The Glory 2023

The Cinematic Revenge of Eun Dong: A Game of Go-inspired TV Series

The prevalence of revenge as a theme among South Korean visual artists appears to be quite extensive. Many works produced in recent years revolve around this concept, with the 2003 film "Old Boy" by director Park Chan-wook being one of the most well-known examples, having garnered over 30 international awards.

Based on a successful Japanese manga series, "Old Boy" has become a cultural phenomenon, with weekly sales of the comics matching those of American comic books.

The theme of revenge in South Korean society reflects a dystopian reality, despite the country's economic growth and increasing per capita income. The society is plagued by a melodramatic state, exemplified by the high suicide rate of 38 individuals per day.

South Korea's ranking on the world happiness index is relatively low, with a ranking of 57. This may be attributed to intense competition in a brutal capitalist market, as well as economic, social, and cultural discrimination between individuals and social classes. These factors contribute to a lower overall level of happiness.

The Glory: A Tale of Survival and Transformation.

The Glory, featuring Korean model and actress Song Hyo-kyu, is the latest work centered around the theme of revenge. Song Hyo is renowned for her performances in popular drama series over the last two decades, including Autumn in My Heart (2000), All In (2003), Full House (2004), That Winter, the Wind Blows (2013), and more.

Revenge is the focal point of the series, with no exploration of its causes or analysis of its methods. However, the series portrays the harm inflicted on the victim, her survival after being physically and psychologically scarred, and the beginning of her transformation as she develops plans for revenge. The series follows the implementation of the revenge plan over eight episodes, which form the first part of the series currently available on Netflix.

The story of The Glory  revolves around Moon Dong-eun, a high school student with aspirations of becoming an engineer. She is relentlessly attacked by a group of classmates in a series of sadistic brutal crimes that cause her to drop out of school. Years later, after the bullies and their victims have grown up, Moon Dong-eun returns as a teacher to the same school where the daughter of the bully leader attends. The former victim meticulously plans her revenge against everyone who wronged her.

The cruelty and brutality inflicted upon Dong Eun were not typical forms of bullying, including the use of a hair iron to burn her body and near-fatal strangulation and kicking. The script does not delve into the sources of the bullies' sadism and brutality, but it is likely related to class discrimination between the rich and poor, as indicated by the series dialogue. Discrimination based on parental influence in society is also explored, but the psychological roots of the bullies' sadism remain unanswered.

Despite some weaknesses in the script, the episodes of The Glory deliver an exciting conflict, and the dialogue is lively and revealing. Actress Ji Yoon Lim, who portrays the role of Park Yoon-jin, the leader of the bullies and the main target of the revenge journey, at times exhibits exaggerated emotions.

The Language of Cinema:

Despite its television format, the show demonstrates a purely cinematic language, employing reduction and featuring stunning visual eloquence. One notable example occurs when the leader of a group of bullies realizes that her victim is pursuing her relentlessly, and takes refuge in her daughter's classroom, her Achilles' heel. While lighting a cigarette, the flame sets fire to her precious dress, revealing the first hole in the garment that covers her, the bullying criminal, in the guise of a weather forecaster.

Although the sound effects and soundtracks offer a loud and horrific bloody revenge, the true nature of the revenge is simple and mysterious. Dong Eun exposes everyone in front of each other, revealing the betrayals of husbands and wives, friends and girlfriends, causing them to lose all the privileges that enabled them to bully her with impunity. Only one person, who had nothing to lose but his life, paid the ultimate price, which he did so enigmatically and without violence.

The show's ingenious plot is inspired by the South Korean game of "go," which turns each match into a parallel conflict with the dramatic reality. Originating in China, the game of go involves maintaining the freedom of a player's pieces; when a piece loses its freedom, it becomes captive and ends the game. Eun Dong plays the game of go on those she seeks revenge against, besieging them and closing the doors of their freedoms until she exposes them all in front of others and achieves her revenge. 

Biases and aversion:

The scenes of Dong Eun's bullying were excruciating to watch. The timid girl was punched, beaten, and burned by her colleagues without putting up any resistance, eliciting empathy from viewers while despising the bullies. However, when Dong Eun decides to take control of her life, she becomes a vengeful machine, even refusing to smile. Despite the show's biased portrayal of her in the eight episodes, focusing on the bare minimum of her humanity, Dong Eun still fails to gain sympathy, especially when she refuses to harm an innocent child who happens to be the daughter of a criminal and unfaithful woman.

Dong Eun was not the only one to suffer from brutal bullying. A colleague faced the same abuse and lost her life in one of the attacks. However, Dong Eun cannot be considered a true survivor. The girl who once dreamed of being an engineer died, transformed into a distorted version of herself. She now seeks to become a teacher to supervise the attacker's daughter's education, using this as a means of control.

The revenge journey was not limited to the heroine alone. The series embodied the vengeful journeys of all those who collaborated with her to achieve their plan for retribution.

The series has achieved a form of revenge for the victims, but the revenge itself does not continue the bullies' task. Instead, the victim takes matters into her own hands, ultimately losing what remains of her humanity.