Taegukgi (film)

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"The Brotherhood of War" redirects here. For the novel series by WEB Griffin, see Brotherhood of War (novel series). For the South Korean flag, see Flag of South Korea. For other uses, see Brothers of War (disambiguation).
Taegukgi film poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Hanja 휘날리며
Revised Romanization Taegeukgi Hwinallimyeo
McCune–Reischauer T'aegŭkki Hwinallimyŏ
Directed by Kang Je-gyu
Produced by Lee Seong-hun
Written by Kang Je-gyu
Han Ji-hun
Kim Sang-don
Starring Jang Dong-gun
Won Bin
Music by Lee Dong-jun
Cinematography Hong Kyung-Pyo
Edited by Kyeong-hie Choi
Distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films
Release dates
  • February 6, 2004 (2004-02-06)
Running time 148 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget US$12.8 million
Box office $69,827,583[1]

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (Korean: 태극기 휘날리며; Taegukgi Hwinallimyo) is a 2004 South Korean war film directed by Kang Je-gyu. It stars Jang Dong-gun and Won Bin and tells the story of two brothers who are drafted in the South Korean army by force at the outbreak of the Korean War.

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 USD $12.8 million 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.


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. It was released in the United Kingdom as Brotherhood: Taegukgi and the United States as Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War.


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.[N 1]

The story then shifts to June 1950, in the South Korean capital of Seoul, where the Lee family lives. Jin-tae Lee (Jang Dong-gun) owns a shoeshine stand to pay for his younger brother Jin-seok's (Won Bin) education. They meet at a busy street in Seoul, where Jin-tae bought a silver pen for Jin-Seok. Jin-tae's fiancée Young-shin (Lee Eun-ju) works with the Lee's noodle shop. On June 25, 1950, North Korea invades South Korea. Jin-seok is conscripted into the army and when his brother tries to get him off the train, he is conscripted as well. Jin-tae is told by his commanding officer that if he can earn the highest award for a South Korean soldier which is the Taeguk Cordon of the Order of Military Merit, his brother can be sent home. Jin-tae willingly volunteers for many dangerous suicidal missions. He is promoted to the rank of Chungsa (Sergeant). Soon American-led U.N. forces arrive in South Korea at Incheon.

The battle of Pyongyang follows shortly thereafter, and casualties are heavy on both sides. During the battle, Jin-tae leaves his squadron to enter a building where they were being fired at on the roof. A sniper must have seen him and was about to shoot, but a firing tank missile kills the sniper. The explosion also alerts two guards nearby, Jin-tae quickly kills them and gets to the roof. He lays down fire on enemy ground troops and sees that the enemy captain they want alive is fleeing the building. He unites with his squadron and chases the captain through alleys. The captain gets in an arriving jeep and was about to escape. Jin'tae would cut them off by shooting the driver before they shot him. The jeep flips over a pile of dirt. The captain was the only one who was able to get to his feet quickly, making Jin-tae attack him first(not knowing that the remaining two were still alive). One of his squadron members hurries to his aid in the fight, but is shot by the Lt. captain. Eventually the captain is detained this capture finally awarded Jin-tae the medal.

As the unit continue north, they see the aftermath of a few massacres. On one patrol, the unit encounters a group of North Korean soldiers hiding in a tunnel and one of them turns out to be Yong-seok. Jin-tae and the others want to execute them. Instead, the group are taken as prisoners of war. Yong-seok speaks with Jin-seok, telling him about events at home. Soon China enters the war on the communist side. Yong-seok is killed in a crossfire by Jin-tae when some prisoners make a stand with a hostage. On their way home Jin-tae gets his medal and Young-shin along with Jin-seok is captured and taken by the anti-communist militias. After Jin-seok escapes from a guard and Jin-tae tries to hold the anti-communists back from killing Young-shin, it is discovered she signed up for the communist Workers' Party of Korea. A chaotic attempt by prisoners is made to escape. During the struggle, Young-shin is shot and killed by anti-communist militias, and the brothers are arrested for trying to rescue her. Jin-seok cries out as Young-shin's body thrown into the trench along with the other previously executed prisoners. In the jail, Jin-seok quietly mocks Jin-tae for Young-shin's death. Jin-tae is later brought in for questioning by a security commander. His request to release his brother is refused, and a Chinese artillery strike takes place. The security commander then orders the prison to be set on fire where Jin-seok is being held. Trying to rescue his brother, Jin-tae loses his consciousness in the artillery strike and wakes up to mistakenly believe his brother died in the fire. He brutally kills the security commander by bludgeoning him to death just before he is restrained by Chinese soldiers.

In truth, Jin-seok had been transferred to a military hospital, after barely escaping the burning cell, and being saved by a soldier nicknamed Uncle Yang. However, Jin-seok was shot in the escape. Uncle Yang also brings a letter that Jin-tae wrote, and says that Jin-tae was never found but he doubts Jin-tae deserted. When Uncle Yang hands Jin-seok the letter, Jin-seok is apathetic towards both the letter and his brother's uncertain fate. However, the next day, he learns from two South Korean military officers that his brother had defected to the North Koreans. Afterward, he reads Jin-tae's letter to their mother and is brought to tears. He immediately rejoins the army to fight at the 38th parallel, but is denied permission to fight. Jin-seok escapes his camp and runs to the North Korean site, surrendering to them and claiming that he is Jin-tae's brother; Jin-tae is now the leader of an elite North Korean unit. They send him with an escort to validate his claim, but the North Koreans think he is a spy. Then they are attacked by South Korean forces and American warplanes,in the attack Jin-seok's guards are killed by an American fighter plane. He fights his way through the soldiers after being ordered to be killed by the trench captain,still thinking he's a spy. Soon the South Korean Army push forward to the trenches, but retreat when the feared North Korean Infantry Unit known as "Flag Unit", commanded by Jin-tae, arrives to reinforce the North Korean lines.

After killing some South Korean soldiers and not recognizing his own brother, Jin-tae, being enraged, tries to kill Jin-seok. Jin-seok begs his brother to recognize him. As Jin-tae is about to shoot Jin-seok, he is wounded by a bayonet. Jin-seok tries to carry him away but is shot in the leg. Jin-tae finally recognizes his brother. However, their reunion is short lived because North Korean forces are advancing and mortars are landing all around them. Jin-Tae realizes that they can't stay there and tells Jin-Seok to leave. Jin-seok refuses to retreat without Jin-tae, but he convinces him to leave, promising that he will meet him back at home. He presents Jin-seok with the silver pen recovered from the burnt jail cell. It was a gift from Jin-tae earlier, in the hope of sending Jin-seok to a university. Jin-seok refuses it, saying that Jin-tae can give it to him when they meet again. Jin-tae promises this and also promises to finish the shoes he was making, and sends Jin-seok off. As the wounded Jin-seok runs away, Jin-tae turns against the Chinese and North Korean soldiers, shooting at them with a M1917 Browning machine gun. He provides cover fire for his brother and the retreating South Koreans. The KPA and PVA forces finally kill Jin-tae in a barrage of bullets. Jin-tae gives one last look at his fleeing brother, and he dies with a look of satisfaction.

In 2003, the elderly man stands at the excavation site, and it is revealed to be Jin-seok. He examines Jin-tae's excavated items, including the long lost silver pen, and begs his brother's skeletal remains to speak to him, quoting his promises. His granddaughter looks on with sympathy. The film then returns to the past, the 1950s, in the aftermath of the Korean War. Jin-seok returns to his mother, and sees the shoes his brother finished making, and heads off with Young-shin's younger siblings in a peaceful Seoul. He reassures them that he will return to school, thereby fulfilling the promise he made to Jin-tae.


  • Jang Dong-gun as Lee Jin-tae
  • Won Bin as Lee Jin-seok, Jin-tae's brother
  • Lee Eun-joo as Kim Young-shin, Jin-tae's fiance
  • Choi Min-sik as North Korean commander
  • Gong Hyung-jin as Yong-man
  • Lee Young-ran as Mother
  • Ahn Gil-kang as Sergeant Heo
  • Jang Min-ho as old Lee Jin-seok
  • Jung Dae-hoon as North Korean boy soldier
  • Jeon Jae-hyeong as Yong-seok
  • Jo Yoon-hee as Lee Jin-seok's granddaughter
  • Jung Doo-hong as Adviser
  • Kim Bo-kyung as North Korean war prisoner
  • Kim Su-ro as Anti-Communist Federation member
  • Park Kil-soo as Excavation team leader
  • Jung Jin as Private first class Im
  • Jung Yoon-min as Security officer
  • Jung Ho-bin as Army officer
  • Joo Da-young as Young-ja
  • Park Jung-woo as Recruiting officer
  • Kwon Tae-won as Colonel
  • Park Dong-bin as North Korean platoon leader
  • Yoon Hee-won as Platoon leader
  • Jeon In-geol as North Korean soldier who gets killed
  • Im Hyung-joon as young man at political group
  • Jo Won-hee as Battalion commander
  • Park Soo-il as Counterintelligence corps member
  • Hwang Woo-yeon as refugee at Daegu station
  • Hwang Taek-ha as member 2 of Kim Chul-soo's platoon


At the 50th Asia Pacific Film Festival, Taegukgi won the "Best Film" award, while Kang Je-gyu was awarded the "Best Director".[2] 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 million 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. It currently holds a fresh rating of 80 percent 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.[3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2004 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 Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo Won
Best Music Lee Dong-jun Nominated
Best Art Direction Shin Bo-kyeong Nominated
Best Visual Effects Won
Best Screenplay Kang Je-gyu, Han Ji-hun, Kim Sang-don Nominated
Grand Bell Awards Best Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo Won
Best Art Direction Shin Bo-kyeong Won
Best Sound Effects Lee Tae-kyu, Kim Suk-won Won
Baeksang Arts Awards Best Film Won
2005 Asia Pacific Film Festival Best Film Taegukgi Won
Best Director Kang Je-gyu Won



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The music was composed by Dong-jun Lee, and released on February 23, 2004 as a single CD, produced by Yejeon Media in Korea and Avex Trax in Japan.[4][5] It has 25 tracks,[6] with seven bonus tracks, including a solo piano and chamber ensemble arrangement of the main theme.[7] The "haunting" main theme's lyricism,[8] present throughout several of the tracks, was compared favorably to music of film score composers Ennio Morricone and John Williams.[7] Although it was received generally positively,[7] one critic argued that the film was tragic enough already, and needed "a more subtle soundtrack."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The film was filmed and produced in 2003, and a character in the film mentions that it has been fifty years since the end of the Korean War, which ended in 1953.


  1. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=taegukgi.htm
  2. ^ Internet Movie Database Asia Pacific Film Festival 2005 Awards
  3. ^ http://exiledonline.com/wn-35-war-movies/
  4. ^ "Taegukgi OST". YesAsia. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  5. ^ "Taegukgi Soundtrack". KoreaPop. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  6. ^ "Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo". Soundtrack Collector. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  7. ^ a b c 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. 
  8. ^ Cornelius, David (2005-02-18). "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War". eFilmCritic. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  9. ^ Marchant, Tim (2005-06-02). "Taegukgi hwinalrimyeo (2004)". Movie Gazette. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Silmido (film)
Top box office of Korea
Succeeded by
The King and the Clown