Original Article text read more >> Indie Movies on North Korean Defectors
The virtue of independent movies is their honest handling of subjects that are ignored in commercial offerings. A handful of indie movies about North Korean defectors delve into the problems that they face when attempting to assimilate in capitalist South Korea.
Released at the end of 2017, “The Namesake” features two women who have the same name but pronounce it differently because of linguistic differences between the two Koreas.
Ryeon-hui is a scarred soul, having lost her daughter during their escape from North Korea. She fled because it was too hard to survive there but realizes that life in South Korean society is by no means easy. Ryeon-hui ekes out a living by working part-time at a convenience store. There, she must endure customers and co-workers looking down on her – a typical experience of North Korean defectors in the South.
Yeon-hui’s life is difficult, too. Her escape was from home, to get away from her violent father. She finds the world to be a cold place. She is pregnant but does not know who the father is.
The poster for the movie says, “A woman who fled her home; A woman who fled her country,” likening the fate of North Korean defectors to the fate of South Korean women living in a patriarchal society.
Camaraderie in Isolation
Ryeon-hui catches Yeon-hui trying to steal a triangle-shaped gimbap (a wedge of rice wrapped in seaweed) from the store. That first encounter leads to a new friendship just before Yeon-hui gives birth, and Ryeon-hui finally begins to free herself from recurring anguish over losing her child.
The movie shows how two women meet in different states of isolation and form a bond to overcome their problems. Through their encounter, it also overlays the issue of North Korean defectors with gender issues that have recently come to the fore around the world.