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Netflix Korea to bring Western flavor with ‘Song of the Bandits’

Director Hwang Jun-hyuk hopes for Chuseok sensation like “Squid Game” and “Narco Saints”

By Lee Si-jin

Published : Sept. 20, 2023 - 13:46

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"Song of the Bandits" (Netflix)

Global streamer Netflix is scheduled to present a Korean interpretation of popular Westerns with its upcoming period action drama “Song of the Bandits.”

With about 70 percent of land covered by mountainous regions, not many Korean films and dramas are in the Western genre, which are typically set in dusty towns and desert-like wilderness.

“The series will present a new style of Korean period drama. ‘Song of the Bandits’ adds Asia’s cultural and historical elements to the original Western genre. The series offers a heartwarming story of people who wish to protect their precious ones and their home. But, it will bring thrilling actions and excitement that the viewers expect from Westerns,” director Hwang Jun-hyuk said in a press conference held at the Ambassador Seoul -- A Pullman Hotel in Jung-gu, central Seoul, Tuesday.

Director Hwang Jun-hyuk speaks in a press conference held at the Ambassador Seoul – A Pullman Hotel in Jung-gu, central Seoul, Tuesday. (Netflix) Director Hwang Jun-hyuk speaks in a press conference held at the Ambassador Seoul – A Pullman Hotel in Jung-gu, central Seoul, Tuesday. (Netflix)

Set in 1920, during the Japanese colonial period, the series centers around a group of bandits who are fighting to survive in the lawless Gando (Jiantao) region in China.

Veteran actor Kim Nam-gil plays Lee Yoon, the leader of the bandits.

Kim, who already made his name with spectacular actions scenes in various projects, including the 2009 hit period drama “The Great Queen Seondeok,” shared that he chose to star in the series to experience the Western approach.

“Many of the action scenes were different from those of existing period dramas. The styles of gun fights and jousting actions were very new to me,” Kim said.

Though the 43-year-old actor did not wear buckskin or other unique accessories, Kim carried an iconic Winchester rifle to bring a Western flavor to the series.

“A Winchester rifle is something that is representative of Westerns. I trained with the rifle as if it were a part of my body. We tried to shoot many long takes with gun fights to bring out scenes filled with thrill and suspense. It will certainly be a feast for the eyes,” the actor added.

Kim Nam-gil poses with the Winchester rifle during a press conference on Tuesday. (Netflix) Kim Nam-gil poses with the Winchester rifle during a press conference on Tuesday. (Netflix)

Recognizing that two of Netflix’s biggest Korean hit series -- “Squid Game” (2021) and “Narco-Saints” (2022) -- were also released around Chuseok, both Hwang and Kim wished their upcoming series would also enjoy great success.

“There is certainly a pressure, because Netflix’s previous Chuseok series were huge successes. I can feel the high expectation from Netflix as well,” Hwang jokingly said. “I pray for ‘Song of the Bandits’ to create another global sensation.”

“Every Netflix original project is important, but I hope our series is loved by both local and global audiences like ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Narco-Saints,’” Kim said, echoing the director's sentiment.

Kim Nam-gil talks about his upcoming series Kim Nam-gil talks about his upcoming series "Song of the Bandits" in a press conference held at the Ambassador Seoul – A Pullman Hotel in Jung-gu, central Seoul, Tuesday. (Netflix)
"Song of the Bandits" (Netflix)

Chuseok is an important period for streaming platforms, as they seek to attract new subscribers with original content during the long holiday period.

The nine-part series will premiere at 4 p.m. on Sept. 22.