Saturday, May 31, 2008

North Korean "Crossing" film painful to watch

The man whose personal tragedy formed the basis of much of a wrenching film about the human rights abuses in North Korea remains so traumatised that he refuses to watch it.

Cha In-pyo, one of Asia's top actors, stars as a North Korean miner Yoo Sang-jun whose undernourished, pregnant wife contracts tuberculosis. With no medicine available in the impoverished nation, Cha's character leaves his wife and 11-year-old son to travel to China to earn money for medicine. While he is away his wife dies. His starving son attempts to escape to China but is captured and placed in a re-education camp, where the most harrowing scenes of the film take place.

“I don't want to think about my past,” Yoo Sang-jun told The Times. “I hope the film can help the world know about North Korea.”

Mr Yoo's wife and a son died in the North Korean famine of the late 1990s. In 1998 he escaped to China with his surviving son, Chul-min. In 2002 Chul-min set off from China for Mongolia to be reunited with his father. In the barren frontier between the countries, lost, weak and exhausted, he died from exposure. Chul-min is buried under a wooden cross in the Mongolian desert. He was 10.

Kim Tae-kyun, the director of the film, said that he felt a “deep sense of shame” as he researched the film, said that half of its proceeds would go to help fugitives from the North and urged South Koreans to take greater interest in the ongoing tragedy.

“It would be pertinent if China's leadership watched this film,” Tim Peters, an American activist and friend of Mr Yoo, said. “With the stroke of a pen, they could stop thousands of tragedies.”

[Excerpt of an article by

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