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March 20, 2006


As I suspected, I can’t sleep, even in a fancy seat. Farkin’ sleep apnea. I got bumped up to First from Business when I bought the ticket. Business is full, First is only about 2/3rds. I’m not complaining, mind you. I’d just hoped, since I’m personally eating the cost differential of the coach fare in order to be able to walk when the airplane lands, that, just maybe, I’d be able to sleep.


Ah, well, 1/3rd of the way through the flight and I’ve watched The Legend of Zorro, and a Korean film, Typhoon, and right now, I’m listening to Korean music (not bad, nice voices, even though for all I know they’re singing “Yer a big fat ugly tribble-with-legs…” Sounds good, who cares?

The Korean movie was interesting, very much wrapping up all the pathologies of a family-oriented people like the Koreans who had a proud history, then got raped by the Japanese, played for pawns in the power politics of the Cold War by both sides and are still living on a peninsula with a farking huge barrier across it. The amount of military architecture between Seoul and the DMZ is amazing. I don’t think I’ll be where I can get any pictures, but if I can (and do so without bringing security down on my head, I’ll get some generic opsec-safe shots, just to see what sorts of things the Koreans have lived with for 50 years now. Warning – I’m not an ethnographer, nor do I play one on TV.

The weirdest part of the movie was listening to White Christmas being sung in Korean.

Precis: The South, in the mid-70’s, early 80’s sent propaganda balloons north, encouraging the people to emigrate. Myung-Sin finds one of these balloons, and the message, and takes it to his father, who buys it and arranges with some shady Chinese to get out of North Korea, and seek asylum in the Austrian Embassy. For reasons I’m sure were a lot clearer that the sub-titles admitted to, the South refuses the request for political reasons, and the family is returned to the North Koreans, where Bad Things Happen, and the only survivors of Sin’s family are he and his sister.

Myung-Sin becomes a pirate. With the burning goal of vengeance. On the South. Sparing you the Great Powers Are Manipulating Us thread, Sin arranges to acquire a bunch of missile guidance/trigger systems, by ambushing a covert DIA (yes, DIA) vessel trying to sneak them to the Taiwanese. With Russian mafia help, he acquires 30 tons of Chernobyl radioactive debris , fits it all to balloons, with the intent of sailing off the southern coast and releasing the bomb-laden balloons on the South – thus using balloons to kill a bunch of South Koreans and balance the books.

If you're still reading - the rest is in the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry.

Se-Jong, a South Korean naval officer turned spy (where have I seen that meme before?), gets assigned to stop Sin. Via those same Russian bad guys Jong manages to get ahold of Sin’s surviving sister, wanting to use her to lure Sin into a trap, all of which goes badly, resulting in Sin’s sister being shot, and Sin and her escaping to the ship. All this because the SK gov’t are doing Bad Things, some of them at the behest of those Bumbling Americans, who mean well, but, well, they just don’t get it and are vaguely stupid. Of course, many anti-Bush people in the US will identify with that attitude. They should realize, of course, that the guys who made the movie would have felt the same way if Presidents Kerry or Gore were in office.

At the same time, the Americans, who have intercepted Se-Jong’s radio messages, have dispatched a sub to sink the Typhoon – which just happens to be sailing in a… wait for it… typhoon. Well, actually two, which will merge over the Korean peninsula, creating a huge downdraft which will ---- suck them balloons right down on the poor South Koreans.

Can’t have that. To complicate matters, those Dang Americans, as the “Coalition Commander” have mobilized the South Korean forces to keep them from doing anything rash – like take out this guy before the Americans can do it.

So, a secret, known-to-the-government but with plausible deniability (right, the guys stole two Seahawks and went Viking…) raid takes off into the storm.

The Good Guys fly through weather *I* wouldn’t trust Bill or Dusty to fly through, and make it to the vessel… which of course is in the eye of the typhoon. Even this director couldn’t stomach making the Naval Commandoes (that just caused the ‘Phibian to have a Primary Male Sexual Response) abseil from a hovering helo into assault boats bobbing in a storm lashed sea to ride the storm surge to the ship… so, hence the eye.

Great action sequences as the commandoes take down the ship.

Myung-Sin fires up his little nuclear aeronauts and opens the hatch so a few can get away… and then, for some reason I again didn’t quite get… had to kill his sister (she was in a bad way from her wound, but hey, there was a line at the latrine). I think it was mostly so that all the rest of his family would be dead, needful for the last scene.

Then, the Final Showdown. No Kung-fu, just a nice knife fight, where Myung-Sin observes the worst part of it all is they understand each other and why they are doing what they are doing. Then, when Myung-Sin is getting the upper hand (his knife is buried to the hilt in Se-Jong’s belly anyway) those Bubbleheads launch the slowest-moving torpedoes I have ever seen, and everything starts exploding.

At which time, Sin, having made his point, *doesn’t* kill Se-Jong, but instead, does a pretty good job of seppuku, stabbing himself in the stomach and doing the old rip across the belly, and telling Se-Jong “When we meet in our next lives…” and expires, leaving unsaid “We’ll be brothers.” Se-Jong does the obligatory Closing of the Eyes.

Se-Jong, long piece of steel with a serrated edge stuck into his belly, then manually closes the hatches, which involves, understandably, a lot of severely contorted grimacing and screaming.

All this is cut with scenes of the surviving commandoes being blown all over the place as the ship is exploding, and, since she’s not making way anymore, the eyewall of the storm sends huge waves swamping her and…. Somehow there are survivors, though that is all left to your imagination.

Because a Few Months Later… while steaming somewhere off the coast, they tidy up the story with Se-Jong standing on the foredeck of a destroyer looking pensively at the horizon while the voice in his head tells us that five balloons made it to the South, but that Myung-Sin hadn’t armed them (a little tidbit left hanging for dynamic tension from the opening the hatch to release a few balloons scene).

He just wanted to be remembered.

Neatly wrapping up the South’s angst with the North. They’re family. They’re proud. They just want to be Remembered. They just want to be with their families in the South. They are slightly insane, however, and that makes things hard.

Next to the last scene has Myung-Sin walking along the shore, carrying his sister, who looks bad, but ain’t dead. But… she *was* dead. And he’s looking a little raggedy, but he *was* dead. Ah! Spirit Scene! They stop by a fishing boat, where Myung-Sin puts his sister, weighs anchor, and sails off to join the loving embrace of their (dead) Mother and Father. Well, there’s some dialog there, too – about how Sin had vowed as a little boy to buy all the missiles in the world and destroy both the North and South – but his sister told him not to, because while the world had been treating them badly, Korea was their home. Sin responds with the line about lets go join Mom and Dad.

Cut to final scene – a reprise of the opening scene where the family is denied asylum while apparently doing Christmas at the German Embassy… which is where I got to hear a nice kid’s choir singing “White Christmas” in Korean.

I snarked the movie – but it wasn’t any worse than equivalent fare in the US. I was fascinated by the window it opened into Korea. And it *was* entertaining enough I’d have paid to see it in a theater (which woulda been a lot cheaper than what I paid to see it on a grainy screen in a 777 flying along the Aleutians…

And you should read the papers around here. They’re DAMN PROUD that they’re still in the World Baseball thingy – and that the US is not… and that Japan is not. Not gloating really (at least in the English-language paper, who knows what the Hangul version is saying…) just very very proud. And want to remind us that Koreans have been playing baseball for 101 years.

Oh, and their politicians are corrupt schmoes, too, but since that is seemingly a state of nature worldwide, that’s not really news, is it…?

Okay. Enough of this for now. Time for more aspirin. My back is killing me again.

Post Script. I did manage to walk off the plane. But as tired as I am (24 plus hours with no sleep and I ain’t a youngster anymore) and these half-deaf artillery ears trying to make sense of Korean-accented English – I’m lucky I’m in my hotel in Seoul, and not Pyong-yang…

John | Permalink | Comments (22) | General Commentary
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