K-dramas (from South Korea), have been making a huge impact on Netflix in the past few years (e.g. Squid Game), with one of them, The Glory, making it into the top 10 for 2023. Gyeongseong Creature arrived with much hype, with the irresistible pairing of a couple of well-loved actors – Park Seo-Jun and Han So-Hee – and yes, a creature.
Regular audiences of K-dramas will know that they often have the production values of big budget feature films, with sumptuous settings and stunning, cinematic framing of every shot. The episodes are a full meal and yet somehow leave you wanting more.
Such is the case with Gyeongseong Creature, set just before the end of WWII, when the Japanese are the intimidating occupiers of Korea. Deep in the bowels of Onseong Hospital, terrible medical experiments are being done on the poor souls unfortunate to find themselves locked up there. These happenings are based on fact, which makes them all the more disturbing and sometimes hard to watch. The Japanese see the locals – who they call by the derogatory name of Josenjing – as inferior beings to themselves and they show no mercy or humanity towards them.
Park Seo-Jun plays Jang Tae-Saeng, the owner of a pawnshop who actually has his hands in a lot of what goes on in the district of Gyeongseong. He knows people and has influence and money. He’s ordered by a high-ranking Japanese official to find his missing Korean mistress. While on the case, he crosses paths with Chae-ok (Han So-Hee) and her father (Jo Han-Chul), who are sleuths looking for her mother and his wife who disappeared ten years earlier.
They join forces and end up in the dreaded Ongseong Hospital, where they encounter a frightening monster created by the Japanese. This brings about several extended chase scenes where the heroes have to dodge the numerous forces trying to do them harm, mainly the occupiers who aren’t happy about what they’ve been getting up to being revealed to the world.
With superstar Park in the lead role – known for romantic comedies such as What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? and She Was Pretty, and the harder hitting drama, Itaewon Class – you know that there will be some romantic tension. He and Han manage to make eyes at each other in between running for their lives, and being shot at and beaten to a pulp.
Han is as impressive as she’s been in My Name and Nevertheless, and you might also recognise her as the love interest in BTS member, Jung Kook’s music video for his hit, Seven. Her role possibly calls for deeper emotional depths than Park’s and her expressive face can say more than a hundred words. Wearing trousers and boots with dishevelled hair hanging over her face, she’s an anachronistic but very cool bad-ass in this 1945 setting.
Gyeongseong Creature has quite a bit of blood, guts and gore so it won’t be for everyone. Oh, and torture. But it’s worth a look even if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing because it’s also so much more than those elements. As you watch man’s inhumanity to man (and woman), you can’t help but realise that the most terrifying monster is the human kind.
Gyeongseong Creature is streaming now on Netflix, and season 2 is coming
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Trinkets (Netflix) – streaming review
- The Outsider (Netflix) – streaming review
- Cursed (Netflix) – streaming review
Vicki Englund is a film, TV and theatre reviewer, a credited TV screenwriter on shows including The Bureau of Magical Things and Home and Away, and a film screenwriter with several projects in development. She was the daily TV reviewer for The Courier Mail for 11 years and has reviewed films and TV for Rave Magazine, Time Off, The Courier Mail and Daily Review.