In a mild departure of format Seong-ryong actually tries to solve problems himself this time, on the ground. Given the man's awkward position with the royal court at the moment it's about all he really can do. The disconnect between what's going on politically and what's been going on with the actual population has always been a major plot point in "Jing Bi-rok", and the flash here is a welcome bit of variation from the normal discouraging format.
To be totally clear, the long-term political outlook is still fairly pessimistic, although for very different reasons. The Chinese finally show up, and rather than being unambigously helpful, as the Koreans were hoping, there are conditions. And then we get back to the Chinese court and it's clear that they don't really appreciate what's actually happening either. Easy enough for them to say. Their country's not the one being overrun.
It's moments like this that make it clear why the Japanese thought they could enlist Korea's cooperation in their nutty invasion of China. The Chinese really aren't acting all that helpful. If there was any possible chance that the Japanese could actually succeed in their plan I suspect the Koreans might be more amenable to cooperating. They really are caught in a terrible position. Supporting China is the smart long-term choice, but in the short-term Korea is just acting as a buffer suffering all the worst possible impacts.
The extent to which the political system has failed really would be comical if we weren't constantly exposed to the negative effects of the invasion. At one point the regular political chant aimed at King Seonjo doesn't go quite right, and everyone just kind of look around awkwardly, as if it had only just occurred to them that their elaborate chanting unison bow looks sort of ridiculous.
At the same time King Seonjo does come off somewhat more sympathetically. It's been well demonstrated so far that King Seonjo lacks the proper temperament for dealing with wartime situations, even if he's not necessarily a terrible leader otherwise. But even a great leader is very limited in what he can do here. To some extent Lee Soon-shin has it easy. All he has to do is manage the military and follow vaguely defined orders. To use the military coup analogy, there's a reason why generals are popular enough to pull this off- their job is much easier to do correctly. At least from an outsider's perspective.
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 22"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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