Südkorea am Scheideweg
(South Korea at the Crossroads), 1980
Courtesy of May 18
©Nord Deutscher Rundfunk (NDR)
A TV documentary produced for German broadcast television, South Korea at the Crossroads is based on footage of the May 18 Movement that the German journalist Jürgen Hinzpeter was able to secretly sneak to the Nord Deutscher Rundfunk studio in Tokyo. Jürgen Bertram, a fellow journalist based in Japan, scripted the documentary while Hinzpeter edited the footage. Working together, they were able to assemble the documentary in three days, and it was aired on September 7, 1980—the same day that Kim Dae-jung was charged of conspiracy to overthrow the government and was sentenced to death. Hinzpeter has described the screening of this movie as a “worldwide protest” against Kim Dae-jung’s death penalty. It also played a part in relation to the international press galvanizing into political pressure, that tried to influence Chun Doo-hwan’s military dictatorship decision to give Kim Dae-jung a stay from execution. After the German broadcasting, it is said that German students and priests smuggled copies into South Korea, where it was edited with a Korean voice- over and circulated secretly, contributing to make the violent state suppression of the May 18 Movement public knowledge.
Jürgen Bertram (b. 1940, Germany) is a journalist and author. He worked as a journalist for ARD, Germany’s regional public-service broadcaster, for thirteen years in Asia. He was stationed in Singapore and Beijing as a foreign correspondent. After that he returned to Germany to work for the German press agency, the magazine Der Spiegel and several daily newspapers until his retirement in 2000. Bertram wrote several books and made films. He famously assisted Jürgen Hintzpeter in editing and preparing his footage of the Gwangju Uprising of 1980 for worldwide broadcast as the TV-documentary South Korea at the Crossroads, which televised later in September that year.