White Badge (Ha-yanjeonjaeng) (1992)|
Director Jeong Ji-Young
Production Company Dae Il Films Co., Ltd
Date of Rate 1992-06-22
Date of Theatrical Release 1992-07-04
Running Time 124 min.
Opening Theater Hoam Art Hall, Yun Heung Theater
Writer Ahn Jeong-Hyo
Screenplay(Adaptation) Jeong Ji-Young, Kong Su-Young, Cho Young-Cheol, Shim Seung-Bo
Producer Kook Jong-Nam
Director of PhotoGraphy Yoo Young-Kil
Gaffer Kim Dong-Ho
Music Shin Byeong-Ha
Editor Kim Hyeon
Ahn Seong-Ki, Lee Kyeong-Young, Shim Hye-Jin, Han Ji-Il, Kim Se-Jun
Wallowing in inexplicable lethargy since his return from the Vietnam War, novelist Han Ki-ju (Ahn Sung-ki) is separated from his wife and living a bleak life. He begins publishing a serial novel about the war in a monthly current events magazine, and the work stirs up his nightmarish memories of Vietnam. Then one day, he gets an unexpected phone call from Byeon Jin-su (Lee Kyeong-young), a fellow soldier who fought alongside him in the war.
At first, the unit Han and Byeon are assigned to enjoys several uneventful months with no Vietcong in sight. During those months, Byeon carries on a correspondence with Sergeant Kim Mun-ki's younger sister Yeong-ok (Shim Hye-jin), who is greatly admired by the men in the unit. Han, Byeon, and their fellow soldiers come into increasing contact with the atrocities of war, and become infected by its insanity with each casualty. After mistaking a civilian for a Vietcong guerilla and killing him, Sergeant Kim (Dokko Young-jae) forces Byeon and Song (Park hong-kun) to slaughter more civilians. This causes Song to lose his mind with guilt and kill Sergeant Kim in the night. As a result of this incident, Byeon's mental state begins to grow unstable as well.
With the end of their tour of duty drawing near, Han's unit takes part in one final mission. Entrusted with guarding the rear, the men go into it with a light heart, but the unit ends up serving as bait for the enemy. Han and his fellow soldiers spend a night from hell, and only seven men out of a total of forty-seven emerge with their lives.
Byeon returns to Korea and moves in with Yeong-ok, who has become a prostitute. But the trauma of the war drives him insane. Yeong-ok eventually leaves him, and he reacts by cutting off his own ear. When Han comes to see him at the hospital, he asks his old war buddy to kill him with the pistol he entrusted to him. Han points the gun at Byeon and pulls the trigger.
Korean cinema's first reconsideration of the Vietnam War
The viewpoint Jeong Ji-young's White Badge takes toward the Vietnam conflict diverges drastically from that seen in existing movies on the subject. One could even say that the director blatantly portrays the Korean soldiers in the war as mercenaries of sorts. The film goes beyond simply looking back on the Vietnam War (which was a major event in contemporary Korean history) with a self-critical gaze, and realistically depicts the pervasive and lingering evils of war by showing how it destroys not only the lives of those who are killed but also the souls of those who do the killing. This is what makes White Badge exceptional. To achieve its objective, the movie does more than just show the ravages of war on the battlefield; it goes on to represent in detail the post-war existence and internal landscapes of two soldiers who were utterly devastated by their experiences in Vietnam. As befits a film that had a then-unprecedented budget of 2 billion won, the spectacular battle scenes in White Badge far surpass those of previous Korean War movies. Containing a revisionist outlook on contemporary Korean history after democratization, the film keenly reflects the ideological contours and discursive foundations of Korean society at the time. Together, White Badge and North Korean Partisan in South Korea (Nambugun) established Jeong Ji-young's reputation as a maker of social-problem films.
- The movie is based on Ahn Jeong-hyo's novel, which the author himself translated into English under the title of White Badge. The English version was published in the U.S. and sold over a million copies worldwide.
- After White Badge opened in theatres, the Korean Overseas Veterans Association claimed that the movie "damaged the dignity and reputation of 320,000 Korean veterans of the Vietnam War" and asked the censorship board to order certain scenes to be cut from the existing version.
Director Bio: Jeong Ji-young (1946- )
Director Jeong Ji-young was born in 1946, in Cheongju, Chungcheongbuk-do. He made his decision to become a director as a freshman in high school after watching Aimless Bullet (Obaltan) and also loved the Hitchcock film, Psycho. In 1967, he entered the Department of Theatre and Film Art at Dongguk University. Then, in 1968, he transferred to Korea University as a sophomore to major in French literature. After graduating from Korea University in 1975, he worked as an assistant director to director Kim Soo-yong, working with him on 10 movies between 1976 and 1978, including Forest Fire (Sanbul) and A Splendid Outing (Hwalyeohan oechul). He made his directorial debut in 1982 with Mist Whispers Like Women (Angaeneun yeojacheoleom sogsag-inda). He went on to make North Korean Partisan in South Korea (Nambugun) in 1990, White Badge (Ha-yanjeonjaeng) in 1992 and Life of Hollywood Kid (Halriudeu kideu-ui saenge) in 1994, earning a reputation for social criticism in his films. He led a petition drive of people in the movie industry opposing the April 19th denial of the regime of the President Jeon Du-hwan for an amendment to the constitution, And from 1988, he led a movement opposing the direct import of films made by United International Pictures. He also has been at the forefront of the movement opposing the gradual reduction and eventual elimination of the Screen Quota since 1998.