This movie based on the semi-autobiographical novel of director Lee Kyu-hyung. "A private's journey" tells the tale of a young film maker Ji Hoon (played by Kim Jung-hun) during his mandatory conscription period .
Set in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, the film starts off as a comedy, reminiscent of the Popsicle movies of the late 70's. Korean soldiers immaturely clowning around showing body parts and generally misbehaving with plenty of sexual innuendo. At this point the movie is not worthy of comment, Lee tries to moderate the content by bringing in South Korean leaders particularly Sergeant Min Gee (Park Gun-jung) who try in vain to instill some sense of discipline into the rebellious troops. Over the course of the film, things become more serious as the threat from the North becomes real to the troops on duty, and their respect for their leader grows. At this point the film is more watchable and more engrossing.
Lee does not fully put the point across as to the great extent that the cold war has partitioned his country, to a Korean audience I am sure that it needs no explanation, but he does adequately show the effects of the partition on the culture of the country, the western style uniforms and sound track is a reference to the many years of American interest in South Korea, at one point an American soldier trades snake wine for western cigarettes, the impact of the western influence on South Korea is unmistakable. At the same time the Northern forces are very serious, there is no public masturbation or shenanigans in the ranks and propaganda is used to encourage the troops, their leaders are telling the troops that the South is on the point of collapse and that they must take their opportunity to reunite the country, in its turn the communist side shows the close links with China to the north.
Lee Kyu-hyungs story unfolds and fatalities occur, providing Ji Hoon with a very swift education, which binds him to his sergeant and buddies.
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