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I just finished watching the Korean-language film The Admiral: Roaring Currents on Netflix.  As per usual, whenever a film piques my curiosity, I do some research afterwards, and I got a lesson not only in Korean history, but also a reminder of how little we in the West know about history in general in the East.  And fascinating stuff it is, too.

 

Briefly, the film (which was released in 2014 and set the Korean all-time box office record) is a period piece centered on Admiral Yi Sun-sin's victory over the Japanese at the Battle of Myeongnyang in 1597.  I won't ruin the plot for anyone wishing to see the film, but I will say that it is your typical Asian-style grand epic, with a strong Korean nationalism flavor.  The battle scenes were filmed using several very well executed replica Korean panokseon warships, along with the generous use of CGI.  If you've seen any movies from the same genre out of Korea or Hong Kong, then you know that these battle sequences tend to lean heavily towards over-dramatization.  It's a style that hugely appeals to Asian audiences, but is less well received in the West.  One either likes it for what it is or one doesn't.  There are some aspects of sailing and fighting the lumbering, oared warships that will make nautical purists wince; one just needs to turn a blind eye to them. 

 

I enjoyed the film, but I enjoyed my little lesson in Korean naval history even more.  I won't dish out any spoilers here, either, for anyone wanting to read up on it on their own, but I will throw out a teaser by saying that Admiral Yi (who is a national icon in Korea)  is every bit as engaging as any of our better-known Western admirals, and the naval campaigns fought between Korea and Japan between 1592 and 1598 were done on a very grand scale.  As I said, it is fascinating stuff, and I spent a good deal of time link-hopping at Wikipedia.  Enjoy the links!

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