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Netflix Drama Opens a Fictional Window into 1945 Korea, GyeongSeong Creature Episode 1

GyeongSeong Creature is set in 1945 Seoul, Korea. Although this is a very fictional drama ( I mean there is a creature involved), it makes several references to true historic events. Here are some historic takeways from Episode 1.

Great Tokyo Air Raid

Yoon, Chae Ok and her father Yoon, Joong Won come across a newsboy and buy a paper. Joong Won tells the boy to keep the change and buy himself something tasty to eat. The newsboy then slips them a piece of paper and tells them this is the "real news". The news was about the bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, also known as the Great Tokyo Air Raid. It was a devastating aerial bombardment campaign conducted by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II. This attack was one of the most destructive and deadliest bombing raids of the war. For the Korean resistance movement, this was a key sign of hope that Japan may fall and that they would be free.

However, there is debate about the morality of this raid as the destruction and loss of life during the bombing were immense. Civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, made up a significant portion of the casualties. The impact of the raid on the civilian population was severe, and it remains a tragic chapter in the history of civilian suffering during World War II.

The air raid was part of a broader strategic bombing campaign by the Allies against Japan's industrial and urban centers in the final stages of World War II. It played a role in shaping the Japanese government's perception of the war's futility and contributed to Japan's decision to surrender a few months later, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Censorship and Forced Conscription

Japanese colonial authorities tightly controlled the Korean press during the colonial period. News articles and reports were subject to strict censorship, and information that could be considered damaging to Japan's war effort or morale was either heavily edited or suppressed altogether. Printing and disseminating this type of news was seen as an act against Japan.

Moments after Chae Ok and Joong Won buy the newspaper, the Japanese authorities charge out and start beating men in the public square. The beaten men are knelt before the Japanese soldiers and given the choice to join the Japanese military or die, which is obviously not a choice at all.

As Japan's military situation deteriorated in the latter stages of World War II, it faced a shortage of manpower. To address this shortage, the Japanese authorities began forcibly conscripting Korean men into the Japanese Imperial Army. Many of these conscripts were subjected to harsh and often brutal training conditions.

The conscription of Korean men was carried out under duress, and they did not have the opportunity to volunteer or give their consent. Many were forcibly taken from their homes or workplaces.

Korean conscripts faced harsh treatment, discrimination, and abuse within the Japanese military. Many were subjected to brutal discipline and often suffered from inadequate food, clothing, and medical care.

Jeon Dang Po

In comes, the main character of the drama; Jang, Tae Sang. He is the owner of The House of Golden Treasure, a jeon dang po. Jeon dang po, which translates to "pawnshop" in Korean can be traced back over a thousand years to the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392) and the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). These pawnshops were established to provide financial services to the public and served as a means of borrowing money using personal items as collateral. Historically it served various economic functions in Korean society. They provided loans to individuals and small businesses, particularly during times of financial hardship. People could pawn their possessions, such as jewelry, heirlooms, or agricultural tools, to obtain short-term loans. The pawned items were held as collateral until the borrower repaid the loan, often with interest.

Seodaemun Prison

This prison is mentioned several times. Seodaemun Prison, also known as Seodaemun Prison History Hall, is a historic site located in Seoul, South Korea. It is a former prison complex that played a significant role in Korean history, particularly during the period of Japanese colonial rule.

It was constructed during the Japanese colonial era in 1908. The prison was built to detain and suppress Korean independence activists and dissidents who opposed Japanese colonial rule. The prison gained notoriety for its harsh treatment of political prisoners. Torture and ill-treatment were common, and prisoners faced deplorable living conditions. The prison's design included a "torture chamber" where detainees were subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Many prominent leaders of the Korean independence movement, such as Yu Gwan-sun, Ahn Jung-geun, and Yun Bong-gil, were imprisoned, tortured, or executed at the prison. Despite the harsh conditions, many Korean patriots imprisoned there continued to resist Japanese colonial rule. Some even organized secret study sessions and disseminated pro-independence literature from inside the prison. Seodaemun Prison is a testament to the resilience and determination of Koreans who fought for their nation's independence during a challenging period in their history.

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