Descendants of a figure depicted as a “villain” in the current Korean box office smash “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” are suing over the film’s alleged historical inaccuracies.
“The Admiral: Roaring Currents” revolves around the 1597 Battle of Myeongnyang, a victory for the Korean Joseon navy despite the odds. The Koreans had only a dozen ships against the invading Japanese’s 133 warships.
The film, known simply as “Myeongryang” in Korea, stars famed Korean actor Choi Min-sik (“Old Boy”) as Admiral Yi, the commander of the Korean last stand. Released in July, it has grossed over $100 million and been seen by over 17 million people. It is now the most successful film in Korean box office history. It received a limited release in America this summer.
Detractors have accused the film of having an nationalistic agenda. Its release and popularity at a time of Japanese and Korea tension over territorial and historical issues is certainly unfortunate for politicians, though the reasons for its success may also be more innocuous. Ordinary Koreans have much affection has for Yi, the underdog protagonist hero, and film’s distribution company is said to have a monopoly over local movie theaters.
Facing incredible odds, Admiral Yi held his ground even when ordered to fall back and devised strategies to hold the Japanese ships at bay. His leadership qualities are greatly admired by Koreans today and a translation of his diary into modern Korean has been a bestseller.
Not everyone feels that “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” is accurate or fair, however.
The suit, filed against the producer and director Kim Han-min, the screenwriter Jeon Cheol-hong, and a novelist, relates to the portrayal of a side character in the film.
“Our ancestor’s name has been defamed for commercialization and we are also suffering from stigma,” say descendants of Bae Seol, a Korean general whom the film depicts as a rival to Yi. Bae is often said to have deserted the battle but alternative theories say he was allowed to leave the battle due to illness. He was later captured and executed.
His modern-day descendants have asked for screenings of the film to be suspended.