Unsung Heroes, also known as Unknown Heroes or more literally as Nameless Heroes, is a North Korean film series about a spy in Seoul during the Korean War. Over twenty hours long, it was filmed and released in multiple parts between 1978 and 1981. It was the recipient of the Kim Il-sung Medal.
Production and reaction:
Unsung Heroes received a widespread favourable reception in the domestic market, according to North Korean state-owned newspapers. Lead actor Kim Ryong-lin, who played the hero Yu Rim, stated that it was one of his favourite roles in over 20 years of acting; in a 1981 interview, he remarked that people had begun calling him Yu Rim instead of his real name after the series began, which he actually enjoyed because of his admiration for the character. Actress Kim Jung-hwa, who played female lead Kim Soon-hee, initially felt that she was unsuited for the role, as she had no prior military experience, or even experience playing a spy on-screen; her only preparation consisted of reading several books and interviewing real spies. The director Ryu Ho-son stated that his favourite scene was the one from the "Madonna Teahouse" in Part 5, in which former lovers Yu Rim and Kim Soon-hee each learn that the other is a North Korean agent.
Unsung Heroes was also responsible for propelling American defectors James Joseph Dresnok and Charles Robert Jenkins to minor celebrity status in North Korea. However, it did not receive public attention in the United States until 1996, when the U.S. Department of Defense obtained a copy of the movie; a report issued by five of their analysts identified Charles Robert Jenkins and one other unnamed American (later discovered to be James Joseph Dresnok) as actors in the movie, providing the first evidence in three decades that Jenkins was still alive. Dresnok's popularity in his role is such that people in North Korea routinely refer to him as "Arthur," the name of the character he played in the film.
Unsung Heroes was broadcast on television in China in 1982, and released on DVD in 2003 by Dalian Audiovisual Publishing House. It was also screened in Japan during the Kitakyushu Biennial 2007. Its theme song "Embrace the Song of Happiness" (기쁨의 노래 안고 함께 가리라; Kibbŭmŭi Norae Ango Hamkke Karira), composed by Chŏn Tong-u, remains widely known in North Korea; Grand National Party member Yu Hong-jun, head of South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration, became the center of controversy in 2005 when he sang the song at an official dinner while visiting North Korea.
The plot of Unsung Heroes is based on some actual historical events, but many names and details were changed for propaganda purposes. The movie opens with an unidentified spy master giving instructions to protagonist Yu Rim, a Korean expatriate in the United Kingdom working as a journalist, who is ordered to proceed to Seoul and gather intelligence on the United States Forces Korea. Initially, he only has three contacts in Seoul: Park Mu, the chief press officer for the Republic of Korea Army, Janet O'Neill, the wife of senior American intelligence official Dr. Kelton, and Lee Hong-sik, his handler, through whom he maintains contact with Pyongyang. Once there, Yu also runs into his old lover Kim Soon-hee, who is apparently employed by the United States Counter Intelligence Corps, and is introduced to Colonel Klaus. Yu begins gathering intelligence on a coup plot by rightist South Korean general Sin Jae-sin, which Lee helps him pass back to North Korea using his unwitting friend Kim Su-gyong as a courier. Lee is suspected by a US counter intelligence agent Martin who found Lee takes care of homeless kids. Soon after, Lee is killed in a shootout with CIC agents, including Kim Soon-hee, leaving Yu unable to pass his crucial intelligence back to his government. Yu calls Lee from a bar and found the person on the other side is not Lee thus hangs up immediately. However, a waitress in that bar is arrested and tortured by Colonel Klaus, who learns that a man suspected to be Yu was seen making the phone call.
Yu flees to a Hong Kong safehouse run by a North Korean singer, where he is instructed to return to Seoul and contact an agent code-named White Horse. However, he is suspicious of White Horse, and sets a trap for him, in which he is revealed to be working with Colonel Klaus for the Americans, and is killed by an unknown person. Yu obtained the information from Janet O'Neill that John Foster Dulles is visiting Europe to get reinforcement. Yu meets Lewis, a British army low rank officer from an Irish Proletariat family, and makes him a Communist, to relay this information; Lewis stages his own kidnapping so that he can disappear to the North for training, and later returns to Seoul. Two months later, Yu receives a coded message on Voice of Korea instructing him to contact an agent named Diamond, who turns out to be his old lover Kim Soon-hee, ostensibly working for the Americans, but really a double agent for North Korean intelligence. With Dulles's agenda exposed to the media, the US thus plans a battle for demonstration, but Yu obtains this information from Park Mu. Americans are defeated by a well prepared North Korean army, and failed to get more reinforcement from European allies.
Yu continues to gather intelligence on General Sin's coup attempt, this time passing messages back to Pyongyang by way of a radio operator disguised as a disabled veteran who begs outside hotels. Yu hides messages in cigarette filters, which he then throws on the ground near the beggar. However, he is unaware that he is being followed by the CIC, who are filming his activities. Colonel Klaus hears about a North Korean spy disguised as a veteran, and begins reviewing video tapes to check on Yu's activities. Kim saves the day by cutting the scenes out of the tapes to avoid further suspicion falling on Yu, but the disappearance of the scenes triggers Klaus' suspicion towards Kim herself instead. Klaus stages a test of loyalty for her, in which she is kidnapped and threatened with execution by American agents in Hokkaidō, Japan pretending to be Communists; however, Kim correctly senses this is a trap, and escapes by killing the agents.
Park Mu realizes that Yu and Kim are spies without any evidence. As the person who leaks out the demonstration battle intelligence, Park is pushed by Klaus, and kills Kim who tries to protect Yu. Later, Yu kills Park for revenge.
At the end, North Korean armies starts new attacks, and forces the allies to peace negotiation. Due to Yu's effort, Sin Jae-sin's coup is crashed by South Korean president Syngman Rhee's agents. Sin commits suicide. Yu left Korea. Klaus, being afraid that his wrongdoings which Yu told Dr. Kelton will be blamed, commits suicide also.
Yu Rim (Kim Ryong-lin): A former guard in an Imperial Japanese Army Prisoner-of-war camp and later a graduate of Cambridge University, he was recruited by North Korean intelligence while working as a reporter in Istanbul. He is sent to Seoul to gather intelligence on United States forces there.,
Kim Soon-hee (Kim Jung-hwa): Yu's college sweetheart, now in a counter intelligence agent under Colonel Klaus. During the North Korean occupation of Seoul, she saved the life of an American agent who had been left behind, for which she was commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Army Counter Intelligence Corps by Klaus.,
Park-mu (Jung Woon-mo): Chief press officer for the Republic of Korea Army and a friend of Yu-rim's from Cambridge.,
Colonel Claus : Member of the United States Army Counter Intelligence Corps, and Yu's main adversary. The actor playing the part is credited as Son Dae-won : according to Charles Robert Jenkins, he was actually "an Italian vice dean of the music college in Pyongyang".,
Captain Martin (Yun Chan): Member of the United States Army Counter Intelligence Corps and an aide to Colonel Klaus.,
Dr. Kelton (Charles Robert Jenkins): The mastermind behind the Korean War.,
Janet O'Neill (Shu Ok-soon): The wife of Dr. Kelton, her cousin was a British soldier whose life was saved by Yu when interned in a prisoner-of-war camp. Though the character is supposed to be British, she was played by a Eurasian actress of mixed Korean/Russian descent, a common practise in North Korean cinema.,
Shark (Kim Duk-sam): a corrupt agent in the Counter Intelligence Corp, who sells information to rival South Korean generals jockeying for power.,
Lee Jin-yong: Kim Yun-hong,
Wang Soong: Rho Jung-won A reporter from Taiwan, and son of the secretary of Chiang Kai-shek.,
Knife: Kang Keum-bok,
Seul-hwa: Park Sub,
Carl, U.S. secret police captain: Larry Allen Abshier,
Lewis, British Army lieutenant (Jerry Wayne Parrish): An Irish British army officer, who becomes a Communist and Yu's assistant with Yu's help.,
Arthur, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel : James Joseph Dresnok. Appears only in Episode 14.,
Interpreters: Kim Chang-soo, Paik Kyung-a,
Behind Enemy Lines
《적후에서 또 적후에로》
Behind Enemy Lines Again
《敵後에서 또 敵後에로》
Chŏkhu esŏ tto Chŏkhu ero
Jeokhu eseo tto Jeokhu ero
Alone Behind Enemy Lines
Chŏkhu esŏ Hollo
Jeokhu eseo Hollo
In Ancient Ruins
Shooting at Midnight
Battle in the Midst of Calm
A Dangerous Confrontation
《일요일에 있은 일》
What Happens on Sunday
《日曜日에 있은 일》
Ilyoil e Issŭn Il
Ilyoil e Isseun Il
《웃음속에 비낀 그늘》
The shade cast by laughter
《웃음속에 비낀 그늘》
Usŭmsok e Pikkin Kŭnŭl
Useumsok e Bikkin Geuneul
Island of Death
On that Moonless Night
Talŏmnŭn Kŭbam e
Daleomneun Geubam e
The Battle Continues
Chŏntunŭn Kyesok Toenda
Jeontuneun Gyesok Doenda
Polkŭn Chŏnyŏk Noŭl
Bolgeun Jeonyeok No-eul
《우리는 잊지 않는다》
We do Not Forget
《우리는 잊지 않는다》
Urinŭn Ijji Annŭnda
Urineun Ijji Anneunda