MovieChat Forums > The Steel HelmetĀ (1951) Discussion > The North Korean major speaks English?

The North Korean major speaks English?


I haven't watched this movie yet, but it's on my priority list.

Everyone says there's a captured North Korean major who speaks good English and tries taunting the black soldier and the Japanese American soldier. That's the only part I have a hard time believing that all of a sudden, in the right place and at the right time there's a English-speaking North Korean officer who can converse with his American captors. In 100% real life, this officer would only know to speak his native tongue. If anything, he might be able to speak some Chinese due to the proximity of China to northern Korea.

I also read that it was seldom that North Korean officers were captured. These guys were supposed to be die-hard communist fanatics who preferred death in battle to capture. I read that large numbers of North Korean soldiers were captured or surrendered but hardly any officers.

reply

It's a good film ESPECIALLY the scene you are referring to. But don't you think (and I'm no Korean War "expert" I just like war films)it's possible that he may have been of a higher education? I don't know if this is a fact,but weren't high level military and civilian official in the communist party sometimes educated in Russia? Maybe he learned english there. But who knows it was still a great movie anyway,lol!

Panaluv



reply

I have only viewed a short segment on YouTube. Wish there was more to see. I was astonished to learn the entire movie was filmed in a mere ten (10) days mostly inside one of those humungous Hollywood warehouse size studios, and the outdoor scenes at Los Angeles' Griffith Park, which was much more open and wooded with less surrounding urban sprawl back in 1951.

I read elsewhere that this North Korean major speaks fluent English without an accent. The credits show that an American-Chinese actor played the role. Without trying to sound bigoted about Asians, it's known that even the best fluent Asian speakers of English retain a foreign accent. Typically a perfect English-speaking Asian is a person born and raised in the United States, although I have met an American woman of Korean ancestry who emigrated to the U.S. as a young child and then grew up speaking unaccented English.

The only way this North Korean major would be speaking unaccented English would have been for him to have grown up in the United States since he was very young and then he returned to Korea.

My point is still the implausibility of the American patrol running into an alone North Korean officer who just happens to speak unaccented English as if the dude came from Long Beach, California.

As for Sergeant Zack shooting this yahoo with his Thompson submachinegun, well, aside from the morals, the commie truly provoked it, trying his best to get under the skin of the black G.I. and the Japanese American G.I., then finally succeeding with the wrong G.I., the good sergeant by mouthing off cynically at the dead boy, Short Round's written Buddhist prayer. Either I would have shot the commie major myself or at least buttstroked or pistol-whipped the *beep*.

reply

Oh Please!

How many movies have you seen where it's supposed to be Germany (or Persia or Ancient Rome or whathaveyou) and everyone has a British Shakespeare company accent...

Why does the North Korean officer speak perfect English? Because if he didn't how could they play that scene? To quote Hitchcock, "It's only a movie."



"The good end happily, the bad unhappily, that is why it is called Fiction."

reply

Great response, thank you. No one bats an eye when movies like Troy, Prince of Persia, or Gladiator all sound like Shakespeare in Love or Elizabeth if you close your eyes, but have issues with a Korean speaking English without an accent *you* assume the actor should have? I've known people born and raised in China, that have been studying English there since they were children, and can speak like it was their native language (even though it's not), so maybe the poster above you just needs to meet more people.


Relax...it's just a message board

reply

Indeed. There are even movies (and I don't mean Battle of the Bulge) full of Nazis who all speak English to each other. So many films are aimed first and foremost at American audiences, so English is the obvious language to use. It is only in more recent times that Hollywood has dared to include other languages and subtitle them, and it still isn't very common.

reply

That's the only part I have a hard time believing that all of a sudden, in the right place and at the right time there's a English-speaking North Korean officer who can converse with his American captors. In 100% real life, this officer would only know to speak his native tongue.

That's absurd "logic", besides being blatantly racist. North Koreans are just as capable of learning another language besides their own as anyone else is--plenty of them spoke English well enough to interrogate captured American GIs in POW camps. One "trick" the North Koreans had was to send English-speaking agents--usually officers, because they didn't trust enlisted men not to desert--into South Korea posing as South Korean civilians and have them try to get jobs on or get close to American bases to gather as much information as they could, knowing that most Americans thought--like you--that Koreans weren't "smart enough" to be able to understand English and so they didn't watch what they said around them.

Also, he wasn't "captured" in the sense that he surrendered; he was shot when Zack sprayed machine-gun fire into the room he was hiding in, and they heard the "thud" as he fell on the floor.


reply

Agreed:

People speak multiple languages and sometimes are able to speak without an accent in both. I work with a woman who speaks Cantonese and English, both without an accent. My father's 3rd language is English and he speaks without an accent. My sister in-law speaks English as her second language but has an accent in her native Polish.

Is it unlikely that the officer would speak perfect English, yes. Is it impossible, absolutely not. Lot's of people come to the states or the UK for an education. Not uncommon at all.

reply