The near comical extent to which "Jing Bi-rok" refuses to actually show us Lee Soon-shin on screen is, I feel, rather appropriate. Very few people actually know what he looks like outside of his immediate subordinates. What's more, he's too busy doing actual fighting in the war to bother around with the usual political conflicts. Which leads to the greatest plot twist of all- this time, the Korean end of the war effort goes well, and consistently goes well, for the entire episode with no bad news.
Granted war itself is bad news. The fact that the Koreans are winning battles doesn't change the fact that they're winning battles on home soil. This is a bad thing, because it mean their own stuff is getting destroyed. Luckily, though, the extent to which the Japanese are able to terrorize the population has been so severely lowered that Hideyoshi can't really do much except try to calm himself down by engaging in some pruning.
To get a sense of how relatively non-serious the political situation has gotten, a significant degree of screen time is spent on Gwi-in- the main central woman in the story. I do appreciate her participation- the Great Man theory of history holds that powerful individuals (unsurprisingly men most of the time) are the ones who shaped the world's destiny. But Seong-ryong correctly notes that just because Gwi-in has no technical power doesn't mean she wields no power at all. If that's the case, then why is the Queen the strongest piece in chess?
This also ties in well with the lack of Lee Soon-shin. The fact of the matter is he's not very relevant to the war except to the extent that he's the one commanding the armed forces who are making such an impressive pushback against the Japanese. This too is a direct swipe at the Great Man theory of history- Lee Soon-shin is the national hero of the modern day, the one with the big statue.
And yet the only reason Lee Soon-shin's a hero at all is because a very preventable crisis necessitated that one show up lest the entire Korean government completely collapse. "Jing Bi-rok" is frequently iffy in regards to actually being interesting, but it's always lot of a fun when I can get a good analytical hook in. "Jing Bi-rok" obviously wasn't conceived with the Great Man theory of history in mind- Seong-ryong died several hundred years before it was formulated. Even so, in a modern context, the analogy fits.
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 28"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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