CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — U.S. soldiers who want to know more about the Korean War should see a wildly popular new Korean movie showing at off-post cinemas, South Koreans working on U.S. bases in Area I say.

The movie is “Taegukgi” (the name of the South Korean flag), which, according to the Web site, is the most expensive South Korean film ever made, with a budget of $12.8 million.

“Taegukgi” became the first South Korean film to sell 2 million tickets in its first five days of release and has since gone on to shatter local box office records, the Web site says.

The movie tells the story of the Korean War from the perspective of two brothers who are conscripted into the army and fight in several historic battles in such places as Seoul and Pyongyang.

Special effects are on a par with big budget U.S. films such as “Saving Private Ryan” and feature graphic footage of wounded and dead soldiers. There are numerous gun battles and explosions, punctuated by flying dirt and a shaky, documentary-style camera technique.

Ask any South Korean base worker or Korean Army soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army and there is a good chance they have seen “Taegukgi”.

One in four South Koreans have seen it, according to Cpl. Lee Hyung-il of the 2nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

U.S. soldiers would enjoy the movie and should see it to learn about South Korean history, he said.

“They are here to defend our country. They have to know what they are fighting for,” he said.

The rights to “Taegukgi” have been bought by U.S. theater chains and several off-post cinemas in Area I are showing the movie with English subtitles, Lee said. Some are asking if the movie can be shown in base theaters.

South Korean cinemas are similar to U.S. cinemas. They serve soft drinks and popcorn, and tickets can be booked in advance over the Internet.

Yu Hu-Song, a 2nd Infantry Division photographer, also recommended the movie.

“It talks about the war, and the fact that there were two brothers — an older brother and a younger brother. At the start the young brother is a high school kid. The war is coming up and everybody tries to move down to the South. The [Republic of Korea] government have not got enough soldiers so they grab the brothers and put them in the army,” Yu said.

“The older brother loves his younger brother so much so he is looking after his safety,” Yu said.

However, later in the movie the older brother defects to the North after his fiancée is shot by South Koreans who suspect she is a communist.

The story resonated with Yu, who was 14 when North Korea invaded the South.

“I fled south to get away from the North Koreans. If I was 16 or 17, they would have drafted me,” he recalled.

At that time, civilians were more dangerous than soldiers, he said.

“People would lie to the soldiers and say, ‘He is ROK army’ and the North Koreans would shoot them. When the South Korean army came back in, they would say, ‘He is North Korean’ and the South Koreans would shoot them,” he said.

Pfc. Robbie McCarty, of the 2nd ID’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, has never been to the movies off-post but plans to take the advice of Lee and Yu and see “Taegukgi”.

“Being in Korea, I have read some books about the Korean War, but I’d like to be able to see exactly what went on here and the changes that have come about because of the Korean War and what we do here,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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