Film: Taegukgi

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is a 2003 film from South Korea, directed by Je-kyu Kang, telling the story of two brothers caught up in The Korean War.

Lee Jin-tae and Lee Jin-seok are brothers who live with their mother in the family noodle shop. Jin-tae has a side business with a shoe-shine stand, and is working to send his bookish younger brother Jin-seok to college. Jin-tae is also engaged to pretty Young-shin, who works at the noodle shop. This happy life is ruined on June 25, 1950, when North Koreans with Nodongs invade South Korea, starting the Korean War. Jin-seok is forcibly conscripted into the South Korean army, and when his brother tries to pull him off the train, Jin-tae is conscripted too. An officer promises Jin-tae that if he can win the Order of Military Merit, South Korea's highest military decoration, he can get a discharge for his brother. Jin-tae then begins to seek out the most dangerous missions in order to win that medal, but his pursuit of glory alienates his unsuspecting little brother.

Taegukgi is one of the few feature films set in the Korean War. It became one of the biggest hits in the history of South Korean film. The title is a reference to the "taegukgi", the South Korean flag.


  • An Arm and a Leg: A soldier loses his leg when the unit is ambushed. Jin-seok's buddy later loses an arm.
  • Anyone Can Die: We know from the get go that Jin-seok survived the war. However, Jin-tae, Young-shin, Yong-man and many more aren't so lucky.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Everything Jin-tae does is to get his brother out of the army. When he thinks Jin-seok is dead, he snaps.
  • Camera Abuse: Blood spatters the camera during the climactic battle.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Young-shin says offhandedly that she attended a political meeting because they were giving away free food. It was a communist party meeting. She's executed by the South Koreans.
  • Cold War
  • Darkest Hour: When the soldiers in the Lees' unit are besieged in the Pusan perimeter, frightened and starving.
  • Decisive Battle: The Battle of Pyongyang. If Jin-tae captures the enemy captain, he can send his brother home.
  • Driven to Suicide: One of the soldiers in the Pusan perimeter cracks, shoots up the hospital, and then kills himself.
  • Epic Film: On par in its sense of scale when compared to series such as The Pacific.
  • Face-Heel Turn: After his girlfriend is executed by South Korean militia, and after erroneously thinking his brother was also killed by South Koreans, Jin-tae goes over to the North.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Played amazingly straight. Yong-man shows his comrades his family photo, and in the next scene is killed in the battle of Pyongyang.
  • Framing Device: The story opens with an elderly Lee Jin-seok being informed that a body has been found and identified as him. Then the action shifts back to June 1950.
  • The Greatest History Never Told: There aren't a lot of films set during the Korean War. This was one of the first ever made in South Korea, as opposed to American films such as M*A*S*H.
  • Headbutt of Love: Between the brothers when they say goodbye for the last time.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jin-tae mans a gun turret to give Jin-seok, and the fleeing South Korean army, time to escape.
  • Hope Spot: November 1950, when the South Koreans have conquered almost all of the North, and it seems the war is almost over. Then the Chinese come over the border.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The North and South Koreans really aren't that different from each other when it came to atrocities.
  • Kill the Cutie: Young-shin.
  • Man on Fire: Seen as the men in the Lees' unit are bombarded outside of Pusan.
  • Mexican Standoff: Happens when some of the North Korean prisoners take hostages as the unit is retreating. It ends badly.
  • Not So Different: Jin-seok accuses Jin-tae of this when Jin-tae is about to execute a group of North Korean prisoners that includes one of their old friends.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Jin-tae.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Jin-seok's reaction in the present-day scene where he's informed that a body from the war has been tentatively identified as him.
  • Straight for the Commander: Jin-tae ignores the order to push back the North Koreans across Pyongyang and instead chases after the enemy captain. This inadvertently leads to Yong-man's death.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Jin-tae gradually goes from being a Nice Guy to a broken soldier after witnessing and partaking in so much horror during the war.
  • Suicide Mission: Jin-seok's lone attempt to rescue Jin-tae in the film's climax. Quite extraordinary when considering that he goes in unarmed.
  • Tragedy: An entire family is torn apart by Jin-tae's arrogance and subsequent descent into madness. There isn't even a single moment of legitimate comedy to break the tension.
  • Urban Warfare: The brutal Battle of Pyongyang is one of the film's major set pieces.
  • War Is Hell: The Korean War was like any other.
  • War Memorial: The film begins here, in the present day.