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Sharing tales of Korean conflict on small screen

Updated: 2015-10-08 08:46:38

( China Daily )

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The 38th Parallel, a 40-episode drama, will premiere on CCTV later this month. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Sixty-five years after the outbreak of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53), an upcoming TV series pays homage to the martyrs and veterans of that conflict.

The 38th Parallel, a 40-episode drama named after the geographical line which divided the Korean peninsula roughly across the middle through a post-World War II arrangement, will be premiered during prime-time hours by CCTV on Oct 25 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean war.

For most Chinese film fans, revolutionary themes featuring the war, such as the 1956 smash hit Battle on Shangganling, formed a crucial part of their collective memory from the mid-1950s to the 1960s. But the theme rarely has been adapted for small and big screens in more recent decades due to political concerns and historical reasons.

Seen as an icebreaking program, the series is the first of its kind to present the war on screen in a long time, according to the producers.

A 40-minute trailer released on Sept 17 impressed viewers with its grand presentation of the battles and examination of human experiences during the war.

Opening with a flashback featuring a return ceremony of the remains of the Chinese soldiers killed in the conflict, the storyline centers on two fictional Chinese fishermen-turned-soldiers striving to be war heroes.

The casualty figures confirmed by Chinese government last October reveal that 197,653 members of China People's Volunteers died in the fighting that ended with an armistice in 1953.

The war holds much significance in Chinese history. It enhanced China's international standing and boosted its people's confidence in independence. Many Chinese youth, who nowadays are unfamiliar with this period of history because they were born long after the conflict had ended, should know about the sacrifices made by the Chinese people back then, says scriptwriter Wang Haiping.

Wang, an award-winning writer, reveals that he has interviewed many veterans and researched historical documents, including memoirs from the Republic of Korea and the United States.

"I've spent nearly four years on writing and revising. I cannot hold back my tears when the storyline reaches some touching scenarios," he says.

"Most of the Chinese youngsters have limited knowledge of this period in history, which deserves to be remembered forever. I hope they will learn about it from the screen."

Li Yang, the art director, tells China Daily that the series is in some ways a rescue of dying history, as most of the Chinese Korean War veterans are in their 80s, with poor health conditions.

"The series will act as a good gift for those respectable people, who risked their lives to defend the peace and stability of our country," he says.

More than 80 percent of the scenarios are based on the real war history, and details featuring weapons have been vetted by military expects, says producer Wang Fei.

With a budget of 100 million yuan ($15.7 million), the series recruits the special-effects team from the 2007 blockbuster Assembly, which received high acclaim for its state-of-the-art techniques to re-create explosions and fires.

For director Meng Ji, the veteran TV hand behind a series of popular titles, the series has a bigger ambition.

Insisting the showbiz industry should take responsibility to set role models for today's youth, he says the series can change the "idol standard" dominated by "young heartthrobs, who wear heavy makeup and lack masculine characteristics".

He says the series will be released for the North American market after its Chinese mainland debut.

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