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Korea: The Unfinished War (Part 1) 2003

Not Recommended

Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016; 202-808-4980
Produced by Galafilm productions /MFP/Pathe Archives
Directed by Brian McKenna
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Asian Studies, Korean War, History

Date Entered: 06/03/2008

Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

Let this reviewer state from the outset that his late father served in Korea from 1950- early 1952 as a staff officer with an Air Force tactical fighter wing. This production on the Korean War (1950-53) gives a view of the war that seems to be somewhat in vogue these days: U.S. mistakes, blunders, atrocities by the South Koreans and Americans. True enough, this conflict saw the worst defeats for the U.S. Army in the twentieth-century and probably since 1814. However, watching this it makes one wonder if perhaps the producer wants his audience to demand “War crimes” tribunals for every American who fought in Korea during that horrible period. If someone wishes to get something of the context of the war you could read Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War: a study in unpreparedness. The production does not provide much context for the conflict—how is North Korea any different from Mao’s China? Were there North Korean saboteurs planted amongst the South Korean civilian? How much aid/support did the Soviet Union provide the North Korean Army? (The Soviets have admitted to having pilots in action.) Until we are able to fully access the military and political archives of China, Russia, and North Korea we will never have a full picture of what happened, let alone why. The production uses dramatizations to re-create certain events (for example U.S. Marines fighting North Koreans in a cornfield) and presents quotes by individuals (Douglas MacArthur) as well as the now standard eyewitness talking heads interspersed with newsreels, film footage, still photos, and pictures of documents. These technical aspects are done well and make this an overall sharp production, yet the content (or lack thereof) gives it a not recommended rating.