In 2010, the clock of the Korean pop culture is set for June 1950. TV and movies will be flooded with war stories as this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. TV stations are raising their stakes in war-themed mega dramas and Chungmuro, the Korean counterpart of Hollywood, is also betting high on block-buster war movies.
Ammunition (casting of top stars) is loaded and the war chest (massive budget) is huge.
The battle between two major networks KBS and MBC first grabs attention. One turns the clock back and remakes "Comrades"
, a hit TV series of the 1970s into a modern war drama while the other meets the challenge head-on with a block buster costing 10 billion won in budget. KBS' 20-episode series "Comrades"
is the remake of a weekday TV series of the same title that was aired from 1975 to 1977. Both series are scheduled to start airing in June.
The 2010 version of "Comrades"
centers on the battlefields during the Korean War, focusing on comradeship among soldiers fighting for life under dire circumstances while depicting various kinds of people from all walks of life. Choi Soo-jong
was cast as the platoon leader, the lead character, making a comeback to TV after a 3-year hiatus. Each episode will cost 300 million won.
, chief producer of KBS said, "This is not a simple anti-communist drama. We are trying to graphically and vividly describe the horrible atrocities of the war and get the messages of opposing war and promoting peace across to today's viewers who are living in the era of material prosperity". He also added, "We are planning to make this drama one of KBS' flagship brands like "Hometown Legends" and switch it into a season.
"Road No. 1
" is MBC's ambitious work with 12 billion won budget. "Road No. 1
" refers to national highway No. 1 that connected Seoul and Pyongyang during the Korean War. The story evolves around friendship between a tough sergeant who was previously a servant and a clean-cut military academy cadet.
The screenplay was written by Han Ji-hoon
who also created the screenplay for "Taegukgi
: Brotherhood of War", a hit movie that 10 million people went to see and the TV drama "Time Between Dog and Wolf - Drama"
. Expectations are growing high for the drama starring So Ji-sub
, Yoon Kye-sang
and Kim Han-eul with veteran star actors such as Son Chang-min
and Choi Min-soo
playing the supporting characters. "Road No. 1
" producer Lee Jang-soo
said that the massive budget will certainly help bring greater spectacle and reality to the drama, making it even more entertaining and engaging.
Some critics view it as expanded reproduction of conservative ideology
A war is also going on in Chungmuro among film makers as they prepare to release new war movies in May and June. The stories widely range from student soldiers fighting in a battle to Yeonpyeong Naval Battles and budgets exceed 10 billion won, qualifying them as block busters.
"71-Into the Fire
slated for release in June is a story about 71 student soldiers and the North Korean People's Army fighting a 12 hour battle toward the end of Nakdong River Battle during the Korean War. kwon Sang-woo
and TOP (Choi Seung-hyeon
) of idol group "Big Bang"
appear as student soldiers. High pro-file actors Cha Seung-won
and Kim Seung-woo
will also play in the drama starring top actors and actresses. "Road No. 1
" is a mega drama costing a total of 15 billion won including marketing costs.
The story of the second Naval Battle of Yeongpyeong that took place in 2002 will be made into two movies tentatively titled "Areumdaun Uri" ("We Are Beautiful") and Yeonpyeong Haejeon ("Yeonpyeong Maritime Clash)". Kwak Geyong-taek, the director of the hit movie "Friend"
(2001) will head the production of "We Are Beautiful". It will be a 3D live-action movie created with a budget of 20 billion won. Throwing down the gauntlet, Baek Woon-hak
, the director of "Tube"
(2003) will present another version of the tragic battle on screen, "Yeonpyeong Maritime Clash". The film with 12 billion won budget will hit screens in May.
TV drama critic Jeong Deok-hyeon said, "If stories are good and cinematography is excellent, I think dramas about the Korean War have a good potential to compete not only in Asia but also in global markets, given the fact that Korea remains the only divided country in the world".
However, chances are high that stories appealing only to viewers' patriotism can easily fail. Movie critic Kim Bong-seok said, "Generally, war movies tend to end up with a dichotomy between good and evil and there is also limit to the plot or how far the facts can be stretched". He pointed out, "Profound insight and hard thinking are required in order to present the well-known story of the Korean War in a fresh perspective and to balance between spectacle and humanism". Some critics worry that there might be an ulterior motive behind all this fuss over the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, that is, to reproduce and expand the conservative ideology.
Source: Korea Press Foundation