Choi-jong-byeong-gi Hwal (War of the Arrows) (2011) 





Director:     Han-min Kim.

Starring:     Hae-il Park (Nam-Yi), Seung-yong Ryoo (Jyu Shin-Ta), Chae-won Moon (Ja-In), Mu-Yeol Kim (Seo-Goon), Han-wi Lee (Gap-Yong), Kyeong-yeong Lee (Kim Moo-Sun), Gi-woong Park (Doreukon), Rye Hei Otani (Nogami), Gu-taek Kim (Kang-Doo), Eunjin Kang (Eun-Yi), Seung-joon Lee (Wan-Han), Jae-goo Lee (Hoo-Man), No-shik Park (Jang-Soon), Da-wit Lee (Nam-Yi - young), Min-seo Jeon (Ja-In - young).

1623, brother-sister bond plus love story set during the second Manchurian invasion of Korea



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

In 1636 there was a second invasion of Korea by the Manchurians.

A brother, Nam-yi, and his little sister, Ja-in, are running away. They need to stay ahead of the soldiers, who are accompanied by a German Shepard dog. The brother and sister tumble onto the ground and the dog is just about to grab the little girl when an arrow knocks the dog out of commission.  Their father appears out of nowhere and picks up his son and daughter. He tells his son to go see Kim Mu-seon who lives in Gaeseong. He also tells his son that from now on, he is the father of his sister.

Brother and sister run to get away, but sister keeps looking back to see what will happen to her father. Father is a very good swordsman, but brother and sister see their father eventually cut down. The young people hear someone shout that the traitor is dead and now where are his children?

The dogs find the children. Nam-yi shoots one with an arrow. He has to fight another one and has to hit the dog with a rock in order to kill it.

Brother and sister make it to the home of Kim Mu-seon. They tell Mu-seon what happened to their father. Mu-seon asks that Lady Kim be brought to take care of the children. A young boy closely watches Ja-in.

Lady Kim is very stern with the children. She doesn't welcome them to her home. She just tells them to change out of their dirty clothes and that they must never talk to strangers.

At night Ja-in cries for her father.

Thirteen years later. Nam-yi brings down a deer with his arrow. He is accompanied by two of his friends. One of the men says that Ja-in is the prettiest girl in all of Songak. The men talk about how Lady Kim is not fair to Ja-in, who is more than a good match for her son, Kim Min-soon. Nam-yi becomes angry over all this talk about Ja-in. The guys won 't shut up, so the archer knocks the biggest talker to the ground. Now a fight breaks out involving all three men. A young man arrives at the encampment and starts speaking with the men, who now stop their brawling.

The stranger wants to take the three men to a great place for good food and women. The place is a "joyhouse" for men. The stranger wants to pour the tea for his "brothers". He then tells the fellows that he wants to make an offer for Miss Ja-in. Nam-yi is astounded at the fellow's audacity. And besides the stranger would be marrying a traitor's daughter.  The young man says he has already made up his mind and it doesn't matter what Nam-yi says. So Nam-yi gives a short sword to the young man and says that if he can cut him with the sword, he will give his consent for the fellow to marry his sister. But if he can't, she'd be better off with a butcher than him.

Nam-yi is very aggressive and pushes the young fellow around for awhile. But when he goes a little too far, the young man pushes him through a partition and right up to another partition. He then throws Nam-yi to the ground. The young man wants to quit now, but Nam-yi starts striking him with his bare fists. So the young man now has to hit Naml-yi in the face several times.

Mu-seon strikes the calves of the two men with a switch. He tells Nam-yi that he has abandoned his studies and now is just wasting his time with frivolities. Nam-yi appears to be at a loss and pities himself for being the son of a traitor.

Mu-seon tells Nam-yi that he is giving permission for Ja-in to marry. Nam-yi leaves.  Nam-yi is out in the woods practicing his archery skills. Ja-in comes out to see him. He gives her the bow and she hits the target on the first shot. She tells him she is tired of her brother's defeatism and pessimism. She refuses to live her life like her brother does. She walks away.

On her wedding day, Nam-yi puts some pretty shoes on the steps so that his sister may wear them. The wedding ceremony is performed.

Out in the woods Nam-yi hears the sound of horse's hooves beating on the ground. There are so many that the ground actually shakes. He goes to a look-out point. All of a sudden, he sees a huge Manchurian army appear on horseback.  They head for the town. The fortress gates are closed tight. Nam-yi starts running down the hill. The fortress is easily taken and the residents are being slaughtered. Babies are thrown into wells.

Nam-yi is crossing a path when he runs into enemy horsemen. One man chases after Nam-yi who runs down the road. The warrior starts coming back, but it suddenly becomes clear that the man is dead, shot through the neck with an arrow.  Now four or five horsemen are send to kill Nam-yi. Nam-yi starts running up a hill. The horsemen dismount and come after the archer.

A rope is thrown around the neck of Ja-in and she is being dragged away. Lady Kim grabs the rope to stop this, but she is cut down by another enemy soldier. The groom tries to save her, but he is soon lassoed around the neck and dragged away.

Ja-in with some help gets out of the lasso. Now the groom tries to grab a sword laying on the ground.

Meanwhile, Nam-yi kills one of his pursuers.

Mu-seon kills quite a few of the enemy, but he is driven through by a spear. Another soldier grabs Ja-in.

Nam-yi is hit by an arrow and falls off a cliff. His pursuers see blood on the cliff side and are convinced that the archer has been killed.

Lots of men and women are being taken by the Manchurians to an unknown place.

The commander after Nam-yi tells his cousin: "I never saw a Joseon man shoot like him." The Prince comes over to congratulate his uncles on a job well-done.

The Prince with a large escort leaves the battle area.

Nam-yi goes on a search for his sister, but can't find her anywhere. He does, however, find one of her fancy shoes on the ground. He finds Lady Kim dead. He also finds Mu-seon dead. He cries over his body.

Three Manchurian horsemen come racing down a mountain path. All of a sudden, an arrow hits one of them and he falls from his horse. The other two horsemen look for the archer, but another man is hit and goes down. Now the third man is hit. He is still alive and starts crawling. Nam-yi comes up to him. The man dies as he is begging for his life.

Other Manchurians find the three dead men. They think a militia might be in the area and take off.

The Manchurian commander is told of a master archer who brought down many Manchurians in the streets of the town. He thinks the archer is after the Prince's escort. The commander gives the order to abort the mission. He tells Nirus to follow him.

The officer in charge of the prisoners says he will let those who want to go back home to go ahead and leave now. The interpreter tells them to stay put, but a number of people start running away. After a head-start, the officer sends his men out to butcher the runners.

Some of the people reach the woods, but the horsemen still come after them. And then one of the horsemen is shot with an arrow.

Ja-in's husband starts to walk out to the fields slowly. A horsemen is sent after him, but just as the horseman swings his sword, the husband bends down missing the blade. He then knocks the horseman off his horse, grabs the soldier's sword and runs him through with it..  Another man is sent out. He wounds the Korean, but the Korean in the end kills him. The officer in charge now threatens to kill the Korean with one of his arrows. Just as the officer is about ready to let go of the arrow, another arrow cuts his bow string and the arrow goes no where. The officer falls of the horse and is run through with the sword.

Now the guards start ganging up on the newlywed. Nam-yi shoots a couple of the guards. And now the prisoners turn on the guards. All the guards are killed or drowned. Now Nam-yi rides toward Manchuria with three other Koreans.

The Korean prince sees Ja-in and gives the order for the soldiers to clean her up. A guard brings her to the prince. She manages to pull his sword from its scabbard and wound the fellow. The guard now apologizes to the prince and now subdues Ja-in. She yells out that she is a married woman: "Do not put me through this disgrace." So Ja-in is put outside and will stand there until she begs for her life.

The commanders looks over the massacre sight. He says that they must get this archer as soon as possible.

The four Koreans look out over the small prisoner camp. At night they plan to capture the prince and then exchange him for Ja-in.

The prince watches as Ja-in eats some meat. He says she gave up too soon. And she is too boring like the rest of her people. Ja-in says she's the daughter of a warrior. He mocks her so she rushes him and nearly drivers her beef skewer into the prince's right eye. The prince says he loves it when she is feisty like this. He pushes her off him and goes for her throat, but Ja-in bites his hand very hard and he screams in pain.

The prisoners are getting away! is the cry. The prince, however, wants to be left alone with his little toy. So the prisoners continue to pour out of the prisoner camp.

A sword opens a hole in the back of the prince's tent. He gets behind the prince and holds a knife to his throat. Now Ja-in puts her skewer up to his throat.

So now they hold the prince hostage. Nam-yi uses the time to let his sister and brother-in-law get away on horseback. After they have gone, Nam-yi sets the prince on fire. The prince runs towards his men which makes them all step back from him giving Nam-yi enough time to get away.  Nam-yi is being pursued by some of the guards. One of their arrows hits him in the back.

The commander reaches the prisoner camp and finds out the the prince has been assassinated by the use of fire. The commander and his men decide to chase after Nam-yi. The guards get close up to Nam-yi but then two of the guards are shot with arrows. This makes the other guards stop. Nam-yi turns around and fires an arrow into another of the guards. The two guards left ride the hell out of there. Now Nam-yi's two old buddies reveal themselves. They are very happy to see that Nam-yi made it.

But now coming at the three buddies is the commander and his men. The three Koreans have to run into the forest and up the hill. Gang-du is hit in the back with an thrown axe. He tells the other two to leave him. Gang-du yells at his friends to get out of here. They go with some reluctance. Gand-du now catches a few of the enemy in a tiger trap. As he starts killing some of the men caught in the huge net, he is shot down with arrows. He falls to the ground and is run through with a sword.

Gab-yong decides to stand and fight and tells Nam-yi to go. Nam-yi protests but Gab-yong runs away from him. Nam-yi decides to jump the gap between two large hills. He gets a bit battered but he makes it. Gab-yong is killed with a sword..

The commander and his men reach the edge of the other hill. Nam-yi wounds one man and probably kills another. The commander decides that they will jump the gap. Four men and the commander make it across. Two others now jump but they are both hit with arrows and fall to the valley below.

Now Nam-yi starts shooting the men hanging onto the rock wall below him. He gets a couple of them. He could have got another enemy, but hesitated too long to shoot the man in the face. The enemy is saved by the arrival of two more enemy archers.

The enemy takes a short rest and then goes after Nam-yi again.

Husband and wife are back at the rendezvous place, waiting for the others to arrive. Two Manchurian soldiers arrive at the rendezvous and the husband has to fight hard to kill the two soldiers.

Nam-yi stops for a big drink of water. He is spotted and the chase is on again. The commander hits Nam-yi with an arrow, but the archer keeps on going. They finally corner him in a dead end place. Nam-yi had been calling out to get the attention of the tiger he saw earlier.

The commander tells his men to cut off all the man's limbs. The order is about to be carried out when the tiger jumps down on the man with the ax. The tiger kills two of the men before he is killed with two arrow shots. This delay gives Nam-yi just enough time to gather up a bunch of arrows and then take off.

The commander has only three men left to command. One of the men, Hurahu, is very frightened so the commander says Hurahu will take point (take the lead position). While, the commander gets his group back together, Nam-yi feverishly works to make it possible to shoot short arrows with the use of a bamboo extension

Nam-yi waits for the last man in line to run by his hidden position. Then he shoots an arrow into the leg of the last man. When Hurahu runs to this man, his brother, Nam-yi shoots one arrow through both brothers.

So now there is only the commander and the one soldier. Nam-yi waits for his opportunity and again shoots two men with one arrow. Nam-yi now leaves. But one of the two men is not dead. It is the commander that survives. He grabs some arrows and starts after Nam-yi.

Nam-yi goes to the meeting place, but just finds two dead Manchurian warriors there. So he moves on in pursuit of Ja-in and her husband. As he rides toward Ja-in, husband and wife see the commander up on a hill ready to shoot an arrow into Nam-yi. So Nam-yi shoots an arrow toward her brother's horse to change the timing of the horse's run. So the commander's arrow does not hit Nam-yi.

So the commander chases after Ja-in and so does Nam-yi. She is caught between the two archers. The commander shoots and knicks Ja-in but hits Nam-yi in the chest. Nam-yi pulls the arrow out of his body against the protest of his sister who says that this will kill him.

The commander falls first to the ground, followed by Nam-yi. Ja-in rushes over to Nam-yi. He dies in her arms.

In a boat the married couple with the body of Nam-yi cross the river back into the land of Korea.


There is lots of action in this film.  Not much politics, but plenty of action.  The love story is accompanied by the story of a bond between brother-sister who are very loyal to each other.  The Koreans fight against the Manchurians to defend Korea.  The main characters deserve some kind of medal for bravery.  They performed way beyond what could be expected of a Korean worrier fighting against such heavy odds stacked against them.  Lots of good fight sequences. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:

1271-1368 -- Mongol led Yuan Dynasty in China.

13681644 -- the Ming Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China for 276 years following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. It was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese.

1392-1897 -- in Korea the Joseon Dynasty reigned.

1580s -- Jianzhou Jurchens chieftain Nurhaci (15581626), originally based in the Hurha River valley northeast of the Ming Liaodong Wall, started to unify the Jurchen tribes of the region.

1590s-1620s -- over the next several decades, the Jurchen (later to be called Manchu), took control over most of Manchuria (northeast China), the cities of the Ming Liaodong falling to the Jurchen one after another.

1616 -- Nurhaci declared himself a khan, and founded the Later Jin Dynasty (which his successors renamed in 1636 to Qing Dynasty).

Nurhaci's son Hong Taiji was responsible for consolidating the empire that his father, Nurhaci, had founded.

1626 1643 -- Hong Taiji reigns as head of the Qing Dynasty.

Hong Taiji laid the groundwork for the conquering of the Ming dynasty, although he died before this was accomplished.

1627 -- Korea was invaded by the Manchus in 1627 (this was the First Manchu invasion of Korea). After this Korea's Joseon dynasty recognized the suzerainty of China's Qing Empire.

1635 -- Hong Taiji changes the name of his people from Jurchen to Manchu.

1636 -- Hong Taiji changes the name of the dynasty from Later Jin to Qing. The Manchu Qing Empire brought Korea's Joseon dynasty into submission. The time that is the start of the film War of the Arrows.

1636 -- Korea was invaded a second time by the Manchus (see the Second Manchu invasion of Korea).

1639 -- Hong Taiji orders Korea to put up a monument in honor of the so-called excellent virtues of the Manchu Emperor. In 1639 the monument was erected at Samjeondo, where the ceremony of submission had been conducted.

1643 -- death of Hong Taiji.

1644 -- end of the Ming Dynasty. The Ming capital Beijing fell to a rebellion led by Li Zicheng (who established the Shun Dynasty, soon replaced by the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty).

1644 -- the Qing Dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China.

Until 1894 -- Korea remained a tributary state of Qing.




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