It’s often referred to as America’s “forgotten” conflict. But in China, the Korean War is back in fashion in a big way.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the war, which saw China launch an assault to support its North Korean allies and repel U.S. troops from the Chinese border.
China commemorates the conflict — domestically known as the somewhat cumbersome “war to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea” — with an official remembrance day on Oct. 25 each year. And with Sino-U.S. tensions rising due to a range of trade and security issues, the country is memorializing with more gusto than usual in 2020.
Since China and the United States normalized diplomatic relations in the 1970s, Chinese films centered on the Korean War have been rare. But a slew of movies, TV dramas, and documentaries centered on the conflict are set to hit the country’s screens this month.
Here’s a summary of the Korean War content scheduled for release.
The Blockbuster: “Sacrifice”
On Friday, the blockbuster movie “Jin Gang Chuan,” or “Sacrifice,” premiered in Chinese cinemas. Jointly directed by three renowned filmmakers — Guan Hu, Guo Fan, and Lu Yang — the feature tells the story of a group of Chinese soldiers attempting to repair a bridge to allow more troops to get to the front line during the Battle of Kumsong, one of the last major clashes of the war in 1953.
A promotional poster for the Chinese-made Korean War drama “Sacrifice.” From @电影金刚川 on Weibo
Starring A-list Chinese actors including Wu Jing, known for his lead role in the hit “Wolf Warrior” series synonymous with chest-thumping nationalism, “Sacrifice” made 74.1 million yuan ($11 million) on its opening day and has since garnered more than 380 million yuan in box office revenue. It has an average rating of 6.5 out of 10 on review site Douban.
The film reportedly only started shooting in August, so the whole production was apparently finished within three months.
More Movies in the Pipeline
Friday also saw the release of the animated movie “Salute to the Heroes,” designed to cater to a younger audience.
Two more Korean War-themed movies — “Company of Heroes” and “Up Close: The War in the 1950s” — are reportedly set to hit cinemas soon, though premiere dates have yet to be announced.
A promotional poster for the animated movie “Salute to the Heroes.” From Douban
The National Film Bureau, meanwhile, greenlighted the production of another Korean War-era movie, “The Coldest Gun,” earlier this month. The feature, set to be directed by Zhang Yimou, is based on the real-life story of the Chinese sniper Zhang Taofang, who is said to have killed 214 American soldiers in just 32 days.
The movies are among the first major Korean War dramas to be made in China since the era of Mao Zedong. The first Chinese movie about the war, “Battle on Shangganling Mountain,” was released in 1956. The 1964 film “Heroic Sons and Daughters” and the 1972 feature “Raid on the White Tiger Regiment” are among the most famous films about the conflict.
Dramas, Documentaries, Books, and More
This month, domestic TV channels have started airing a collection of Korean War-themed dramas and documentaries, while several books and even a stage drama have also been released.
A still frame from the 20-episode documentary series broadcast by China Central Television. From Douban
Since mid-October, state broadcaster China Central Television has been showing a 20-episode documentary series about the war. In addition, it’s airing two six-part documentaries, titled “For Peace” and “Heroic Sons and Daughters,” while another six-episode documentary series, “Heroes,” started airing on Beijing TV and streaming site Tencent Video on Oct. 17.
Other channels have focused on reruns of Korean War-related shows. Shanghai Dragon Television broadcast the 2010 biopic “Marshal Peng Dehuai” — a drama series about the military leader who commanded Chinese forces during the first half of the war — between Oct. 22 and 25.
Another 2010 TV series, “Mao Anying” — which tells the story of Mao Zedong’s eldest son, who died while serving in the Korean War — as well as the 2016 series “The 38th Parallel,” have been similarly rebroadcast on domestic TV channels.
People’s Publishing House, a state-run press, is releasing several books about the war. On Oct. 1, a Korean War-themed stage show titled “Shangganling” debuted in five cities including Shanghai and Hangzhou. There are plans for the show to launch in several other cities, including Tangshan and Taiyuan in northern China.
Editor: Dominic Morgan.
(Header image: A promotional poster for the Chinese-made Korean War drama “Sacrifice.” From @电影金刚川 on Weibo)