The tension between North and South Korea has been an important topic in history for quite a while and for director Yonghi Yang, it’s a very important one for her family. “Dear Pyongyang” explores her family’s history (as her dad unconditionally believes in North Korea’s communist system) and how they deal with being Korean immigrants living in Japan. It’s sort of odd that they chose to live in Japan for so long since her father (Mr. Yang) is so strong in his beliefs; you can’t help but wonder why he never chose to return to the fatherland.
The opening of the film includes a scrupulous tutorial of Korea’s politics (in the form of title cards over a black screen) that seems to last forever. This history lesson would have worked so much better had Yang inserted it the throughout the film instead of in just one giant block at the start, which, will be lost in the minds of the audience minutes after the film actually begins.
Yonghi’s disagreements with her father’s devotion to North Korea is often brought up, but never fully explored. Her narration persistently informs us about how she doesn’t agree with said ideals yet she never goes into any detail as to what she does think. The film then molds into a sort of love letter from Yanghi to her parents, and from Mr. Yang to Pyongyang. Mr. Yang’s strong political stance is no doubt due to his experiences with the Japanese occupation and the Korean War – giving more exposure here would have made this letter a touch more effective.
With the look and feel of a home movie, “Dear Pyongyang” isn’t very exciting to look at either. Yang never steps away from behind the camera no matter what is going on. Near the end of the film, we watch the family dealing with a sudden tragedy as Yang still languishes behind the lens. We can hear her reaction; it just would have helped to see it too.