South Korea: awareness for climate change and environment through cinema

In fiction films, imagination takes over from the reality of the climate and rewrites it. 

Several variations on this theme have been suggested in mainstream disaster movies (which are often American-produced blockbusters), in which a natural catastrophe is at the centre of the story. In South Korea, different films were lately produced about this topic. 

One of the first and visionary ones was the animated Science fiction film Wonderful Days or Sky blue (2003) by Kim Moonsaeng. The story is set in 2142. Pollution provoked environmental destruction climate change and human civilization fell apart. Again, there are the unprivileged who work as slaves who are suffering from the pollution of the rich. 

Ten years later, in 2013, Korean film director Bong Joon-Ho’s adapted the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige into the science fiction action film Snowpiercer. It was internationally acclaimed above all for its vision on climate change. Everything starts the moment humankind failed to stop global warming via technological intervention. The result is a new ice age. Only a small group of humans survived, and they are on a special train running around the earth through ice and snow. The passengers are socially segregated, and the law of the strongest exist with manipulation and brainwashing. However, the evil will be overcome by the good and empathy for those who are treated unjustly. 

In Bong’s latest film Parasite (2019) there is a hint to climate change when the unprivileged social part of the town is overflooded. One can say that in South Korea, the awareness for climate change is growing, as elsewhere in the world.

Since 2018 the Korean Franciscan Justice and Peace Commission is organizing a series of seminars with film screenings to raise consciousness on climate change among the public in collaboration with some NGOs, e.g., ICE network (Inter-religious Climate and Ecology), Green Asia, etc. 

These monthly film screenings started in May 2018 with the American documentary, Disruption of Kelly Nyks, which contains the warning messages from global climate change toward the human. The message is clear climate change has also to do with eradicating poverty. One of the actions to do is empowering women. The film sees climate change also as the result of unequal society. The film is set in Latin America. 

Among the films of this action, were Before the Flood by Leonardo DiCaprio; the mockumentary Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy and the German “action movie” Voice of Transition. After such a one-hour movie screening, a debate followed on the theme of the film by a climate specialist and Q&A session with the audience.

The Seoul Eco Film Festival (SEFF) 

This festival used to be called the Green Film Festival, is the first and biggest film festival in Korea focusing on environmental issues. 

Established in 2004, the Korean Green Foundation, SEFF is a festival that seeks to share the hope for a better world where all the lives can live in harmony with environment and nature. 

Through cinema, the festival hopes to promote ideas of environmental protection and life respect to encourage public awareness and action for positive changes. 

In 2019 the documentary Grit from Cynthia Wade and Sasha Friedlander won its main award. A film about a big company destroying 16 villages in Indonesia and almost twenty years of struggle for justice.

This article is available in CineMag.SIGNIS Asia

Image used for illustrative purposes only.