The Front Line (2011 film)

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The Front Line
The Front Line (2011 film).jpg
South Korean Poster
Revised Romanization Gojijeon
McCune–Reischauer Kojijŏn
Directed by Jang Hoon
Produced by Lee Woo-jeong
Kim Hyeon-cheol
Written by Park Sang-yeon
Starring Shin Ha-kyun
Go Soo
Music by Jang Young-gyu
Cinematography Kim Woo-hyung
Edited by Kim Sang-bum
Kim Jae-bum
TPS Company
Distributed by Showbox
Release date
  • July 20, 2011 (2011-07-20)
Running time
133 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Box office US$20.6 million[1]

The Front Line (Hangul고지전; RRGojijeon; MRKojijŏn; also known as Battle of Highlands) is a 2011 South Korean war film directed by Jang Hoon, set during the 1953 ceasefire of the Korean War.[2][3][4][5][6] This is the third film by director Jang Hoon, after completing Secret Reunion and Rough Cut.[7][8] It was selected as South Korea's submission to the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film,[9][10] but did not make the final shortlist.[11] It also won four Grand Bell Awards, including Best Film.[12]


Early in the Korean War in 1950, as the North is rolling through South Korea, South Korean Army privates Kang Eun-pyo (Shin Ha-kyun) and Kim Soo-hyeok (Go Soo) are captured in battle and brought to North Korean captain Jung-yoon. Jung-yoon declares to the prisoners that the war will be over in a week and that he knows exactly why they are fighting the war, before releasing the prisoners, so that they can help reconstruct the nation after the war.

Three years later, in 1953, the war has not ended. Despite ceasefire negotiations, the fighting continues around the hills on the 38th Parallel, as each side fights to determine the future dividing line between North and South. The hills, used as bargaining chips in the negotiations, change hands constantly and so quickly that the ceasefire negotiators don't always know who controls them, yet they are coveted by both sides.

Amidst the fighting, a South Korean officer commanding 'Alligator' Company, fighting at the Aerok Hills, is found dead, killed by a Southern bullet. The now-First Lieutenant Eun-Pyo of the South Korean Army's Counterintelligence Corps (the precursor to South Korea's current Defense Security Command) is sent to investigate the murder and find an apparent mole there who had been mailing letters from Northern troops to into the South.

Eun-pyo arrives at the front lines accompanied by Captain Jae-oh, the replacement commanding officer, and new soldier Pvt. Nam Seong-shik. Eun-Pyo's perceptions change quickly upon arriving at the front. The acting commander, Captain Young-Il, though a skilled soldier, is addicted to morphine, the men actively wear captured enemy uniforms and use Communist vocabulary while talking. War orphans live among the soldiers, the discipline is lax, and the mental health of some men is questionable. Eun-Pyo's old friend Kim Soo-Hyeok reappears, now also a First Lieutenant. A far cry from the cowering incompetent Eun-pyo once knew, he has become a ruthless killer and expert platoon leader. The entire unit also seems burdened about something that happened in Pohang earlier in the war.

Their former captor, Jung-Yoon, is revealed to be commanding the North Korean forces against them; he too is severely strained by the war and is struggling to keep his similarly-battered veteran unit together. Captain Jae-oh makes a bad impression by ignoring the veteran officers' experience and makes serious tactical errors. Eun-pyo is stunned after witnessing Soo-hyeok murdering surrendered North Koreans as they do not have time to properly take them prisoner during a raid, before joining the rest of Alligator Company as they retake the hill from Northern hands. When the fighting ends, Eun-pyo discovers Seong-shik inexplicably drunk, leading him to discover Soo-Hyeok and other veteran soldiers enjoying the contents of a secret box buried within a cave in the hill that acts as a mail system and gift exchange between the opposing sides. Once a storage for the Southerners captured by the North, it was first used to trade insults, but evolved into exchanging pleasant letters and presents, with an occasional request for one side to send letters to their families in the other side; explaining the supposed 'mole' in the area. The veterans persuade Eun-pyo to keep quiet about their fraternization.

The winter turns to summer, but the fighting does not stop. During a patrol, Seong-shik is suddenly shot by "Two Seconds," a feared Communist sniper, so named due to the time between a victim being shot and the sound of the gunshot being heard. Although Eun-pyo attempts to save him, Soo-hyeok orders him to leave Seong-shik to die, baiting "Two Seconds" for an artillery strike that fails to kill the sniper. Eun-pyo attempts to hunt down "Two Seconds" alone, eventually subduing the sniper, only to find that 'he' is a female soldier named Cha Tae-kyeong, who is saddened by her having to kill Seong-shik, having recognized him over their battles and gift exchanges. He reluctantly lets her go. Eun-pyo confronts Soo-hyeok over his callousness, further inflamed when Soo-hyeok cruelly mocks one of the disabled children living in the camp, but their argument goes nowhere. Captain Young-il is wounded trying to calm a crazed veteran soldier demanding to see friends who died at Pohang. Upon Eun-pyo's questioning, Soo-hyeok reveals that the company had to abandon and kill many fellow soldiers during a rout at Pohang to save themselves, much to their shame and regret. The veteran is transferred out, doomed to a dishonorable discharge, and the orphans are evacuated as Soo-hyeok and Young-il re-install discipline and rebuild the men's will to fight.

Later, Chinese forces are deployed in human-wave tactics against the hill. During the battle, Jae-oh breaks under pressure and refuses to retreat, even as they are being overrun, over his subordinates' pleas. Soo-hyeok shoots Jae-Oh dead in front of Eun-pyo, takes command with Young-il, and leads the company to safety. Eun-pyo threatens to arrest him for Jae-oh's and the previous company commander's murders, but Soo-hyeok retorts that the two dead leaders were putting them at risk and had to be replaced for the good of the company. Soo-hyeok later falls victim to "Two Seconds," devastating Eun-Pyo and the others.

After the battle, the armistice agreement is signed, and celebrations start on both sides. North and South Korean troops encounter each other at a stream, but after a tense moment, quietly wave each other goodbye. However, the armistice will not take effect for another 12 hours. Both sides are ordered to capture and hold as much territory as possible, determining the final border between the two nations. In a savage climactic battle, everyone on both sides is killed, including Captain Young-il and Cha Tae-kyung the sniper, save for North Korean commander Jung-Yoon, albeit gravely wounded, and Eun-pyo.

The two men meet in the cave with the gift box. Eun-pyo asks Jung-yoon why exactly they are fighting. Jung-yoon replies that he knew once, but has now forgotten. They suddenly hear on the radio that the armistice has come into effect and all fighting is to cease immediately, to which they burst out laughing. They share a smoke, but Jung-Yoon succumbs to his wounds.

The film ends with a shell-shocked Eun-Pyo walking alone down the devastated, bloodsoaked hill covered by the corpses of all the fallen soldiers, leaving the ultimate fate of Aerok Hill unknown.


  • Shin Ha-kyun as First Lieutenant Kang Eun-Pyo
  • Go Soo as First Lieutenant Kim Soo-Hyeok
  • Lee Je-hoon as Captain Shin Il-Young, the young company commander.
  • Ryu Seung-soo as Oh Gi-Yeong
  • Ko Chang-seok as Master-Sergeant Yang Hyo-Sam
  • Kim Ok-bin as Cha Tae-Kyeong, the North Korean female sniper, known as 'Two Seconds' due to the time delay between her bullet hitting the target and the sound of the shot.
  • Ryu Seung-ryong as Hyeon Jeong-Yoon, the North Korean commander.
  • Lee David as Nam Seong-Shik, the recruit.
  • Seo Joon-yeol as tobacco soldier.
  • Choi Min as anti-aircraft army officer.
  • Jo Min-ho as 2P radio soldier.
  • Kim Rok-gyeong as reservist soldier.
  • Han Seong-yong as squad leader.
  • Ha Su-ho as Third Platoon member.
  • Yoon Min-soo as Alligator Company staff sergeant.
  • Cho Jin-woong as Yoo Jae-ho.
  • Park Yeong-seo as Hwang Seon-cheol.
  • Jung In-gi as Lee Sang-eok.
  • Woo Seung-min.
  • Jang In-ho.
  • Ha Seong-cheol.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
20th Buil Film Awards
Best Film The Front Line Won
Best Supporting Actor Ko Chang-seok Won
Best New Actor Lee Je-hoon Won
Best Art Direction Ryu Seong-hee Won
48th Grand Bell Awards
Best Film The Front Line Won
Best Director Jang Hoon Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ryu Seung-ryong Nominated
Best New Actor Lee Je-hoon Nominated
Best Screenplay Park Sang-yeon Nominated
Best Cinematography Kim Woo-hyung Won
Best Editing Kim Sang-bum, Kim Jae-bum Nominated
Best Lighting Kim Min-jae Won
Best Costume Design Jo Sang-gyeong Nominated
Best Visual Effects Jeong Seong-jin Nominated
Best Sound Effects Kim Suk-won, Kim Chang-seop Nominated
Best Planning Lee Woo-jeong Won
31st Korean Association of Film Critics Awards
Best Film The Front Line Won
Best Director Jang Hoon Won
Best Screenplay Park Sang-yeon Won
Best New Actor Lee Je-hoon Won
32nd Blue Dragon Film Awards
Best Film The Front Line Nominated
Best Director Jang Hoon Nominated
Best Actor Go Soo Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ko Chang-seok Nominated
Best New Actor Lee David Nominated
Best Screenplay Park Sang-yeon Nominated
Best Cinematography Kim Woo-hyung Won
Best Art Direction Ryu Seong-hee Won
Best Lighting Kim Min-jae Nominated
Best Music Jang Young-gyu, Dalparan Nominated
Technical Award (Visual Effects) Jeong Seong-jin Nominated
19th Korean Culture and Entertainment Awards
Best New Actor (Film) Lee Je-hoon Won
14th Udine Far East Film Festival
Audience Award The Front Line Won
48th Baeksang Arts Awards
Best Screenplay Park Sang-yeon Nominated
6th Asian Film Awards
Best Supporting Actor Lee Je-hoon Nominated
Best Cinematographer The Front Line Nominated
Best Production Designer Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gojijeon (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
  2. ^ Lee, Maggie (9 August 2011). "The Frontline: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
  3. ^ Lee, Hyo-won (11 July 2011). "'Front' brings harrowing views of war". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  4. ^ Elley, Derek (27 July 2011). "The Front Line". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 13 May 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Kuipers, Richard (23 October 2011). "The Front Line". Variety. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  6. ^ Paquet, Darcy. "The Front Line". Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  7. ^ Park, Sung-hee (16 June 2011). "The Front Line spotlights the Forgotten War". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  8. ^ Ki, Sun-min (22 July 2011). "Battlefield film begins at war's end". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 11 June 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Noh, Jean (2011-08-24). "South Korea submits The Front Line for Oscar race". Screen International. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  10. ^ "63 Countries Vie for 2011 Foreign Language Film Oscar". Archived from the original on 21 May 2012. Retrieved 2011-10-14. 
  11. ^ "9 Foreign Language Films Vie for Oscar". Archived from the original on 21 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  12. ^ "The Front Line top winner at Korea's Grand Bell Awards". Korean Film Council. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 

External links[edit]