Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)

South Korean KD Media DVD 2 disc edition Region 3 (with insert sheet to the right)

As i haven't watched any new Korean films for a while i rewatched this old favourite of mine, and when i write this down it's the end of June
2022. I first saw it in 2005 and for the second time in 2010. The film was a huge hit in South Korea and as the film has a strong anti-war message
it suits today, with Europe at War, very well, and the Warmongers will certainly drag the War to Asia too, corrupted War Pigs as they are.

WTD is a Fairy Tale Drama with burlesque comedy with a peace message and expressing the deep rooted longing of the Koreans for a united
Korea. The film looks just Beautiful with cinematography from Choi Sang-ho and with fine acting by Jung Jae-young and Shin Ha-kyun, and
.... Gang Hye-jung/Kang Hye-jeong as the Crazy Girl is just Adorable. Probably best known for her role in Park Chan-wook's "Oldboy" she
steals every scene she's in and she lightens up the screen with her charisma.

This film is a mainstream one but has so many unique moments to it that "Welcome to Dongmakgol" today feels as fresh as when i saw it for
the first time. The peace message of humans living together in harmony and to enjoy the wonders of Life instead of killing each other felt
intensely contemporary with the world today at the brink of nuclear war, and this just for geopolitical reasons, for bankers and weapons
manufacturers to go on and terrorize the world.
Were there anything to complain about in the film ? Maybe the more naturalistic humour (toilet scene) could've been skipped and the western
actors (with the exception of the american pilot played by Steve Taschler that was OK) all sucked. In the latter case just as lovers of Hong
Kong cinema know, all western actors (white demons, gwei lo) sucks, and especially so in the 1980's-1990's when seemingly backpacker
tourists were picked to "act" in Hong Kong films in minor roles.

Above: The lovely Kang Hye Jeong

The Story: It's September 1950 and a badly hit North Korean unit, attacked by both US and South military, is fleeing towards the mountains
and only three Northern soldiers survives the ordeal by mountain wall climbing and takes refuge at the the upper parts of the mountain.
They are the leader Lee Soo-hwa (Jung Jae-young), Elder Brother (Lim Ha-ryong) and the youngster Taek-gi (Ryu Duk-whan) and they
meet a friendly but strange girl acting as she's some wooden elf. She's Yeo-il (Gang Hye-jung) and she's crazy and takes them to her isolated
and probably to the outside world also an unknown or forgotten village - Dongmakgol.

The villagers call their visitors "People from down the Mountain". They seem to live a peaceful and happy life close to nature and they
worship ancient gods and with Shinto-like stone idols as seen in Japanese films i.a. in "Spirited Away" by Hayao Miyazaki, and they
don't eat meat. Does this sound too syrupy ? No, they are childlike and innocent farmers and very likeable, not at all annoying.

Above: "Fireworks"

But also two soldiers of the South army finds their way there, Lieutenant Pyo (Shin Ha-kyun) and a medic, and also there's already an US
pilot, Neil Smith (Steve Taschler) injured after a crash, resting there. This leads to an explosive situation, with some sort of standoff
where the soldiers points their weapons at each other. The villagers soon continues with their daily routines and the soldiers go on
with the threatening until they too gets too tired to bother with it. As times pass they start to slowly trust each other and to live in
harmony with the village folks. But it takes time to disperse the mistrust and a wild Boar attack finally breaks the ice between them.
BUT, Evil is on it's way with bombers planning to carpetbomb the area, and is there a way to save the village from obliteration ?

Highly recommended. A beautiful and just lovely film. The young northern soldier falls in love with Crazy Girl and who could blame
him as I would too for sure. The CGI in the film is quite old but works fine. Obviously the idea of an isolated and happy village up in
mountains isn't new and has been a motive in litterature, and the great Takashi Miike used it in his fantastic "The Birdpeople in China"
from 1998 (and my favourite Miike film, but possibly impossible to get hold of and with no Bluray disc in sight) a film that also have a
mountain village with serene people and a crashed plane (of a British pilot? Can't remember, haven't watched Bird people for 20 years).
Also, the fine soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi with the beautiful Waltz motive, and this can be found in the extras. Insert sheet.

The DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 with korean audio 5.1 or DD 2.0 and with english subtitles, region 3.
The extras in Korean and without english subtitles on Disc 2 are: Making Of/Behind the Scenes (19 minutes), Boogie Woogie (Song
number), Welcome to Dongmakgol behind the scenes (3 minutes), The Fellowship of the Dongmakgol (3 minutes), Original Soundtrack
by Joe Hisaishi (with i.a. the beautiful Waltz motive), Computer Graphic, Theatrical Trailer, Poster film, Music Video and photo gallery


Back to South Korean Film Page