Tuesday, July 30, 2019

“The Joseon Gunman” synopsis, Eps. 1-22 (no spoilers)



“The Joseon Gunman” is a 2014 Korean television drama starring Lee Joon-gi and Nam Sang-mi, who both received excellence in acting awards in the KBS Drama Awards. The drama also won in the 48th World Fest-Houston International Film Festival and in the 10th Seoul International Drama Awards (Outstanding Korean Drama). It was broadcast in Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.


“The Joseon Gunman” plot summary


Eps. 1-4

Park Yoon-kang is the easy-go-lucky and indifferent son of Park Jin-han, the commander of the royal guards. While he spends his time in gisaeng houses, his father risks his life in trying to capture the mysterious gunmen who have been killing the progressive scholars who advocate for reforms in Joseon society and government.

Ep. 1, with subtitles in English, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian
Choi Won-shin leads several other gunmen in killing the progressive scholars based on the orders of Kim Jwa-young, a retired government minister who is the leader of the conservative faction of the ministers. Another leader of the faction is Kim Byung-Je, the Second Vice-Premier.

Soo-in is the intelligent daughter of a wealthy court interpreter; because of her father’s sympathies for progressive ideas, she has been tutored by the leader of the progressive scholars. She has also been entrusted by the leader with a mission — to give his book on progressive reforms to a scholar who has been hiding from the gunmen. In disguise, Soo-in tries to contact the scholar, but, on the street, she runs into Park Yoon-kang.

Ep. 4, with subtitles in English, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian
After a gunman attacks him, Park Jin-han hides his daughter Yeon-ha and Park Yoon-kang in the house of Soo-in’s father. There, Park Yoon-kang meets Soo-in and Kim Ho-kyung, the illegitimate son of the Second Vice-Premier.

With the royal guards closing in on the gunmen, Kim Jwa-young and the conservative ministers fabricate a treasonous plot to frame Park Jin-han and the progressive ministers.

Ep. 5, with subtitles in English, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian
Eps. 5-6

Three years later ....

Vowing revenge for what happened to his family, Park Yoon-kang returns to Joseon as an arrogant, Japanese businessman named Hasegawa Hanjo. He sets up various businesses in Joseon for his boss Mr. Yamamoto, including a partnership in a gold mine owned by Choi Won-shin and his daughter Hye-won. When the mine loses its explosives expert, Hye-won asks Soo-in to help her out; during the meeting, however, Soo-in is shocked to see Hanjo (Park Yoon-kang).

The gold-mine business runs into various problems, but Soo-in persists in helping Hye-won and Choi Won-shin. Meanwhile, Hye-won begins to fall in love with Hanjo (Park Yoon-kang).

Eps. 7-9

Hanjo (Park Yoon-kang) finds out that his sister Yeon-ha is being held by slave traders. In disguise, he goes to the port to rescue Yeon-ha, but he’s cornered by Choi Won-shin and his men.

With the advice of Queen Min and the progressive ministers, King Gojong creates a new executive ministry to counteract the power of the conservative ministers. He appoints Soo-in’s father as the head of the ministry but warns him that he will be targeted by the conservative ministers. Among the progressive scholars who are appointed to the ministry is Kim Ho-kyung, who keeps secret his true identity as the illegitimate son of the Second Vice-Premier.

Choi Won-shin buys Yeon-ha from the slave traders and uses her to verify whether Hanjo is actually the fugitive Park Yoon Kang. Later, he sells Yeon-ha to a lecherous minister.

Hanjo (Park Yoon-kang) eventually rescues his sister Yeon-ha from the lecherous minister and, later on, hides her in a temple. While investigating for a police officer what happened in the minister’s house, Soo-in finally confirms that Hanjo is none other than Park Yoon-kang.

Eps. 10-11

The Second Vice-Premier uses the minister’s death as an excuse to arrest and interrogate Soo-in and her father.

Threatened by the growing influence of the new executive ministry, the leader of the conservative ministers orders Choi Won-shin and another gunman to attack the heavily-guarded meeting between the executive ministry and the Qing (China) delegation.

Choi Won-shin decides to betray the leader of the conservative ministers; he secretly contacts the Second Vice-Premier and offers to collaborate with him.

Eps. 12-14

At the temple, Soo-in walks away in tears when Hanjo (Park Yoon-kang) still denies his real identity.

Hanjo (Park Yoon-kang) learns from the officer who framed his father about the persons behind the treasonous plot. He kidnaps one of the conservative ministers and, at gunpoint, forces him to confess everything. Later on, he uses the minister as a bait.

Ep. 13, with subtitles in English, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian
Hanjo (Park Yoon-kang) captures Choi Won-shin and takes him to the police station. But when the conservative ministers find out his real identity as Park Jin-han’s son, they order that he and Choi Won-shin be held and investigated. Later, when the witnesses turn against him, King Gojong orders his execution. But on the way to the execution site, he escapes.

Eps. 15-16

After the list of coup plotters is stolen, the leader of the conservative ministers quickly launches the coup against King Gojong. With Soo-in’s help, Queen Min escapes from the palace and heads to her ancestral house. Along the way, however, they are chased relentlessly by Choi Won-shin and his gunmen.

Eps. 17-22

King Gojong and Queen Min ask the Qing (Chinese) army to intervene and suppress the coup. But because of this intervention, the progressive ministers begin thinking that King Gojong has abandoned his progressive ideas in favor of strengthening his royal authority. They decide to launch their own rebellion and to impose their reforms on Joseon society by force. They organize their military forces, with Kim Ho-kyung, the illegitimate son of the Second Vice-Premier, as one of the commanding officers.

When the leader of the progressive ministers tries to convince Soo-in to become a court lady in order to spy on Queen Min, Park Yoon-kang, however, threatens to kill him, despite their past relationship in Japan.

During the inauguration of the post office, the progressive ministers launch their rebellion by killing all the government officials there. They also deceive King Gojong and Queen Min into leaving the main palace.

Spoiler alert: Video below shows Ep. 22, Finale (with subtitles in English, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian).



Notes:


1. Would I recommend that you watch “The Joseon Gunman”? Yes, yes, yes, no, and no.

Yes, because it’s an award-winning drama, having won in the 48th World Fest-Houston International Film Festival and in the 10th Seoul International Drama Awards (Outstanding Korean Drama). And the two lead actors — Lee Joon-gi (as Park Yoon-kang) and Nam Sang-mi (as Soo-in) — both won acting awards.

Yes, because of its excellent cinematography (despite its use of short siding, which I hate). I love, for example, the shots on the left for their clean, minimalist lines.

Yes, because there are some great fight scenes (for example, Ep. 4 and Ep. 6); lead male star Lee Joon-gi is a real-life martial artist, with black belt degrees in Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Taekkyon.

No, because some episodes drag. This drama was originally set for only 20 episodes but was later extended to 22 episodes; what usually happens in an extension is that story lines either become thin or redundant. How many verbal confrontations do we really need between Park Yoon-kang and Choi Won-shin, for example?

No, because it’s incredible that the main character Park Yoon-kang never reloads his Winchester rifle (see, for example, Ep. 22 where he shoots dozens of enemies). A Winchester rifle can only fit seven to fourteen bullets at a single time, but the drama doesn’t show Park Yoon-kang ever reloading his rifle. The drama’s physical and psychological tension would have been higher if it had shown him hastily reloading his rifle (or running out of bullets) during the numerous gunfights. (The Winchester rifle had several models before 1884, the year when the progressive ministers and scholars staged their coup against King Gojong. Actually, the rifle used in the drama’s filming was not a Winchester but a Rossi M92 rifle made in Brazil.)

2. Historical backgrounder: The revolt staged by the the progressive ministers and scholars, Park Yoon-kang, and Soo-in in the last few episodes of this drama is known in history as the “Gapsin Coup” (1884). From Wikipedia:

“After the coup, the Gaehwadang members formed a new government and devised a program of reform. The radical 14-point reform proposal stated that the following conditions be met: an end to Korea’s tributary relationship with China; the abolition of ruling-class privilege and the establishment of equal rights for all; the reorganization of the government as virtually a constitutional monarchy; the revision of land tax laws; cancellation of the grain loan system; the unification of all internal fiscal administrations under the jurisdiction of the Ho-jo; the suppression of privileged merchants and the development of free commerce and trade, the creation of a modern police system including police patrols and royal guards; and severe punishment of corrupt officials.”

3. One of the earliest K-historical dramas that I watched was “The Joseon Gunman.” After watching the 2018 hit “Mr. Sunshine” and analyzing its cinematography, I decided to re-watch this drama.

I’m struck by the similarities between “The Joseon Gunman” and “Mr. Sunshine.” I’m intrigued by the possibility that these dramas were shot by the same cinematographer. Why? Similar to “Mr. Sunshine,” “The Joseon Gunman” uses a lot of Dutch angles, lower quadrant (lower corner) framing, and short siding (reverse negative space).

Lower quadrant (lower corner) framing



Short siding (reverse negative space)





Dutch angle (Dutch tilt)





Lessons in photography from “The Joseon Gunman”


Sidelighting, background blur
Sidelighting, Bokeh (aesthetic quality of the blurred areas of a photograph
Background blur, bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Background blur, bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Lens flare, shooting against the light
Conveying depth through foreground and background blur
Converging lines, red is a dominant color
Cross dissolve
Dutch angle, low angle shot, foreground and background blur
Leading lines, partial frame
Sidelighting, linear perspective
Dutch angle, low angle shot
Low angle shot, symmetry
Low angle shot, shooting against the light
Low angle shot, shooting against the light
Sidelighting, chiaroscuro (interplay of light and shadow)
Lower quadrant framing
Partial, out of focus, foreground natural frame
Reflection
Rule of Odds, natural frame, background blur
Rule of Odds
Shallow depth of field
Shallow depth of field
Short siding (reverse negative space)
Short siding (reverse negative space)
Short siding (reverse negative space)
Symmetry
Aerial perspective
Conveying depth through foreground and background blur
Background blur, bokeh (aesthetic quality of the blurred areas of a photograph)
Natural frames, conveying depth through background blur
Rule of gaze or lead room, background blur

Bokeh (aesthetic quality of the blurred areas of a photograph)
Conveying depth through foreground and background blur
Chiaroscuro (interplay of light and shadow)
Diagonal lines
Dutch angle (Dutch tilt)
Dutch angle, natural frame
Dutch angle, low angle shot
Dutch angle, low angle shot
Dutch angle, low angle shot
Dutch angle (Dutch tilt)

Dutch angle, natural frame
Dutch angle, low angle shot
Foreground and background blur
Lines of direction, foreground and background blur
High angle shot
High angle shot, natural frames
High angle shot, shape
High angle shot, shape
High angle shot
Juxtaposition, Dutch angle, background blur
Natural frames, leading lines
Leading lines, Rule of Odds
Linear and aerial perspective
Linear perspective
Linear perspective
Sidelighting, background blur
Sidelighting, linear perspective
Partial frame, linear perspective
Aerial perspective
Lines of direction, leading line


Psychological effects of lines
Dutch angle, lower quadrant framing
Foreground and background blur, sidelighting
Foreground and background blur, natural frame, sidelighting
Lower quadrant framing
Lower quadrant framing
Lower quadrant framing
Lower quadrant framing, lens flare
Compressed perspective
Natural frames, echoing
Out of focus foreground element as natural frame
Partial frame
Short siding
Short siding
Short siding
Linear perspective, background blur
Steelyard principle
Symmetry
Symmetry, bokeh (aesthetic quality of the blurred areas of a photograph)
Symmetry

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