‘Song of the Bandits’: Inspired by History or Purely Fictional? K-Drama Explained

By Louie Fecou
Published: September 23, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
View all
Songs of the Bandits - K-Drama - True Story or Fiction
Songs of the Bandits (Credit - Netflix)

Song of the Bandits was created by Han Jung-hoon, who fans might remember from My Fellow Citizens. The show has been expertly directed by Hwang Jun-hyuk, who was behind the 2019 series Black Dog. The story’s period setting has made me, and many other viewers, wonder if it’s based on a true story.

Kim Nam-gil stars as an enslaved protagonist who becomes a soldier and the leader of a resistance movement set against a period backdrop that resembles a classic Western.

Set against the politically uneven 1920s Japanese imperial rule, this is an exciting no-holds-barred series that also manages to engage viewers with characters that are ambiguous in their morals and motivations.

Is Songs of the Bandits based on a true story?

The show itself is not based on a true story or even a book, for that matter, but it takes its inspiration from the true-to-life history of the Korean uprising against Japan and the policy of colonization that occurred in the 1920s.

So, the characters and plots may be fictionalized, but at the heart of the setting, there is a basis of historical fact.

Is Songs of the Bandits based on Korean history?

The historical events that are the backdrop of the story are grounded in Korean history. From 1910 to 1945, Korea was under the rule of The Empire of Japan. This historical period is firmly layered into the series, and the political status of the time is mentioned throughout the show.

Japan would make aggressive changes to Korea over this period, including banning the language. Japan would go on to redefine Korea’s infrastructure, creating railroads and ports, but it is alleged that this was done by utilizing the Korean workforce, paying them very little, and was not beneficial to the people who lived there.

This treatment of the people and workforce would lead to a resistance movement being formed. Further atrocities were cited, including mass murder, but these claims have been refuted since by Japanese politicians and scholars, who would either downplay the time period or simply deny it occurred.

Song of the Bandits (Credit – Netflix)

What is Songs of the Bandits about?

This series dramatizes the epic story that surrounds the Korean uprising against Japan. Don’t let that particular tagline scare you off, though. This show is a goodies vs. baddies, gun-slinging, horse-riding Wild West thrill ride.

The show uses the Japanese occupation of Korea and the historical argument over a region in China and Korea to provide the cultural landscape of the time, but the focus is on the characters involved and their complex motivations and actions as they find themselves caught up in the turmoil of the time.

Related Articles:

Netflix, News, Streaming Service, TV News
View all