U.S. Army Keeping Close Eye on 'Han River Monster'

      August 11, 2006 19:53

      A scene from "The Host"

      The U.S. military newspaper Stars & Stripes on Friday ran a story titled, "USFK morgue incident inspired S. Korean horror movie" that outlines the way that the movie "The Host" is based on a real-life pollution case whose convicted perpetrator remains in his old job here.

      The film attributes the birth of a mutant monster in the Han River to chemicals dumped by U.S. Forces Korea personnel, a McGuffin some interpret as anti-American. "At the time that the film was in its planning stages is when news of the McFarland toxic chemical dumping incident was in the press," the blockbuster's director Bong Joon-ho has said.

      "Besides the idea of the monster haunting the Han River, there was no deeper motive. It is true that there is satire of the U.S., but if that level of satire can be called anti-American, it would also suggest that Americans think all South Koreans were anti-American because of their rage at the Apollo Anton Ono incident" -- the notorious short-track skating race where South Korean skater Kim Dong-sung at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics was disqualified by what many Koreans thought was a biased umpire, with gold going to the U.S, skater instead.

      "If Hollywood can constantly depict other nations as villains, then why can't the U.S. become the object of satire in the films of other nations?" Fourteen days after it opened, "The Host" has now been seen by 7.63 million people and is setting new standards for the Korean film industry.

      A scene from "The Host"

      The man who has the dubious distinction of inspiring the movie, Albert McFarland, is still working in Korea. On Feb. 9, 2000 McFarland allegedly ordered that 20 boxes of formaldehyde used to embalm corpses at the Yongsan base morgue should be poured down a drain that led to the Han River. That is the first scene of "The Host."

      The Stars & Stripes in vain sought an interview with McFarland, who still works at the morgue despite receiving a two-year suspended sentence last year. The U.S. sparked outrage by saying Korean courts had no authority over the case, and McFarland alienated Koreans further by only showing up for the appeal.

      The military daily quoted USFK spokesman David Oten as saying the forces were aware of the film but had "no specific reaction to the film or a fictional account of events."

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