'Escape from Mogadishu' reenacts heart-warming story of North and South Koreans

'Escape from Mogadishu' reenacts heart-warming story of North and South Koreans

Actors Koo Kyo-hwan, from left, Zo In-sung, Kim Yun-seok, and Huh Joon-ho pose for pictures during a media conference to promote the film “Escape from Mogadishu,” held in Lotte World Tower, Songpa-gu, eastern Seoul, Thursday. Courtesy of Lotte Entertainment

By Lee Gyu-lee

It is widely known that the ongoing Somali Civil War started in 1991 with an uprising by the clan-based armed opposition group, or the United Somali Congress (USC), against a military junta led by Siad Barre.

However, the upcoming film, “Escape from Mogadishu,” intends to shine the spotlight on the dramatic true story of South and North Korean diplomats coming together to flee the chaos in Somalia during that time.

“When I read the script for this film, I thought it would be a wild and bold challenge (to make it into a film). I wondered how director Ryoo Seung-wan would make it possible. But if it can be made possible, I thought I should be part of it and took the role placing my faith in the director,” actor Kim Yun-seok, who plays the South Korean ambassador, said during a media conference for the film, held in Lotte World Tower, Songpa-gu, eastern Seoul, Thursday.

Set in the capital city of Somalia, Mogadishu, the film starts by describing the background story of South Korean diplomats ― ambassador Han Shin-sung (Kim) and counselor Kang Dae-jin (Zo In-sung) ― and their antagonistic relationship with the North Korean diplomats ― ambassador (Huh Joon-ho) and counselor (Koo Kyo-hwan).

The two diplomats were stationed there on a diplomatic mission to convince the Somali government to back its membership in the United Nations in 1991.

However, when the opposition group took over the city, calling for a city-wide evacuation of residing embassies, the two ambassadors form an unlikely alliance to make it out of the country alive.

'Escape from Mogadishu' reenacts heart-warming story of North and South Koreans

A scene from the film “Escape from Mogadishu” / Courtesy of Lotte Entertainment

“‘Escape from Mogadish’ is a perfect movie to watch in summer. It’s a movie that we can proudly present to audiences,” Kim said, sharing his feelings after screening the movie. “The film is full of energy. I didn’t realize how dynamic the story will unfold when I actually filmed it, but I was immersed in it from the beginning to the end.”

The action blockbuster takes audiences on a 121-minute long ride through convulsive threats and attacks amid the civil war, and the North and South Koreans’ heart-racing escape for survival.

Director Ryoo, who has extensive experience in leading tent poles like “The Berlin File” (2013) and “The Battleship Island” (2017), said the key goal during the production was to create a safe environment.

“My philosophy is that you get the best scenes when you have the safest environment for filming,” he said. “Filming overseas for four months is not easy. One of my main priorities was to set up ways for the crew and cast members to complete the production without getting injured ― both physically and mentally.”

Along with the fast-paced action sequences, the film also portrays people from two divided countries establishing a sense of companionship by going through a life-or-death mission.

“The film is set in an isolated place with the civil war at its peak. So I needed to recreate the tension, fear, and desperation people felt under that situation,” he said. “When you shoot such large-scale films like this, you might steer away from focusing on the characters along with the flashy action sequences. So I tried to not lose my grip and to bring out the sentimental side of the story.”

Zo recalled the time he stayed with the cast members for months in Morocco, before the pandemic, to film the movie. “I have been working on projects in which I was usually the sole lead. So I took this role because I wanted to be part of something that I can work together with veteran actors in,” he said. “When I screened the movie, it reminded me of the time we basically lived there together. So this film comes to me as extra special.”

“Escape from Mogadishu” is set to hit theaters on July 28.

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