This article examines the humanistic relationship between Korean Chinese and North Korean refugees on the Sino–North Korean border in Zhang Lu's film Dooman River (2010) and delineates how the ethical obligation to “our” people, or brethren (dongpo), is removed by understanding North Koreans as potential criminals. The first part conceptualizes Korean Chinese villagers’ ethical obligation toward North Koreans, which I call ethnic ethos, and focuses on how the director preserves the Korean Chinese's conscience by stereotyping North Korean border crossers as “dangerous refugees.” The second part focuses on the meaning of ethnic identity that the director pursues, offering insights into the crisis of community in the context of urbanization and globalization, or the “Korean dream.” The two types of border crossing—the crossing of North Koreans to China and the crossing of Korean Chinese to South Korea—offer clues to the causes of the crisis of community, in which collective ethics and responsibility to others have been eroded. This article answers questions about the death of a Korean Chinese boy, who voluntarily becomes a stranger by entering into the zone of “nonlife” or refugees. I argue that the boy's death is a sacrifice suggested to audiences by the director in an attempt to preserve the communitarian ethics of Korean Chinese and maintain the value of ethnic identity.

You do not currently have access to this content.