Silmido (2003)



Director:     .

Starring:     Sung-kee Ahn (Commandant), Kyung-gu Sol (Kang In-chan), Jun-ho Heo (Sergeant Jo), Jae-yeong Jeong, Seong-jin Kang, Won-hui Lim, Shin-il Kang, Jeong-heon Lee.

1968 Korean Republic Army plan to assassinate North Korean president Kim Il-Sung



Spoiler Warning:

"In 1968, Unit 684 of the Korean Republic Army was established of criminals and death row inmates to be trained on Silmi Island, with the purpose of assassinating North Korean President Kim Il-Sung."

Prior to 1968.   A North Korean elite squad arises out of their covered holes and the soldiers start walking through the snow on the ground.  They stop long enough to take off their outer jackets and bury them in the snow.   They reach the top of a rise and stop.  The leader tells the team leaders to spout out their missions.  Team 1, Blue House main building!  Team 2, guard room!  Team 3, secretary's office!  Team 4, take out guards, and capture vehicles.  The leader now shouts:  "For the South's liberation, our Unit 124 shall kill the South's leader, on our Great Leader's order . . ."  The leader is interrupted by a loud bang and then flares light up the sky. 

1968.  A South Korean couple gets married. 

Before 1968.  It looks like an army of South Korean troops descending on the North Korean squad.  The two groups fight it out.

1968.  A group of young men breaks into the wedding reception and start knocking out the men in the outer room.  Then the young men go into the reception room and the women start diving under the tables.  One of the men, probably the man who paid for the wedding, is knifed by the leader of the invading squad.  The leader of the squad is cornered and then shot when he will not give up his short sword. 

Before 1968.  The leader of the North Korean squad is shot down. 

1968.  The leader of the wedding break up squad is taken to court.  He says his name is Kang In-chan. 

Before 1968. A member of the North Korean elite squad says he is special agent Kim Shin-jo, from Unit 124 of the People's Republic of China.  He tells the judges that his mission was:  "To rip out Park Chung-hee's throat."

1968.  Kang In-chan says:  "Gang work was all I could do."

 Before 1968.  At the elite squad hearing someone says:  "Specialists in murder, arson, kidnapping, military explosives."

1968.  At the Kang In-chan sentencing the judge says:  "Even though the victim lived, it was a grisly crime, planned carefully in advance."  The defendant is sentenced to death.  The defendant's mother is Catholic and she is devastated at the verdict. 

A man comes to see Kang In-chan in prison.  He explains to the prisoner that Kang Min-ho was a fencing master.  He was arrested as a resident spy, but escaped during trial, and was never found. They assumed he escaped to North Korea.  And it's Kang In-chan who was the fencing master's only son.  At the time Kang In-chan was only 15 years of age.  After school, In-chan over a period of two years applied for work 12 times but always without success.  Then the Jindo gang recruited the young fellow at 17 years of age.  And now Kang In-chan is in prison condemned to death for attempted murder.  If it was not for his father, Khan In-chan would never have been sentenced to death.

In-chan asks who is this man?  The man asks if In-chan could start his life over would he yield the knife for his country?  In-chan does not answer so the man says to the guards:  "Proceed with the execution!"  In-chan is taken to a room where he will be hanged.  A black hood is placed over his head and the noose is placed around his neck.  The signal is given to drop the gate from beneath the condemned man.  In-chan disappears into the opened-up hole in the platform.  The black curtains are now closed so there is nothing more to see. 

There is a boat-load of tough guys aboard a small boat.  They are being escorted by military men with weapons at the ready.  As tough guys, they soon start a fight among themselves.  The soldiers just watch the mayhem.  The military leader, however, pulls out his revolver and fires a shot into the air.  He then shouts out:  "Everyone in the water, before I count to three!"  The touch guys answer defiantly, so the leader takes an automatic weapon and starts firing at the feet of the criminals.  They all move to the very back of the boat.  Then the leader throws a grenade in front of the group.  Now the guys are fighting each other to jump off the boat.  One guy doesn't make it off in time and is hit by grenade shrapnel. 

The military people get off the boat onto small rescue boats.  Now the boat is blown to pieces in a explosion.

The leader lands on shore and gives the order:  "Pull out only the ones who are drowning."

Once on shore, the civilians are placed into formation.  The leader now tells them:  "You are death row convicts, or men from society's gutter, human trash.  But if you put on this uniform, our goals become one.  To safeguard our nation and to unify our homeland, we will unite under a single task."  The military personnel here will train the civilians.  "The training will be much harsher than the real task awaiting you."  If they finish the program, " . . . you'll be able to face the world as Korea's proudest soldiers. "  He now tells the men, for those who are prepared to follow the program, put on the uniforms at their feet.

The civilians hesitate until one man picks up the uniform and starts putting it on.  And now all the civilians put on the uniforms.  With that accomplished, the leader says that they are now members of Korean Special Unit 684.  "Our unit's mission is to go to Pyongyang and slit the throat of Kim Il-sung."

Kim Shin-jo's Unit 124, in order to kill the South Korean President, sent 31 men across the border.  They failed, but the 31 men in Unit 684 will be faster and quicker and will slit the throat of the North Korean President.  The men are put through some very hard tasks.  And they get hit by soldiers with clubs to spur them on.  They are told that if they are captured, they should commit suicide.  If they fail to kill themselves, they will face continuous torture.  The men are branded on their backs with hot irons.

The men are divided into three teams. 

The teams fight each other in boxing matches.  One tough guy who loses his match, wants a re-match in the barracks.  Another recruit throws a shiv between the two men and tells them that they have to swear to kill their opponent, because the whole Unit will be punished severely for this and they only want to be punished once. The tough guy decides to go after the man who threw the shiv forward, but the shiv fellow hits the tough guy right in the throat and the trouble-maker goes down. 

The veterans meet to talk about their plans for the Unit.  The Unit will take the same route as used by the commie bastards from the North.  After killing the President, they will take out the Defense Department and the Department of the Armed Forces.  Another veteran says they should go by sea and then up the Daedong River to take the Yanggak Road and from there go to Mt. Moran.  From there they can reach Kim's residence within an hour. 

A Sgt. Park says they can go by sea to the Imjin River in 22 hours.  They can attack and leave Daedong River by 5 am the next day.    The can swim their way up the river and then back. 

The Unit is trained to hold their breath for a long time under water.    Walking along a rope bridge, one man panics and falls off the bridge to the ground.  He is badly hurt. A second man falls and is killed.  The body is burned on a funeral pyre. 

The leader wants to send the injured man back to prison where they can treat the man and heal him.  The injured fellow pleads with the leader not to send him back to prison.  He says he will do all the cooking and cleaning tasks for the Unit if allowed to stay.  The Unit men are happy about the idea.  The leader turns around and leave the man still in the barracks. 

After awhile, the men master all their assignments and tasks.  So one night, the leader says that tomorrow night the Unit will depart.  The leader now gives the men permission to have fun for the night.  The proceed to get drunk.  The cook gets really drunk and starts telling the guys to make sure they get back alive. 

At night it rains hard.  The Unit forms up and runs to the rubber rafts.  They get in and off they go.

The Captain gets a telephone call from headquarters.  The operation has been cancelled.  So they get in a motorized boat and go after the rowers.  The Captain tells the men:  "The operation is cancelled.  Turn back!"  One man of the Unit tells the men to keep rowing.  The  Captain yells at the men that they have an order from above to turn back.  The men don't want to listen, so the Captain starts scaring them by firing the machine gun at them.  The guys jump off the rafts into the sea, but they still ask to be allowed to attack North Korea. 

The captain of Unit 684 goes to headquarters to ask why the mission was cancelled.  He is not given a reason. 

Two men run off in order to have sex with women.  This gets the whole Unit in trouble and they are subjected to a number of punishments. 

The AWOL guys are banging a woman in a bed.  All of sudden the whole Unit with their weapons surround the building where the two guys are hold up in.  The two men were raping the female doctor.  And now that they are surrounded, one of the guys decides to hold the doctor as a hostage.  He holds a knife to the woman's throat.  The two men decide to kill themselves.  One stabs the other, but the soldiers outside break into the building and stop the survivor from killing himself.

The survivor is tied by his outstretched arms and legs to two posts.  He has to watch as his buddies have to take a beating with club strokes to their backs. 

The rapist starts singing a patriotic song and the beatings stop.  One man, Kang In-chin, grabs a club, rushes over to the rapist and knocks the singer over the head with the club.  The guy goes unconscious.  The man is dead. 

Sgt. Jo clubs the supervisor of Kang In-chin for the actions of the "commie" member of Unit 684. 

The Captain is called into headquarters.  The officer there tells him:  "North-South relations keep changing all the time.  When Unit 684 was created, people in the streets would burn pictures of Kim Il-sung --  that was the mood."  The Captain says he wants the army to recognize Unit 684 as a form unit of the Air Force.  A man named Oh comes into the room to asks if they will be able to put Silmido in order?  He says that the nation is moving towards peaceful reunification.  The murder squad created recently is now just a relic.  Oh also says that if the situation is cleaned up, the captain's career will be looking up.  Oh is ready to go now, saying he puts his trust in the sergeant.  He goes to shake hands with the Captain, but the Captain won't shake his hand.  He is too bitter about the canceled Unit 684. 

The supervisor of Kang In-chan  gets the man alone and starts socking him in the face.  Kang In-chan does not hit back.  The supervisor calls Kang In-chan a "commie" like his commie father.  Kang In-chan denies that he is a communist.  The supervisor says he's been through hell for 3 years because of Kang In-chan. He is tired of getting beaten because of the commie's crazy glare at everyone.  Now Kang In-chan goes a bit ballistic revealing how much he wants to kill his father for leaving him and his mother behind to be treated like scum in South Korea, while dad was enjoying himself in North Korea.  And that's why he must go to Pyongyang and kill his father.  He is so out of control that he scares his supervisor who tries to run away.  Kang In-chan kicks the man in the head as he tries to pull away from the crazed man.  After awhile, the madman remembers himself and bows down to the supervisor and asks for his forgiveness.  And he begs his supervisor not to report him, because he can't drop his mission to kill his father now.

The supervisor learns about the background of Kang In-chan from Sgt. Jo.  He then speaks with the younger man and says he understands Kang In-chan better now.  The young man says as long as his mother is alive, he has to kill his father.  It's been 10 years since his father deserted the family and everyday of that 10 years his mother has not had a single peaceful night's sleep.  The supervisor asks if Kang In-chan kills his father, will they forgive him of his father's crimes?  Kang In-chan says yes.  So, the supervisor will cooperate with his student to let him go North to kill his father.

The Captain from Silmido has asked Mr. Oh to send unit 684 to Vietnam.  Oh tells the captain that as soon at Unit 684 leaves Silmido, the whole world will know of the South's plan to kill Kim Il-sung.  "For 30 men, do we sacrifice 30 million citizens' hopes for peace?"  Anyway, the order has been given to completely erase Unit 684.  The captain protests and Oh pulls out his pistol  and fires a shot into his book case.  He insists that the Republic has ordered Unit 684 eliminated.  Two men rush into the office to see if their chief is okay.  Oh tells them to take the captain out of here.  The guys give the captain a couple of blows to the gut and the captain bends over in pain. Oh says he is to sacrifice the unit.  He will give the captain one week to get the job done.  Otherwise the regular troops themselves will swoop down on and finish off Unit 684. Everyone will be shot, including the captain. 

The captain returns to Unit 684.  He watches the men boxing and playing soccer. 

Kang In-chan gets punished  for showing a photo of his mother to two of his friends.  He gets punched in the stomach, his photo is torn up and then he is given solitary confinement for 24 hours. 

The captain tells two of his sergeants that they have to kill the members of Unit 684.  Sgt. Jo is very upset at the news and he doesn't want to be any part of the plan.  He leaves the table.  The captain tells the remaining sergeant that he will let the two sergeants decide how to carry out the order or decide to disobey it.  The captain is told later by the one sergeant that he will do the killing job himself without Sgt Jo.  They will send Sgt. Jo elsewhere for the day of the plan.  (The captain has Kang In-chan still waiting to be put into solitary confinement.  He hears what the captain and the sergeants have been saying.)

The members of Unit 684 learn about the plan to wipe them out from Kang In-chan.  Some of the guys see Sgt. Jo leaving the island.  They go over to him and salute him.  Sgt. Jo thinks they are acting rather strangely, but he doesn't know that they know what's about to happen. 

At night the men to be eliminated get up out of their bunks.  They kill the two guards on watch over the weapons. They take the weapons and head off to kill their former supervisors.  One of the supervisors is killed while on the toilet.  The guards up in the tower are now killed.  The survivors start pouring out of the barracks and are mowed down by the waiting former students.  Others try to find better defensive positions, but they are mowed down too. 

Kang In-chan goes to kill the captain, but he can't bring himself to kill the man.  So the captain takes out his own pistol and shoots himself in the temple.  It seems the captain wanted to die with his regular troops.  That's why he allowed Kang In-chan to stay in the position where he would overhear his discussion with the two sergeants.

A large group of the former students corners the sergeant who took on the task of eliminating Unit 684.   He talks to them for awhile, but they shoot the man many times and he falls down dead. 

The survivors of the massacre are upset saying they will be totally forgotten men without even a name on their gravestones.  Kang In-chan says they can leave the island and let it be known that at one time the best unit in the South Korean army was Special Unit 684.  The men leave the island. 

The men highjack a bus and make the bus driver drive them to the President's house.  Over the bus radio, the men hear the message:  "20 armed Northern guerillas have landed via Incheon and are traveling along Kyung-in Road."  The bus runs into a road block consisting of armed soldiers in front of them.  The bus stops. 

The men tell the bus driver to drive right through the road block.  The bus speeds toward the road block and all hell breaks out.  A number of regular soldiers are shot.  In the bus the bus driver is shot along with one of the former students.  There are also some civilians on the bus and probably some of them have been shot. 

Sgt. Jo learns of what happened and tries to tell the military people that the men are not commies, but members of Special Unit 684 of the South Korean army. 

The unit goes through more roadblocks and now they enter Seoul.  Now convoys of troops are send out to stop the rogue troops.  This time the bus stops in front of the roadblock.  Snipers are put in place to individually take out the rogue troops. 

The fight begins, but this time the soldiers of Unit 684 will take heavy casualties.  Everyone one not dead already has been badly wounded. 

Sgt. Jo arrives and says he can help get the men out of the bus.  They are his subordinates.  Soldiers drag Sgt. Jo away from the area. 

Kang In-chan gets his photo of his mother back.  The men start writing their names on the bus with their own blood.  Now they let the civilians go.  The remaining soldiers take out a grenade each and blow themselves and the bus up.

In the papers, the headline is Civilian Convicts lead armed revolt.  Survivors of blast sentenced to death by military tribunal. 

A report "True Account of Silmido Incident" is put out.  It is placed in an old cabinet and forgotten. 

"To the soldiers who risked death to answer their nation's call, and to the 31 trainees, abandoned by a divided nation, who cried out in search of their identities at their place of death, we dedicate this film."



Good movie.  31 South Korean criminals are chosen to form an elite military unit to kill the North Korean President.  These men are given lots of training and become very dedicated soldiers.  But then conditions between North and South Korea begin to be smoothed out somewhat.  So now the politicians want the special elite unit to just disappear.  Their proposed solution, however, is to kill all the members of the special unit. The problem for the politicians is, however, that the plan is leaked to the men to be killed. Will the set-to-die men take this laying down or will they take some action?  They chose to do something about it. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 





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