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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 34

2015/06/07 | 422 views | Permalink

Just prior to this episode of "Jing Bi-rok", terrestrial Korean viewers were treated to an advertisement of Kim Sang-joong in his Joseon costume extolling the importance of protecting Korea by buying local beef. I bring this up mostly as a reminder point. Frequently despairing tone notwithstanding "Jing Bi-rok" is  at least on some level a patriotic story. Even if most of the characters are either incompetent or easily fooled, several of them are still genuine national heroes.

Like Lee Soon-shin, who barely ever shows up but is often discussed. His good deed last episode of dealing with refugees hasn't backfired just quite yet. The problem is that everyone's so wrapped up in their own political issues with the Chinese that no obvious reason exists for why Lee Soon-shin would want to build a new army when technically the war is supposed to be dying down. And yes obviously that isn't actually happening. Lee Soon-shin doesn't have any way of knowing that though.

It's just a larger irony, really. Seong-ryong practically suffers a nervous breakdown here precisely because he can foresee that the current negotiations can't possibly end well- and there's not a single thing he can do about it. The Korean leadership is largely paralyzed here because they've ceded almost all of the political authority to the Chinese, leaving them with very few options save from just trying to put the best possible spin on the news.

This is the main problem with puppet states- and it's the reason why historically more powerful empires don't do the negotiating for the smaller ones. For the most spectacularly bad example of this look no further than the Munich Agreement. This was a well-intentioned move to avoid fighting, but in the long view the deal only made World War II that much more bloody and inevitable.

Once again, in a modern context it's hard to decide how to consider the drama that unfolds in "Jing Bi-rok", since this isn't really how international politics works anymore. Overall this episode is just an uncomfortable reminder that it's no fun at all to watch and wait and hope while a bunch of other generally unrelated people decide the future of your country. Since nothing all that bad is happening immediately, the sense of horrible despair invoked by previous episodes is mostly gone. Be that as it may, we're only ever a flashback away from realizing how bad things could get.

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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