The naval victory of the last episode hasn't solved all of Korea's problems, but at the very least it's forced Japan to reconsider their strategy. While they've been doing very well in land battles, the Japanese are faced with the rather difficult reality that they're stomping about in another country, literally surrounded by Koreans. Short of instituting martial law the Japanese can't really stop Koreans from undermining their position. And the Japanese don't actually want to enforce martial law because they don't actually want to conquer Korea. The real target is China.
It's weird that no matter how many times the Japanese try to explain their goal, the entire notion of conquering China sounds so obviously stupid that no one else seems willing to take it seriously. A nice use of the subtitles here is in explaining how highfalutin language is being used to mock the Japanese position. Of course, while it's all well and good that Seong-ryong can outtalk his rivals, that doesn't make people like him.
Well, he's popular with the common people anyway. Although I do have to wonder to what extent Seong-ryong was actually that well-beloved so much as he is just talking himself up. Remember that Seong-ryong, the actual person, is the one who wrote "Jing Bi-rok" in the first place. But regardless of how people saw Seong-ryong it should come as little surprise they're regarding the actual leaders rather icily at this point.
Beyond that...well, it's just more of the usual. And while I dislike being repetitive on this point it's pretty unavoidable that "Jing Bi-rok" is, in fact, a repetitive drama, in much the same way that actual wars are repetitive. This doesn't make them uninteresting- military otaku populate the modern world for good reason. The strategy on display here is sound. "Jing Bi-rok" is consistently quite good at dramatic tension even though everyone watching this drama knows in the long run how the war will end.
It's just, you're looking out for the subtle details, and considering how commanders had to deal with subtle questions back before military technology made it possible to conduct campaigns from inside walled fortresses. The diplomatic element is intriguing- it's a reminder that "no surrender or negotiation" only seems like a valid strategy in the modern day because it's beneath the dignity of morally correct, technologically superior countries to admit we can be bested by people whose only real advantage is fighting for their home. That much, is "Jing Bi-rok" at its best.
Review by William Schwartz
"Jing Bi-rok" is directed by Kim Sang-hwi and Kim Yeong-jo, written by Jeong Hyung-soo and Jeong Ji-yeon and features Kim Sang-joong, Kim Tae-woo, Im Dong-jin, Kim Hye-eun, Lee Kwang-ki and Lee Kwang-ki.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 20"
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