The South Korean box-office hit “Ode to My Father” was screened at the U.S. Congress Wednesday as part of efforts to highlight the pains of separated families and the alliance between the two countries.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), a decorated Korean War veteran, and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, hosted the special screening at the Congressional Orientation Theater. It marked the first time a South Korean film has been shown at Congress.
The movie is South Korea’s second-highest-grossing film of all time, drawing some 14.2 million viewers since its December release as it struck a chord with older generations who have witnessed how South Korea overcame the 1950-53 Korean War, poverty and other hardships to become what it is today.
The film, which tells the story of an ordinary father who sacrificed himself to support his family, is known for heart-breaking scenes of a sister of the protagonist being separated from her family during the Korean War and then being reunited with the family decades later.
It is also known for spectacular scenes of a massive evacuation operation that pulled some 105,000 U.S. and South Korean troops and about 98,000 refugees from North Korea to safety in the face of oncoming Chinese and North Korean troops during the war.
Dozens of American and South Korean veterans of the Korean War were among some 200 people attending the screening, including retired Rear Adm. Robert Lunney, who helped evacuate about 14,000 people aboard the S.S. Meredith Victory during the operation.
“People exclaim that we did a very brave thing. All we did, as you know in the military, you carry out your orders and you do your duties. You’re not thinking of doing anything courageous. You’re doing your job. That’s what we did,” Lunney said.
“Only in retrospect, we realize perhaps it was something more important,” he said.
Lunney said his captain, Leonard LaRue, was the key to the success.
“When I asked why, he said, ‘I did the right thing.’ He looked on the beach as we did and saw thousands of people. A sea of humanity. There were people and they wanted to be saved and we were there to help them. And he said therefore, there was no decision to be made. We just do the right thing. You go in and you do the best you could,” he said.
Royce said the movie is a “reminder of the losses and the terrible devastation that Koreans faced during the war” and a “reminder about the price paid by so many during those very, very difficult times.”
“Today when you visit South Korea, it is phenomenal to see the incredible power, ingenuity, productivity and freedom that people experience in South Korea and our hope in the future is that human rights can come to North Korea as well,” he said.
Royce also called for reunions of Korean Americans with their loved ones in the North. Earlier in the day, he and Rangel sent a letter urging Secretary of State John Kerry to work harder to facilitate such reunions.
Rangel said South Koreans built one of the world’s largest economies from the war’s ashes, but despite such economic successes, he said that “they are still torn from their families.”
Also attending the screening was the film’s director, Yoon Je-kyoon.
“I am honored that ‘Ode to My Father’ was screened at a meaningful place like this and I hope this movie will help Americans and veterans get a better understanding of Korea,” he told reporters. “As a director, I feel rewarded in that a movie can transcend borders and have effects on many people.” (Yonhap)
This article was originally posted on KpopHerald