North Korea

Controversial Chinese teaser for film on Korean war revives debate on China’s role in the deadly conflict

Short promotion shows elderly Chinese boasting about coming to Seoul ‘holding Chinese flag’ 60 years ago

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 11:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 11:02pm

A teaser for a patriotic film that features Chinese veterans of the Korean war has ignited controversy in China and revived debate over the country’s controversial role in the deadly conflict six decades ago.

It has also triggered calls on Chinese social media to boycott My War, by Hong Kong director Oxide Pang and due to premiere on Thursday, as some internet users said the film treated poorly historical facts of the war that killed hundreds of thousands of soldiers from China and more from the two Koreas, which remain divided and hostile to each other.

The two-minute teaser shows a group of elderly Chinese tourists on a bus in Seoul as a young Korean tour guide welcomes them on their first trip to South Korea’s capital city.

An old lady interrupts, telling the guide they had visited before in the past.

“Lady, we came here before, about 60 years ago,” an old man says.

“We held the Chinese flag and came here,” another man explains.

China's Korean war veterans still waiting for answers, 60 years on

The tour guide, wearing traditional Korean dress, looks puzzled, asking how they would hold the Chinese flag in Seoul.

The tourists tell the guide she will realise how they did so after she sees My War.

“Resist US aggression and aid Korea, protect our home and defend our country,” the tourists chant at the end of the teaser.

The slogan is widely used in Communist propaganda to describe China’s role in coming to North Korea’s aid in 1950, resulting in the deaths of between 149,000 and 400,000 Chinese soldiers.

“I will not watch My War,” Lin Qi, a history professor at Harbin Normal University, posted on his Weibo microblog. “As more historical facts are revealed, people are becoming increasingly aware of the cruelty of that war and its hurt to the nations and people involved.”

“It seems that we don’t have a bottom line when promoting patriotism,” posted an online commenter. “Imagine this – if a group of senior Japanese tourists came to Nanjing and told a Chinese tour guide that they came here more than 70 years ago holding the flag of the rising sun during the Nanking Massacre, what would you think?

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“The actors in the My War teaser cheerfully talk about a period of history that was humiliating and disastrous for South Koreans,” the commenter continues.

Pang, who made his name in horror films, has since tried to distance himself from the teaser.

“The content of the promotion video is of no relevance to the film,” he posted on his Weibo microblog on Monday. “The film expresses the cruelty of war and people’s complex emotions from separation and reunion.”

The film, which stars mainland Chinese actors Liu Ye and Wang Luodan as well as Taiwanese actor Tony Yang, tells love stories of young Chinese soldiers from the People’s Volunteer Army who flooded the Korean peninsula to aid China’s northern ally in early 1950s.

South Korea sends back remains of Chinese Korean War dead

Beijing has been reluctant to declassify documents that may look into its decision to cross the border to rush to Pyongyang’s aid in 1950, a move portrayed in the Chinese official view as a necessary intervention to protect China from US aggression.

It is widely believed it was Beijing’s intervention that saved the North Korean regime from collapse at the time.

However, questions about that decision have grown in recent years as Beijing’s relations with North Korea, an ally once described by Mao Zedong as being “as close as lips and teeth”, takes on a new complexity after a series of nuclear tests by the regime of Kim Jong-un. The present leader is the grandson of Kim Il-sung, the leader of North Korea when the war began.

North Korea’s tests also confront Beijing with a strategic dilemma – despite strong opposition from Beijing, South Korea has agreed to deploy a US-backed advanced anti-missile system to protect itself from missile threats from the North, and signs have emerged that Seoul is moving closer to the Washington-Tokyo alliance, rather than Beijing, in the face of a more rebellious Pyongyang.

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“The impact of [Beijing’s] decision to step into the war is clear now,” Zhao Hu, a Beijing-based lawyer, wrote on his microblog. “We can see a nation has been divided into the North and the South, and countless Chinese died while benefiting three generations of [North Korea’s Kim] family. Are we still proud of that?”