Tuesday, 17 January 2017
Review of the DPRK Film "Fate of Kum Hui and Un Hui "by Dr Dermot Hudson
DPRK Films are all too often dismissed by Western critics as simplistic and propagandist but in fact they are often deeply complex, for example the multi-part "Nation and Destiny ". The classic 1970s DPRK film "The Fate of Kum Hui and Un Hui" is no exception.Several themes are embodied are embodied in the film; the superiority of the socialist system of the DPRK over the south Korean puppet capitalist system,the issue of Korea's division, the issue of families divided and separated as a result of Korea's division and relationships within a family. The film is set during the "speed campaign " of the 1970s, which forms a sort of backdrop in the later parts of the film, but draws extensively on flashbacks to the past.
The story really begins in the 1940s following Korea's liberation from Japanese imperialist colonial rule.A penniless art student originally from the north Korean city of Wonsan but now in south Korea, as he had tried to go to University in south Korea but was kicked out because he could not pay the fees, meets up with a fisherman on a beach.They are joined the widowed father of two twin baby girls Kum Hui and Un Hui. Sadly he passes away with the twins in his hands. Un Hui is taken by the fisherman's family who already have several children but very kindly adopt the baby girl.Kum Hui gets pneumonia,her adoptive father desperately tries to get medical treatment for her but is told point blank "liberation does not mean free medical care" . So he resolves to go to the DPRK to get medical attention for Kum Hui and for a better future. He manages to get past American and south Korean guards and makes it to the DPRK. Kum Hui receives medical treatment ,thanks to the socialist system of the DPRK , and fully recovers. Kum Hui becomes a professional dancer. Her adoptive father fulfils his wish to be an artist becoming a skilled painter.
By chance the painter meets the fisherman he had met 20 years ago on a beach in south Korea. The former fisherman is now a Captain in the DPRK Fishing fleet. The Captain tells the sad story of Un Hui. Un Hui had developed a talent for singing . She is noticed an unscrupulous capitalist who deceives her an takes her to be a singer in a rather decadent nightclub(the film hints this is some kind of brothel or has associations with prostitution).Basically she has been sold into slavery.Un Hui's father comes looking for her. He is met with scorn and contempt from the nightclub owner who demands 80,000 won for Un Hui. The nightclub owners men cruelly beat Un Hui's adoptive dad, this is one of the more harrowing scenes in the film. The nightclub owner then calls the corrupt south Korean police to arrest him. This shows the extreme injustice of south Korean society where those who try to stand up for themselves as brutally punished by the authorities.On his return to the village Un Hui's adoptive father gets into a confrontation with the unscrupulous and degenerate capitalist who sold Un Hui to the nigthclub owner. In the heat of the confrontation the capitalist is beaten to death. So the poor fisherman and his eldest son escape to the DPRK in order avoid the arbitrary 'justice ' of corrupt south Korea.
Un Hui herself escapes from the nightclub owner but is knocked down by a passing car and is left permanently disabled on crutches.Her family become homeless are forced to live in a rubbish dump by the river.
The depiction of south Korea in the film is quite different to the rose tinted and laudatory Western imperialist propaganda about "modernity " and "wealth" .Instead we see the real south Korea , the south Korea of slums, homelessness,debt slavery,corruption and above all the US military occupation.
The film is set in the time of the Park Chung fascist military dictatorship , now his daughter Park Geun Hye has been ruler of south Korea until December last year and may return to power. I suspect little has changed in south Korea since the film was made.
There is a montage of scenes of socialist construction in the DPRK as portraying the heat of the "speed campaign " of the mid 70s in the DPRK. Kum Hui tours the country with other singers and dancers encouraging workers and fishermen in their work.
The film climaxes as Kum Hui learns that she is really adopted. Her adopted father tells her about her sister Un Hui.There is deep reflection on different themes in the film and the conclusion that Korea must be reunified but this is being blocked by the US imperialists and south Korean puppet clique. This is graphically demonstrated by a picture of a sneering US military policeman at the DMZ.
The film is very moving film which shows the superiority of Juche-based socialism over south Korea dependent neo-colonial puppet capitalism but it does so in a very human way. It also brings to the fore the human tragedies caused by Korea's division and the corrupt rule of US imperialism in south Korea.
Once again the superiority of the DPRK's Juche film industry over banal and decadent films of the capitalist world is demonstrated.
Dr Dermot Hudson.
Official Delegate UK KFA