By Anthony Faiola, Washington Post Foreign Service, February 13, 2005; Page A29
SEOUL -- The politically charged film "The President's Last Bang" is a shot at the heart of the South Korean establishment. The main target: Park Chung Hee, the South Korean president, conservative icon and former military leader who was gunned down in 1979 after 18 years in power.
Park was venerated by conservatives as a hero who faced down communist North Korea while turning his country into an economic success. But the film, which opened this month to cheers and jeers, casts him as a philandering drunk with a traitorous soft spot for Korea's former occupiers, the Japanese. South Korea's wealthy elite -- represented by Park's ministers, aides and henchmen -- are portrayed as degenerates torturing communists and gorging on luxury foods, excessive drink and easy women while displaying disregard for the common man. More than a lashing administered by one director, the movie captures the national mood.
South Korea's upper classes -- which have succeeded in amassing enormous wealth over the past three generations -- are calling themselves the victims of an anti-establishment crusade designed chiefly to discredit the pillars of politics and commerce who have long opposed North Korea. Analysts and political experts, in turn, describe it as part of the ideological debate raging as South Korea undergoes the broadest re-examination of national history since the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910.--------------------