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Netflix's 'Song of the Bandits' blends western action with Korean period series

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The cast members of the Netflix series "Song of the Bandits" pose during the press conference for the series in Jung District, Seoul, Tuesday. Courtesy of Netflix

By Lee Gyu-lee

Netflix's latest Korean original series "Song of the Bandits," which will roll out on Friday, intertwines two unlikely elements ― the western genre and Korean history.

The new series explores a unique narrative landscape that director Hwang Jun-hyuk describes as "a new kind of catharsis."

"I would say his piece will have a style that you've never seen before. It's a historical drama that combines a western genre action with an Asian hero to deliver a new kind of catharsis," Hwang said during the press conference for the series in Jung District, Seoul, Tuesday.

Set in the 1920s, the action series follows a group of Korean bandits during the time of Japanese imperialism. Led by their leader, Lee Yoon (Kim Nam-gil), the group become lawless bandits to fight against Japanese colonial rule, risking their lives to protect their land and loved ones.

Director Hwang reunited with scriptwriter Han Jung-hoo for the nine-part series since the 2017 crime action series "Bad Guys 2."

The director emphasized that the series will reflect the painful history of the time, as well as the action.

"The period series set during the Japanese imperialism era is made with a sense of gravity. This story holds the fundamental theme and at the same time, will give you the catharsis of the action genre … The sentiment and pain of losing one's homeland runs throughout the series," he said.

"For the western genre, there are certain scenes that audiences expect. It will not only satisfy this but it also has Asian-style charms. So you will see action scenes that blend Western and Eastern allure."

A scene from the series, "Song of the Bandits" / Courtesy of Netflix

Kim portrays a former slave, who followed his owner to become a soldier for Japan. Haunted by the deeds he committed as a soldier, he finds a new life as leader of the resistant bandits.

"He wasn't the leader from the start. But as he reflects on his mistakes and finds a life that will help pay repentance, he joins the group of bandits. He is dedicated to protecting the life he currently has and his loved ones," the actor said.

Kim said that the series' experimental genre intrigued him to join the series.

"The series unfolds a complex story about the pain from history and other stories that are rooted in that pain. There have been several stories about the 1920s era, but I've never seen a work that adopted the western genre, which appealed to me," he said.

He noted that this series will set itself apart from traditional westerns.

"This series will have different drama elements than other western genre works. It focuses on the characters who fiercely live their lives to protect their livelihood and loved ones. This is not the type of series that is made just for the action, but rather, the action is woven into the story out of necessity as it develops," the actor said.

Singer and actress Seohyun plays the role of Nam Hee-shin, who hides her identity as an independence fighter while working for the Japanese colonial government.

She said she felt a deep sense of responsibility in playing a character fighting for the country's independence.

"As I portrayed Hee-shin's emotion, I felt a huge responsibility," Seohyun said. "I thought I should hold on to the depth of the emotion. I tried to build layers of the pain of the era inside me, rather than expressing it as simple sorrow."

Lee Gyu-lee


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