Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War
From the director of Shiri comes the epic tale of two brothers. Jin-tae, a shoemaker, has worked tirelessly to provide money for the younger Jin-seok to go to college. But each of their hopes and dreams are shattered when both are forced to join the army against their will. Torn away from home and family, Jin-tae vows to protect Jin-seok despite the dangers and the cost. In the searing crucible of battle, fate intervenes, forcing their bonds of faith, love and trust to be tested time and again in this suspense-filled, action-packed war drama. (Amazon)
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High School Teacher: American History, AP US History, AP European History, Honors English 11 and Honors English 12
Tae Guk Gi is an award winning South Korean action war movie that was released in 2003. The film has very nice cinematography and the director paid great attention to detail when filming. The title of the movie translated into English means “The Brotherhood of War.” It is an appropriate title for a movie that focuses on the lives of two brothers who accidentally get drafted at the beginning of the Korean War. The film does an excellent job not just covering the horror of the actual battle but the human cost of war.This is played out as the movie follows the lives of Jin-tae and Jin-Seok. After the brothers are conscripted, the older brother, Jin-tea tries everything in his power to get Jin-tea sent home in an effort to save his life. As viewers follow the brothers time in the Korean war you mrn struggle with the moral issues of life and death faced by soldiers.
I think Tae Guk Gi would be best utilized in an Honors or AP classroom due to its content. One reason I would suggest this movie for older students is due to the fact it deals with mature subjects and is very graphic. While it is a war movie, almost the entire movie takes place during battle and it can easily become overwhelming for the viewer. Especially for students who have little experience watching war movies or footage. Additionally, since it is rated R, I would suggest that teachers be prepared to have an alternate assignment or option if using in the classroom. Additionally, due to the fact that it a South Korean movie it includes many cultural nuances that students may not recognize or comprehend. Therefore, I would suggest that the teacher
provide a brief lesson regarding Korean culture, or be prepared to stop the movie and explain the relevance and significant of the characters actions to ensure the students fully understand what they are watching.
Brotherhood and Virtue: Tae Guk Gi and Korean Peace
Je-kyu Kang's film about brothers forced to fight in the Korean War, Tae Guk Gi is an excellent opportunity to teach about the horror and reality of war, while at the same time demonstrating important historical events and engaging with themes of brotherhood, virtue, and human nature. As a resource for a classroom setting, the film should only be utilized with parental consent (the film is rated R for extreme, graphic violence), and with students capable of appreciating and understanding the complex themes present within. Honors, AP, or IB students who study history would benefit, as well as students engaged in the history of warfare throughout the world.
Aside from some of the content concerns, students may be turned off from certain aspects of the film that don't translate well to Western audiences, such as a translated script that fails to capture the nuance of the spoken dialogue and some pretty severe over-acting at times. The beginning act of the film borders on cloying nostalgia, but is important for relationships later in the plot. I felt that the combat sequences were, at times, excessively graphic and too long extended.
The film shines in the thematically complex elements, and some of the more nuanced plot details and character development of Jin-tae Lee (the older brother) and Jin-seok Lee (the younger brother). As one begins to tire of the incessant, albeit impressively shot battle sequences, the mental stamina of the brothers is likewise waning. Both are changed by the war, but neither of them in positive ways. To some extent, they act as a foil to each other, although neither side is proven morally upright and empathy can be attributed to both sides. As actors and witnesses of the atrocities of the bloody Korean War, the brothers cope with these events and each other in differing and understandably human ways. This makes the movie interesting for its viewer and applicable to the classroom.
The historical relevance of the film related to the Korean War is intriguing. Tae Guk Gi captures the difficult reality that directly following the expulsion of Japanese colonizers Korea is engulfed in yet another bloody conflict, this time within its own borders, oftentimes between families. The film is successful in portraying how the civil war, antagonized by foreign powers in a proxy war, remains fresh in the memory of many Korean families, due to the severity of the divisions that ensued. Some of the most poignant moments of the film are also the most historically significant and interesting to see on screen. We are forced to watch repeated offenses by both the communists of the North and the anti-communist surveillance groups of South Korea. The character development of the brothers takes places within the gut-wrenching liminality of these morally unmanageable scenarios. This film, which is decidedly anti-war, and also intriguingly hinting at Korean reunification, was produced during the Sunshine Policy that occurred on the peninsula and is a superb example of a much-needed perspective today.