EPISODE 8 RECAP
Hong Jin-soo has joined the protesters in the Kwangju Provincial Hall. They put him to work distributing firearms, and he is at a table documenting the men who pick up the guns and ammunition when Park Tae-soo arrives. When he sees Tae-soo, he tells him not to waste time trying to talk him into going home. But Tae-soo surprises him by saying he’s there to join them. He tells Jin-soo he made a promise to his mom to bring him home safely and he wants to keep that promise.
Later, the male volunteers prepare to head to the front line to defend the city against the soldiers. Tae-soo and Jin-soo are on a truck that is about to pull out when Hong Myung-soo (Jin-soo’s little brother) tries to join them. Jin-soo forces him off the truck and tells him to go home. As they’re arguing, his mom comes running through the crowd calling his name. He tells her trying to talk to him won’t do any good. He’s determined to fight so she should just take Myung-soo with her and go home.
Realizing he’s serious, she accepts his decision, but she pulls a ring from her finger and tells him to wear it. She wants to be able to recognize him if he’s hurt or killed. She turns to Tae-soo and grabs his hand. She says she’ll entrust her son’s life to him, and then she takes Myung-soo and leaves.
Woo-suk’s unit is assigned to guard the Kwangju border. According to the commander, Officer Ma, their mission is simple: shoot anyone who approaches.
The protesters have a mission too: find a way out of the city. All of the roads leading out of Kwangju are blocked by the military police force. The phone lines are out too, and the newspaper and tv stories are full of lies. No one on the outside knows what is truly going on so they decide a group of men need to escape to tell their side of the story. Jin-soo volunteers for the mission so Tae-soo steps forward too.
At the border, Woo-suk and his recruit friend, Private Kang, are on guard duty near one of the roads leading out of Kwangju. Private Kang wonders aloud if the mother who got shot earlier has died. He thinks there may be instigators behind the uprising and wonders why the government is coming down so hard on the protests. He’s from Kwangju too, and every time he hits someone he’s afraid it will be someone he knows and they’ll recognize him. Either way, he regrets his bad timing. He says he should have gone to college for a year before joining the military.
As they’re talking, we see the protesters who volunteered to escape from the city crossing a body of water nearby. Tae-soo suggests they split up into small groups and spread out across a wider area. He will go ahead of the group and act as a scout to ensure it’s safe before they proceed.
Tae-soo does a pretty good job of leading the men forward. However, one of the men following him accidentally drops his firearm and it discharges. The shot alerts Woo-suk’s unit that the protesters are nearby and the soldiers scan the area. Tae-soo orders everyone to take cover as the soldiers start firing on them. The protesters return fire and there’s a chaotic shoot out.
After a while, the protesters try to make a run for it. The soldiers start chasing them and Woo-suk sees Private Kang fall. He’s been shot, oh no! Woo-suk pulls him to safety and calls for a medic, but it’s too late. Private Kang can barely breathe and his voice is weak as he asks if he’s dying. He calls out for his mother, which is the last word he says before he dies.
Woo-suk returns to helping the other soldiers still engaged in the shootout. The protesters are still trying to run away and several of them get shot. Jin-soo sees one of them dying and gets angry. He runs behind a tree and yells for the soldiers to stop the killing as he fires his gun. Tae-soo calls for him to get down and runs over to him, but he arrives a second too late. A bullet pierces Jin-soo’s body and Tae-soo catches him as he falls.
Unconcerned for himself, Tae-soo picks him up and tries to drag him away. He’s fully within site of the soldiers though, and Officer Ma takes aim. Before he can pull the trigger, Woo-suk sees that the protester Officer Ma is about to shoot is Tae-soo. He grabs Officer Ma’s gun and they scuffle. Officer Ma gets the shot off, but luckily it misses Tae-soo.
Tae-soo makes it back to the city with Jin-soo on his back, but he collapses before he can make it to the hospital from the fatigue. He calls Jin-soo’s name over and over, but there’s no response. He tries to perform CPR and begs him not to die, but Jin-soo is gone. Tae-soo can only sob over his body.
Tae-soo takes Jin-soo’s body to a mass funeral hall. Dozens of coffins fill the room. Most of the coffins are draped in white cloths, and there are mourners sitting near them grieving for the loved ones they lost. As the families grieve, men continue to bring in more coffins.
Jin-soo’s mom and siblings arrive and stare at Tae-soo from the entrance as he sits near Jin-soo’s coffin. They slowly move toward the coffin. When she gets there, Jin-soo’s mom kneels beside the coffin and runs her hands down the length of it as if she’s touching her son for the last time. Then she unfolds a flag and drapes it over the coffin, taking her time to carefully smooth out any wrinkles. When that’s done, she just sits there for a moment. Then she starts calling Jin-soo’s name, and finally she starts to sob. It’s heartbreaking to watch.
Afterwards, Tae-soo returns to the front line where the protesters have put up a blockade against the military presence there. Jin-soo’s mom makes her way to him. They’ve heard the soldiers are planning a final assault on the city. Many of the protesters are gathered at the Provincial Hall to defend the city. Myung-soo went to the Provincial Hall too and she wants Tae-soo to help her find him. She wants to be able to see his face one last time in case something happens to him.
As soon as they get to the hall, they see one of Myung-soo’s classmates, who tells them Myung-soo is upstairs. Tae-soo offers to get him, but Jin-soo’s mom says she doesn’t need to see him anymore. Seeing his classmate made her feel like she was seeing her own son, she says. She’s going to return home and she wants Tae-soo to come too. She cries as she tells Tae-soo he needs to survive and tell their story. The media won’t believe them, but as an outsider, people will believe him.
Tae-soo doesn’t want to leave though. He already lost a good friend and doesn’t want to let his friend’s brother die too, he says. But she begs him to do it for Jin-soo. She acknowledges he’ll probably live with the guilt for the rest of his life so dying may actually be the easier way out, but she wants him to live. She breaks down and sobs into his chest. Eventually, he returns his gun to the ammo pile and walks away.
Later that night, Myung-soo and his classmate stand at a window on the upper floor of the Provincial Hall waiting for the military assault to begin. Tae-soo and Jin-soo’s mom sit on the roof of one of the city’s buildings where they have a good view of the hall. Soon gunshots start to ring out, and they both look toward the battle, fear and worry etched on their faces. Tae-soo stands up and puts his hand on her shoulder, and the screen fades to white.
While the battle rages in Kwangju, Yoon Hye-rin is still hiding from police in the remote fishing village. She has been staying with the kind Grandmother she met on the dock the first day she arrived in town. The Grandmother must be in the habit of taking in runaway girls because there is another young woman living there too. Her name is Sun-ae and she has nightmares that wake her up at night. One of her nightmares wakes Hye-rin up too, and Hye-rin watches as Sun-ae takes off her shirt and apologizes over and over and begs not to be hurt. Grandmother patiently puts her shirt back on and assures her that she’s safe and can go back to sleep.
The next morning, Hye-rin asks one of the village women about Sun-ae. The villager tells her Sun-ae worked at the Tong-il Textile Factory in Incheon. She was a part of the labor union and they were all arrested during a demonstration. Whatever the police did to Sun-ae affected her so badly she was in a mental hospital for five months after they released her.
The protesters removed their shirts during the protest and the villager thinks they were after money from the company. Hye-rin tells her the protest actually had nothing to do with money. But the village woman becomes suspicious when Hye-rin says the women had their reasons for taking off their shirts and starts explaining what happened. The incident wasn’t covered in the newspapers, so the villager wonders how Hye-rin knows what really happened. Hye-rin claims she heard about it from someone and the village woman remarks that they report people like her as spies.
[Side note: They are likely referring to a peaceful protest waged in August 1979 to protest the company’s decision to close a Y.H. Textile and Wig factory. About 200 female employees occupied one of the company’s dormitories and held a vigil and fast (Hye-rin referenced this in Episode 5). Police forcibly broke up the protest on the fifth day. One worker died during the incident and her death triggered rioting throughout the country (and contributed to the collapse of President Park Chung-hee’s regime). It is unclear if the attack on the women at the opposition party headquarters (in Episode 6) was supposed to represent the attack on the women in their dorm or if the attack at the headquarters was a separate incident.]
When Hye-rin returns home that evening, Sun-ae is having an anxiety spell and is using scissors to destroy her clothes. Hye-rin cuts herself on the hand trying to take the scissors from Sun-ae. She tells Sun-ae she knows what happened to her at the factory. She says she was a college student at the time and seeing the union members on a hunger strike inspired her to get involved. Sun-ae shrinks away from Hye-rin and starts tearing her clothes by hand. Hye-rin grabs her arm and implores her not to live like this. She yells that if Sun-ae keeps it up, she’ll go crazy too. She starts crying and says she can’t live in comfort knowing people like her are suffering.
Later, Sun-ae is walking along the dock at the harbor. Just the sight of a police officer scares her so when she sees an officer disembarking from a nearby boat, she panics. She stops and stares at him in fear, then she slowly starts backing away and runs. He sees her reaction and calls out for her to stop. He catches up with her when she trips and falls, and she immediately starts apologizing and begging him not to hurt her. Recalling that she may have information that will save her, she grabs onto the officer’s leg and tells him there is a college student hiding at her house.
After her encounter with Sun-ae, Hye-rin has decided to leave the fishing village. The Grandmother sees her packing and asks where she’s going. Hye-rin tells her she’s going to stay with a friend, but the Grandmother wonders if she’s really heading to Kwangju. She tells Hye-rin if leaving will make her feel better, she should go. She gives Hye-rin some money and tells her she’s always welcome to come back if she needs a place to stay. Hye-rin thanks her and makes her way to the train station.
As the train is about to pull into the station, Sun-ae arrives with the police. Sun-ae points Hye-rin out to the officers, and they eventually catch her and take her into custody. As her captors lead her down a dark jail corridor to an interrogation room, she sees another officer lead a beaten and bruised Jung Un-gyong past her.
Inside the interrogation room, the interrogator tells her to bow her head. When she doesn’t comply, the officer in the room with them hits her on the head with a baton. She’s commanded to take her shoes off and the officer removes her handcuffs. The interrogator throws paper and a pen at her and tells her to write down the names of the students in her group. She pretends she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but he knows she’s bluffing. He tells her not to test his patience and then yells at her to take her top off. The officer kicks her from behind, she falls to the floor, and the episode ends.
That was tough to watch. I don’t even know where to start and, even if I did, I am not in the proper frame of mind to form coherent rational thoughts on what I just saw. Each episode keeps upping the tension level and pulling me deeper into this dark and complex world. It kills me that this is not just a show to enthrall and entertain. These are real events and real lives lost. What’s more is that as hard as it is to watch, it was actually much worse in Kwangju for the protesters and residents than the producers chose to show. From the little I’ve read on the subject, it appears the producers toned down the military’s brutality and violence to make it more palatable for tv. That was certainly a wise move on their part.
As for Hye-rin, I’m sure she will survive but I can’t help but wonder if it was a smart move not to return home when she had the chance.
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