Korea's "Bourne Identity" film highlights peninsula tensions

Wed Apr 3, 2013 2:51am EDT
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By Jane Chung

SEOUL (Reuters) - When North Korean spy Pyo Jong-seong's arms deal for Pyongyang goes wrong in Berlin, he knows it is time to flee with his wife from agents of the vengeful and isolated state - a country that recently said it was "in a state of war" with its neighbor.

Part of the thinking behind that belligerence, which has sent tensions on the Korean peninsula sky-rocketing, is on display in "The Berlin File," known as Korea's "Bourne Identity", which is currently showing in the United States and Canada as well as drawing millions of viewers in South Korea.

While the story, with its thriller plot and action sequences, is set against a background of the demise of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and a fictional power struggle, it contains some elements that are far too real.

"I thought it would be special if I told a story of people who lived in a city that was a special symbol of the Cold War and remain trapped in that era in the present day," said director Ryoo Seung-wan.

"Personally I feel honored that my work is compared with the Bourne series but did I deliberately imitate the series? No filmmaker would do so," the 40-year-old Ryoo added.

Made for less than $10 million, small beer by Hollywood standards but a big sum for a South Korean movie, "The Berlin File" incorporates elements from the Bourne movies, using graphic action sequences and a visceral combat style against the gray background of the German capital, itself once divided as the Korean peninsula remains today.

It stars Ha Jung-woo, a huge force in domestic Korean films, and Gianna Jun, once known as "Korea's sweetheart" for her romantic heroine roles.

"Since many Korean spy stories have been set in South Korea, there wasn't much room left for expanding a story," Ryoo said, explaining his decision to set the film in Berlin.   Continued...

Actor Han Suk-kyu, who plays the role of Jung Jin-soo in the movie "The Berlin File", is seen in this undated movie still photograph provided by CJ E&M on February 15, 2013 in Seoul. The movie, known as Korea's "Bourne Identity", currently showing in the United States and Canada as well as drawing millions of viewers in South Korea, is an attempt to address issues arising from the divisions on the peninsula. REUTERS/CJ E&M/Handout