|Answer: < Piagol (Pi-agol) > (Lee Gang-cheon, 1955)
< Piagol (Pi-agol) >, a movie produced and directed by Lee Gang-cheon (1921-1993) in 1955, may seem like nothing more than a violation of the National Security Law. But most anti-Communist films can only be properly evaluated when viewed in the perspective of the social context they were made. < Piagol (Pi-agol) > was made just 2 years after the Korean War and it was a time when hostile moods were still strong within the peninsula with spy and guerilla activities from North Korea. In fact, < Piagol (Pi-agol) > was shot where North Korean guerilla forces were active and the film crew had to risk their lives to make the movie. The media made an issue of North Korean guerilla activities quite often and war was not a past, but still an ongoing threat to most people of that time. This is when < Piagol (Pi-agol) > came into the scene.
< Piagol (Pi-agol) >’s unique characteristic and problem is that only North Korean guerillas appear in this movie ? there are no South Korean soldiers and police officers. Unlike newspaper articles or documentary films where guerillas were depicted as anonymous villains or murderers with no emotions, < Piagol (Pi-agol) > was a film and each character had to be unique even if he or she was a guerilla. Naturally, there were human conflicts and interactions amongst characters. This was the initial attack from the media. People were disturbed at the humane depiction of guerilla forces (Critiques like Lee Yeong-il, the author of , dubbed the film as a realistic anti-Communist movie and gave it high marks for artistic accomplishment for this exact reason). Because audiences at the time were unable to distinguish clearly between fiction and reality, and play films and documentary films, and since anti-Communism was more an issue of survival than ideology, the fact that North Korean guerillas are human, too, and the fact that no South Korean soldiers or police force appear to eliminate the guerillas in the film may have been extremely threatening. As a matter of fact, some infamous leaders of the North Korean guerilla forces, such as Lee Hyeon-sang, were legendary, and even glorified, for their ability to escape from the South Korean police forces in almost impossible situations. This probably instigated a greater level of fear among people.
In this film, one of the main characters, the guerilla leader Ah Ga-ri (played by Lee Ye-chun), is depicted as a ruthless fighter, but his dreams reflect the internal conflicts he harbors about his acts of cruelty, and his strong faith in his ideology strike a chord of sympathy within audiences. And the female executive officer Ae-ran (played by No Gyeong-hee), who is competent, decisive, and thoroughly loyal to the Communist ideology until the middle of the story, is depicted as a very attractive woman. In contrast, Cheol-su (Kim Jin-gyu), who is skeptical about Communism from the start, is a disinterested and helpless character who has no ambitions or goals; a typical bourgeois intellect. He is unable to leave the mountain until Ae-ran persuades him.
The focal point regarding the anti-Communist debate surrounding this movie is that the character conflicts introduced in the movie are not based on ideology or direct criticisms on Communism. The conflict is based merely on the difficulties of living in a mountain and romantic relationships among guerilla members. For these reasons, < Piagol (Pi-agol) > becomes thrown into the heart of anti-Communist and pro-Communist debates.
Poet Kim Jong-mun pointed out specific scenes from this movie in his article ‘Blind Spots of Anti-Communist Films Made in Korea’ on July 24th, 1955 (Korea Daily), and argues that this film cannot be categorized as an anti-Communist movie. In particular, the last scene where Ae-ran helps Cheol-su, who has been injured, down the mountain, her lines accentuate her romantic relationship or her aversion to life in the mountains (her final words, “We may be eaten by crows running around Piagol like this forever,” or “I don’t know why, but I feel young at heart again!”) rather than anti-Communism. In response to this, scenario writer Oh Yeong-jin defends < Piagol (Pi-agol) >, arguing that the movie is an anti-Communist film, much more sophisticated than its predecessors. This resulted in a heated debate. In the end, the Ministry of Culture and Education concludes that the final scene does not symbolize a return to ‘the arms of free Korea’ and that the film depicts South Korea as a country with weak security, thereby banning the movie from theaters.
In the face of this situation, Director Lee Gang-cheon has no choice but to edit the last scene of his film for re-evaluation. The last scene where Ae-ran walks off to the horizon by herself is overlapped by an image of the Korean flag to clearly alter the scene as Ae-ran walking into the ‘arms of free Korea.’ This alternate scene is still the final scene of < Piagol (Pi-agol) > to this day.