Crossing the Line (2006)

Saturday, January 26, 2008
Crossing the Line tells the story of James Joseph Dresnok, an American soldier who in 1962, during the height of the Cold War, did the unthinkable - he crossed the demilitarized zone between the Koreas and defected to the communist North where he's been living ever since. But Dresnok wasn't the first and wouldn't be the last. During the first few years of the 60's, four seperate American GI's would defect to North Korea, disillusioned with their lives in America and their careers in the army. All four men, including Dresnok, would go on to take part in North Korean anti-American proganada including a number of films under the supervision of none other than future leader Kim Jong Il which would make the four former soldiers near celebrities. They were offered opportunities to learn the language, customs, and culture of North Korea, and all married and raised families. However, all was not rosey.

At the time of filming (2004), two of the defectors had passed away. A third, Charles Robert Jenkins, had recently left for Indonesia to meet up with his Japanese wife who had been allowed to return to Japan to visit her family. Knowing full well that if he set foot in Japan, he'd face extradition to the US (Indonesia has no agreement with the US), Jenkins accompanied by his wife and two daughters flew to Japan and he quickly turned himself into authorities. Shortly after doing so, he did an interview with an American reporter and claimed their perfect life in Korea was a lie. He stated that whenever he said anything against the Korean government, Dresnok would beat him. There were also a number of rumors that the defectors' wives were actually foreign women who'd been kidnapped and taken to Korea. One of the wives, a Lebanese woman, denies it and Dresnok's first wife (who may have been a Romanian kidnapped while in Italy) has passed away and he claims she never talked about her origins.

The viewer is left to make up their own minds - were the defectors willing participants in the promotion of anti-American propoganda? Was life as good as Dresnok makes it out to be or is he merely towing the party line for the cameras? He vehemently denies Jenkins' claims about him and the past 40 years in North Korea. Without the other two former soldiers to verify either side of the story, we'll likely never know which is telling the truth. As well, Dresnok's health is failing thanks to his life-long smoking habit and excessive drinking.

Regardless of what the truth really is, it's an interesting documentary about a subject few people of my generation (and those afterwards) know little about. Captain recommended.

5 comments:

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Wow, I have got to see this movie. I love documentaries like this.

SME said...

I can understand the disillusionment with war, but I'm not sure a life of hardline Communism and Korean cinema was a fair trade-off for these fellas...
Sounds pretty blechy to me.

SME said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gardenia said...

Sounds like an excellent documentary. I have read small bits about this guy, wondering what on earth was he thinking about. All the documentaries I've seen on North Korea have been chilling to say the least. To know there were more than one is really interesting!

Hope you get to feeling better.

The Fraze said...

Sounds pretty interesting - saw your post on King of Kong. Mmmm, I can't wait to watch that on DVD soon...

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top