Gyeongseong Creature: Japan’s Invasion Collides with Joseon

Arts & EntertainmentTelevision / Movies

  • Author Roh Hae Yoon
  • Published April 26, 2024
  • Word count 1,102

Gyeongseong Creature: Japan’s Invasion Collides with Joseon

Did you ever experience the pain from pulling a nail off? This inhumane act served as common torture for independence activists in Joseon by Japanese policemen. In 1910, Japan colonized Joseon and forced civilians to follow its rules. The violence also exploited Joseon’s socioeconomic status. History distortion, culture manipulation, inhibiting Korean use, and heritage damage were inevitable. Despite Korea’s depression period, the stubborn persistence from Joseon’s independence activists had won colonization, winning liberty. Released on December 22nd, 2023, the drama, Gyeongseong Creature displays the reality of colliding independence activists’ lives through fictional stories. The directors, Dong-Yun Jeong and Yeong-Seop Noh, criticize experiments on civilians, describe historic events, and examine hostility during the colonization period. Therefore, Gyeongseong Creature vividly portrays the melancholic memory of Joseon through symbols, motifs, and conflict.

Foremost, Gyeongseong Creature condemns inhumane experiments on independence activists through symbolic victims. Throughout the film, a ridiculous amount of experimental subjects appear, from children to seniors. During this scene, they are exposed to bacillus anthracis, which is a contagious toxic bacteria to humans, and injected with unauthorized chemicals testing their reactions. In spite of those, the reality is not completely revealed due to high rated experiments. Subjects from the drama symbolize independence activists from Joseon. A report by Keiichi, an assistant professor in National Nagasaki University, exposed the serious crimes committed by the Japanese military unit, stating:

Healthy humans are infected with epidemic hemorrhagic fever by injecting a saline emulsion made from crushed ticks carrying pathogens. Within 5 days of the onset of the disease, the internal organs are removed from a living person (…), and the person is eventually dissected alive to check for any remaining pathogens. (...) Just before defeat, in order to destroy evidence, the prisoners used in this experiment were killed by adding cyanide to their rice or shot with a pistol (Keiichi, 1981).

It uncovered that the experiment was conducted by dissecting subjects without anesthetizing their body parts. Historical facts prove the harshness of Japan’s military upon innocent civilians. Thus, the historical context results in aggressive and critical responses from the audience. In addition, these experiments influenced the drama to reveal the truth, which Japan has distorted.

The directors also exposed brutality with motifs from Unit 731 that underwent Maruta experiments on Joseon citizens. In Japanese, ‘experiment of peeled logs,’ means subjects were not treated as human. In 1992, pictures from the Maruta experiment were shown worldwide for the first time through Hankyoreh News. Seiya Matsuno, a researcher at Meiji Gakuin University's International Peace Research Institute, who discovered the pictures stated, “it will be an ultimate proof for acknowledging who participated in experiments and how they lived after it.” The visual proofs were inconceivably ruthless. Images of them dissecting human organs and intersecting germs brought shock. In one scene, a room had a shelf full of numerous jars, holding models of human heads and organs. Those were the recordings of their experiments. The real world’s historic event was then motivated by Gyeongseong Creature. This holds an initiative and goal of exposing the truth to Japanese citizens, who had manipulated history classes about Japan’s colonization. The drama intended to communicate with diverse audiences by showing Korea’s heartbreaking event. Furthermore, the interaction between Joseon citizens and Japanese policemen was displayed with a detailed storyline.

Gyeongseong Creature ultimately examines conflicts between citizens and police to exhibit how independence activists demanded rights. Throughout scenes Joseon citizens were called “Josenjing,” which is a degrading and humiliating expression. From the Encyclopedia of Korean Culture, Japan took over the military police in 1910, setting an unauthorized rule from the country itself. So, Joseon residents were forced to keep silent despite mistreatment. Torture was commonly threatened, especially to those with low socioeconomic status, if they resisted. Gloom and frustration were conveyed to audiences about how Joseon citizens could not react aggressively toward insults from Japanese policemen. The pressure set on citizens of their home country from foreigners seems ironic. As a result, mistreatment from Japan induced criticism from diverse audiences.

Since distorted history education continues in Japan, its audience reacted to the drama aggressively. The main actress of the film, So-Hee Han, posted a picture of Joseon’s independence activist, Jung-Geun Ahn, and herself acting as one. She added:

There is no romance in Gyeongseong, and it is not a creature from the Japanese colonial period, but an organism born from an experimental life form that transformed humans into a means. This is the story of the people at that time, a brilliant and dark time. That spring where you can find only the parts you need to love independently (Han, 2023).

To historic provocation, Japanese audiences condemned her for acting against Japan and poured their temper and stated they “gave up being a fan.” To these malicious comments, Han replied, “sadly it is true.” She is not the only one who received blame from the Japanese. Seo Gyeong-deok, a professor at Sungshin Women's University, posted facts of Unit 731 on social media. Through his mention, some Japanese showed former reactions. However, others were surprised and alarmed about the presence of the Maruta experiment. Historic fact was perceived to the Japanese through blending it with fictional events. The pressure upon Joseon civilians was reflected by displaying tortured people. Sharing global unknown facts of regretful history is necessary.

Civilian experiments are against humanity. The mistreatment Korean ancestors experienced must not be forgotten. The reality must spread over historical distortion. Although the Japanese said they apologized to civilians, that does not compensate for the pain and grief endured. Japanese education needs to open toward the truth, and Gyeongseong Creature aspires to spread it. Japan must prove their sincere apology to Korea.


[1] Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. "Colonization from Japan." Encyclopedia of Korean Culture, 2024, Accessed 25 Jan. 2024.

[2] Kang, Min Jin. "Exposure of Unit 731." Hankyoreh News, 14 Aug. 2018, Accessed 25 Jan. 2024.

[3] Lee, Seung-Jun. "Reminisce of Unit 731." Hankyoreh News, 9 Jan. 2024, Accessed 25 Jan. 2024.

[4] Herald News. "Maruta dissected alive… Japan's 'Unit 731' list of horrendous biological experiments discovered." Nate News, 18 July 2023, Accessed 1 Feb. 2024.

[5] Kim/Money Today News, Seung-Han. "“It’s true?”… Japanese people who didn't know about Unit 731 were shocked after seeing 'Gyeongseong Creature'." Money Today, 5 Jan. 2024, Accessed 1 Feb. 2024.

[6] Park/Joy News, Jin-Young. "Han So-hee, moves on the concept of ‘Gyeongseong Creature’… Despite Japan's malicious comments, "It's sad but true"." INews24, 25 Dec. 2023, Accessed 1 Feb. 2024.

Roh Hae Yoon

Mr. Rozum

Advanced Writing

7 March 2024

John S. Rozum

English Instructor, Cornerstone Institute

+84 35 611 6873

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