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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 05:52 GMT
Korean film bridges divide
North Korean border guard
The film describes life in the border zone
By Caroline Gluck in Seoul

A copy of a film that has broken box office records in South Korea and is set in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas is being sent to Pyongyang at the request of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.

The film, called "Joint Security Area" or JSA, is a murder mystery centred on the illicit friendships that develop between soldiers from the two Koreas who patrol the border separating both countries, who still remain technically at war.

It is the first time that a South Korean film is to be officially shown in North Korea.

Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il has himself directed films
JSA has become the biggest box office hit in South Korea, attracting audiences of more than two million.

The demilitarised zone was the most visible symbol of the cold war divide.

The film is also one of the few movies to portray North Koreans in a sympathetic light, showing them with a sense of humour, warmth and bravery.

Private screening

The director said he wanted to show that Koreans from both sides of the divide could live together if it were not for Cold War politics and ideology.

Now the hit film is set to get a private screening in North Korea at the request of its leader, Kim Jong-il, a self-confessed movie fan.

Chairman Kim, who has directed films in the past, has also fuelled speculation in the South that he might make a film based on the life of South Korean President, Kim Dae-jung.

During the recent visit to Pyongyang by the US Secretary of State, he said that President Kim's life, which involved exile, imprisonment and assassination attempts, would make a perfect subject for a movie.

At their historic summit in June, the two Korean leaders pledged to turn their backs on half a century of cold war hostility and work towards reconciliation.

Cultural exchanges were seen as helping to promote better understanding and thaw icy relations between the two nations.

The screening of JSA in North Korea could play an important role as part of that process.

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See also:

25 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Albright: Openness key to Korean peace
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N Korea's dramatic turnaround
23 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
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Korean missile breakthrough
12 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Stalemate ends N Korea missile talks
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