Arirang (1926 film)

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Arirang 1957 poster.jpg
Theatrical poster for Arirang from 1957
Hangul 아리랑
Revised Romanization Arirang
McCune–Reischauer Arirang
Directed by Na Un'gyu
Produced by Yodo Torajo
Written by Na Un'gyu
Starring Na Un'gyu
Shin Hongnyeon
Distributed by Choson Cinema Productions
Release date
  • October 1, 1926 (1926-10-01)
Running time
(1,599 feet) (9 reels)
Country Korea
Language Silent film
Korean intertitles
Budget 15,000 Won

Arirang (아리랑, Arirang) is a 1926 Korean film. One of the earliest feature films to be made in the country, it is named after the traditional song "Arirang", which audiences were said to sing at the conclusion of the film. The silent, black and white film was written and directed by Na Un'gyu (1902-1937), and stars Na Un'gyu, Shin Ilseon and Nam Kungun. It depicts life in Japanese Korea.[1][2][3]

Plot summary

The film concerns a student, Ch'oe Yeongjin, who has become mentally ill after being imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese for his involvement in the March 1, 1919 protest against the Japanese colonial rule. He returns to live with his father and sister, Yeongheui, in their small village home. Yeongjin's friend, Yun Hyeon'gu, is in love with Yeongheui. While the villagers are preoccupied with a harvest festival, O Kiho, a collaborationist for the Japanese police, attempts to rape Yeongheui. Hyeon'gu fights with Kiho, striking and killing him with a sickle. When Yeongjin regains his sanity, he believes himself to have killed Kiho. The film ends with the Japanese police taking Yeongjin over Arirang hill to return to prison.


  • Na Un'gyu... Ch'oe Yeongjin
  • Shin Hongnyeon... Ch'oe Yeongheui
  • Nam Kungun... Yun Hyeon'gu
  • Chu In'gyu... O Kiho
  • Yi Kyuseol... Yeongjin's father


The premiere of the film at Dansung-sa Theater in Keijo (Seoul) on October 1, 1926[4] caused a national sensation, and the film was soon shown throughout the country. Arirang became an extremely influential film in the history of Korean cinema, and started what is known as the "Golden Age of Silent Films" in Korea which continued until about 1935. It was also the first in a line of nationalist, anti-Japanese films which ended with the increased suppression of the national culture in the mid-1930s.

Na Un'gyu made two sequels to this film: Arirang keuhu iyagi (1930) and Arirang 3 (1936). Also, IMDB shows that Na Un'gyu's story for Arirang has been remade at least three times since the 1926 debut of the original. Director Lee Kang-cheon filmed his version of Arirang in 1954, Yu Hyun-mok filmed his in 1968, and most recently, Lee Doo-yong made a version in 2003.

Revered to this day as a masterpiece and milestone in the history of Korean cinema, one of the sites on which the movie was filmed has recently been refashioned into a "Street of Motion Pictures," housing the Arirang Cine Center, Arirang Information Library, a small theme park claiming to be the movie set, a monument in memory of the 100th anniversary of Na Un'gyu's birth, and an annual film festival.

Lost status

Along with almost all other Korean films of this era, Na Un'gyu's Arirang is now considered a lost film. The original nine reels of the film are believed to have been lost during the 1950-1953 Korean War. However, a copy of the film was rumored to be in the possession of Japanese collector, Yoshishige Abe, who died in February 2005. His collection of approximately 50,000 films reverted to the Japanese government with his death, but no news has yet come forth as to whether the film was found in the collection.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Arirang(Alilang)". The Korean Film Archive (KOFA). Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  2. ^ Kim, Kab-ui (2001). Chunsa Na Un-gyu chonjip : ku saengae wa yesul. Chimmundang, Seoul. 
  3. ^ Lee, Young-il; Richard Lynn Greever (translator) (1988). The History of Korean Cinema. Motion Picture Promotion Corporation, Seoul. ISBN 89-88095-12-X. 
  4. ^ Lee, Young-il; Richard Lynn Greever (translator) (1988). The History of Korean Cinema. Motion Picture Promotion Corporation, Seoul. p. 43. ISBN 89-88095-12-X. 
  5. ^ "Collector's Death May Free Long-Lost Korean Classic Film". Archived from the original on 2006-02-04. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 

External links

  • Arirang on IMDb
  • Collector’s Death May Free Long-Lost Korean Classic Film at Digital Chosun Ilbo February 11, 2005.
  • S. Korea Seeks to Recover Legendary Film 'Arirang' from Japan by Shim Sun-ah at Yonhap News February 22, 2005. (dead link as of June 25, 2006)
  • Street of Motion Pictures by Kyung Tae Lee at KBS World.
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