The Korea Herald


'The Birth of Korea' sweeps local box office, rarity as documentary

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Feb. 21, 2024 - 13:26

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A moviegoer selects the film on a ticket vending machine at a local multiplex cinema in Seoul. (Yonhap) A moviegoer selects the film on a ticket vending machine at a local multiplex cinema in Seoul. (Yonhap)

“The Birth of Korea” by Kim Deok-young, a documentary film covering South Korea's first president Syngman Rhee and the country’s first-generation politicians and their efforts to protect the country, is sweeping the local box office, a rarity for a documentary screened in theaters.

Looking back on a 70-year history, “The Birth of Korea” reinterprets some of Rhee's major achievements like farmland reform. According to the film distributor Docu Story, the film reached 800,000 admissions as of Tuesday afternoon. It is currently ranked second in the local box office. The film distributor said that it is likely that the film will hit 1 million admissions soon.

A 2017 documentary film on late president Roh Moo-hyun “Our President” currently tops the local documentary film admissions list with 1.85 million audiences.

As “The Birth of Korea” has quickly garnered the attention of an audience majorly coming from the conservative party politicians and their supporters, there are criticisms that the film is a “political propaganda film” containing a right-skewed perspective.

“The Birth of Korea” (Docu Story) “The Birth of Korea” (Docu Story)

Meanwhile, director Kim said he plans to make the sequel to “The Birth of Korea,” this time shedding light on the personal life of President Rhee in contrast to the first installment about his political achievements.

“I’ll try to put President Rhee’s dignity, agony, hardship, frustration and his indomitable will to overcome in ‘The Birth of Korea 2,’” Kim said.

Following the huge popularity of the film, “The Birth of Korea” will be screened at the US Congress on March 20, following US Representative Michelle Park Steel’s response to the Korean American Coalition’s suggestion.

“The Birth of Korea,” which opened on Feb. 1, is currently in local theaters.