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Joint Security Area (2000)

Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA (original title)
In the DMZ separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier. But the 11 bullets found in the bodies, together with the 5 ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
... Maj. Sophie E. Jean
... Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok
... Sgt. Oh Kyeong-pil
... Nam Sung-shik
... Jeong Woo-jin
Herbert Ulrich ... Swedish soldier
... Maj. Gen. Bruno Botta
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Micara Adriana
Gallego Alberto
Ahmedov Ayder
Cannon Greg Courtney
Ju-bong Gi ... General Pyo
Isaac Green
Kwang-il Kim ... Civil Servant #3
Myoeng-su Kim ... Top Ranking Officer Choi


In the DMZ separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier. But the 11 bullets found in the bodies, together with the 5 remaining rounds in the assassin's magazine, amount to 16 cartridges for a gun that should normally hold 15. The investigating Swiss/Swedish team from the neutral countries overseeing the DMZ suspects that another, unknown party was involved - all of which points to some sort of cover up. The truth is much simpler and much more tragic. Written by serious cinephile <catpaw@cityline.ru>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Action | Drama | Thriller | War


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Myung Film



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Release Date:

9 September 2000 (South Korea)  »

Also Known As:

J.S.A.: Joint Security Area  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Maj. Sophie Jean (Yeong-ae Lee) and her Swedish liaison walk across the infamous "bridge of no return," they make a reference to an axe murdering incident which took place on the morning of August 18, 1976, when a group of United Nations personnel attempted to trim the branches of a poplar tree in the DMZ that were obstructing the view from a U.N. guard post. North Korean soldiers attempted to block the operation then attacked the U.N. personnel with axes. Capt. Arthur G. Bonifas (honored as Major postmortem), Lieutenant Mark T. Barrett, and four Korean soldiers were killed, and as many US soldiers were wounded. Present day, the camp that houses JSA personnel is called "Camp Bonifas" in honor of Arthur Bonifas who was killed that day. See more »


The moment before Sgt. Lee shoots Sgt. Oh in the shoulder you can clearly see the squib device underneath his uniform. See more »


Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok: Hey Assholes! You just gonna leave me here?
Sgt. Oh Kyeong-pil: You told us to go.
Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok: I said don't come closer, when did I say to leave, you fuckers!
See more »

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User Reviews

A film every Korean has probably seen, and every other person should see to understand the country
20 October 2002 | by See all my reviews

Writing up this review has a little special meaning for myself since I lived in the country teaching English some time ago, and have been back many times since for vacations.

In a nutshell, this film is a masterpiece when it focuses on the Korean actors and how they live in this overcrowded no mans land. Inside this area of huge protocol we get to see how both sides are just ordinary people, and have the same desires and wishes as any Korean.

The basic plot involves a border incident that involves 2 North Korean soldiers allegedly murdered in a North border outpost by 2 South Korean military border guards. A mixed Korean woman of Swiss descent is sent in for her neutrality to investigate and find out the truth.

The masterpiece falls apart when the film has to focus on the setup with the foreign actors (WHO ARE HORRIBLE!!!). Luckily one of them, a Swedish soldier has very little presence so he's ok, but the investigators chief commander a Swiss general is not worthy of any screen time what so ever. Also the Korean actress's command of English for someone who is suppose to have learned Korean second hand in Switzerland, is awkward and fake. It's obvious she doesn't have command of the English language in this film and makes for some bad dialogue, and doesn't make her character believable. A particularly unnecessary scene comes toward the end of the film when the Swiss general explains why he chose her to lead the investigation. The acting and exchange is bad, and there should have been a better place used to describe the situation probably in Korean with one of the other Korean actors. Or it should have just been flat out cut from the film all-together.

Luckily though, 75% of the story is focused on the Korean border guards from both sides. What we soon discover is that 2 of the South Koreans have been secretly visiting 2 North Koreans and developing a close friendship. In flashbacks we find out that they share their ideas, do fun things, play cards, and even at a very poignant part of the film - exchange addresses in hopes that they can someday visit each other. The actors playing these roles are magnificent and flawless. This is where JSA becomes something more than just a kooky drama, and ends up reaching something special and poignant.

The film is also wonderfully directed, and shot. The cinematography at one point when two soldiers are standing in an open field (a South Korean trapped on a mine and a North Korean discovering him not knowing what to do) is breathtaking and ironic for its meaning. There are also many light hearted comedic moments, which I won't spoil, some neat directing tricks, and has one of the most lasting images in film I have ever seen.

In the end it points out mostly what most Koreans already know. The existence of a place like the DMZ and the failure of people on both sides has to do with the fact that the governments can't focus on what Koreans have in common, and can't drop the charade of 'Loosing Face' with each other over this issue. If they could just act and share their camaraderie as these soldiers do in this film things would be so much easier.

Alas politics are involved (also many things that happen in this film are just not realistic in the actual DMZ), and the situation continues. The film is sad, wonderful, enjoyable, uplifting, and tragic all at once. Just cut out the foreigners in the film and you have a masterpiece..

Rating 7.5 out of 10

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