The current geopolitical drama playing out in North Korea, with American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee caught smack-dab in the middle, has all the makings of a taught cinematic drama. If that film ever gets made, either for the big screen or say HBO, it will instantly vault to the top of a very small and generally unimpressive sub-genre.
While @BarackObama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have worked hard to gain Ling–Lee traction with North Korea, former President Ronald Reagan parachuted into the movie version of the country back in 1954 via MGM’s Prisoner of War. As Webb Sloane, Reagan goes undercover in a Korean War POW camp, where he witnesses various forms of brutality.
Meanwhile, Ronny Cox as President in the 1997 Wesley Snipes action drama Murder at 1600 must decide whether to go to war with a belligerent North Korea that is holding some U.S. soldiers hostage. That same year also saw the release of Dead Men Can’t Dance, an oddly titled Michael Biehn–Adrian Paul drama in which an elite U.S. team is tasked with the mission of destroying a North Korean nuclear facility.
The aforementioned Ronny Cox also co-starred in arguably the best piece of U.S.-made North Korean narrative fare, the 1973 ABC-TV movie Pueblo. Hal Holbrook won a pair of Prime Time Emmys for his portrayal of Commander Lloyd Bucher, while Harvey Keitel appeared unbilled as one of the seamen.
After eleven months of captivity, the Commander and 81 crew members were released (one other died during the capture). Though it took some time, the Pueblo incident eventually had a relatively happy ending; let’s hope the same happens for this dreadful Ling–Lee episode.