Lee Je-hoon makes trouble as Park Yeol in Lee Jun-ik’s latest film

Finally! I’ve had my eye on this film since it was announced last October, not least because it is director’s Lee Jun-ik’s latest project, but also because of the subject matter. I’ve heard of some of the most famous independence fighters who were active in Korea and China during the Japanese occupation, but I’d never heard of Park Yeol, and I was interested in watching his story, especially after learning he was an anarchist based in Japan.

Lee Je-hoon (Tomorrow With You), looking almost unrecognizable in the film’s promo poster, will be portraying Park Yeol, and relative newcomer Choi Hee-seo (Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet) will play his comrade and lover Kaneko Fumiko. Interestingly enough, Park Yeol was born in the same year as Yoo Kwan-soon, a more widely known independence activist imprisoned for organizing the March 1st Movement against colonial rule. But whereas Yoo Kwan-soon, and even Yoon Dongju (the subject of Lee Jun-ik’s last film), are famed for their stoic dignity and for practicing nonviolent resistance, Park Yeol was definitely more on the scallywag, troublemaker end of the spectrum.

The main plot begins with the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, which devastated Tokyo and the surrounding region. In its aftermath, rumors spread that Koreans were taking advantage of the chaos, and robbing and poisoning wells. Armed civilians, occasionally aided by the military and the police, terrorized the Korean population, and massacred thousands of Koreans in the weeks following the earthquake. Needing a diversion to cover up the atrocities committed, the Japanese government ordered the arrest of known anarchists Park Yeol and Kaneko Fumiko, and charged them with treason for allegedly plotting to plant a bomb at the wedding of Crown Prince Hirohito.