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Memory of Forgotten War

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Memory of Forgotten War

Sangsook Lee-Chung reviews Memory of Forgotten War, directed by Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem (2013, 38 minutes)

The Korean War (1950-1953) has remained “unfinished” for more than 60 years. No peace treaty has been signed, yet this war is almost forgotten. Ironically, it is a “forgotten war,” not only by Americans but also by Koreans, despite the fact that the consequences of the war continue to shape American foreign policy in that region, as well as the politics of the two Koreas. As most Americans know little about it and simply recall Korea either with the infamous image of North Korea's communist dictators, or the recent K-Pop sensation of Psy's "Gangnam Style," many South Koreans of today’s new generation don't know exactly when the war broke out or regard it only as a distant historical event.

The documentary film Memory of Forgotten War insightfully explores the continuous impact of the Korean War and powerfully challenges historical amnesia about the conflict. The film mainly follows the stories of four Korean-Americans who survived the war and its aftermath; however, it also situates their stories in the trajectory of the war and a broader historical context by providing analyses by historians Bruce Cumings and Ji-Yeon Yuh and rich archival images. International relations paradigms and Korea’s own official nationalist historiography generally frame discussions of the war’s causes and effects. Consequently, what has to be collectively remembered or forgotten has been dictated by these approaches. However, in this film, directors Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem highlight the lasting impact of the war on ordinary people from a different angle, reminding us what should be remembered, and suggesting what approaches might be needed to heal the collective pain and trauma of war by focusing on the on-going healing processes of the individuals depicted in the film.

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