For his follow-up to Shiri, Kang Je-gyu returned to the theme of the divided country with an even more ambitious project. Costing over $12 million, Taegukgi was the most expensive Korean movie ever made and was seen by over 11 million people in the country (more than a quarter of the population).
The film tells the story of two brothers living in Seoul in 1950 who are conscripted to fight in the Korean War and end up on different sides of the conflict.
Like his earlier spy thriller, Kang's war movie has just as much contrivances and sentimentality as any equivalent Hollywood war epic, but the action is unrelenting and brutal.
Taegukgi doesn't just earn its reputation as the Korean Saving Private Ryan for its modern day graveside framing device. It also shares the Spielberg classic's ability to put you right in the chaotic immediacy of the battlefield.
Given the Korean conflict still casts a shadow over the peninsula to this day (technically the war never ended), Taegukgi is impressive in pulling no punches about the horrors on all sides. Kang doesn't let his own country off the hook in an anti-war story that shows that war makes monsters of us all.