he forgotten sacrifices made by young South Korean sailors during a bloody naval clash with North Korea 13 years ago will be portrayed on the silver screen in a new film funded partly by citizens.
The movie titled “Battle of Yeonpyeong,” to be released next week, is based on the naval skirmish between the two Koreas on June 29, 2002, in waters off the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea.
Six sailors were killed and 18 others were injured after a fierce exchange of fire, which was sparked when two North Korean patrol boats infiltrated the maritime border.
The occasion, which is known to also have caused some 30 casualties in the North, is called the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong, with the first battle taking place in 1999. “I’ve wanted to depict the ironic situation where the young sailors, who are someone’s beloved sons, fathers, and friends, were killed on one side, while others were overwhelmed by the 2002 World Cup,” Kim Hak-soon, director of the film, said Wednesday ahead of a press preview.
The second Yeonpyeong battle is often called “a forgotten conflict” here, as the tragedy was overshadowed by the unprecedented nationwide fervent festive mood over the sporting event. On the day of the skirmish, South Korea played against Turkey but failed to take third place at the World Cup.
After seven years of twists and turns since filming first began, the movie is to be released next week. Due to difficulties in securing funding by private entities and the Navy, the producer fund-raised some 2 billion won (US$1.79 million), some 25 percent of the total production cost, from about 7,000 citizens.
“I hope that this film gives audiences a chance to think of the stark reality of where we live now,” he said. “I tried to re-enact what happened to the sailors as it was.”
Thirteen years on, tension still runs high along the western inter-Korean sea border.
North Korea has launched provocative actions near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, demanding that the border be drawn further south as the current one was decided by U.S.-led U.N. forces at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
In November 2009, another skirmish between the navies of the two Koreas took place off South Korea’s western border island of Daecheong. A North Korean patrol boat was seriously damaged and a handful of sailors were wounded or killed, while the South Korean Navy sustained no casualties. The following year, Pyongyang launched an artillery attack against Yeonpyeong Island, killing two marines and two civilians and wounding more than a dozen others.