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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 32

2015/05/31 | 396 views | Permalink

With the Japanese counter-offensive comes yet another tear in Sino-Korean relations. At this point I'm wondering whether the entire rest of the drama is just going to be Seong-ryong forcefully arguing with Chinese military commanders. It would be appropriate enough- the whole problem with military alliances is that by definition there are members with differing agendas. The only reason the American-Russo alliance in World War II worked out is because American and Russian soldiers never had to be in the same place at the same time.

But let's take this to more modern analogies- like the continuing American military presence on the Korean peninsula. For the most part relations between Korean and American forces are amicable. Yet harsh protests still show up for exactly the reason demonstrated here- people from different cultures, even cultures as close as China and Korea, have important distinctions that can't be easily smoothed over. Who should be in charge- the more "advanced" civilization, or the one with a better grasp of the situation?

Communication problems abound in "Jing Bi-rok". And foreign intervention in the Middle East is confounded by similar issues. A not-insignificant portion of the Afghan population actually thinks American and British troops are at war with each other- because that's a more logical explanation than the foreigners just being that comically incompetent at figuring out who is or is not actually a terrorist. In Jing Bi-rok too, Chinese military superiority doesn't mean they can just swoop in and magically solve all the problems single-handedly.

The irony, of course, is that by the end this is more-or-less what they've done. That doesn't mean Seong-ryong was wrong. After all, you can win the battle while losing the war. And even winning battles isn't really all that great. "Jing Bi-rok" makes a point of reminding us that even the winners tend to have a lot of dead or wounded people lying around. That's just no fun at all.

It's easy to see why no one's tried to make a drama about the sixteenth century Japanese invasion of Korea before. "Jing Bi-rok" is only the latest in a long line of historical dramas by KBS- not KBS2, the commercial station, but KBS1, the one that focuses a lot more on educational programming. And in many ways this drama is an embarassment- not from a production standpoint, but because it showcases the Korea of the past as being so chronically helpless in the face of larger powers.

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.

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