Posted : 2014-06-30 17:48
Updated : 2015-04-27 12:49

Joseon's war hero back on screen

Veteran actor Choi Min-sik stars as Joseon admiral Yi Sun-sin in the upcoming movie "Roaring Currents." / Courtesy of CJ E&M

Choi Min-sik's 'Roaring Currents' retraces 16th century marytime battle against Japan

By Baek Byung-yeul

Admiral Yi Sun-sin (1545-1598), seen as a statue at the Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul and on the front of 100 won coin, is not just a war hero of Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

Yi, who repelled Japanese invaders in numerous maritime battles during the Imjin War (1592-1598), still commands the respect of many Koreans for his services in defending his country.

Among many astounding war exploits accredited to him, a battle of Myeongryang in 1597, which defeated more than 330 Japanese fleets with only 12, has left a impression with most Koreans because the victory had a decisive effect on terminating the Imjin War in the following year.

Veteran actor Choi Min-sik, better known for his leading role in 2003 thriller "Old Boy," talked about the uneasiness he felt in portraying the great admiral Yi Sun-shin in the upcoming film, "Roaring Current," which particularly focuses on the Myeongryang battle.

"When I first read a synopsis of the film, I knew that I would face a thorny path," the 52-year-old told reporters at a theater in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul, Thursday.

At the press conference, announcing the completion of "Roaring Currents," actors in leading roles and the director presented their thoughts and episodes of shooting the film.

Director Kim Han-min, third from right, and cast of upcoming movie, "Roaring Currents" including actors Choi Min-sik, third from left, and Ryu Seung-ryong, second from right, pose at a theater in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul on June 26.

Choi said he decided to feature as the great admiral after listening to the director Kim Han-min's thoughts on history. "I met Kim for the first time at a restaurant in South Jeolla Province, and after having an in-depth conversation with him, I was determined that this film would probably be suitable for our generation."

"I was curious about how this great man could have such a sturdy faith in his country. Therefore I have been agonizing for how to portray his uprightness, attitude toward the war and military spirit," he said.

Choi also added that he had a "gut" or traditional shamanistic ritual for good luck before shooting with his film crews.

"This was matter of having courtesy to the forebears. Including the battle of Myeongryang, lots of people from both sides including Japan and Korea died during the seven-year-long war," Choi said.

Director Kim said he had no choice but to cast Choi for his fourth directional film.
"Choi is the only actor who came to my mind. Considering his career and the admiral's age when the battle happened, there would be no replacement for him," Kim said.

Kim could win recognition through his previous 2011 box office hit, "War of the Arrows," portraying a fictional character of Joseon archer who is engaged in a chase with China's Qing Dynasty troops during the Manchu War in 1636.

Kim said the upcoming two-hour-long film spends about a half of the total length, only for portraying the naval battle.

"As it takes the biggest part, I cannot tell how the battle will be portrayed in detail. But I had paid special attention to depict the strong tidal current of the battlefield," Kim said.

"Also, the battle of Myeongryang was progressed while the Joseon people actually watched the fight on the distant mountain near the waters, according to the historical record. I want to ask the audience to watch how this record is reenacted on the big screen," the director added.

"Roaring Currents" also stars actor Ryu Seung-ryong as Choi's Japanese counterpart.

Ryu, who rose to stardom through last year's biggest hit movie, "Miracle in Cell No. 7," garnering more than 1.2 million audiences, also featured as China's Qing Dynasty general in the "War of the Arrows."

"As this movie shows the victory of Korean side against the Japanese navy, acting a Japanese general would be difficult for Japanese actors to portray Japanese vanquished general," Ryu said.

Ryu said speaking Japanese was one of the hardest parts when acting.
"I feel kind of comfortable when acting at the ‘War of Arrows,' speaking Manchu language, which has become obsolete word these days. But in the ‘Roaring Currents,' I had to speak in Japanese, which more than 100 million people use," he said.

"Roaring Currents" will go on screen nationwide from July 30.

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