An implausible love story by which a (actually) high-flying South Korean heiress by accident paraglides into North Korea, lands on a soldier and falls in love with him has develop into the most recent Korean drama smash hit.
Crash Touchdown on You is in some ways a typical Okay-drama romance, however has been extensively praised for its well-researched and nuanced portrayal of North Korea, one thing it achieved by having a real-life North Korean defector on its writing group, as BBC Korean’s Subin Kim explains.
Along with his broad shoulders and thick torso, Kwak Moon-wan has all the looks of a bodyguard.
That is in all probability as a result of till 2004, he served with the Supreme Guard Command, the elite safety drive which protects North Korea’s ruling Kim household.
He was so trusted that he was assigned to work abroad too, for a North Korean commerce firm in Moscow which was bringing in a lot wanted international forex.
Solely a choose few North Koreans are permitted to work exterior the nation, and to make sure their continued loyalty the leaders have measures in place – Kwak needed to go away his spouse and son behind in North Korea.
In 2004, he was ordered to return to Pyongyang. Throughout a stopover in Beijing, he came upon one in every of his pals in Moscow had reported to their bosses in Pyongyang what he had mentioned in personal dialog.
He knew instantly that what he’d mentioned would trigger large hassle when he acquired house.
Throughout our dialog in a espresso store in Seoul, Kwak saved glancing round to examine who is perhaps close by. He speech is easy, if not blunt, however Kwak would not repeat to me what he mentioned. He’d solely say he had talked about what he noticed whereas escorting members of the Kim household again then.
So he determined to defect. Alone. And he has lived in South Korea with out his household ever since.
“I solely have one shadow when the solar comes up,” Kwak mentioned. “That is my life in South Korea.”
After arriving in South Korea, Kwak, like hundreds of North Korean defectors, started the method of constructing a brand new life. And it took a exceptional accident for Kwak to search out his means into the booming world of Korean leisure.
From defector to movie adviser
Earlier than coming into the army, Kwak had frolicked studying about movie. Again within the 1980s, the North Korean movie business was booming, due to then chief Kim Jong Il’s well-known love of the artwork.
At the moment, Kwak was about to embark on additional training, and he ended up being accepted to check movie directing in Pyongyang College of Dramatic and Cinematic Arts.
Shortly after Kwak arrived in South Korea, a well-known filmmaker who was engaged on a North Korea-themed movie mission approached South Korea’s spy company asking for some recommendation.
Kwak had simply completed his interrogations, a part of the resettlement course of new defectors undergo, by which he’d talked about his movie abilities.
The company put him in contact with the filmmaker, who provided him a job at his movie firm. Kwak accepted it straight away.
He went on to work as an adviser and a screenwriter on quite a lot of movies and dramas, and in 2018 a former colleague launched Kwak to Park Ji-eun, the top author of the drama.
She had provide you with an thought of a romantic comedy that includes a North Korean officer and a South Korean heiress, however her lack of intimate information of Northern life was a urgent concern.
Kwak becoming a member of the group kick-started the Crash Touchdown on You mission.
Undercover spies and homeless youngsters
The sequence has develop into one of the crucial profitable Korean dramas of all time. It tells the story of heiress and businesswoman Yoon Se-ri and North Korean military captain Ri Jeong-hyuk.
Whereas out paragliding in the future, Se-ri will get caught up by freak winds, and pushed over the border into North Korea. She is discovered by the dashing Jeong-hyuk, who as a substitute of turning her in agrees to maintain her protected and assist her return house. Inevitably, they fall in love.
Kwak’s intimate information of how North Korean officers function meant he was capable of contribute ingenious plot units.
For instance, at one level, secret police come throughout Se-ri hiding in a village. Jeong-hyuk shortly comes up with the road that she is a spy with Division 11, the army unit which works undercover within the South.
That helps clarify her Southern accent, her lack of paperwork and her look, and gave the character the liberty to discover the village and work together with others, whereas refusing to reply their questions on her life on safety grounds.
All through the present, there are depictions of life which may very well be made credible via the insights of somebody like Kwak.
Trains are proven abruptly stopping due to energy cuts, homeless youngsters on the streets, and fridges used to retailer books and garments as a substitute of meals.
Kwak additionally helped create a subplot within the drama, of one other pair of star-crossed lovers from the North and South, Gu Seung-joon and Web optimization.
After embezzling an enormous amount of cash from Se-ri’s brother, Seung-joon goes on the run, and decides to hunt refuge in North Korea.
“North Korea is the one place the Interpol cannot attain,” Kwak says.
Is it true that North Korea gives safety for wished criminals in trade for a hefty amount of cash? “It’s certainly believable,” Kwak says. “That is all I might prefer to say.”
Reward from different defectors
Some have accused Crash Touchdown on You of glamorising North Korea. For instance, villagers appear to have loads of meals – however in actuality meals shortages are a recurring drawback.
However these nuanced particulars are hardly ever seen by South Koreans, and the drama has even acquired different defectors excited.
Chun Hyo-jin, who defected when she was 19, mentioned the drama does deviate from actuality however that doesn’t dent her enthusiasm for it. Most of her household at the moment are dwelling within the South, and the drama has develop into a weekly matter.
“Each time it is on air, we name one another on the cellphone and discuss in regards to the drama,” Chun says.
“It has made the individuals eager about North Korea. It will get my pals to ask me about North Korea and I am actually grateful for it.”
It is also received reward from individuals like Sokeel Park, who works with defectors via Liberty in North Korea.
“Its portrayal of varied facets of North Korean society have clearly been completely researched, leading to probably the most three-dimensional portrayal of North Korean society of any movie or drama to this point,” he advised the BBC.
“It’s refreshing the way it portrays varied facets of North Korean society with out unnecessarily passing judgement, and reveals North Koreans as complicated people who find themselves in the end relatable and even lovable, even when they’re culturally totally different.”
It is well-known that North Koreans, particularly the younger ones, are followers of Okay-drama too – and as Crash Touchdown on You precisely depicts, plenty of South Korean movies and dramas are smuggled into North Korea.
Kwak says he hasn’t heard of any North Korean who has watched the drama.
“I am certain they are going to be very . It is their story. It is about them.
“And I assume that particularly North Korean males would really feel very grateful to have a good-looking man like Hyun Bin to play one in every of them,” he chuckled.