Kick'em In The Ghoulies

"It's The Only Way To Survive"

8th London Korean Film Festival Review




Silmido is a 2003 South Korean film from director Kang Woo Suk, it focuses on the true events of Unit 684 , a elite military unit made up of convicts and criminals. Though the story is embellished in places , partly due to the secretive nature of the details.

In 1968 a group of 31 North Korean soldiers from Unit 124 infiltrated the South to assassinate President Park Chung Hee , But with good reaction and intelligence the plan was scuppered.

In retaliation the South recruited a number of convicts in prison and on death row, they where convinced to partake in a plan to be trained as a elite commando group code named Unit 684 and when ready would be sent to infiltrate North Korea and carry out their mission of killing President Kim II-Sung.

The group where sent to the island of Silmido to train under a commander in chief and his elite group. Basically each man would have a senior who would guide him through training for how ever long it takes. .

Being as theses men where criminals their treatment and daily regimes broke many humanitarian rights but as no one really new of the plan or the men involved it did not matter.

In the film we see how hard times turn to torture in training as they are pushed to their very limits of endurance being abused by their trainers and enduring extreme cold dehydration and exhaustion through the long days of consistent training.

Many formed strong bonds with their seniors whether that be through kindness or the beatings they endured.

But when push come to shove they proved they had the gusto to perform and that they where a force to be reckoned with.

The time comes for them to go on their mission ,they even set off only to be called back due to cancellation at the last minute .

Frustrated by the order the commander in chief visits headquarters where he is met by superiors and politicians who are taking a different route with North Korea as they believe peace talks are the way forward .

With the initial government advisor?s and leaders no longer in power priorities have changed leaving Unit 684 as rotten wood left to decay.

With orders to disband the unit by killing them the commander in chief has to come to terms with killing the very men he has spent three years training and even grown to respect.

If for whatever reason he does not carry out the orders a commando unit will land and kill not only the unit but also the commander and his men as well.

For whatever reason the chief leaves the decision of when to kill and how up to his men ,but also at the same time arranges for one of the units captains to hear what's going on.

What happens next will be a test of who is quicker and more resilient as the unit and their trainers become two opposing forces and enter into battle to save themselves from extermination.

Silmido is all the more riveting for the fact of it's non fictional story. But of course it also leaves some things unanswered that till this very day have not come to light other then through non official channels .

It's also amazing that it was not till 2006 that the real life families of the unit had any confirmation of the whereabouts of their missing sons, not knowing if they where dead or not.

Even though the events that unfold culminate into a bloodbath not just between the two groups on the island but also in loggerheads with the South Korean Military on the mainland.

At times the film will shock into thinking how people can be treated like this ,but then you look at the story and say well they where criminals on death row, they done bad things and if they have just ones days grace they should be thankful for that.

But it's when you look at the truth that many where in-fact just petty criminals , not killers that it seems all so sad. That they should become as one as a elite group only to be tossed aside by their own government and put out with the trash.

It's also why the film is quite fitting a film for the inclusion in this years London Korean Film Festival especially with the daughter of President Park Chung-Hee , Park Geun -hye ( the current President of South Korea ) making a appearance at the festival this year .

Kang Woo Suk proves again after the brilliant Public Enemy that not only does he deliver great action but also compelling story telling that will leave you wandering hours after viewing.

Silmido is a must see for any Korean film fan

Now we did not attend the actual screening of the film at the festival being that we had seen the film back in 2004 , and as I happened to own the original region 3 limited edition print it was easy to view it again ,and the plus this time around was using the K.I.T.G. Screening room with full surround sound and 80inch screen which gave us the full cinema effect.

Score out of Ten = 8

review date : November 2013

Reviewed By : Sertes Nake

Stills and Lobby Cards


  Still selection from film



Special Edition Perspex Plaque which comes with the Above Lobby Cards and DVD On Region 3.



Directed by Kang Woo-suk
Produced by Jonathan Kim
Written by Kim Hie-jae
Distributed by Cinema Service
Release date(s)
  • 24 December 2003
Running time 135 minutes
Country South Korea


Main Stars

 Sol Kyung-gu

Ahn Sung-ki

Heo Joon-ho

Jung Jae-young

 Source : wikipedia



2004 Blue Dragon Awards

* Best Film

*Best Director - Kang Woo -Suk

* Best Supporting actor - Jung Jae-Young


2004 Grand Bell Awards

* Best Supporting actor - Heo Joon-Ho

* Best Best Adapted Screenplay - Kim Hie-jae

* Jury Prize


2004 Paeksang Arts awards

* First Prize