Korea's latest problem, among many, is collaboration. It actually shouldn't come off as too much of a surprise. The occasional moment of hot combat notwithstanding, from what we can tell the Japanese have been fairly good about not terrorizing the Korean peasantry. In medieval terms, the authority of a local ruler springs from his ability to protect his people from conquest. And given how poorly the invasion has been managed from the Korean perspective, it's little surprise that the Korean peasantry has concluded that they've been failed in that regard.
"Jing Bi-rok" provides a good argument here for why it's a bad idea to get involved in war. Japanese and Korean military forces alike are relatively indifferent to the people who's lives are being displaced unless they decide to to make themselves an inconvenience. And even the legendary Lee Soon-shin can't afford to have any well-meaning liberal patience in that regard. Traitorism is considered the worst possible crime for good reason.
...From the perspective of the state anyway. You may note that even in the present day, even when the American government openly admits that our people have committed crimes against humanity against innocent people, no one actually involved in that process comes up for prosecution. And yet anyone so impetuous as to release classified information exposing these crimes, well, they get what's coming to them.
All right, that was somewhat tangential. Partially this is because the episode has lots of dense material that's difficult to relate to objectively. But it's still an important overall point of "Jing Bi-rok" to consider. In many ways, most obviously logistics, this war is completely unlike anything we see in the modern day. And yet the political dimensions are mostly the same. The real conflict is over who gets to maintain power over what. And it really doesn't matter if the peasant is just looking out for himself and his family- the system is too important to subsume to individual desires.
There is obvious irony, of course, in contrasting this with Seong-ryong's own individual efforts to try to keep the defensive effort working. Seong-ryong has, to some extent, the luxury of not caring enough about his political situation to look at anything except long-term impracticalities. But as has been well-demonstrated, war is not a process for rational actors- even if the logic of the politicians involved increasingly borders on incomprehensible while Korea teeters on the edge of collapse.
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 24"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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