Koreanfilm review: Ode to my Father
Thereare several theories and versions of the Korean War that have beenadvanced using different modes of communication, includingnarratives, books and movies among others. However, most convincingperspective of the actual post-1950 effects of the Korean War isdepicted in the movie ‘Ode to my Father’ in 2014, directed byYoon Je-kyoon. The movie is a vision through the eyes of an oldgrumpy Korean man, Duk-Soo, as the main character. He survived thewar as a boy, was separated from part of his family just like mostfamilies during the evacuation and, he survives to tell it all 60years later in form of flashbacks of his life. This paper is a reviewof the movie with a key interest on its effects especially on thelives of modern day Koreans.
Themovie is set in Korea and starts during the 1951 Hungnam evacuationwhere civilians were fleeing from the Korean War. A young Duk-Soo andhis family comprising his parents and three younger siblings were inthe port city trying to flee. His parents entrusted Duk-Soo withholding his toddler sister’s hand, as they carried the infants andall their belongings in the midst of a commotion headed for the USNavy Freighters. He shockingly discovered that he was separated fromhis sister’s hand and was only holding a torn hem of her dress. Hisfather chose to return and find her, but given the severity of theconditions and made Duk-Soo promise to take care of the family as hehimself would, in case they fail to reunite.
Thiscame to happen and after settling in Busan without his father andsister, living a very poor life, with Duk-Soo doing odd jobs to fendfor his family. He made several sacrifices to see his family prosperincluding working in German coal mines, where while there he also methis wife working as a nurse. Later he also worked in the Vietnam War.As an old man with his own family, he owns an imported goods shop inGukje market but still passionately weeps for his father and sister’smemories. The movie ends at the emotional reunion of separatedfamilies’ organized by KBS Television, where Duk-Soo reunites withhis long lost sister.
Themovie depicts a close-knit Korean family set up, with clear definedroles for members, especially the father or father-figure that isfully responsible for the well being of the family. This is what ledDuk-Soo’s father to go back for his sister at Hungnam port, asacrifice for the family. It is also present in Duk-Soo’s youngerlife, where for his younger brother to access higher education, hewent to work in the hazardous German Coal mines. Later, he was shotwhile working in the Vietnam War to facilitate his younger sister adeserving marriage.
Duk-Soomade a promise to his father to take care of the family as he wouldhimself, in 1951. This, coupled with accumulated guilt was drivinghis decisions to the point of abandoning his wife and children towork in the Vietnam War for his sister’s benefit. Patriotism wasinstilled in the people by their leader as seen by the closeinteraction among Koreans working in Germany as miners, nurses ortheir assistants. This meant that most of their earnings wereinvested back home with family or later when they returned from theforeign countries. This created a very conservative modern Koreansociety, which relishes its history and philosophies, resulting inthe strong economic and social standards of its society.
‘Odeto My Father’ is the best perspective to the Korean War era and howit has affected the modern society. Efforts to reconnect theseparated families like the one organizedby KBSare being witnessed up to date with massive turnouts, a sign of thestrong family ties despite the long separation. Duk-Soo isrepresentative of a lot of Koreans who lived between 1950 and 1970’s,thus the movie’s success and positive reviews. Family values andhistory are passed down through generations as seen by the oldDuk-Soo and his grandchildren. The ending of the movie shows a neverending quest by those separated families to find their lost kinacross the Korean borders – North and South Korea.