Taegukgi (film)

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Taegukgi film poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Hangul 태극기
Hanja 太極旗 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 Showbox/Mediaplex
Release date
  • February 6, 2004 (2004-02-06)
Running time
148 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget US$12.8 million
Box office US$69.8 million[1]

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (Korean: 태극기 휘날리며; Taegukgi Hwinallimyeo) 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 forcibly drafted into the South Korean army 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.


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, after finding his name on the active list, but on KIA or MIA lists, even though he is still alive.[N 1]

Decades earlier, in June 1950, in the South Korean capital of Seoul, the Lee family go about their lives. Lee Jin-tae owns a shoeshine stand to pay for his younger brother Jin-seok's education. Jin-tae had also bought them a silver pen, a precious item between the two, and is working on a pair of immaculate shoes for his brother to wear. Jin-tae's fiancée, Young-shin, works with the Lees' noodle shop. On June 25, 1950, North Korea invades South Korea. Both brothers are forcibly conscripted. They then become a part of the 1st Infantry Division, fighting at the Pusan Perimeter and then advancing north. Jin-tae is told by his commanding officer 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 willingly volunteers for many dangerous missions and performs near-suicidal acts of bravery to earn the medal, and is quickly promoted to the rank of Chungsa (Sergeant). His heroism during the urban battle of Pyongyang finally result in Jin-tae being nominated for the medal. His combat experiences quickly brutalize him into a cold-blooded, ruthless killer, which worries his horrified younger brother.

The U.N. coalition is eventually forced to retreat all the way back to Seoul when the Chinese intervene in the war on the North Korean side. Jin-tae gets his medal, but, in Seoul, Young-shin, suspected of joining the communist party during the Northern occupation, is captured 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 the jail, Jin-tae's request to release his brother is refused and the security commander orders the prison set afire when the enemy forces approach. Trying to rescue his brother, Jin-tae loses consciousness and wakes up to believe Jin-seok died in the fire. He brutally murders the surrendering prison commander just before he is captured and restrained by Chinese soldiers.

In truth, however, Jin-seok had been transferred to a military hospital after barely escaping and being saved by 'Uncle Yang', a now-disabled veteran from their old unit. He learns that his brother has defected to the North Koreans and immediately rejoins the Army, who had now retaken South Korea from the Communists, to fight at the 38th parallel, but is denied permission to fight. Jin-seok escapes and runs to the North Korean side, surrendering and claiming that he is the brother of Jin-tae, who now leads an elite North Korean formation known as the "Flag Unit". The North Koreans think Jin-seok is a spy, but as they are about to take him to the command post for interrogation, their position is attacked by American and South Korean forces, who take the position amidst fierce hand-to-hand combat. After being freed, Jin-seok makes his way through the chaos in search of his brother when the "Flag Unit" arrives, tearing into the U.N. forces.

Not recognizing his own brother, the crazed Jin-tae attempts to kill Jin-seok, and Jin-seok barely avoids death before Jin-tae 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, but this is cut short as the North Koreans force back the U.S. and South Korean forces. Jin-Tae orders his brother to save himself, to which Jin-seok initially refuses, but relents after Jin-Tae promises that they will meet again. As the wounded Jin-seok limps away to safety, Jin-tae mans a machine gun and fires at North Koreans, covering for his brother and the other South Koreans before finally being killed in a hail of fire.

In 2003, the elderly man, Jin-seok, stands at the excavation site; the remains initially identified as him are those of Jin-tae. He examines Jin-tae's few excavated belongings, including the 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, finds 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, thereby fulfilling the promise he made to Jin-tae.




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 Dong-jun Lee, and released on February 23, 2004 as a single CD, produced by Yejeon Media in South Korea and Avex Trax in Japan.[2][3] It has 25 tracks,[4] with seven bonus tracks, including a solo piano and chamber ensemble arrangement of the main theme.[5] The "haunting" main theme's lyricism,[6] present throughout several of the tracks, was compared favorably to music of film score composers Ennio Morricone and John Williams.[5] Although it was received generally positively,[5] one critic argued that the film was tragic enough already, and needed "a more subtle soundtrack."[7]


At the 50th Asia Pacific Film Festival, Taegukgi won the "Best Film" award, while Kang Je-gyu was awarded the "Best Director".[8] It was one of four Korean movies screened at the 2006 International Fajr Film Festival in Iran.[citation needed] 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.[9]

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.[1]

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 percent at Rotten Tomatoes.[10] Most positive reviews cite its unflinching portrayal of war and praise it for showing the brutality of both the North and South Korean armies.[citation needed] The film is also recommended by the War Nerd Gary Brecher.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2004 Baeksang Arts Awards Best Film Taegukgi Won
Grand Bell Awards[12] 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

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. ^ a b http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=taegukgi.htm
  2. ^ "Taegukgi OST". YesAsia. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  3. ^ "Taegukgi Soundtrack". KoreaPop. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  4. ^ "Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo". Soundtrack Collector. 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Cornelius, David (2005-02-18). "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War". eFilmCritic. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  7. ^ Marchant, Tim (2005-06-02). "Taegukgi hwinalrimyeo (2004)". Movie Gazette. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  8. ^ Internet Movie Database Asia Pacific Film Festival 2005 Awards
  9. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386064/awards
  10. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/tae_guk_gi_the_brotherhood_of_war/
  11. ^ http://exiledonline.com/wn-35-war-movies/
  12. ^ "Grand Bell Awards 2004". Korean Film Biz Zone. 2004-06-11. Retrieved 2015-09-04. 

External links[edit]