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O Youth! (1994, English Subtitles)

“O Youth!” is a rare attempt at comedy from the DPRK. More specifically, romantic comedy. The film is about a family with 6 siblings, five of which are young sportswomen. The sixth is a 30 year old man, who is consumed with his studies and has not yet married. His mother wants him to marry an effeminate girl, because sportswomen do not serve the nation properly. His father and sisters want him to marry a sportswoman. The son falls in love with a woman who initially appears to be an embroiderer, but is, in fact, a Tae-kwon-do instructor.

SPOILERS BELOW

The humor is mostly situational, with various amounts of confusion arising from different characters not knowing what is going on. The mother seems to be relied upon as the main source of humor, as she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants, and never lets anyone else get a word in edgewise. However, there are moments where the couple and the father provide humor as well.

Eventually, the son and Taekwondo instructor fall in love regardless of the other characters. The mother is not convinced until she sees the Tae-kwon-do instructor win a gold medal for the DPRK and espouse the greatness of the Socialist System and Kim Jong-Il to the BBC. Then, she realizes what athletes can do for the Fatherland, and accepts the advantages of getting married later in life.

Random Notes:
During a critical scene towards the end of the movie (1:08:02) the two characters talk about how the DPRK is great not because it invented Tae-kwon-do, but because they have such an incredible leader that re-kindled interest in Tae-kwon-do and guides them so well.
1:18:39- A Korean is rather hilariously dressed to look like a foreign tourist, to the left of the mother.
Also, this movie brings attention to the fact that in the DPRK, you don’t get your own apartment until you are married.

From Spring to Summer (1988, English Subtitles)

From Spring to Summer (1988, English Subtitles)

Alternate Title: Utomlyonnoye solntse

This is a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics co-production. This film is set during World War II, and is about a female Russian soldier named Marsha. She is on a mission to discover a secret Japanese base in Korea. Everybody who accompanies her on the mission shortly dies, and she’s forced to stay with a local fisherman. She is trying to get the information about the base location back to the Russian army, because if she doesn’t, the Japanese will unleash the “Sakura Plan”, which is an all-out biological warfare assualt on the world.

SPOILERS BELOW

The fisherman takes Marsha to the village, where he learns the fate of his long-lost father. Because Marsha was an ally of the fisherman’s father and the father fought with Kim Il-Sung, the villagers agree to hide her. As a result, the Japanese burn down the village, and kill the little brother of the fisherman. The rest of the film is basically the Japanese chasing Marsha and the fisherman. They eventually escape via a small harbor, and Marsha swims across the border with the information. The film fast-forwards to the invasion of the secret Japanese base some time later. Many Russians are killed, and Marsha is the last one left to detonate the bomb that would destroy the base and the Sakura plan. She does so, killing herself in the process. Once the war is over, the fisherman, now with the People’s Army of Korea, looks for Marsha. Upon learning of her death, he declares that she will remain in the thoughts of Koreans forever.

This film doesn’t have a whole lot of substance to it, and mostly relies on a lot of action sequences and the drama of seeing characters die. But it reaffirms the importance of the family and the state in Korean cinema. It’s unknown if this film got a very wide release in Russia though, as its’ virtually unseen on the internet.

Cast:
Elena Drobysheva
Chkhol Kim
Yuriy Kuznetsov
Aleksey Buldakov
Gyen Sob So
Yen-gin Kim
Yun-hon Kim
T├Ánu Mikiver

Directors:
Nikita Orlov
San Bok Pak

Writers:
Igor Bolshev
Jin Li
Viktor Smernin

Music:
Yevgeni Ptichkin

Cinematography:
Boris Kocherov
Chkhol Sam Kwak

Production Design:
Do Il Chwe
Leonid Svintsitsky