08/05/2005, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA - NORTH KOREA
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Reunification (and outsourcing), Korean-style

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

Seoul's KBS-TV and Pyongyang's Chosun Central TV sign co-production deal.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Koreans' desire for reunification has a taken a cultural turn. In addition to the six-nation talks now underway in Beijing, the opening of the Kaesŏng industrial zone and the soon-to-be operational Kyongui railway link, cooperation across the DMZ now involves making movies and other programmes for television. This comes as Koreans, who have suffered 60 years of national division, ardently desire to see their country as one, something that is felt in the heart of each one of them.

South Korean television network KBS and North Korea's Chosun Central TV have started shooting a series of 24, 70-minutes, episodes called Sayuksin.

The first episode of this TV drama series co-produced by the two Koreas is expected to hit the air as early as August of next year.

It tells the story of six loyal retainers who died whilst trying to restore King Tanjong to his throne after he was overthrown by his brutal uncle Sejo during the Chosun Kingdom, in 1450s.

King Sejo has gone down in Korean history as the bloody murderer of intellectuals who fought against his tyranny.

But it is more than a movie. "It's a kind of outsourcing project," KBS's Kim Yong-ki said of the series. "Chosun Central TV produces the series and we pay for the production costs, mostly broadcasting equipment such as cameras and lighting facilities."

After deciding the storyline, North Korean writers prepared the script—which was later revised by writers from the South. The rest of the production will be done by a North Korean crew, Kim said.

Only North Korean actors star in the series, including famous dancer Cho Myong-ae, who now appears in Samsung mobile phone commercials.

The inter-Korean broadcast cooperation team in charge of the project met for the first time in September 2003 in Kaesŏng and Mount Myohyangsan.

Last January, they ironed out the details to produce a drama series based on historic figures.

Shooting started on July 28 and it is likely it will be completed by next summer.

It will be shot in the streets of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, in Kaesŏng, on Mount Myohyangsan, and in the studios of Chosun Central TV.

KBS gave its North Korean counterpart the right to air the program.

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