Welcome to Dongmakgol

Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)

8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 565 users
Reviews: 3 users

Dongmakgol is a village in a remote mountain, isolated from the rest of the world and untouched by the ravages of the ongoing war in Korea. Fate brings the three fighting forces together: a U.S. fighter pilot whose plane crash-landed in the mountain, three retreating North Korean soldiers, and two South Korean soldiers who are lost. After a grenade destroys the food storage, they decide to stay and help the local farmers. read moreIn the process they slowly let go of their hatred for one another and build a sense of friendship. Meanwhile, the U.S. commanders believe there is a major North Korean military presence in the area where the plane went missing and plan a major air strike. In order to spare the village from complete destruction, the soldiers decide to work together to divert the attack, possibly sacrificing themselves in the process.

  • Native title:

    웰컴 투 동막골
  • Also Known as:

    Welkeom Tu Dongmaggol;

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A Stalker’s Guide to Ryu Deok Hwan
A highly-talented and versatile actor (and director), of such charm and charisma, with a wonderful ability to bring so much depth and personality to any role he performs.

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mysecretsoul
12 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Mar 8, 2014
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 9.0
  • Acting/Cast 9.0
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 8.0
Modern war movies have garnered something of a reputation. When one now thinks of the genre, visions of blood-soaked battlefields, blazing weaponry, and mushroom clouds fill the mind. Themes often include brotherhood and the importance of peace, sometimes subtle, often not. How refreshing Welcome to Dongmakgol must be in comparison then, as it gently rejects (if not wholly abandons) all this. Instead, it opts to be one of the most beautiful and read more imaginative war films ever made.

Simply described, Welcome to Dongmakgol leaves the impression of a Studio Ghibli animation sprung to life. The similarities are numerous, felt from the fanciful bones of the premise, right down to vivid ambiance set by the cinematography. Even music lends itself to the comparison, having been contributed by legendary Joe Hisashi. Little events (such as the incredible, now-famous, popcorn scene) might have been directed by Miyazaki himself. This is all intentional of course, a sure credit to Director Park Kwang Hyun (a self-proclaimed fan of the studio).

As one might glean from the information above, the story maintains elements of fantasy. North and South Korean soldiers, as well as one stranded American, end up meeting in an idyllic little village during the Korean War. They learn that the village, Dongmakgol, has been isolated for so long the inhabitants have no knowledge of the war, or modern technologies in general. From here, it develops into a story of friendship without borders, of innocence that brings happiness and peace, and reconciliation despite old wounds. Sprinkle in a little comedy and a heart-rending scene or two, and you've basically got Welcome to Dongmakgol.

The cast is phenomenal, as are the characters. Veteran actors Jung Jae Young (as North Korean officer Su Hwa) and Shin Ha Kyun (haunted South Korean Lieutenant Pyo) light up the screen. Being able to see both of these talents work together is such a treat, and their interactions with others are simply magnificent. Kang Hye Jung, best known from the Korean classic Oldboy, lands another iconic role here as the innocent and child-like Yeo Il. Together with Ryu Deok Hwan, she rounds up the memorable figures in the cast.

Unfortunately, the western actors were shakier. Steve Taschler doesn’t derail the film as Neil Smith, but his performance is obviously weaker than those around him. His character still manages to be somewhat interesting, despite these issues being combined with limited screen time.

Earlier I mentioned Joe Hisashi; fans of his work will automatically connect this name with quality. Those unfamiliar among you, don’t worry. This is music that has to be heard to be believed. Without his incredible compositions, the effect of the film would be nowhere as strong.
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waterbird12
6 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Nov 27, 2012
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 8.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 9.0
  • Rewatch Value 9.0
This is a funny, thoughtful, and touching movie set during the Korean war. The main themes are friendship, the kind of friendship that overcomes language barriers and ideological differences. The story is unique in character and setting, if not so much in plot, and very well done. The cinematography is excellent and conveys a lot of emotion.

I don't know any of these actors well (I actually watched the Japanese dub of read more this film in one of my classes), but I thought the main actors in the Korean cast did a good job, carrying both the humor and the serious bits well. I was not impressed with actor who played Neil Smith, however. His acting was flat, and his accent was...a complete mystery.

The music was great! If you are familiar with Studio Ghibli films, this soundtrack was very reminiscent of Spirited Away. Beautiful, soaring score to match the luscious scenery of the mountains in Korea.

I will watch this again. It does not drag at all, it's visually aesthetic, I liked the music, it's funny, and very heartwarming. The artistic style and some of the acting reminded me of YMCA Baseball Team, the only other Korean movie I've ever seen, but that could also be due to my unfamiliarity with Korean film.

Do be warned that the ending is a little bittersweet, it is a war movie, but overall it left me feeling warm. Its best point was the viewer sympathy it created for all three sides presented, the Americans, the North Koreans, and the South Koreans, not to mention the villagers of Dongmakgol. The power of this film is all in the emotions it so vibrantly displays and instills.
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Comments (9)

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  • Reply

    I didn't find this film as wonderful as everyone else did - maybe b/c it didn't live up to my other favorite war movies/dramas... My favorite part in this movie was the end, the last fight and the sweet scene - I can't say I was bored b/c the film did humor me at times but I wasn't impressed either. People all talk about the cinematography but I didn't see that - I thought it was made more like a play on stage would be - or like a comedy skit - which it fine but not exactly my taste. I watched this b/c Shin Ha Kyung & Jung Jae Young were in it - and since I'm kinda "stalking" their films I had to watch this as well :P Ryu Deok Hwan was an added bonus ^_^ I don't remember any music or songs ... They never actually cast real grounded foreign actors in their movies so I wasn't really bothered by the lack of acting skills in the foreign actors - I tend to just overlook them. I liked how the brotherhood formed between these men - the South, North and the stranded UN soldier - but it wasn't anything impressive. Unlike others, I did not break a single tear. - Like I said it didn't have that big of an impact on me or leave any strong impression in my mind. It's a film I could easily forget but I didn't mind watching it at least once. But it's not the kind of movie I personally would watch again.

    • Reply
      MissFifi May 31, 2016

      couldn't agree more with your opinion! <3 the movie was okay, and pretty good too but nothing impressive for me :(

  • Reply
    sogand Aug 13, 2015

    prepare tissue before watch.
    it was just a little bit slow.
    8/10

  • Reply
    bmore Feb 19, 2015
    Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    holldoll32 Feb 15, 2015 - edited

    Is this based on a true story?

    • Reply
      mysecretsoul Feb 25, 2015

      No, though it takes place during the Korean War. It's a moral fantasy with hints of homage to Miyazaki.

  • Reply
    MrGu Dec 2, 2014

    I read on "Rotten Tomatoes" a user write "Korea's answer to Shangri-la is well worth a visit." about this movie and I think that the parallel is interesting.
    Dongmakgol village is an utopia mixed with Levi-Strauss' idea of the untamed human thought and it's for the better!

  • Reply
    Randevouz Jul 12, 2014 - edited

    Amazing imagery. Like reviews said, it was like a studio ghibli movie come to life. Very imaginative take on an anti-war film. I loved it. But yes the western actors could have been a little better.

  • Reply
    pattyrn4 May 31, 2014

    This is an anti war movie and while I like the theme, it is too slow for me. It reminds me of anime which I'm not a fan of. The people I watched it with quit halfway through.

  • Reply
    AMatsujunNOS2 Oct 28, 2013

    loved the music! reminded me of a ghibli movie soundtrack haha

    • Reply
      AMatsujunNOS2 Nov 26, 2013

      OMFG just found out hisaishi joe wrote the music. no wonder ><

  • Reply
    Pattie Oct 1, 2012

    cried my eyes out but its a great movie

  • Reply
    darkangel662008 Sep 2, 2012

    I thought it was funny movie but i end up sad:(

    But it's a nice movie...

  • Reply
    eiyaah Jun 6, 2012

    awww ;( there no comment!!! well i like it it pretty nice!!!

Details

  • Country:

    South Korea
  • Type:

    Movie
  • Release Date:

    Aug 4, 2005
  • Duration:

    2 hr. 13 min.

Statistics

  • Score:

    8.2 (scored by 565 users)
  • Ranked:

    #379
  • Popularity:

    #5508

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