Across China, the war epic “The Battle at Lake Changjin” is filling theaters and breaking box office records. Set on the Korean peninsula and related to the bloody Korean War of 1950-53, the film is the world’s highest-grossing film of the year.
The film has faced sharp criticism in South Korea, raising the possibility that the film may not even find a local distributor.
For many South Koreans, the film is yet another propaganda material full of historical inaccuracies that has been handled by the Chinese government to incite deep patriotic feelings among “Jhen An”.
Some critics say that the film was released to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.
Others are angry that the Chinese are being told that the country’s “heroic” volunteers brought peace to the peninsula through their self-sacrifice, and insist that Beijing is trying to rewrite history.
Han Ye-jung, a lawyer for the Seoul office of an international law firm, said: “China is very powerful economically and they are becoming more aggressive towards their neighbours, and they seem to think that the power they have to change history. gives the right.”
“I think that [South] Korean people are angry and disappointed by this.
‘Another example of propaganda’
Han said he is not surprised about the latest film, highlighting that another Chinese-made war film, “The Sacrifice”, was scheduled to be released in South Korea in September. Instead, the film faced such fierce opposition from veterans and politicians that the local distributor canceled its release.
In a statement, the Korean Veterans Association described Sacrifice’s release as “an act of contempt against war veterans and patriots who participated in the Korean War.”
The association said, “It is an anti-national act that goes against the system of liberal democracy, to show a propaganda film to our youth today that describes Chinese soldiers as heroes, when they have actually infiltrated our country.” Those who did were part of the war.”
According to Han, The Battle at Lake Changjin is another example of propaganda. She says North Korea began a three-year conflict by invading the South, then Beijing came to Pyongyang’s aid when UN forces pushed North Korean forces nearly to the Chinese border.
“If China had not helped the north and attacked the south, the war would have ended long ago and hundreds of thousands of people would not have died,” she said. “Instead, the fighting lasted until 1953, the damage to the south was terrible and we still live on a divided peninsula.”
“It’s the reality of the Chinese attack on Korea, not what they’re portraying in this film,” Han said.
What happened at Changjin Lake?
The film tells the story of one of the bloodiest encounters of the entire conflict, from a Chinese point of view.
In December 1950, six months after the initial North Korean offensive, troops from the South were forced to withdraw to the ever-shrinking perimeter around the southern city of Busan, the United Nations – led primarily by US forces – from the pre-war had moved beyond the border and the Chinese were moving towards the border.
Some 30,000 American troops headed for Changjin Lake – known to the west as the Chosin Reservoir – when they suddenly encountered eight divisions, or 150,000 fresh Chinese troops.
The US managed to evacuate most of its troops by road to the port of Hungnam, from where they were evacuated.
About 18,000 American soldiers were killed, captured, wounded or listed as missing. On the Chinese side, there were more than 48,000 deaths. Many people also lost their lives due to bad weather.
‘Whiteness of Truth’
The film comes at a time when Beijing and Washington are at geopolitical, economic and military loggerheads.
Chinese state-run newspaper The Global Times claimed that the film “highlighted the patriotic spirit of people across the country amid the tense Sino-US competition.”
It also reported that “many residents” in Shenyang, China’s northeastern Liaoning province, “came to mourn the heroes by laying flowers on the graves of those killed in the conflict”.
The Global Times quoted a retired military officer as saying that he went to see the film on release day, and that he would “move on like an older generation,” “if ordered.”
Rah Jong-yil, a former diplomat who was 10 when the war broke out, slammed the film as “nonsense” propaganda.
“But it’s disturbing,” Rah said. He said, “The Chinese say they were fighting for North Korea and resisting US aggression, but Beijing was acting in its own interest at the time and does not want to see Korea unified and supported by the US on its border.” was,” he said.
“They want to change the story of what happened before and during the war, which is dangerous because the Chinese people have no way of knowing that this is propaganda,” said Rah, who had a fight close to that village. Have vivid memories of the place from where he was taken out for security.
“We Koreans know that we have been attacked and attacked by the North Koreans and then the Chinese,” he said. “It is just whitewashing the truth. But who can stop the Chinese government from telling these things to its people?”