Korean War comes back to life

9 09 2010

(SBS Film, 06 September 2010) Cinema depicting the Korean War can help raise awareness of the conflict and offer clues to how ultimately Korea might be unified, according to Leonid Petrov, an organiser of the Korean War in Film screening and discussion program.

The lion’s share of Australia’s Korean community is from the South; with only about 10,000 of a 125,000-strong Korean population having their roots in North Korea. As such, within the local Korean community, perspectives on the 1950-1953 war are largely one-sided.

Petrov, who lectures in Korean Studies at the University of Sydney, says many Koreans living in Australia have a somewhat limited knowledge of their nation’s history. Young South Koreans are particularly curious about their past, particularly as North Korea remains isolated to this day, whilst the North-South struggle for State legitimacy continues. Here, Petrov believes “the art of film plays a role”.

Organised in conjunction with the Korean Media and Culture Club (KMCC), the Korean War in Film event is taking place over three successive Wednesdays this month, following an earlier round of screenings held in May 2010.

The following three films are being shown:

Kang Je-gyu’s The Brotherhood of War (2004), the highest-grossing Korean film of all time upon its theatrical release, revolving around two brothers who are drafted into the army by force during the outbreak of the Korean War.

Lewis Milestone-directed US film Pork Chop Hill (1959), which depicts the fierce battle fought between the US Army and Chinese and Korean Communist forces at the tail end of the War.

Kim Song Gyo’s On the Railway (1960), a North Korean classic set during the autumn of 1950, when a locomotive engineer is attempting to evacuate precious machinery and equipment during the North Korean retreat.

“Until the early ‘90s, the Korean film industry was suppressed, there were only about a dozen films a year and they were underfunded,” Petrov explains. “They managed somehow to produce good quality films, but could not compete with Hollywood blockbusters.

“Then the legislation changed and quotas became favourable to local films. More investment came and venture capital streamed into the industry. Films started to be exported, along with Korean songs, fashion design, computer games, industrial design etc.”

Despite this cultural gain, Petrov stresses that a “Cold War structure” remains in the region; not only in Korea but in China and Taiwan and Japan and Russia.

Locally, the Korean community is very tight-knit, with organised cultural activity revolving around Korean businesses, Korean newspapers and, especially, the Korean church.

Founded by fellow Korean Studies lecturer, Ki-sung Kwak, the KMCC is an informal group that aims to promote Korean culture and foster social interaction through social activities including seminars and film screenings.

“We not only wish to show films but also have some sort of activity,” Ki-Sung explains. “We would like to have performances by Korean musicians and artists living in Sydney and other Australian cities, and we plan to invite people from the local community to talk about issues, such as the relationship between the North and South.”

Less active in recent times, the club held a film festival event in both 2006 and 2007, which received generous support from the Korean consulate. Ki-sung admits it is a challenge to refresh club membership amongst the student base.

“I really want the club to be very active but when our members graduate we have to encourage new members to join the club,” he says. “What I actually plan to do is ask some student representatives to actually run the club.”

Aside from students moving on, the proliferation of Korean product available on DVD presents a further challenge to the club.

“When we first showed a Korean film here, it was back in 1999,” Ki-sung says. “DVD was not so popular, and we attracted about 300 people from the community.

“Also, with the internet, people can now easily download movies. The Korean government is planning to develop technology to download a two-hour film in less than 10 seconds, so that’s quite attractive.”

The Korean Media and Culture Club screenings are held at the University of Sydney. For information visit http://sydney.edu.au/arts/korean/societies/index.shtml

N.Korea secures World Cup broadcast deal

16 06 2010

North Korea: Broadcast Union Says Soccer Coverage Is a Gift (AP, June 15, 2010) Asia’s broadcasting union said Tuesday that it was providing North Korea with free live coverage of World Cup matches so that its citizens could enjoy the sport and get a feel for life outside their isolated nation. John Barton, the sport director of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said he signed a contract with the World Cup organizer, FIFA, on Friday to broadcast the matches live into North Korea. Mr. Barton dismissed as “rubbish” reports accusing North Korea of broadcasting pirated recordings of several matches.

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, 15 June 2010) — North Korea has secured legal rights to air World Cup matches live, Asia’s broadcasting union said Tuesday, denying the reclusive state had pirated a recording of the opening fixture.

According to South Korean broadcaster SBS, the North’s Korean Central Broadcast Service (KBS) aired Friday’s opening 1-1 draw between hosts South Africa and Mexico without permission. But the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union said North Korea — whose team is competing at the World Cup for the first time in 44 years — had used legal footage “right from the start” following a deal between the union and FIFA.

KBS is a member of the TV union, which has agreed with football’s world governing body to air the tournament live in six other impoverished countries — East Timor, Laos, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. “We have signed a contract with FIFA on June 11, just before the opening game started, to broadcast the matches live in North Korea,” a spokeswoman at the Kuala Lumpur-based broadcasting union told AFP. “It’s not true to say they have broadcast a pirate recording for the opening match. Right from the start, North Korea has been using the feeds from FIFA legally,” she said, while declining to detail the terms of the agreement.

South Korea are also competing in South Africa, and SBS says it holds the broadcast rights for the entire Korean peninsula. North Korea, whose national side open their campaign later Tuesday against five-time champions Brazil, wanted the South to provide free footage, as it had done for the 2006 tournament in Germany. But SBS said last week that negotiations with North Korea over a fee had broken down. It said the talks had been coloured by tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang over the sinking of a South Korean warship in March…

…Four years ago, South Korea’s then-liberal government spent 150 million won (132,600 dollars) subsidising World Cup broadcasts to North Korea.

N.Korea Shows Pirate Broadcasts of World Cup

(Chosun Ilbo, 14 June 2010) North Korea’s Central TV illegally aired the opener of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on Saturday evening despite having failed to buy the broadcasting rights. The broadcast showed about an hour and 20 minutes of footage of Friday’s opener between South Africa and Mexico.

As if mindful of accusations of piracy, the channel erased inscriptions at the top and bottom of the screen showing the source of the program. An announcer and a commentator voiced over the original broadcasters after muting the original noise soundtrack, with the result that stadium noise was almost completely lost.

SBS TV in Seoul, which holds the exclusive rights for the Korean Peninsula, says this was an “act of piracy.” “The North’s broadcast of the World Cup matches was illegal because our negotiations with North Koreans were suspended,” an SBS spokesman said. “We’ll decide how to respond once we find out where the North got the footage.”

In the 2006 World Cup, the North was given broadcasting rights for free by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. In 2002, it also broadcast matches illegally.

On Sunday, the North only broadcast edited games between Uruguay and France and between Argentina and Nigeria and skipped the South Korea-Greece match altogether.