Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (Korean: 태극기 휘날리며; Taegukgi Hwinallimyeo) is a 2004 South Korean wartime action drama film directed by Kang Je-gyu. It stars Jang Dong-gun and Won Bin and tells the story of two brothers who are forcibly drafted into the South Korean army at the outbreak of the Korean War.
Theatrical release poster
|Revised Romanization||Taegeukgi Hwinallimyeo|
|Directed by||Kang Je-gyu|
|Produced by||Lee Seong-hun|
|Written by||Kang Je-gyu|
|Music by||Lee Dong-june|
|Edited by||Choi Kyeong-hie|
|Box office||US$69.8 million|
Kang Je-gyu made a name for himself directing Shiri and was able to attract top talent and capital to his new project, eventually spending 12.8 million USD on production. The film became one of the biggest successes in the South Korean film history up to that time, attracting 11.74 million people to the theatre, beating the previous record holder Silmido.
In 2003, while digging up remains at a Korean War battlefield to set up a memorial site, a South Korean army excavation team notifies an elderly man that they identified some remains as his own even though he is still alive.[N 1]
Five decades earlier, in June 1950, the Lee family goes about their lives in the South Korean capital of Seoul. Lee Jin-tae owns a shoeshine stand to pay for his younger brother Jin-seok's education. Jin-tae has also bought them a silver pen, a precious item the brothers share, and is working on a pair of immaculate shoes for his brother to wear to school. Jin-tae's fiancée, Young-shin, works with the Lees' noodle shop. On June 25, 1950, North Korea invades South Korea, and both brothers are forcibly conscripted. They are assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, fighting at the Pusan Perimeter before advancing north upon the successful U.S. amphibious landing at Inchon. Jin-tae is told by a superior that if he can earn the highest award for a South Korean soldier, the Taeguk Cordon of the Order of Military Merit, his brother can be sent home. Jin-tae volunteers for many dangerous missions and performs suicidal acts of bravery to earn the medal, and is quickly promoted to sergeant. His heroism during the urban Battle of Pyongyang finally results in Jin-tae's nomination for the medal, but his combat experiences have made him into an emotionless killer, which horrifies his younger brother.
The U.N. coalition is eventually forced to retreat all the way back to Seoul when the Chinese enter the war on the North Korean side. Jin-tae finally earns his medal, but in Seoul, Young-shin, suspected of joining the Communist party during the Communist occupation, is arrested by a South Korean militia, and the brothers attempt to stop them. During the struggle, Young-shin is shot dead, and the brothers are arrested for trying to rescue her. In jail Jin-tae's request to release his brother is refused, and the security commander orders the prison set afire with the prisoners inside when the enemy forces approach. Trying to rescue his brother, Jin-tae loses consciousness and wakes up believing Jin-seok died in the fire. He murders the surrendering prison warden before being captured by Chinese soldiers.
In truth, however, Jin-seok had been transferred to a military hospital after barely escaping, rescued by "Uncle Yang", a now-disabled veteran from their old unit. Jin-seok learns that his brother had defected to the North Koreans and now leads an elite North Korean formation known as the "Flag Unit".
Jin-seok chooses to rejoin the Army, which has by now retaken all of South Korea with U.N. support. He demands to be allowed to fight, at the 38th parallel, but is denied. Jin-seok eventually defects, claiming to his captors he is Jin-tae's brother. The North Koreans, however, believe Jin-seok is a spy and are about to take him away for interrogation when their position is attacked by U.S. and South Korean forces. The attack frees Jin-seok, who continues his search as the position is captured in a vicious hand-to-hand battle. Before the U.N. forces can secure their gains, however, the "Flag Unit" arrives, tearing into them with Jin-tae at its head.
The brothers come face-to-face, but, not recognizing Jin-seok, Jin-tae attempts to kill him, and Jin-seok barely avoids death before his brother is briefly incapacitated. Jin-seok attempts to carry him away but is shot in the leg. With both of them wounded, Jin-tae finally recognizes his brother, and the two have a tearful reunion. This is cut short, however, as the North Koreans force back the U.S. and South Korean troops. Jin-Tae orders his brother to save himself. Jin-seok initially refuses but relents after Jin-Tae promises that they will meet again. As the wounded Jin-seok limps to safety, Jin-tae mans a machine gun and provides cover fire for his brother and the other South Koreans before being killed.
In 2003, the elderly Jin-seok stands at the excavation site; the remains initially identified as his are those of Jin-tae. He examines Jin-tae's few excavated belongings, including their long-lost silver pen, and begs his brother's skeletal remains to speak to him, quoting his promises as his granddaughter looks on with sympathy.
Back in the 1950s, in the aftermath of the Korean War, Jin-seok returns to his mother, who also survived, discovers the shoes to which his brother had dedicated himself to perfecting, and heads off with Young-shin's younger siblings in a now-peaceful, but ruined, Seoul as the nation begins rebuilding. He reassures them that he will return to school, fulfilling the promise he made to Jin-tae.
- Jang Dong-gun as Lee Jin-tae
- Won Bin as Lee Jin-seok, Jin-tae's younger brother
- Jang Min-ho as old Lee Jin-seok
- Lee Eun-ju as Kim Young-shin, Jin-tae's fiancée
- Choi Min-sik as North Korean commander
- Gong Hyung-jin as Yong-man
- Ahn Gil-kang as Sergeant Heo
- Jeon Jae-hyeong as Yong-seok
- Jo Yoon-hee as Lee Jin-seok's granddaughter
- Kim Su-ro as Anti-Communist Federation member
- Joo Da-young as Young-ja
The film's title is the name of the pre-war flag of the People's Republic of Korea, the flag of the Provisional People's Committee for North Korea as well as the current flag of South Korea, featuring the Taegeuk symbol. It was released in the United Kingdom as Brotherhood: Taegukgi and the United States as Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War.
The music was composed by Lee Dong-june, and released on February 23, 2004 as a single CD, produced by Yejeon Media in South Korea and Avex Trax in Japan. It has 25 tracks, with seven bonus tracks, including a solo piano and chamber ensemble arrangement of the main theme. The "haunting" main theme's lyricism, present throughout several of the tracks, was compared favorably to music of film score composers Ennio Morricone and John Williams. Although it was received generally positively, one critic argued that the film was tragic enough already, and needed "a more subtle soundtrack."
At the 50th Asia Pacific Film Festival, Taegukgi won the "Best Film" award, while Kang Je-gyu was awarded the "Best Director". It was one of four Korean movies screened at the 2006 International Fajr Film Festival in Iran. At the 2004 Grand Bell Awards, the main awards for film in South Korea, Taegukgi won three technical awards, for art direction, cinematography and sound effects.
According to the numbers at Box Office Mojo, Taegukgi earned ₩64.8 billion in South Korea, $1.1 million in the United States playing in limited release and $68.7 million overall worldwide, to finish as the 75th highest-grossing film in the world in 2004.
In addition to its record-breaking reception in South Korea, the film has also achieved positive responses abroad. Taegukgi holds a fresh rating of 80% at Rotten Tomatoes. Most positive reviews cite its unflinching portrayal of war and praise it for showing the brutality of both the North and South Korean armies. The film is also recommended by the War Nerd Gary Brecher.
Awards and nominationsEdit
|2004||Baeksang Arts Awards||Best Film||Taegukgi||Won|
|Grand Bell Awards||Best Director||Kang Je-gyu||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Jang Dong-gun||Nominated|
|Best Planning||Kang Je-gyu||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Hong Kyung-pyo||Won|
|Best Editing||Park Gok-ji||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Shin Bo-kyeong, Kang Chang-gil, Kang Bo-kil||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Lee Ja-young, Kim Jung-won||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Kang Jong-ik, Shin Jae-ho, Jeong Do-an||Nominated|
|Best Sound Effects||Lee Tae-gyu, Kim Suk-won||Won|
|Blue Dragon Film Awards||Best Film||Taegukgi||Nominated|
|Best Director||Kang Je-gyu||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Jang Dong-gun||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Gong Hyung-jin||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Kang Je-gyu, Han Ji-hun, Kim Sang-don||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Hong Kyung-pyo||Won|
|Best Art Direction||Shin Bo-kyeong, Kang Chang-gil, Kang Bo-kil||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Kang Jong-ik, Shin Jae-ho, Jeong Do-an||Won|
|Best Music||Lee Dong-jun||Nominated|
|2005||Asia Pacific Film Festival||Best Film||Taegukgi||Won|
|Best Director||Kang Je-gyu||Won|
- The film was filmed and produced in 2003, and a character in the film mentions that it has been 50 years since the end of the Korean War, which ended in 1953.
- "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War". Box Office Mojo.
- "Taegukgi OST". YesAsia. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- "Taegukgi Soundtrack". KoreaPop. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- "Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo". Soundtrack Collector. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- Larson, Randy (2004). "Brotherhood of War, The (Tae Guk Gi)". Music From the Movies. Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- Cornelius, David (2005-02-18). "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War". eFilmCritic. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- Marchant, Tim (2005-06-02). "Taegukgi hwinalrimyeo (2004)". Movie Gazette. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- Internet Movie Database Asia Pacific Film Festival 2005 Awards
- "Taegukgi hwinalrimyeo – IMDb" – via www.imdb.com.
- "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)" – via www.rottentomatoes.com.
- "WN 35: The War Nerd Looks At War Movies – By Gary Brecher – The eXiled".
- "Grand Bell Awards 2004". Korean Film Biz Zone. 2004-06-11. Retrieved 2015-09-04.