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KajoPicks: 8 South Korean period action films to watch

Here are 8 Kajo-approved South Korean period action films to watch:

1.The Great Battle (2018)

The Siege of Ansi was a battle between Goguryeo (an ancient Korean kingdom) and Tang forces in Ansi.

Ansi was a fortress on the Liaodong Peninsular in present-day Northeast China.

Lasting from June 20, 645 to Sept 18, 645, the Siege of Ansi was one of the biggest battles of the first campaign in the Goguryeo-Tang war.

The star of the battle was Yang Manchun, a Goguryeo commander of the Ansi Fortress.

In this Korean period action film, heart-throb Jo In-sung plays Yang Manchun, which will make you wonder if the historical figure could have really been that good looking.

Of course, critics were quick to criticise this particular casting as it was highly unlikely that Yang Manchun was in his mid 30s.

Nonetheless, The Great Battle was able to pull through, becoming one of the highest box office films of South Korea in 2018.

2.Warriors of the Dawn (2017)

What do you as a king when a foreign country tries to invade your kingdom? You flee the country, leaving your young son to take over, of course!

That was what King Seonjo, the 14th king of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea did when Japanese forces came knocking on his kingdom’s door.

He escaped to seek refuge from the Ming Empire, abandoning his people and leaving crown prince Gwanghae in-charge.

This Korean period action film follows the story of a group of mercenaries tasked to protect the reluctant Prince Gwanghae during the 1592 Imjin War.

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Played by Yeo Jin-goo, the prince then leads the royal court to fight their enemies with the help of To-woo (Lee Jung-jae).

Growing up as a child actor, Jin-goo has proven over and over again that he has just gotten better in acting as he pursued a more adult role in this movie.

However, his acting is still somehow overshadowed by Jung-jae who is known for his charisma and chameleon’s ability as an actor.

3.War of the Arrows (2011)

How often does a period action film makes the top grossing films in any country? Honestly, it is a rare thing to happen especially in Hollywood over the last few years whereby most of the highest grossing films have been from the Marvel franchise.

This movie was the highest grossing Korean film of 2011, drawing an audience of 7.48 million.

It is set after the Second Manchu Invasion of Korea about an archer who risks his life to save his sister from slavery under Qing’s Prince Dorgon.

While the other characters such as the archer Nam-yi (Park Hae-il) and his sister Ja-in (Moon Chae-won) are fictional, Prince Dorgon or Rui was a real historical figure.

4.The Admiral, Roaring Currents (2014)

If it is a battle between 12 ships and an invading fleet numbering 333 vessels, the showdown must be epic.

This period action film revolves around the Battle of Myeongnyang, an event which took place on Oct 26, 1597 near Jindo Island, southwest of the Korean peninsula.

One of South Korea’s prominent actors, Choi Min-sik (I Saw the Devil, Lucy) plays the legendary naval commander Yi Sun-sin who led a heroic victory against the Japanese during the battle.

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Instead of recruiting Japanese actors, Korean talents such as Ryu Seung-ryong, Cho Jin-woong, Kim Myung-gon took the role of Japanese historical figures Kurushima Michifusa, Wakisaka Yasuharu and Todo Takatora respectively.

With 10 million admissions only 12 days after its premiere, the movie sets a record for achieving the highest number of viewers in the shortest amount of time in South Korea.

5.The Fortress (2017)

After reading about King Injo of Joseon (16th king of the Joseon dynasty), most people would think him weak and indecisive.

Well, he did cause the depletion of his country’s economy and two wars with the Manchus during his reign.

This Korean period action film lets the audience into the mind of King Injo; what happened during the Second Manchu invasion of Korea in 1636 when he sought refuge in Namhansanseong fortress.

Portrayed by Park Hae-il, King Injo needs to decide whether to bend his knee to the Qing dynasty or not.

On his side is Choi Myeong-gil (Lee Byung-hun), a scholar and politician who advise the King to make the crucial decision.

6.Kundo: Age of the Rampant (2014)

Starring Ha Jung-woo and Gang Dong-won, this Korean period action film sets in mid-19th century Joseon.

It is about a power struggle between the unjust wealthy who run the society and a group of what would stand for the Korean version of Robin Hood and his merry men.

This band of fighters named Kundo decide to steal from corrupt officials and then share their loot with the poor.

Kundi: Age of the Rampant has everything a Korean period action film can offer; a hero who rises from the lowest point of his life, a villain who clearly deserves to die from the beginning and tonnes of sword fighting and archery scenes.

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Besides this, Jung-woo who plays the role of a former butcher who joins Kundo to avenge the death of his family is almost unrecognisable, largely because he is rocking a clean-shaved head in the movie.

7.The Age of Blood (2017)

Speaking of sword-fighting, here is a Korean period action film that gives you high adrenalin sword-fighting scenes.

Can you imagine slashing your opponents with your feet holding a sword while both of your hands are tied up in the air?

The Age of Blood (2017) follows the story of Kim Ho (Jung Hae-in) who is suddenly demoted to a lowly prison guard after he lost a battle.

Suddenly on his first day on the job, he finds five top fighters from the rebel group have to sneak into the jail to break out their captured leader.

Well, not a smart idea for the rebels because Kim Ho just had a career change from a swordsman for the king.

8.The Showdown (2011)

Here is another Korean action period film based on the Manchus invasion of Joseon.

As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, the Joseon soldiers decide to help Ming China fight against the Manchus.

In the middle of Manchuria, the Joseon soldiers who barely survived the battle are now cornered by the Manchu forces.

Now, they have to fight a bloody battle for the survival.

The movie starring Park Hee-soon, JJin-Goo and Ko Chang-seok.

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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