In 2018, for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953, Donald Trump, president of the United States and Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, met. Supported by South Korean president Moon Jae In, they pledged to open a new era of peace.

In the fall of 2017, Washington and Pyongyang were still threatening each other with nuclear strikes, to the point of worrying China, Russia, Japan and the rest of the world. What has happened? The “maximum pressure” imposed by the United-States paid out ?

Is the very martial North Korea ready to give up its nuclear missiles, and join the international community? Is it possible to end a 70 years of airtight division of the Korean people, divided in two different countries, in two opposing societies ?

To answer these questions, we must dive deep into the history of the Korean Peninsula, a place of confrontation of the great powers for more than 100 years.

In this unique film, senior executives from the two Koreas, the United-States, Russia and China tell this story together. Politicians, diplomats, spies, generals, businesspeople, writers, sportspeople talk in length in the two episodes. Add to that numerous shootings in both countries, and archives from North and South, plus USA, Russia, China and Europe.

For a long time, Korea was one. Partition was never the country’s own choice. For the population, this division remains a fracture. It has caused true suffering: not only the over 10 million families who are said to have been separated by the Korean War, but also the military and ideological frost that ensued. Then, a nation cleft in two that was more often a toy in the hands of the great powers than a master of its own fate.

DMZ is the name of the separating line between North and South Korea along the 38th parallel and the most fortified border in the world. Why can’t the Koreans take their fate in their hands? What are the barriers to a peaceful reunification?

In a 2×52 major historical documentary French director Pierre-Olivier François will draw a portrait of the Korean Nation: By looking at these different stories of contrast the film recounts this separation from the inside. For a nation is not just the sum of its inhabitants, revenue and tanks. A country and a nation have a shared past, shared dreams and mirrored landscapes. Impalpable qualities that can (sometimes) outlast decades, eras and regimes. The film as a whole outlines the role of the great powers that surround – or circle – Korea. It queries their declaration of principle in favor of a reunified country, and their deeper interests that often follow a totally opposite track.

Taekwondo, the Korean martial art, will be used as a metaphor to reveal the Korean mindset.

Pierre-Olivier François

Pierre-Olivier François is a French German TV reporter and documentary maker. Born in France in 1971, he studied political science and journalism at the Paris Institute for Political Science, and the free University of Berlin. He then started a carrier as TV Reporter and journalist, mostly for the French German public television ARTE, covering a wide range of topics in French and european politics, foreign affairs, but also culture and arts. He also worked for the German press, and sometimes for the Economist. From 2000 on, he also began to shoot documentary films, for ARTE and other international channels. Among others, he did two important films about South and North Korea, where he went five times since 2003:” North Korea, the border and the war”, in 2003, and “Divided Korea” in 2013 – first documentary ever where North and South Korean high-ranking witnesses tell their story together in the same film). Other films deal with power and oil in Putin’s Russia: “a barrel full of dream”, in 2009, the end of communism in the east: “Farewell comrade”, in 2012, Alzheimer disease, the future of the press, and most recently, in cooperation with PBS, about Cyberwar and about surveillance and the NSA.


Aired on Arte on February 19th, 2019 at 21:50

Aired on Arte on March 1st 2019

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