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8 must-watch movies inspired by the Korean Independence Movement

The Korean Independence Movement was a military and diplomatic campaign to achieve the independence of Korea from Japan.

One of the earliest public displays of the resistance took place on March 1, 1919, widely known as The March 1st Movement.

On that day, 33 activists gathered to read out loud the Korean Declaration of Independence. The event subsequently brought together 2 million Koreans, participating in more than 1,500 demonstrations at various locations.

Historians believe The March 1st Movement provided a catalyst for the Korean Independence Movement.

Many Korean independence activists were executed during the resistance. It was only until the end of World War II that the Koreans gained their independence from the Japanese.

Known as Gwangbokjeol (literally translated as “the day the light returned”), the National Liberation Day of Korea is a public holiday celebrated annually on August 15.

It is notable, as it is the only Korean public holiday celebrated by both North and South Korea.

In North Korea, the day is known as Chogukhaebangui nal or “Liberation of the Fatherland Day”.

Over the years, South Korean movie makers have turned to Korean independence movement for inspiration.

Though they are not 100 per cent historically correct, the movies still manage to educate the younger generations about their history as well as to commemorate the sacrifices made by those before them.

For history buffs out there, here are 8 must-watch movies based on the Korean Independence Movement:
1.The Age of Shadows (2016)

Set in the late 1920s, this movie follows a group of Korean Independence Movement members trying to bring explosives into Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul.

The key resistance figure is Kim Woo-jin (Gong Yoo) who uses his antique shop as a front to smuggle these explosives.

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Meanwhile, Korean police captain Lee Jung-chool (Song Kang-ho) has been charged by the residing Japanese government with rooting out resistance members as he is known to sell out his own people to gain favour from the Japanese.

After Jung-chool’s former classmate Kim Jang-ok (Park Hee-soon) who is also a resistance fighter dies, he begins to doubts his loyalty to the Japanese.

So a cat and mouse game begins between the resistance fighters and the Japanese agents who are out to get them.

Gong Yoo as a resistance figher in The Age of Shadows. Credits: Youtube
2.Assassination (2015)

After The March 1st Movement, many Korean resistance fighters were forced into exile in China.

This movie is set in the year 1933. It was when the resistance fighters in China were trying to organise a fight from .

They find that the highest commander of the Japanese army is going to visit Korea. Hence, they plot an assassination attempt.

However, the only sniper capable to do the job is Ahn Ok-yun (Jun Ji-hyun). She is serving her time in Shanghai prison.

Resistance fighter Yem Sek-jin (Lee Jung-jae) is assigned to rescue her from the prison. Little that the rest of the resistance members know that Sek-jin is a mole who secretly reporting to the Japanese.

3.The Battle: Roar to Victory (2019)

From June 6 to 7, 1920, a confrontation occurred between a Korean independence militia of 1,300 under the command of Hong Beom-do and a Japanese battalion consisting of 500 troops.

The fight is known as the Battle of Fengwudong or Battle of Bongo-dong.

Inspired by this event, the movie centers around resistance fighter Hwang Hae-cheol (Yoo Hae-jin) and his subordinate Byeong-gu (Jo Woo-jin).

Their main operation is to deliver funds to the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai.

During this operation, they reunite with Jang-ha (Rye Jun-yeoul) who has a secret mission.

Jang-ha has been assigned to bait the Japanese forces into Bongo-dong mountains where the battle eventually takes place.

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4.Dongju, the Portrait of Poet (2016)

This film biopic is based on Yun Dong-ju. He was a Korean poet, imprisoned by the Japanese for his involvement in Korean Independence Movement.

Throughout his life, he wrote lyric and resistance poetry. He even chose 19 poems to publish in a collection called “Sky, Wind, Star and Poem”.

However, he was arrested as a communist supporter in 1943 and detained in Kyoto.

The following year, he was sentenced to two years in prison for having participated in the Korean Independence Movement.

Unfortunately, Dong-ju died in imprisonment in February 1945.

His poems were published posthumously and later known as resistance poems of the late occupation period.

In the movie, Kang Ha-neul gives one of his most impressive performances yet as the late poet.

5.Anarchist from the Colony (2017)

Park Yeol is a self-proclaimed anarchist and revolutionary activist during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

He attended high school in Seoul. However, he was forced to leave in 1919 due to his suspected participation in the March 1st Movement.

Later, he was convicted of high treason in Japan for conspiring an attack against Crown Prince Hirohito.

In the movie, he is portrayed by Lee Je-hoon while his girlfriend Fumiko Kaneko is portrayed by Choi Hee-seo.

6.A Resistance (2019)

One of the key figures in the March 1st Movement was a woman named Ryu Gwan-sun (also known as Yu Gwansun).

She was the organiser for the peaceful protest in the province of South Chungcheong.

Together with her family, Gwan-sun went door-to-door to encourage the public to join in the Korean Independence Movement.

She was subsequently arrested while her parents were killed by the Japanese military police.

Unfortunately, Gwan-sun died on Sept 28, 1920 from injuries she suffered from torture by the Japanese prison officers.

The movie follows the story of Gwan-sun (Go Ah-sung) as she fights for Korean independence even while in prison.

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7.MalMoE: The Secret Mission (2019)

When Korea was under Japanese rule, the Korean language was banned in 1938 in favour of the Japanese language.

The movie centers around the real-life members of Korean Language Society who are secretly trying to publish a Korean language dictionary.

Founded in 1908 by Ju Si-gyeong, the society is a hangul and Korean language research group.

In 1942, more than 30 of their members were arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese and two later died in prison.

It stars Yoo Hae-jin as Kim Pan-soo. He is an illiterate who meets representatives of the Korean Language Society. Later, he joins the secret mission to publish the dictionary.

8.Spirit’s Homecoming (2016)

While this is not exactly a movie based on Korean Independence Movement, it is a film that shines light on the dark side of a Japanese occupied country.

Korean director Cho Jung-rae was so inspired by a painting by Kang Il-chul, he made this movie, dedicating it to all Comfort Women.

Ill-chul was a Comfort Woman, who was abused and forced into sex slavery by Japanese soldiers especially during World War II.

Set in 1943, the story focuses on Jung-min (Kang Ha-na) who is separated from her family by Japanese soldiers. They were shipped off in wagons for livestock to Manchuria and used as Comfort Women.

Together with Young-hee (Son Sook) and other girls in the brothel, they try to cope with their situations while plotting their escape.

The second part of the movie is how Young-hee lives as an elderly woman who is trying to make peace with her dark past.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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