An Interview with Kim Kyung-man (Director)
The People Are Primary, and Permission Isn’t Needed
Q: What was Korea like when you were born?
KK: In the 1960s during the Park Chung-hee administration, South Korea was even poorer than North Korea. Park seized power through a coup d’état, and was not a president chosen by the people through an election. It was a dictatorship, an anti-communist society against North Korea. He wasn’t supported by the people, but he was supported by the U.S. It was an era where people who opposed his power were punished as communists.
The 1970s was when he ceased being president and South Korea became wealthier. As an elementary school student, my education was anti-communist. I was taught how terrible communism was, that there were ghosts and monsters in North Korea, and I believed it. In the class on morals, the North was a bad country, and the South was a country with justice. I myself won a prize in an anti-communism essay contest.
When I was around twenty, the military dictatorship turned into a democracy, and Korea underwent rapid change. Ten years later it was unbelievable and shocking when representatives from the North and South met together. Even today, older Koreans feel animosity toward the North.
Q: Why did you make this documentary?
KK: Originally I really liked documentaries and I saw a lot of works. Around me the main options were joining the student protest movement or getting a job, but I felt like neither were right. Documentaries are a method for the filmmaker to tell stories, and I thought I could to tell the stories I wanted to through documentaries. The impetus for this film came in November 2003 at a meeting for draft resisters, when I was asked to make a film that could be screened at gatherings. Right then I had footage that I’d been gathering over a three-year period, so I used that to make this film.
Q: What do you think about compulsory military service and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces?
KK: I am against compulsory military service, because the individual is being coerced by the authorities and doesn’t have the right to make a decision. Also, a lot of people think that the Korean army is necessary as a defense against North Korea, but I think that rather than the North, America is more threatening. In reality, the Korean army has never protected South Korea, and even if the US military does harm to Koreans, they don’t do anything. It is dangerous for Korea to have an army. Of course, it would be ideal if the army disappeared. I think that Japan’s Self Defense Forces is dangerous, just like the army. The military is a tool for dragging the country’s citizens into war, and is the most dangerous thing for the country.
Q: What were you thinking of when making this documentary?
KK: I was thinking less of a smooth image than of conflict. I put more emphasis on meaning than on the visuals, bringing together two scenes that are unrelated, and creating a new meaning. I did it so that you would watch it and feel uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be that bad compared to seeing real dead bodies. I tried to create the most sickening images that I could. The images that display physical beauty and boast of strength are an ironic expression of U.S. politics. The footage used in the film comes from Daehan News shot by the government from 1953 to 1994, Vietnam footage and NHK footage. It is very ironic that this film got made at all. I haven’t obtained permission from the government to use the footage. In a democracy the principals are the citizens, so permission isn’t necessary. When patriotism gets stronger, foreigners become less important, and thinking divides into right and left, North and South. For example, like Korea. The place isn’t important. As long as you have humanity, you don’t need either patriotism or masculinity.
(Compiled by Nishiya Mariko)
Interviewers: Nishiya Mariko, Sasaki Masahito / Interpreter: Yamazaki Remina
Photography: Hitachi Hitomi / Video: Takahashi Miyuki / 2005-10-11