Joint Security Area (film)

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Joint Security Area
Joint Security Area movie poster
Hangul JSA
Hanja JSA
Revised Romanization Gongdonggyeongbiguyeok jeieseuei
McCune–Reischauer Kongdonggyŏngbiguyŏk cheiesŭei
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Produced by Shim Jae-myung
Lee Eun
Written by Kim Hyun-seok
Jeong Seong-san
Lee Moo-yeong
Park Chan-wook
Based on DMZ 
by Park Sang-yeon
Starring Lee Young-ae
Lee Byung-hun
Song Kang-ho
Music by Jo Yeong-wook
Cinematography Kim Seong-bok
Edited by Kim Sang-bum
Myung Films
Distributed by CJ Entertainment
Release dates
  • September 9, 2000 (2000-09-09)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget US$3 million

Joint Security Area (Korean: 공동경비구역 JSA) is a 2000 South Korean mystery thriller film starring Lee Young-ae, Lee Byung-hun and Song Kang-ho. It was directed by Park Chan-wook and is based on the novel DMZ by Park Sang-yeon. The film, which was shot on location in South Korea, concerns an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a fatal shooting incident within the DMZ, the heavily fortified border that separates North and South Korea.

It was the highest grossing film in Korean film history at the time and won Best Film at the 2000 Blue Dragon Film Awards and the 2001 Grand Bell Awards.


Two North Korean soldiers are killed in the DMZ at a North Korean border house, before Sergeant Lee Soo-hyeok (Lee Byung-hun), a South Korean soldier on border duties, attempts to flee back to the South Korean side. The southern troops rescue him while the gunfire erupts and, two days later, the fragile relationship between the two Koreas depends on a special investigation conducted by Swiss Army Major Sophie E. Jean (Lee Young-ae) on behalf of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.

As Sergeant Lee Soo-hyeok has confessed to the shootings, Sophie investigates why the two Koreas have contradicting accounts of events; Soo-hyeok's states he was knocked out and kidnapped while relieving himself and, waking tied up in the North Korean border house, secretly freed himself and shot three North Korean soldiers, leaving two dead. The North Korean survivor Sergeant Oh Kyeong-pil (Song Kang-ho) states that Soo-Hyeok barged into the border house and shot everyone before retreating when the wounded Kyeong-pil returned fire.

The autopsy report shows that one soldier, Jeong Woo-jin (Shin Ha-kyun), was shot eight times repeatedly, indicating a grudge was held; additionally, a single bullet is not accounted for. Over the course of the investigation, witness Private First Class Nam Sung-shik (Kim Tae-woo) attempts suicide by jumping out of the window of the interrogation room, and Sophie deduces that he, along with the surviving soldiers and Woo-jin, held a mutual friendship.

Explained through flashbacks it is shown that Soo-hyeok was on patrol with other soldiers, only to get lost on the North Korean side and to partially trip a mine; found by Kyeong-pil and Woo-jin, the two deactivate the mine, which later prompts Soo-hyeok to throw written messages over the border to maintain contact. Eventually inviting Soo-hyeok across the border, the three become a group of friends that soon includes Sung-shik, with the four agreeing to leave politics out of their friendship so to remain loyal to their own country.

As tensions rise between the North and South, Soo-hyeok and Sung-shik return to the North to say goodbye and celebrate Woo-jin's birthday, only to be discovered by a commanding officer from the North and resulting in a Mexican Standoff. Despite Woo-jin panicking and betraying his friends, Kyeong-pil convinces Woo-jin, Soo-hyeok and the officer to lower their weapons, only for Sung-shik to panic and shoot the commanding officer when he reaches for his radio; when Woo-jin draws his gun again, Sung-shik kills him, before shooting his corpse several times out of anger. Kyeong-pil persuades Sung-shik to lay down the gun and for the two to flee with a false alibi of being kidnapped, before throwing away the evidence that he and Woo-jin were fraternizing with Southern soldiers. After shooting Kyeong-pil to complete his alibi, Sung-shik and Soo-hyeok flee across the border, with the former getting past unseen; since Soo-hyeok has a wounded leg from the firefight, he is the only soldier seen.

Sophie is removed from the case as her father is discovered to have North Korean ties during the Korean War and thus making her a non-neutral. She unofficially confirms events first with Kyeong-pil and then Soo-hyeok; she finds the missing bullet was lodged in the evidence thrown away by Kyeong-pil, but cannot figure out who really shot Woo-jin due to a remaining inconsistency in their stories. Sophie hugs Soo-hyeok and wishes him well, only for Soo-hyeok to steal an officer's pistol before committing suicide. It is revealed Soo-hyeok shot Woo-jin, and he committed suicide out of guilt for Woo-jin's death and Sung-shik's suicide attempt. The film concludes with a photograph of the joint security area that accidentally contains all four soldiers.



The film drew nearly half a million viewers in Seoul alone in its first week. Within 15 days of its release the film reached one million admissions and by early 2001 Joint Security Area had become the highest grossing film in Korean film history.[2] It was later passed by the films Friend, Silmido and Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War. Overall, JSA had 2,499,400 admissions in Seoul over its 20 weeks in the cinemas and an estimated 5.8 million admissions nationwide.[3] The film was also very successful in Japan where it grossed ¥1,160,000,000 becoming one of the top grossing foreign productions of 2001.[4]

A DVD of the movie was presented to North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il by South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun during the Korean summit in October 2007.[5]

In 2009, director Quentin Tarantino named the film as one of his twenty favorite films since 1992.[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

2000 Blue Dragon Film Awards[7][8]

2000 Busan Film Critics Awards

2000 Director's Cut Awards

2001 Deauville Asian Film Festival[9]

  • Lotus d'Or (Prix du Jury) ("Jury Prize")
  • Lotus du Public (Prix du Public) ("Popular Choice")
  • Lotus du Meilleur Acteur ("Best Actor") - Song Kang-ho

2001 Seattle International Film Festival[10]

  • New Director's Showcase Special Jury Prize

2001 Berlin International Film Festival[11]

  • Nomination - Golden Berlin Bear

2001 Baeksang Arts Awards[12]

2001 Grand Bell Awards[13]

  • Best Film
  • Best Actor - Song Kang-ho
  • Best Sound - Kim Seok-weon, Kim Won-yong
  • Best Art Direction
  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actor - Shin Ha-kyun

2001 Fantasia Festival[14]

  • Nomination - Best Film

2002 Blue Ribbon Awards[15]

  • Best Foreign Language Film

2003 Hong Kong Film Awards [16]

  • Nomination - Best Asian Film


A stage musical titled JSA: the Musical opened in April 2014 at the Dongsoong Art Center in Seoul's theater district of Daehangno. While the musical heavily borrows from Park Chan-wook's film, the script more closely resembles DMZ, the novel by Park Sang-yeon that inspired the movie.[17]

An eight-episode television miniseries also adapted from the novel DMZ will be produced by KBS, to be aired in September 2014 as part of the Drama Special Series.[18]

See also[edit]




  • Kim, Kyung-hyun (2004). "9. 'Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves': Transgressive Agents, National Security, and Blockbuster Aesthetics in Shiri and Joint Security Area". The Remasculinization of Korean Cinema. Durham and London: Duke University Press. pp. 259–276. ISBN 0-8223-3267-1. 

External links[edit]