Unsung Heroes

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This article is about the North Korean Film. For other uses, see Unsung Heroes (disambiguation).
Unsung Heroes
JenkinsUnsungHeroes.jpg
Charles Robert Jenkins as Dr. Kelton, the fictional mastermind behind the Korean War
Chosŏn'gŭl 이름 없는 영웅
Hancha 이름 없는
McCune–Reischauer Irŭm Ŏmnŭn Yŏng'ungdŭl
Revised Romanization Ireum Eomneun Yeong'ungdeul
Directed by Ryu Ho-son, Ko Hak-lim
Written by Lee Jin-woo
Starring Kim Ryong-lin
Kim Jung-hwa
Jung Woon-mo
Distributed by Chosun Art Film
Language Korean

Unsung Heroes, also known as Unknown Heroes or more literally as Nameless Heroes, is a North Korean film series about a spy in Seoul during the Korean War. Over twenty hours long, it was filmed and released in multiple parts between 1978 and 1981.[1] It was the recipient of the Kim Il-sung Medal.[2]

Production and reaction[edit]

Unsung Heroes received a widespread favourable reception in the domestic market, according to North Korean state-owned newspapers. Lead actor Kim Ryong-lin, who played the hero Yu Rim, stated that it was one of his favourite roles in over 20 years of acting; in a 1981 interview, he remarked that people had begun calling him Yu Rim instead of his real name after the series began, which he actually enjoyed because of his admiration for the character. Actress Kim Jung-hwa, who played female lead Kim Soon-hee, initially felt that she was unsuited for the role, as she had no prior military experience, or even experience playing a spy on-screen; her only preparation consisted of reading several books and interviewing real spies. The director Ryu Ho-son stated that his favourite scene was the one from the "Madonna Teahouse" in Part 5, in which former lovers Yu Rim and Kim Soon-hee each learn that the other is a North Korean agent.[3]

Unsung Heroes was also responsible for propelling American defectors James Joseph Dresnok and Charles Robert Jenkins to minor celebrity status in North Korea. However, it did not receive public attention in the United States until 1996, when the U.S. Department of Defense obtained a copy of the movie; a report issued by five of their analysts identified Jenkins and one other unnamed American (later discovered to be Dresnok) as actors in the movie, providing the first evidence in three decades that Jenkins was still alive.[4][5] Dresnok's popularity in his role is such that people in North Korea routinely refer to him as "Arthur," the name of the character he played in the film.[6]

Unsung Heroes was broadcast on television in China in 1982, and released on DVD in 2003 by Dalian Audiovisual Publishing House. It was also screened in Japan during the Kitakyushu Biennial 2007.[2][7] Its theme song "Embrace the Song of Happiness" (기쁨의 노래 안고 함께 가리라; Kibbŭmŭi Norae Ango Hamkke Karira), composed by Chŏn Tong-u, remains widely known in North Korea; Grand National Party member Yu Hong-jun, head of South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration, became the center of controversy in 2005 when he sang the song at an official dinner while visiting North Korea.[8][9]

Plot[edit]

The plot of Unsung Heroes is based on some actual historical events, but many names and details were changed for propaganda purposes. The movie opens with an unidentified spy master giving instructions to protagonist Yu Rim, a Korean expatriate in the United Kingdom working as a journalist, who is ordered to proceed to Seoul and gather intelligence on the United States Forces Korea. Initially, he only has three contacts in Seoul: Park Mu, the chief press officer for the Republic of Korea Army, Janet O'Neill, the wife of senior American intelligence official Dr. Kelton, and Lee Hong-sik, his handler, through whom he maintains contact with Pyongyang. Once there, Yu also runs into his old lover Kim Soon-hee, who is apparently employed by the United States Counter Intelligence Corps, and is introduced to Colonel Klaus. Yu begins gathering intelligence on a coup plot by rightist South Korean general Sin Jae-sin, which Lee helps him pass back to North Korea using his unwitting friend Kim Su-gyong as a courier. Lee is suspected by a US counter intelligence agent Martin who found Lee takes care of homeless kids. Soon after, Lee is killed in a shootout with CIC agents, including Kim Soon-hee, leaving Yu unable to pass his crucial intelligence back to his government. Yu calls Lee from a bar and found the person on the other side is not Lee thus hangs up immediately. However, a waitress in that bar is arrested and tortured by Colonel Klaus, who learns that a man suspected to be Yu was seen making the phone call.[1]

Yu flees to a Hong Kong safehouse run by a North Korean singer, where he is instructed to return to Seoul and contact an agent code-named White Horse. However, he is suspicious of White Horse, and sets a trap for him, in which he is revealed to be working with Colonel Klaus for the Americans, and is killed by an unknown person. Yu obtained the information from Janet O'Neill that John Foster Dulles is visiting Europe to get reinforcement. Yu meets Lewis, a British army low rank officer from an Irish Proletariat family, and makes him a Communist, to relay this information; Lewis stages his own kidnapping so that he can disappear to the North for training, and later returns to Seoul. Two months later, Yu receives a coded message on Voice of Korea instructing him to contact an agent named Diamond, who turns out to be his old lover Kim Soon-hee, ostensibly working for the Americans, but really a double agent for North Korean intelligence. With Dulles's agenda exposed to the media, the US thus plans a battle for demonstration, but Yu obtains this information from Park Mu. Americans are defeated by a well prepared North Korean army, and failed to get more reinforcement from European allies.[1]

Yu continues to gather intelligence on General Sin's coup attempt, this time passing messages back to Pyongyang by way of a radio operator disguised as a disabled veteran who begs outside hotels. Yu hides messages in cigarette filters, which he then throws on the ground near the beggar. However, he is unaware that he is being followed by the CIC, who are filming his activities. Colonel Klaus hears about a North Korean spy disguised as a veteran, and begins reviewing video tapes to check on Yu's activities. Kim saves the day by cutting the scenes out of the tapes to avoid further suspicion falling on Yu, but the disappearance of the scenes triggers Klaus' suspicion towards Kim herself instead. Klaus stages a test of loyalty for her, in which she is kidnapped and threatened with execution by American agents in Hokkaidō, Japan pretending to be Communists; however, Kim correctly senses this is a trap, and escapes by killing the agents.[1]

Park Mu realizes that Yu and Kim are spies without any evidence. As the person who leaks out the demonstration battle intelligence, Park is pushed by Klaus, and kills Kim who tries to protect Yu. Later, Yu kills Park for revenge.

At the end, North Korean armies starts new attacks, and forces the allies to peace negotiation. Due to Yu's effort, Sin Jae-sin's coup is crashed by South Korean president Syngman Rhee's agents. Sin commits suicide. Yu left Korea. Klaus, being afraid that his wrongdoings which Yu told Dr. Kelton will be blamed, commits suicide also.

Characters[edit]

Episodes[edit]

Year[1] No. Korean title English translation Hanja McCune-Reischauer Revised Romanisation
1978 1 《적후에서》 Behind Enemy Lines 《敵後에서》 Chŏkhu esŏ Jeokhu eseo
2 《적후에서 또 적후에로》 Behind Enemy Lines Again 《敵後에서 또 敵後에로》 Chŏkhu esŏ tto Chŏkhu ero Jeokhu eseo tto Jeokhu ero
1979 3 《적후에서 홀로》 Alone Behind Enemy Lines 《敵後에서 홀로》 Chŏkhu esŏ Hollo Jeokhu eseo Hollo
4 《옛성터에서》 In Ancient Ruins 《옛城터에서》 Yessŏngtŏ esŏ Yesseongteo eseo
5 《금강석》 Diamond 《金剛石》 Kŭmgamsŏk Geumgamseok
6 《한밤중의 저격사건》 Shooting at Midnight 《한밤中의 狙擊事件》 Hanbamjung'ŭi Chŏgyŏksagŏn Hanbamjung'eui Jeogyeoksageon
7 《정적속에서의 전투》 Battle in the Midst of Calm 《靜寂속에서의 戰鬪》 Chŏngjŏksok'ŭi Chŏntu Jeongjeoksok'eui Jeontu
1980 8 《위험한 대결》 A Dangerous Confrontation 《危險한 對決》 Uihŏmhan Taegyŏl Uiheomhan Daegyeol
9 《안개작전》 Operation Fog 《안개作戰》 Angaejakjŏn Angaejakjeon
10 《위기》 Peril 《危機》 Uigi Uigi
11 《일요일에 있은 일》 What Happens on Sunday 《日曜日에 있은 일》 Ilyoil e Issŭn Il Ilyoil e Isseun Il
12 《웃음속에 비낀 그늘》 The shade cast by laughter 《웃음속에 비낀 그늘》 Usŭmsok e Pikkin Kŭnŭl Useumsok e Bikkin Geuneul
13 《판문점》 Panmunjeom 《板門店》 Panmunjŏm Banmunjeom
14 《죽음의 섬》 Island of Death 《죽음의 섬》 Chukŭmŭi Sŏm Jugeumui Seom
15 《달없는 그밤에》 On that Moonless Night 《달없는 그밤에》 Talŏmnŭn Kŭbam e Daleomneun Geubam e
16 《전투는 계속된다》 The Battle Continues 《戰鬪는 繼續된다》 Chŏntunŭn Kyesok Toenda Jeontuneun Gyesok Doenda
17 《유인》 Seduction 《誘引》 Yu'in Yu-in
18 《운명》 Destiny 《運命》 Unmyŏng Unmyeong
1981 19 《붉은 저녁노을》 Evening Glow 《붉은 저녁노을》 Polkŭn Chŏnyŏk Noŭl Bolgeun Jeonyeok No-eul
20 《우리는 잊지 않는다》 We do Not Forget 《우리는 잊지 않는다》 Urinŭn Ijji Annŭnda Urineun Ijji Anneunda

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Lee, Wha-rang (2004), "Film Review: The Unsung Heroes", Korea Web Weekly, retrieved 2007-06-18 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Unsung Heroes: Episode 19 of 20, Kitakyushu Bienniale, 2007, retrieved 2007-06-18 
  3. ^ "在故事片《無名英雄》攝製完畢之後 (After the completion of "Unsung Heroes")", Chaoxian Huabao (6), 1981, retrieved 2008-04-18 
  4. ^ Specht, Wayne (2002-10-22), "What happened to GI patrolling DMZ in '65?", Stars and Stripes, archived from the original on 7 October 2007, retrieved 2007-06-18 
  5. ^ Spiller, Penny (2007-01-23), "Last US defector in North Korea", BBC News, retrieved 2007-06-22 
  6. ^ a b Gordon, Daniel; Bonner, Nicholas (2006), Crossing the Line, First aired in 2007 by the BBC .
  7. ^ 中朝音像店 《無名英雄》, SinoKorea Net, retrieved 2007-06-21 
  8. ^ Im, Jong-jin (2005-06-16), "유홍준 ‘북한 노래’ 정치권 논란 (Yu Hong-jun's "North Korean song" political controversy)", The Hankyoreh, retrieved 2008-04-18 
  9. ^ Son, Chi-wŏn (2005-08-25), "전동우, 1931.4.20∼1999.10.9 (Chŏn Tong-u, 20 April 1931 - 9 October 1999)", Choson Sinbo, retrieved 2008-04-18 
  10. ^ Charles Robert Jenkins, The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea, page 95
  11. ^ Han, Yeong-jin (2006-04-08). "北 혼혈인, 공민권 박탈 …… 후대생산 불가 (Civil rights of mixed-race people in North Korea abrogated; not allowed to have children)". Daily NK. Retrieved 2008-04-18. 
  12. ^ a b c Swift, Earl (2004-09-08), "The Defector", Style Weekly, archived from the original on 2006-05-09, retrieved 2008-04-18