Friday, August 25, 2006

Military Pollution in South Korea

“Environment Minister Lee Chi-beom has revealed his concern that the film may turn public opinion in favor of environmental groups.”

August 4, 2006

(Seoul) - With the success of the recently-released film "The Host," environmental organizations in South Korea are upbeat that their ongoing protests over pollution at U. S. military bases will gain support from those who see the dangers of toxic chemicals in the movie.

Bong Joon-ho's film, which broke the 4-million-viewer mark just a week after its release, presents a monster created by toxic fluid poured into Seoul's Han River on the orders of a U. S. Army boss. The idea for the monster originated from the case of Albert McFarland, a civilian mortician of the U. S. Forces Korea who ordered the dumping of formaldehyde into the river in 2000, but was later released on bail.

Green Korea, a leading environmental body, geared up its street demonstrations on the occasion of the movie's release."

Even after that toxic case in 2000, the U. S. military is returning its bases without solving the pollution problem," Koh Ji-seon, a member of the organization in charge of the U. S. military transfer case. said.

"This movie seems to be drawing attention from people who have not known about this issue," she said, adding her organization will use the movie in its publicity.

The South Korean and U. S. militaries have agreed that the latter will transfer 59 of its closed bases to South Korea by 2008. The U. S. military will leave the bases to the care of Korea despite concerns they may be contaminated by toxic chemicals.

Environmental organizations say the deal is irresponsible and breaches the Status of Forces Agreement, which governs the rights and responsibilities of 30,000 U. S. troops stationed here.

The movie expected to set a new audience record, however, seems to be a headache for some government officials. Environment Minister Lee Chi-beom has revealed his concern that the film may turn public opinion in favor of environmental groups.

"Honestly I'm concerned with the monster that came from the toxic material from the U. S. military," Lee said in an informal luncheon meeting with reporters earlier this week. Other ministers also seemed to be afraid of watching the movie in public, he added.

The director has explained his movie is a fantasy and human drama, rather than a political satire, and that the depiction of the U. S. military improperly disposing of the toxic fluid was a formality in a monster movie that has to show the background of the monster's birth."

It may not be able to escape such interpretation, but in a broad sense, it is the basic and traditional approach that a genre movie uses political satire (in creating its monster)," he said in his essay to be published in the fall edition of literary journal Asia.

The movie revolves around the five-member family, which runs a kiosk alongside Seoul's Han River, whose life is changed when the monster shatters the tranquility of the riverside and takes away the family's only daughter.

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