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The Battleship Island – It Turned Out to be A Flop?

The Battleship Island – It Turned Out to be A Flop?
 During the World War II, under the colonial rule of Japan, around 400 Koreans were forced onto the Battleship Island to mine for coal and valuables. They were forced to work over time with low pay, were served bad food and got even worse treatment from the Japanese.
Lee Kang-Ok (Hwang Jung-Min) was a pretty well-known bandmaster at a hotel in Gyeongseong. He planned to escape to Japan with his daughter, Lee So-hee (Kim Su-an), in order to protect her and give her a better life. But in reality he was actually being deceived by the idea of going to Japan. He only realized it when he was being forcibly drafted into the Battleship Island. Once he found out what was happening, he started to think of ways to survive the Battleship Island at the same time scheming to escape with his daughter.

 Choi Chil-Sung (So Ji-Sub) on the other hand, was a well known gangster in Gyeongseong. He too was dragged into the Battleship Island by force and was livid about his and all of the Koreans’ situation. Chil-Sung would continuously start fights to rebel against the Japanese, as his underlings would also follow suit. 

Park Moo-Young (Song Joong-Ki) on the other hand, was one of the best soldier in the Korean Independence group and he was ordered to go to the Battleship Island to rescue one of the member of the Independence group that was said to be able to stop all these wars. Moo-Young then would proceed to sneak into the ship, and would soon come to the realization that things were not all as it seems.


 A Sneak Peek Into The Story : 

All Lee Kang-Ok (Hwang Jung-Min) has is his daughter, Lee So-hee (Kim Su-an). While Kang-Ok might not be one of the best father in the world, he does everything that he could in order to protect and keep his daughter safe. Lee Kang-Ok planned to escape Gyeongseong (what they called Korea now) to Japan for a better life.  I am – again and again – impressed by his character. He may seem like a weakling, bending to any authoritarian figure be it Japanese or Korean, but Kang-Ok stops at nothing when it comes to protecting his daughter.


While Lee Kang-Ok might have the reputation as a ladies’ man and his daughter hated him for it, he is quick to seize every chance to make money, but at the same time looking out for his bandmates. Hwang Jung-Min definitely did a very great job at portraying his character – from an opportunistic and funny entertainer, to a loving father and a leader for his bandmates. In this movie, Hwang Jung-Min worked alongside co-actor Kim Su-an who played as his daughter.


As a child in these kind of circumstances, it was refreshing to see her being able to retain a child’s naivety and her continuous trust in her father to protect her from all harm. While at the same time, she is mature enough to know when to smile and sing and dance for her captors. Kim Su-An managed to deliver all that and more, she is now definitely one of the best child actor in Korea as she rose to fame after starring in the movie Train to Busan.

Midway to Japan, they find themselves forced onto a Hashima Coal Mine Ship with a bunch of other Koreans. Scared and confused with the endless sea all around them, they can do nothing but stand awkwardly, waiting for what’s to come. That was when they saw a boat that rows furiously towards their ship, before long, the crew of that boat have successfully climbed up onto the ship and separated the men from women. For the women, they are brought to the boat and will be taken as a comfort woman for the higher ranked Japanese. As for the men, they are to be ordered to work in a mine coal to mine valuables for the Japanese.


Review :

While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, I would say that the setting of this movie is a little bit confusing to viewers that didn’t know a lot about Korean history, or WWII history in general. Because the movie was set in a very real and non-fictional movie background, which leads viewers to believe that what was happening in the movie was what really happened in real life. However, after further observation, it seems like most of what happened in this movie is not what truly happened in reality.



I don’t mind that the director decided to take the fiction route, because this movie is still highly entertaining. While it is true that the director has been saying that this movie was premised on the historical event. I think the viewers might appreciate it better if the director was to made it clear from the start that this movie was more fictional than it was a true depiction of what happened. Because a lot of people might be confused as to how much of this movie is true and how much of it was a fantasy.

Once the ship landed, the men were forced to strip and to hand out all their valuables. They were introduced to the way things work around the island; for example how they would have to pay for all their bedroom expenses, and food and equipments from the wages that they received by mining. Choi Chil-Sung (So Ji-Sub) was not happy about this situation, especially with the fellow Korean that was in charge and decided to challenge him to a fight.  As the gruff, violent gangster with a soft spot, he acted the part to perfection. Especially the fighting scene in the public bath with a fellow Korean where he fought with just a loincloth, it is definitely an eye popping,viscious and bloody scene.

While I find this movie very entertaining, I find that there are little to no character development. Obviously, in such a crowded script, it will be hard to focus on all the main characters  as well as developing the story. The dynamic between Lee Kang-Ok and his daughter are wonderful, but I find myself wanting for Choi Chil-Sung to have more screen time, especially with Oh Mal-nyeon  (Lee Jung-hyun), who is one of the comfort woman. I find the dynamic between the two very interesting, as they would quarrel and fight with each other but still have each other’s back.



One of the reason why I was so excited for this movie is because of all the top tiered actors are in this movie. I was especially excited to see how Song Joong-Ki would be able to pull off such a role after seeing him in Descendants of the Sun, and I after watching this movie I find it a bit of a let down. Song Joong-Ki who played Park Moo-young – while his acting was good – I didn’t exactly feel like I was able to connect with his character. Park Moo-young is a member of the Korean Independence Movement who was ordered to go to the Battleship Island to rescue a fellow independence fighter that was being held captive.



I find it very unbelievable that Park Moo-young was so order-oriented (not sure if that is a word). He went to the Battleship Island and he saw for himself how bad the situation was there. Yet he doesn’t feel the compassion nor the need to want to save these people, at least not until the very end. I get that it was war and timing was of the utmost importance, but Park Moo-young’s character in this movie feels more robot-like than a soldier.

All in all, The Battleship Island was an enjoyable action movie if you don’t go too deep trying to analyze everything. This movie depicts of how gruesome war was and how it affected not only the country and the nation, but also the individuals. While some of the scenes in this movie is fictional and might be exaggerated in order to keep the viewers engaged, the island truly exists and was inscribed as a UNESCO World heritage site in 2015. 

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