| Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day
Seoul, Jan. 11: 007, you have gifted Her Majesty’s closest ally a few more enemies in both the Koreas.
Alarm bells that went off across the world overnight after North Korea pulled out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty were muffled in South Korea by a backlash against the latest James Bond movie, Die Another Day.
The protesters were so angry they ignored or even praised North Korea’s defiant exit from the global treaty and its bid today to escalate the crisis with a threat to end a moratorium on missile testing. ( )
As much of the world worried about the nuclear crisis, South Korean activists laid siege to movie halls. They rallied at scores of theatres to block the film in a protest that prompted 10 out of 50 cinemas in Seoul to pull the film early.
Die Another Day, the 20th Bond film, opened on December 31 to inflamed passions on both sides of the Korean border because of scenes that protesters say vilify communist North Korea and offend the South’s national pride.
In the film, British secret agent 007, played by Irish actor Pierce Brosnan, is tortured by North Korean agents and has sex in what looks like a Buddhist temple.
Buddhist monks here are aghast that the film uses a temple as backdrop for the love scene. The Internet, too, pulsates with criticism.
“Hollywood takes it for granted that ‘good and mighty’ America destroys ‘evil and savage’ Korea,” said Chung Hai Gyu, a boycott organiser.
Particularly galling to many here is the image of seemingly dumfounded South Korean farmers tending water buffalo — an animal found in struggling Southeast Asian economies, not this high-tech nation — as pieces of modern technology drop from the sky.
Critics also complain that South Korea is made to look like a US vassal state as a CIA agent orders the Asian nation’s military to mobilise for war. Others grouse that the temple appears to be located in the demilitarised zone separating the Koreas and that its architecture looks distinctly Japanese.
At Daehan theatre in central Seoul, a dozen college students sang songs calling for Korean unification and denouncing the US.
They carried placards saying ‘Stop Playing 007’, ‘Be Alert, Arrogant America’, and ‘Let’s not watch the 007 film which stirs up a war crisis in Korea’.
North Korea has called the film a “dirty and cursed burlesque” that showcases US enmity for the North, whose leader Kim Jong-il is a cinema buff and reportedly a fan of James Bond films.
“When a crisis is escalating on the Korean peninsula, playing a movie that depicts having a war in Korea and American and British military officials attacking the North is a huge problem,” said Kang Hyung-goo, director of the Unification Alliance Peace Committee, which organised the rally.
“I have not seen the movie because I oppose the idea of showing the film these days, considering what is going on now,” said Seoul office worker Sung Hyo-jin.
“However, I don’t feel threatened by North Korea’s nuclear programme. Rather, I’m proud of North Korea, which has the guts to stand up to the US,” said 30-year-old Sung as he waited in line for another film.
Die Another Day lured 4,26,200 viewers on its first weekend amid criticism and the mounting boycott, but the Daehan theatre operator said it was cutting back on showings.
“We have been cutting the number of showings daily, and because of what is currently going on and the simmering public opinion, we have decided to stop playing the movie soon,” said a manager at Daehan theatre.
The protests and attempted boycott are expected to expand pressure on Hollywood to vet films better for overseas markets, film critics say, given the growing share of its revenue coming from abroad.
Other Bond movies have rocked viewers’ boats over the years.
Tomorrow Never Dies was set in Vietnam but shot in Thailand, upsetting Vietnamese. The Bond series was banned in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, although it became very popular after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Blacks slammed their portrayal in Live and Let Die, which even featured white actors in black-face makeup. And the Japanese were miffed that Bond mastered the ancient Ninja arts in a week of training in You Only Live Twice.