• Interview


Director Kim Hanmin of HANSAN: RISING DRAGON, the 2nd Episode of Admiral Yi Sunsin Trilogy

Jul 26, 2022
  • Writerby Hellen Park
  • View2279

“I wanted to express the image of Admiral Yi Sunsin in three dimensions”



The total audience is 17.61 million. Director Kim Hanmin of The Admiral: ROARING CURRENTS (2014), who set the best box office hit record in Korean film history, has returned with ‘Admiral Yi Sunsin’ in the summer of 2022. HANSAN: RISING DRAGON, which will be released on July 27, is the 2nd episode of the ‘Admiral Yi Sunsin’s Trilogy,’ which will be released 8 years after The Admiral: ROARING CURRENTS.


Director Kim Hanmin's ‘Admiral Yi Sunsin Trilogy’ is an unprecedented new attempt in Korean film history. First of all, it is the first time that a movie featuring an actual person is planned as a trilogy, and it is also the first time that three other actors play the same character, Admiral Yi Sunsin. In the 1st episode, The Admiral: ROARING CURRENTS, Actor Choi Minshik played Admiral Yi in the Battle of Myeongnyang in 1597, the 6th year of the Japanese Invasion of Korea. The second episode, HANSAN: RISING DRAGON, depicts the Battle of Hansan, where Admiral Yi won an ‘overwhelming victory’ off Hansan Island in 1592, which is 5 years before the Battle of Myeongnyang, and Actor Park Haeil played Admiral Yi Sunsin. The last episode of the trilogy, NORYANG: SEA OF DEATH, which has already been filmed, features Admiral Yi Sunsin's last naval battle in 1598, and Actor Kim Yunseok plays Admiral Yi Sunsin. 


Director Kim Hanmin has spent as much as 10 years on the ‘Yi Sunsin Trilogy.’ The huge box office success of his first episode, The Admiral: ROARING CURRENTS, would have been a double-edged sword for him. Director Kim Hanmin may be asked this kind of question, "Why are you filming a movie featuring Admiral Yi Sunsin again?" However, he explained he wanted to express the character ‘Yi Sunsin’ in 3 dimensions through the trilogy. 



HANSAN: RISING DRAGON seems to succeed in raising expectations for ‘Yi Sunsin Trilogy.’ Actor Park Haeil strongly showed another aspect of Yi Sunsin, and the sea battle scenes offer a different scale and pleasure than the previous episode. So, we asked Director Kim Hanmin about Yi Sunsin’s three faces that he wanted to show to the world. 


- The second episode of the Yi Sunsin Trilogy, HANSAN: RISING DRAGON, is set to be released. And you have been focusing on the character Yi Sunsin for 10 years. It must be hard to do that, but why are you challenging it? 


= It's been 10 years, but time has flown so fast. The character Yi Sunsin itself was the driving force for me. I often read Admiral Yi Sunsin's ‘Nanjung Ilgi: A War Diary,’ and strangely, I feel comfortable while reading it. Admiral Yi has a kind of magic power beyond charms. So, I wanted to express the character in a deeper and three-dimensional way, and that’s why I ended up making the ‘Yi Sunsin Trilogy.’ Immediately after the shooting of The Admiral: ROARING CURRENTS, the script for HANSAN: RISING DRAGON was completed. And since The Admiral: ROARING CURRENTS became a big hit, I had to ask myself. ‘Do we need more movies about Admiral Yi Sunsin? If the audience asks what the reason for making HANSAN: RISING DRAGON and NORYANG: SEA OF DEATH is, what should I answer? So, I reviewed the script of HANSAN: RISING DRAGON, which had already been completed from the beginning. I also needed some clearer reasons. 


- Did you find the reason for making the Admiral Yi Sunsin Trilogy, then? 


= I wanted to show us what Admiral Yi left for us in the modern era more deeply and three-dimensionally. In the Battle of Hansan, the Battle of Myeongnyang, and the Battle of Noryang, which are considered the 3 major naval battles of Admiral Yi Sunsin, he showed different aspects. In the Battle of Myeongnyang, which defeated the Japanese Navy with only 12 battleships, Yi Sunsin is a ‘brave general.’ Meanwhile, Admiral Yi in the Battle of Hansan is an ‘intelligent general,’ who created an overwhelming victory off the coast of Hansan Island, on the verge of helplessly losing the country to the Japanese army and navy as soon as the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592 broke out. His maritime tactics in Hansan were unprecedentedly intelligent in the history of naval warfare around the world. Lastly, the Battle of Noryang is the last battle of Admiral Yi Sunsin, and it ended the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592. Admiral Yi Sunsin in the Battle of Noryang is a 'wise general.’  A trilogy was essential to show those images profoundly. 


- The ‘Yi Sunsin Trilogy’ is the first try in Korean film history that 3 actors play one real person. 


= After filming The Admiral: ROARING CURRENTS, Actor Choi Minshik said, "I think I've done my part with this film." I couldn't refute what he said. If Admiral Yi in The Admiral: ROARING CURRENTS was the character who exuded hot energy like fire, I wanted to show Yi Sunsin, who is like a brave general and scholar at the same time in HANSAN: RISING DRAGON. Compared to Fiery Admiral Yi in The Admiral: ROARING CURRENT, I needed Admiral Yi in HANSAN: RISING DRAGON, who is like ‘water,’ with a calm and restrained image. At the time of the Battle of Hansan, Admiral Yi was rather young in his late 40s, and I believed that Actor Park Haeil, who has a charisma of an iron hand in a velvet glove, could express Young and charismatic Yi Sunsin well. Likewise, Yi Sunsin in the Battle of Noryang should be a wise general, and that’s why I cast Actor Kim Yunseok. Since Admiral Yi is a historical and real figure, I thought that the audience could fully accept him as the hero even if different actors play his character. 



- The Turtle Ship appears for the first time in HANSAN: RISING DRAGON. It must’ve been hard to research the historical evidence. 


= The Turtle Ship, an innovative battleship at that time, was introduced at the Battle of Hansan for the first time. And no data were left on the actual appearance of the Turtle Ship. I didn't want to portray it too much different from the images of the Turtle Ship we've imagined, but I wanted to create a turtle ship that could be used in an actual battle. I did a lot of research, but the data were hardly left. So, I went to the sea off Hansan Island in person. Looking at the sea, I came up with an idea. The Turtle Ship and the Hakikjin (A crane wing formation) tactic had no choice but to infer according to the situation at the time. I asked for advice from various researchers and had to reinterpret them cinematically. 


- In the movie, there is a scene where a Japanese soldier asks Admiral Yi Sunsin, "What is this war?" And Admiral Yi replies, "It's a fight between righteousness and unrighteousness." This line seems to have a lot of meanings. 


= I believe pursuing righteousness is a concept imprinted on Korean genes. It was ‘righteousness’ that made the present Republic of Korea, which is causing the dynamics of modern and contemporary history, and I think that the root of it lies with Admiral Yi Sunsin. I also think it is very important to know our history well. It seems that the era has come when we make movies that help us interpret our history again. Now that Korea's status is rising culturally, I hope more filmmakers will play the role to interpret and understand our history in depth. 



- When will the 3rd episode, NORYANG: SEA OF DEATH, be released? And would you keep continuing the story of Admiral Yi Sunsin after that? 


= NORYANG: SEA OF DEATH is expected to be released next year. At that time, I want the audience to meet Yi Sunsin with another face. Furthermore, I want to make a seasonal drama series. Especially, HANSAN: RISING DRAGON is released in the U.S. and Canada at the same time as Korea. Not long ago, it premiered in the navy fleet, and the response was really hot. A naval officer said, "I want to show this movie abroad. And I want to show off Admiral Yi and the movie to other navies abroad.” Looking at world history at the end of the 16th century, there was no naval battle that carried out such tactics. It's a very proud history that’s far ahead of its time. In that respect, I hope Korean audiences can feel proud of such a history and themselves. 

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