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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #533  (Vol. 11, No. 24)  This edition is for the week of June 7--13, 2010.

"The A-Team"  by Mike Smith
Supersonic Man  by ED Tucker
My Favorite Band, Genesis  by Chris Woods
Book Review: Lincoln in the Basement by Jerry Cowling  by Lisa Scherer
Silmido (2003)  by Jason Fetters
City Of Brotherly Idiots .... Hearing What They Want To Hear .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Silmido (2003)

Silmido, an island off the coast of South Korea, holds a dark secret that the government tried to cover up and failed.

Directed by Kang Woo-suk, Silmido tells the story of what happened to Unit 684.

Unit 684 was a group of death row inmates who were promised their freedom for the assassination of Kim II-sung. The inmates arrived at the small island called Silmido, located in the Yellow Sea off South Korea’s West Coast. There they were told that they would be trained to fulfill their mission and that the training would be tough.

Tough is an understatement for what happened on Silmido. The men ran until they dropped and when someone would fall down, drill instructors would emerge to beat the fallen with baseball bats. Live ammo was fired during obstacle course training. One of the harsh scenes was when Unit 684 had to crawl on their backs through muddy water underneath barbed wire. If someone slowed down, a drill instructor would step on the barbed wire ripping into hands, chests, and arms.

For any type of disobedience and to build up endurance, drill instructors would beat cadets with baseball bats until the person collapsed. If a person managed to endure then the drill instructor would keep wailing away.

Another intense training scene showed all the members with their shirts off as drill instructors heated up pokers. The pokers burned into the cadets’ backsides and most cadets run for the nearby sea, a few stuck it out until their flesh was blackened.

Despite all the physical abuse that seems excessive, any for assassination training, the mental torture was the worst.

After Unit 684 completed their training and were ready and pumped up by drill instructors to go and kill Kim II-sung, the government met with the Head Instructor of Silmido and told that Unit 684 was no longer needed. Arriving back at Silmido, a meeting was held between the Head Instructor and the other drill instructors that they were all ordered to execute Unit 684. Naturally, the cadets learned that they weren’t really going on an assassination mission for their country and that they would soon be eliminated, so they decided to revolt.

Some of the best action sequences show how well trained Unit 684 was as they worked in groups to kill off drill instructors. In an intense scene, the Head Instructor puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. The men of Unit 684 decide to try to make it to the mainland and they managed to hijack a bus in Seoul.

The ending of Silmido is brutal as the bus is surrounded by the military. Unit 684 has no choice except to free the hostages and commit mass suicide with grenades.

Silmido is a based on a true story with certain liberties taken. Unit 684 was trained on Silmido from January 21st 1968 to August 23rd 1971. The Unit did learn that the South Korea Government wanted them dead and that the entire ordeal would be covered up. Unit 684 did hijack a bus and they used grenades to kill themselves off.

That part of the movie is true.

At the end of Silmido there is a message thanking the 31 members of Unit 684 for their heroic efforts.

Silmido is a very realistic action/war movie that makes you care for Unit 684, which only makes the ending that much more shocking and hard to take.

Due to the box office success of Silmido in South Korea, the island is now a tourist attraction.

To anyone interested in learning about Unit 684 and watching a movie that is not afraid to show the military’s dark side, then watch Silmido.

Highly recommended with 4 stars out of 4.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.