I just watched this Korean Drama called Comrades a.k.a. The Legend of Patriots. I am not really a fan of Korean stuffs but I am a fan of war movies. Historical is fine too. Comrades is about the Korean War, the war between North and South Korea, that technically still going on right now since they’re only signing a ceased fire agreement in 1953 and not a peace treaty. Centered around Lee Hyun Joong (Choi Soo Jong), a First Class Sergeant who commanded his squad, who went through many occasions from battles, covert mission, infiltration, POW plus escaping from enemy prison which later being detained by South Korean anti-communist organization only to be in another hell of mental tortures by their own side.
The story starts with the offensive of South Korean army towards Pyongyang. The communists of Korean People’s Army were obliterated as they retreated and fled away. The Republic of Korea Army won many battles and they finally reached the Yalu River that near the border between China and Korea (Yalu itself is Chinese name while the Koreans called it Amnok). Soldiers of the southerners were delighted as they thought that they had already won the war only to be surprised by the sudden counter attack by KPA along with Chinese PLA (or called as People’s Volunteer Army by the communist side).
This is where the nightmare begins for Staff Sergeant Lee’s squad or, rather, the whole ROK Army itself. The influx of Chinese PLA who simply rush forwards endlessly with their weapons, trumpets and gongs caught ROK off-guard. While both PLA and KPA suffered a lot of casualties due to their mindless charges, the ROK Army didn’t have enough ammo and supplies to take out each of them. Thus, Sergeant Lee’s squad had to retreat as the commanding officer, General Park (Lee Duk Hwa), reluctantly given the retreat order to the whole army as they’re cut off from supplies.
The story resolves around the units of the South Korean Army on how they encountered with hardships throughout the war. This is not entirely on the Republic of Korea side. The drama even tells the story from the Northern side. As intended by the director to have less focus on ideology. After all, this is one of the bloodiest civil war in the history of mankind. Some people changed sides just because he wanted to survive like Seong Il (Jung Tae Woo). Sergeant Lee himself has a lover who became a captain of KPA (later demoted to the rank of lieutenant). Both wanted to bring each other to their side but both firmly hold with their own ideology while they still love each other until the end. Well, you can watch it if you to know more.
As I just recently got to know, the drama was being made to commemorate 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Like I said earlier, the director wanted to emphasis the story upon the struggles of ordinary people who lived through the war rather than ideologies. I like this idea pretty much compared to some movie production on some country that solely focus on their ideologies. In a way, Sergeant Lee shares almost similar background with Yong Taek (Kim Myung Soo) from KPA’s Special Units where both of them, separately of course, were fighting against Japanese invaders previously before. Each of them have reasons why they choose to go war. Some because of being orphans as they have nothing to lose. Some because of the desire to get medals so that they might have better living condition later for their families. Of course, there are also people fighting because of their hatred of communists scum or southern imperialist dogs. Interestingly, Taek Su (Lee Seung Hyo) hated the communists so much as both his parents were killed by the communists as they purged any intellectual that they found while the communist side also shares the similar experience where people were killed in anti-communist movements mass killing (something like this).
So, how about the realism that this drama brought? Pretty okay for me. While the battles scenes showed some nice effects, only the first episode where the ROK Army captured Pyongyang that have somewhat dramatic battle moments. Authentic weapons, equipments and uniforms for both sides. Even the Each side speak differently when mentioning each others like ROK said Communist Army while KPA mentioned themselves as People’s Army. Another thing that kinda cliche is the battle where the platoon being swarmed by Chinese PLA zergs. They’re fighting until they’re out of ammo and then started melee fighting with some cool speech. Just like 300 Spartans against millions of Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae, aye? Though, I can say that the story is pretty solid.
Now we go on to the casts. Overall, they’re pretty much fine. Army men are supposed to be tough but, generally, they’re conscripted and drafted for the war. So, there we have some kids who were forced to go to the war while unwilling to fight. Seong Il is one of the examples for dickheads that switched side while remain being ass not shooting at the enemy at all even though he was in a squad of Special forces since he just want to survive the war.
Lee Soo Kyung (Lee Tae Ran) is a rather ordinary woman with ordinary looks. Although she doesn’t looked like a tough woman, she’s skillful sniper. Oh, she is the one who Sergeant Lee cared most. While she is not a real beauty but somehow I am ok with her acting. The problem starts with Jung Hwa (Lee In Hye), the guerrilla female leader. How in the name of holiest being that she got time to make-up while living in the mountains and jungles fighting the communists? That’s not only the problem. Another bigger problem is Dan Young (Lee Chae Young). She’s a female commando personnel with a task to infiltrate enemy bases and blowing them up (her uniform suggested that she’s under United States Marine Corps something. Maybe trained by them). At first, she looks fine as a special force unit. Her face I mean. Kinda a beauty but with less make-up. I think she was presented that way to show a tougher look of a special force. Be in mind that I do not know any Korean celebrities that much. Until I found that her boobs are kinda big. A quick search on Google gave me this:
I mean that’s BIG. In conjunction with the reality of war that seldom being depicted properly in movies or drama, war is about killing (checked!), pillaging (checked!) and raping (fukken where?). If the enemy ever captured a beautiful women and such a nice looking body, do you think they would ever care about Geneva Convention anymore especially when they’re the most hated enemy of all? And then the KPA side has a female commander (Lee Se Na) of a prison where Sergeant Lee’s squad being held who is a very good looking woman with modern and attractive attire in a bunch of men at the place. While she might have one of the best positions and ranks as higher-up but she looks too pretty for a soldier. Be in mind, it’s Korean peninsular and the year is 1950. A good looking woman was not easy to find especially on a country with malnourished people.
I am not saying that raping is compulsory for a war movie show. But don’t forget what war is all about. Of all, people should be reminded of what’s the horror that war brings. It’s not entirely about killings. It affected many things. Oh well, perhaps my mind is too perverted. In a way, apart from the usual propaganda on showing how bad the communists treated the people especially the enemies, the drama also shows how ruthless and merciless the anti-communist authority people can be as the squad being questioned as they returned from their escape from the enemy prison camp.
Still, I am recommending this Korean drama series to you guys. Well, that is if you like war-themed drama. There’s a little love story there but mostly about people who think what they do is right. Expect emotional stuffs because that’s Korean drama for you even though I am somewhat immune to it. I’ve been wondering if Malaysian government supported some sort of stories like this one. Not a chance I guess. To be fair, some of the people who joined communists in Malaya were all about fighting against the Japanese and later colonial powers like Great Britain. Before you start accusing anything, I am not saying I am siding with the communists side but rather think why all of these happened. Because I would be delighted if we have something like this: