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Film / Welcome to Dongmakgol

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Welcome to Dongmakgol is a 2005 film from South Korea, directed by Park Kwang-hyun.

It is set in September 1950, during The Korean War, after the American landing at Incheon sent the North Koreans into headlong retreat but before the Chinese intervention. An American pilot, Lt. Smith, crashes his plane somewhere in the mountains of the peninsula. A squad of desperate North Korean soldiers is also retreating through the mountains; after they blunder into a South Korean ambush, only three men—Jang Young-hee, Seo Taek-gi, and their officer Lee Soo-hwa—are left alive. Meanwhile, South Korean medic Moon Sang-sang, who has deserted from his unit, is wandering through the woods, and finds another deserter, South Korean Lt. Pyo Hyun-chul.

Lt. Smith has been rescued from his plane by the villagers of Dongmakgol, an isolated community high in the mountains. Dongmakgol is so remote that the people of the village not only have no idea a war is on, they don't even know what rifles and grenades are (they take them for "sticks" and painted potatoes, respectively). The North Koreans are led to Dongmakgol by Yeo-il (Kang Hye-jung, Mi-do from Oldboy), an odd girl who seems to spend most of her time wandering around the forest. The South Korean soldiers wander in to the village on their own. A long standoff occurs once they meet each other, but eventually they become friends and integrate with the villagers. That fragile peace, however, is disturbed by the U.S. Army soldiers looking for Lt. Smith.

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Joe Hisaishi composed the music.


Tropes:

  • Arcadia: Gentle, peaceful Dongmakgol, where everyone lives in harmony.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: During the climactic invasion of the village, Smith knocks out the translator with a rock.
  • Delayed Explosion: The Mexican Standoff finally ends when Seo, who is falling asleep, accidentally drops his grenade, from which Yeo-il already removed the pin. Lt. Pyo dives on the grenade, but it doesn't explode. As Jang confusedly wonders if their other two grenades are also duds, Pyo gives Lee a look of contempt and disdainfully throws the grenade over his shoulder, into the storage house - where it explodes.
  • Eagleland: Flavor 2, big-time. All the Americans beside Lt. Smith are callous monsters.
  • A Father to His Men: Lee Soo-hwa angrily refuses his subordinate's demand that they leave the wounded behind.
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  • The Fool: Yeo-il is something of a space cadet, putting flowers in her hair, standing around in the rain and humming, playfully sticking her finger in the barrel of a rifle being wielded by an angry, screaming soldier. Subverted when she eventually gets fatally shot. See also The Ophelia
  • Going Native: Eventually all the soldiers don village dress and help the villagers harvest potatoes and corn.
    • Played hilariously straight when Smith is also given new clothes by the villagers, except they're too small for him.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The Americans, South Koreans, and North Koreans are all shown to be guilty of at least one war crime.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The five Korean soldiers band together, construct a fake anti-aircraft site, and wind up getting killed in the American bomber raid in order to prevent the bombers from wiping out the village.
    • Pyo almost pulls one off by jumping on a grenade during the Mexican Standoff scene, but the grenade ends up being a dud. Or so he thought.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Inverted at the end when a gutshot Yeo-il says "It's hot" right before she dies.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Pyo is putting the barrel of his rifle in his mouth when Moon stumbles across him in the woods.
  • It's Raining Men: The squad sent off to rescue Lt. Smith is dropped via parachute.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: Lt. Pyo does this when the young North Korean soldier accidentally drops his grenade. It doesn't explode.
  • Just Following Orders: A humorous version invoked by Pvt. Seo, who says he went South only because he was ordered to (unaware that North Korea started the war by invading South Korea).
  • Mexican Standoff: The one between the North and South Korean soldiers in the village lasts all afternoon, all night, and into the next day, and only ends when a North Korean soldier falls asleep on his feet and drops his grenade.
  • Riddle for the Ages: How did Teacher Kim get there? The village is so isolated that the villagers don't even know what a rifle is, yet Kim wears glasses and has a Korean-English dictionary, and his terrified reactions show that he does know what rifles and grenades do.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Lt. Pyo is the worst off for his combat experience. A flashback reveals why: he is tormented by the time when he blew up a bridge that was crammed full of refugees, on the orders of his superior officer.
  • Small, Secluded World: An ideal rural village that seems to have no clue what goes on in the modern world.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: For obvious reasons for the majority of the film. However, by the end of the film the soldiers develop into true friends.
    • Somewhat subverted by Jang and Moon, who bond almost immediately.
  • Vertigo Effect: Used for several reaction shots when a wild boar charges into the potato field.
  • War Is Hell: Especially when you blow up a bridge and kill a bunch of civilians.
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