Jageun yeonmot (A Little Pond) (2009)
Director: Sang-woo Lee.
Starring: Seung Geun Moon, Roe-ha Kim, Hye-jin Jeon, Myeong-cheol Shin, Michael Frederick Arnold (American Soldier), Hye-min Bae (Refugee), Hye-min Goo (Refugee), Ji-soo Hong (Mr. Seo's wife), Geum-hee Im (Refugee), San Im (Refugee), Da-eun Jeong (Mr. Seo's daughter), Hae-won Jeong (Mr. Moon's grandson), Seong-hoon Jeong (Kkoo-ri), Ye-rin Joo (Jjang-i's aunt's daughter), Ee-cheol Kang (Refugee).
based on real events, American soldiers are given a poorly written order to fire on any refugees trying to cross the front lines; the end result of the order was that thousands of innocent refugees were killed or wounded (Korean with English subtitles)
"On August 15, 1945, World War II ends. Korea is freed from Japan but divided in two: North occupied by Soviets, South by the U.S. On June 25, 1950, the Korean war begins when N. Korean troops storm across the border. On June 27, the U.S. decides to send in air and naval forces. The North captures Seoul on June 28. The U.S. decides to send in ground troops on June 30. On July 5, Americans suffer defeat in the first battle with the North Koreans and are sent retreating South. July, 1950. One month after the start of war."
A Korean man, originally from N. Korea, tells his wife that he heard that in town the N. Koreans took in some comrades. He adds that he thinks he had better runaway. Maybe he could go to the American camp because they probably could use someone who speaks English.
A truck stops and a bunch of men jump out of the back and they start running fast. The leader says: "Hurry! He'll run away!" Dogs starts barking and the man originally from N. Korea gets scared and runs away from his house.
The leader arrives with the military. The commander of the group shouts at the house: "Sungun! Come out, right now!" Military people are sent into the house to look for Sungun.
Flashback to quieter times. A female school teacher is all alone with the children in the school house. School is temporarily closed. The teacher asks the kids what will we do in Seoul? They say: see the Royal Palace; see the South Gate; and go to the National Children's Singing Contest. There they will sing in the contest. So the teacher has the children practice the song they will sing. They are interrupted by military vehicles going by and honking at the school house.
Out of school an airplane flies over the heads of the boys, who get all excited about it. A young man and woman also watch as the plane flies overhead
Jjang is a boy who seems to be a bit unruly and gets himself in trouble. Some men tell Jjang to behave and study hard. Mother gets very angry with Jjang too and she beats his hands with a switch, saying: "With your father gone, you'd better act like a man!"
Mr. Min has some family problems. He follows after his wife trying to get himself out of trouble for gambling too much. Min asks another family, Jjang's aunt's family, if the N. Korean attack has come to town yet? Not yet.
The men playing a board game talk about Mr. Moon's new wife, who is said to be quite the looker.
Jjang's mother and aunt talk about the war situation. The uncle says: "Everyone's running down south. We though we'd stay up here. President Lee already escaped to Pusan." The aunt wonders if they should head south with the others. Jjang's other uncle says the N. Koreans won't come all the way up into the mountains.
A family group also talks about the North Koreans coming this way. One fellow says: "But the Americans are coming up." Another man says: "And they're much stronger." "They wiped out the Japs in the Pacific War." One of the women says shouldn't they go south too along with so many others? A man says: "We're farmers. They won't hurt us."
A jeep speeds by several people. Now an American jeeps drives by the farmers and a man with a bullhorn says: "This is the American army! There will be a battle here, soon. Evacuate the village."
The villagers gather together and wonder what should they do? They have to get away. But where do they go? One man says to go south, another to Gama Hill, where people hid out when the Japanese came. They decide to go to Gama Hill.
The people load up as much equipment and supplies that they can carry. One man peddles out to the school house to tell the female teacher that they are all going up Gama Hill because a battle is coming to their village. The teacher says she has to stay to tell the next teacher coming here for the next shift. She says she still has some food to eat.
A man is send up the hill to tell the villagers that they are to come down from Gama Hill because that's where the guerilla fighters will be. The messenger says the Americans will help them escape on trucks. They will take them at least south of Nak-dong River. [The river flows southwest from from the Taebaek Mountains to a bend that takes the river west. Then the river goes south toward the South Sea or Korean Strait, that separates Korea from Japan. It reaches its destination at Pusan. Its total length is 506 kilometres (314 mi).]
So the people start packing up their goods again. As the people move down the hill, two American soldiers and one Korean soldier tell them to hurry up. The people can see a huge fire in the distance. They pass by the school house and someone has to tell the teacher Hyun to come with them. Two fellows have to virtually pull the teacher out of the school house. Someone asks how far away is the Nakdong River and the answer is a few days walk from here.
America troops spot the villagers and tell them they can't go farther because they can't use the road. The Americans are using the roads. They have the people sit on the side of the road. Rockets fly over the heads of the people and they all get close to the ground.
In the morning the people get up. They are very close to a bridge over a river. They start walking over the bridge headed south. And again the people run into the MPs. Trucks are going to be coming through the area, so the MPs push the people off the road again. So the people follow the railway line south. And for the third time the people are forced out off the passageway. The soldiers start searching their belongings. Of course, it's not an easy task talking in English to South Koreans who only speak Korean. One of the people asks a Korean soldier what will happen to them? The soldier says he doesn't know.
The people are patiently waiting for the trucks. An airplane flies over the people's heads. A whistle blows and the Americans guarding the people start running down the tracks. And now comes two jets flying over the people. But this time the jets drop bombs on the people.
"No refugees to cross the front lines. Fire at everyone trying to cross lines." -- Communication Log, July 24, 1950, U. S. Army 8th Cavalry -- Declassified Documents, U. S. Dept. of Defense.
The people start taking heavy casualties. They are not only being bombed, but strafed by machine gun fire from the airplanes. One after another people are hit with bullets. It's as though the pilots weren't giing to be happy until every single person was dead.
A group of survivors take shelter under a bridge, but American riflemen shoot them there too. Women cry over their dead children. One little boy is all by himself and he cries out in desperation.
The American guards now come back to the scene of the devastation. They walk up on the scene as if the people were suddenly going to open fire on them. They look very silly, especially when they knew the people there were unarmed and consisted of women and children and men of all ages.
Under the railway bridge the people are screaming and crying. Some people say it was the Americans who fired upon them, but others just can't believe that. They think the commies fired upon them.
Two of the American guards start walking over to the area under the railway bridge. This frightens many of the people all over again. They are afraid if they go out, the Americans will shoot them.
An American officer phones into headquarters that the people down below are clearly civilians. "Do you want us to continue killing civilians?"
Three people come out from under the bridge and are quickly shot down. The woman is still alive and she calls the Americans bastards. She gets up to run and is quickly shot down.
Orders are orders so the Americans keep firing at the South Koreans under the bridge.
Some of the men decide to sneak away during the night. Other men tell the younger men to run away. The men take off their shirts and rub mud all over their skin. A wife tells her husband that he is a man and he has to live. She wants him to leave. "Go and tell people what happened here." The husband wants to stay, but his wife keeps insisting he go. So he goes.
Some of the men leaving the area are spotted and fired at. One American decides not to kill the man and a boy that he finds, even though he did fire upon them earlier. A Korean woman gives birth and the baby starts crying. Another infant joins in the crying. So the Americans open fire on the area under the railway bridge once again. More and more people are shot dead as the bullets hit the people directly or by ricochet. A man tried to stop his baby from crying. So he drowns the baby to make it stop crying.
The captured Korean man and boy are let go and told to run down the road away from the fighting. The man carries the boy piggy-back style as he runs down the road.
The next morning a North Korean soldier finds the people underneath the railway bridge. There are flies everywhere. Is there anyone alive? It's a boy soldier. He asks if anyone is alive? He then says the Yankees are all gone now. Jjang is the only one who stands up.
Fall in the village. A girl calls for her father when she can't find him. She runs to go find him.
A young son now goes off to the army having to leave his wounded father behind.
A boy carrying a little girl on his back makes it back to the village. Two boys who see Kooli and the little girl on his back start shouting out to everyone left in the village: "Kooli bro is back!" Kooli and Soo see their mother and run to her as she runs to them. Mother is so glad to have her children back.
"The war continued on for three more years. From July 26 to 29, 1950, hundreds of civilians running for refuge were shot at random by U.S. soldiers at Nogunri. The survivors and families of the tragedy have fought long to make it known. But the Korean and U. S. governments have denied the Nogunri incident ever took place. In May, 2005, the Korean government officially recognized the 218 victims and the 2,170 surviving family members. The Korean War lasted from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953 for 37 months. There were 3.6 million civilians, 1.6 million North and South Korean soldiers and over 1 million foreign soldier casualties."
Good movie, terrible tragedy. Some well-meaning officer at headquarters probably thought it would be a good idea to stop anyone and everyone from trying to cross the front lines. He probably never thought of the possibility that a group of innocent people, given assurances of safety and of help by the Americans, would suddenly be very unfortunate victims of the general policy order. Surely, a better order, allowing for some leniency, could have been written. The soldiers obeying the order took it to mean that everyone was to be killed, regardless of the circumstances. A few Americans let some of the South Koreans escape instead of shooting them. Almost all the deaths of the innocents were from long distances away from the people killed and wounded.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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