The Cold War: a time of ideological clash between two titanic superpowers, their hatred for each other and each other’s systems frozen in a perpetual stalemate. During this chaotic time proxy conflicts reined the world’s edges and resulted in the deaths of untold millions. Before Vietnam and the disastrous conflict in that small Asian nation there was Korea: the flashpoint for the dispute between socialism and capitalism. While seemingly forgotten in the West it was during this conflict that a most remarkable event transpired.
We begin with James Dresgnaut, a young man with little education and from broken homes. In desperation to have a respectable life he enlists in the United States Armed Forces. While overseas his wife leaves him. Coming back to such news devastates him and with little left to do he re-enlists in the armed forces this time stationed to South Korea. During his time stationed there he realizes life is never going to get better. In a fit of hysteria James does the unthinkable: he crosses over the border to North Korea.
It is there he starts his new life. While it is difficult, to be sure, learning a new language, adapting to strange customs, and educating themselves in theory alien to the beliefs in which they were raised, James and his fellow deserters experience a hallowing transition. Yet it is in this new system they find happiness: eventually becoming citizens and settling down, marrying, and having children they become true Korean patriots.
It is this tale that is told by a BBC documentary crew. Documenting the history and controversy surrounding these defectors is done in a surprisingly entertaining manner. While there is, of course, bias within the filmmakers narrative such is only the expected caveats (“communist country” negative portrayal, etc). Indeed most of the time the focus is on James and his tale; to this end James informs his audience so well of his journey that together with the relative objectivity present in the film makes for a resounding story of man’s struggle to become all he can be in a world that aims to strike him down.