Korean war film: ‘The front line’

Among the films vying for this year’s Oscar for best foreign film is Jang Hun’s Korean War film ‘The front line’. The story line is straightforward: on the eve of the signing of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, effectively freezing the lines of the then three year old war in place, a South Korean unit is sent to hold a piece of land which in the last 18 months of the war had changed hands 30 times. In other words, strategically speaking, it had little military value other than a ‘baroud d’honneur’ or a desperate fight, perhaps lost before it happened, carried out to save the honour of the army or the ROK. [‘Hamburger Hill’ should come easily to mind for film buffs.]

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What strikes the eye of the non Korean viewer is at least two things: a nuanced view of the North Koreans and the fact, often hidden or denied in the US narrative of the war, the ‘front line’ is a last ditch battle in a ‘civil war’.
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