Hello, Everybody—nice seeing you again.
I never thought I would want to visit Korea, but now I do. Now I want to go stand in the middle of Sejongo in Central Seoul, and I want to go to Tongyeong City to see Historical Site No. 113, and I want to visit the village where the 100-episode Korean Broadcasting System’s historical TV series about a 16th-Century Korean naval strategist was filmed. The TV show is called “The Immortal Yi Soon Shin” and it is the greatest television show ever made. What “War and Peace” is to novels, “The Immortal Yi Soon Shin” is to television shows—except it’s all true.
I don’t watch TV very much, except for sports. I’m not a TV snob or anything, it’s just that most of the shows don’t interest me. But I’ve always enjoyed the leased-time programs: Greek music videos, Italian news reports, Bollywood film reviews. The cheese of other cultures is at least different, and therefore more engrossing, than our own. Luckily, when Sluggo and I had our income malfunction and had to cut back to broadcast basic cable, we still got WMBC, channel 55, out of Newton, New Jersey. That’s the station that has the KBS soap operas every Saturday night. For a while we were watching, off and on, some historical drama about Medeival Korean politics—not every week, but if we happened to be home on Saturday night and not doing anything else, we’d look at it. I don’t even know what the name of that show was. The best thing about it was that there was one character who was called the Archfiend, although he didn’t look anything like Jessica Simpson. Other people would call him Archfiend to his face, like that was his name or his title or something. I’m not even sure if he was supposed to be the villain.
But then we came across “The Immortal Yi Soon Shin.” The costumes!
The battle scenes! The acting! Kim Myung Min, who plays Yi Soon Shin,
must be the greatest actor in the history of the world, because he
doesn’t do much except stare off thoughtfully into space and he still
manages to convey the depth and genius of the Greatest Admiral Who Ever
Yes! Yi Soon Shin is my hero! I’m not kidding. He saved Korea from a Japanese invasion almost single-handedly, AND he developed new weapons technology (Geobukseon, the Turtle Ship!), AND he invented completely new and original naval strategies and tactics, AND was a philosopher as well. After his 10th sea battle against the Japanese, he realized that the enemy had probably figured out the weakness in the battle formation he’d used up until that time, and he wrote in his War Diary: “The enemy knows me. I must become another me, one the enemy does not know.” I MUST BECOME ANOTHER ME. I love that.
I love that “The Immortal Yi Soon Shin” incorporates stuff like quotes from the real Yi Soon Shin’s writings. I love that they manage to explain all the different naval tactics (Crane Wing Formation!) in the course of the program without a lot of stupid expository dialogue. I love the battle scenes! Almost every episode has at least one. One week they had an entire battle scene that was the Japanese general’s extended FANTASY of how the upcoming battle was going to play out (he won), and then they followed that up with an even longer battle scene of what really happened (he lost). I’ve also learned two words of Korean now: “General” sounds like “chungun,” and “Your Majesty” (said to the Korean king) sounds like “Jo-NAH.” The latter is usually shouted in despair by the king’s official ministers who’ve come to tell him that they’ve been defeated by the Japanese—again. Only Yi Soon Shin can save them.
You can read stuff about Yi Soon Shin at Wikepedia, and this guy can tell you all about the turtle ship, including the length and width of the Dragon head: you can even buy an English translation of Yi Soon Shin’s War Diaries at hanbooks.com, but it’s not gonna be anything like the experience of seeing the TV show. Why can’t our Public Broadcasting System do shows like this? They run around moaning about how Congress is cutting their funding, but the last time I turned on PBS, Channel 21 out of Long Island was running a 30-minute infomercial for some dermatologist’s skin products under the pretense that it was educational. “Your skin needs a 10% glycolic acid for exfoliation, like what’s in my glycolic acid pads.” Yi Soon Shin kicked ass in 16th Century naval battles, and he kicks ass on 21st-Century TV, and I can’t WAIT for next Saturday, so I can find out whether the Korean citizen army makes another attempt to capture Pyong-yang fortress.
Thanks for reading my blog entry, and may God bless.