives of our men ?"
            A considerable portion of the movie is dedicated to describing the internal conflict Brubaker goes through. He possesses ambivalence towards this war because he is disappointed that he had to leave behind his beloved ones and his legal career, yet at the same time feels obligation to serve his country that needs his skills as an adroit pilot. Throughout the movie, obstacles are placed before Brubaker. From the beginning, he is bitter about the fact that he is called from reserve status; his reunion with his family in Tokyo undermines his devotion to the war; when he is sick after he is allocated of a mission, his physical conditions reflect his mental instability of undertaking this mission. Despite all these unfavorable conditions, Brubaker participates in the mission and dies during battle.
            Yet, the heroic depiction of Brubaker no longer receives spotlight when Admiral Tarrant questions himself "Where do we get such men ?" after he is informed of the death of Brubaker. Because Brubaker was an existence that reminded Tarrant of his son that died in WWII, the question Tarrant asks himself involves the audience to question the justification of a war that brings so much tragedy into an individual's life. Consequently, more emphasis is put on lamenting the death of a pilot than commemorating his bravery or responsibility.

III.1.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
            Although there is a common factor that connects the three movies, the theme of "TaeGukGi is quite different from those of the two previous ones. Rather than questioning the cause, justification, responsibility of the tragic event, this movie focuses more on the emotional and mental devastation of the Korean people and the nation. To achieve its purpose to depict the psychological devastation of the Korean people and connect emotionally with the audience, various dramatic elements are placed throughout the movie.
            The most noticeable is definitely the dramatic, almost too dramatic, elements placed throughout the whole movie. The less-educated, older one Jin-tae tries to protect the educated, na?ve, younger one Jin-suk, who represents the family¡¯s hopes and dreams. The two brothers are forcefully drafted in front of their aphasic mother, who can do nothing but shed tears before the two brothers, whom she might never see again. Jin-tae's fianc? is shot before Jin-tae's eyes as she was accused for helping communists. Jin-tae slowly becomes a war addict because of his obsession with the national medal, the only method to exempt Jin-suk from military service. Jin-tae faces a tragic and lonely death after a dramatic reunion of the two brothers. From the beginning to the end, dramatic elements are thoroughly penetrated so that the audience could empathize with the characters.
            Another method to deliver the theme is the complex depiction of Jin-tae's transformation of this personality. In the beginning of the movie, Jin-tae is an uneducated, bright, innocent, and responsible young man that is devoted to his family, especially his beloved brother. Then, he becomes a sacrificing, compelling older brother that is respected as a war hero by others. In the end, he turns into an insane war addict that cannot even recognize his brother, the reason he fought this war, at first glance. The gradual, but conspicuous, transformation of Jin-tae emphasizes the tragedy that an individual or a family had to experience because of this war.

III.2. Historical Accuracy of details

III.2.1 Pork Chop Hill
            Some details mentioned in the movie show much historical accuracy. One of the most noticeable is the usage of bulletproof vests. In the front part of the movie, a few soldiers hold a conversation about their bullet proof vests. This is historically accurate because it is from the Korean War, when the U.S. army began to provide its soldiers with bulletproof vests, M1952A, made of fiberglass. Even until World War II, the U.S. army used armor vests.
            Another noticeable detail is the appearance of Japanese and African American soldiers. It was only from after the Korean War that diverse ethnicities were allocated to the same troop. Before the Korean War, troops consisted of mainly one ethnicity, so Japanese or African Americans would not be fighting together with Caucasians as depicted in this movie.

III.2.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
            This movie also depicts the war rather similarly to the reality. Although the appearing carriers and jets are not the exact same model, the movie succeeded in conveying the mood or environment of the war with the technical support from the U.S. navy.

III.2.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
            In contrast to the normal expectations, the historical accuracy of TaeGukGi is quite dubious, probably because of the dramatic effect it wanted to achieve.
            The most obvious flaw is its depiction of battles. The most dominant method of battle in the movie is hand-to-hand combat; close fights occur throughout the movie. Furthermore, the soldiers frequently abandon their weapons and fight with their bare fists. However, a hand-to-hand combat of a large scale practically did not occur in the real war and forces that were either damaged or killed due to such hand-to-hand battles were less than 1%.
            Another flaw is the depiction of the streets of Seoul. While the markets of Seoul are full of people in the movie, the streets were not that lively or full in reality. Also, in the last scene, the scenery of Seoul is dramatized because it contains so much people in the severely damaged streets. It could add literary elements by contrasting the liveliness and brutality more strikingly, the accuracy of historical depiction is rather questionable.

III.3. Historical Context and Significance

III.3.1 Pork Chop Hill
            Pork Chop Hill is memorable for the fact that it portrays the typical type of battles of the latter part of the Korean War. Large scale battles occurred mainly during the first 10 months (June 1950 - April 1951) when General MacArthur was in command. After MacArthur was replaced by Matthew Ridgway, the direction of the war was maintaining the status quo for the UN army. After truce negotiations began in July 1951, most large scale battles no longer happened, and most of the conflicts would be small scale battles to gain comparative advantage in certain regions.
            Yet, the negotiations were protracted and such small scale, exhausting battles were held for another two years. In other words, small scale conflicts were the typical battles that occurred during most of the war period. In such a sense, Pork Chop Hill gains significance because it portrays, with reliable accuracy, the frequently held small battles in Korea, where there are many mountains and hills. It depicts the meaningless wars that happened during the two years when the negotiations were in a stalemate, delivering a pretty precise image of what the energy-consuming Korean War was like during the latter two years.
            Another noticeable fact is that the movie is apparently in line with the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s as it tells the true story of the assault on Pork Chop Hill by American troops during the peace talks as they were determined to the communists that the war would continue indefinitely if the peace negotiations fell through (Korean War film). At the negotiation tables, the Chinese are illustrated as the obstacles to reaching a conclusion.

III.3.2 The Bridges at Toko-Ri
            The Bridges of Toko-Ri has ambiguous aspects. It illustrates Brubaker as a brave and appraised pilot while questioning the cause of the war at the same time. In other words, it has the potential to be defined either as a propaganda film or an anti-war film. Yet, considering its serious and professional tone throughout the movie, it is more convincible to say the heroic description is rather a tribute to the war veterans or propaganda of the glory of the American troops rather than an active propaganda to attract young men to the army.
            Also, the protagonist Brubaker does not necessarily have to be interpreted as a Korean War veteran, but a veteran that has participated in any war the U.S. was involved. It does not concentrate on any distinctively Korean features or any unique circumstance the Korean War was under. Also, the communist side is not presented much, and the movie is extensively concentrated on the 'individual' Brubaker.
            Therefore, this movie has a characteristic of commemorating the participants of the war and showing the human and professional resolution, organization and sacrifice that prosecution of war requires (nytimes), rather than questioning the particularly the Korean War.

III.3.3 TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War
            A movie about the Korean War, produced by a Korean director, targeted for a Korean audience inevitably gains more significance to the Korean society than can other war films have. Although the Korean War is often dubbed as the "forgotten war", it was obviously the most devastating war the Korean people have ever experienced and the pivotal point in modern Korean history. Even until now, the generation that directly experienced the war and remembers its tragedy are alive and has social power in the Korean society. Furthermore, the phenomenal records at the box office also prove that this movie has some social and historical significance in the Korean society.
            One of the most noticeable facts about this movie is that it avoided showing any political inclination or ideological background. Instead, the main conflict occurs between the individual and the nation. Both North Korea and South Korea are depicted as brutal states that sacrifice the lives of so many innocent people for a theoretical fight; neither one is shown as more favorable. Such an approach could be explained by the movie¡¯s ultimate purpose: commercial success. The younger generation, the main target for the film industry, did not directly experience the war nor do they put value on ideology. Therefore, the producers excluded political elements and replaced it with a Hollywood formula: family values.
            Another historical significance of this movie is the social impact it has brought. Over a quarter of the South Korean population, approximately 12,000,000 people, watched this movie. When the movie was released, it was literally a social phenomenon. The movie provided an opportunity in which Koreans could once again commemorate the pain of the Korean War that the older generation had to bare.
            However, there are some limits as well. As the critique's say, the ultimate purpose of a movie, especially a blockbuster like this one, is to gain economic profit. While such commercial nature could beget a novel style or approach, it also has the potential ending up as a mere amusement for the contemporary audience. The lack of the depiction of the Korean War is also a limit. Because the main force of this movie is emotional elements rather than a strong and convincing story line, accurate depictions of the Korean War is not necessary. In other words, this story could be applied to any two brothers that participated in war together. Although the Korean people would almost automatically connect ¡®the war¡¯ with the 'Korean War' even without any further explanation, the lack of the details of the Korean War undermines the historical value of the film.

IV Conclusion
            Although commonly including the "futility of the Korean War" the styles and approaches of each of the movies differ. Pork Chop Hill attempted to show the unique features of the Korean War with a realistic point of view. It also had some anti-communist elements as well. The Bridges of Toko-Ri had less of a 'Korean' touch since it did not deal with the meaninglessness of the Korean War in particular, but mainly dealt with an individual's struggle facing war. TaeGukGi : Brotherhood of War is almost completely excluded any political implications and even put in false details of the Korean War for a more dramatic effect.
            Even with these different approaches and styles, the three movies have succeeded in delivering its unique message to the audience, and deserve to be remembered amng the greatest Korean War films.


Notes

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Bibliography

Note : websites quoted below were visited in March 2008.
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