Arirang (1926 film)

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Arirang 1957 poster.jpg
Poster for the 1957 remake of Arirang
Hangul 아리랑
Revised Romanization Arirang
McCune–Reischauer Arirang
Directed by Na Woon-gyu
Produced by Yodo Torajo
Written by Na Woon-gyu
Starring Na Woon-gyu
Shin Il-seon
Nam Gung-un
Ju In-gyu
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 (Hangul: 아리랑) is a 1926 Korean silent film directed by Na Woon-gyu. It is regarded as one of the most influential films in Korean cinema history, as well as the first Korean nationalist film and a critique of the Japanese occupation of Korea.[1][2] It is named after the traditional song "Arirang," which audiences were said to sing at the conclusion of the film.[3] Arirang is considered a lost film, but a written record of the plot still exists.[2]

Plot summary

Yeong-jin is a student 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 occupation of Korea. After his release, he returns home to live with his father and sister, Yeong-hui, in their village home. His old friend Hyeon-gu is now in love with Yeong-hui. While the villagers are preoccupied with a harvest festival, O Gi-ho, a collaborator with the Japanese police, attempts to rape Yeong-hui. Hyeon-gu fights Gi-ho, while Yeong-jin watches and has a vision of a couple in a desert begging a man for water. When the man in his imagination embraces the woman rather than offering her water, Yeong-jin stabs him with a sickle, actually killing Gi-ho. Yeong-jin regains his senses at this moment. The film ends with the Japanese police taking Yeong-jin back to prison, while the villagers weep.[4]


  • Na Woon-gyu as Yeong-jin
  • Shin Il-seon as Yeong-hui
  • Nam Gung-un as Hyeon-gu
  • Ju In-gyu as O Gi-ho


Initial reception

Arirang premiered at the Dansungsa cinema in Seoul on October 1, 1926 and quickly became a national sensation and a commercial success, screening at cinemas throughout the country. The film was a departure from the standard melodramas popular at the time because of its metaphorical resistance to Japanese occupation.[5] It is considered to be Korea's first nationalist film.[3]


Arirang is considered to be the first masterpiece of Korean cinema and an inspiration to many Korean filmmakers of the era.[2][6] Today, the location where Arirang was filmed in Donam-dong, Seoul, is known as Arirang Movie Street. The street is home to Na Woon-gyu Park, the Arirang Cine Center movie theater, and the Arirang Information Library.[7]

Sequels and remakes

Na Woon-gyu made two sequels to Arirang: a silent film called A Story of the Day after Arirang (1930) and a sound film called Arirang 3 (1936).[8]

Several directors have remade Arirang, including Lee Gang-chon in 1954,[9] Kim So-dong in 1957,[10] Yu Hyun-mok in 1968,[11] and Lee Doo-yong in 2003. Lee Doo-yong's version was the first South Korean film to be publicly screened in North Korea.[12]

Lost status

Along with almost all Korean films of this era, Na Woon-gyu's Arirang is considered to be a lost film. The original nine reels of the film are believed to have been lost during the 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 after his death, but no news has yet come forth as to whether Arirang was found in the collection.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Yecies, Brian; Shim, Ae-Gyung (2011). Korea's Occupied Cinemas, 1893-1948. Routledge. pp. 87–88. ISBN 0415995388. 
  2. ^ a b c Bowyer, Justin (2004). The Cinema of Japan and Korea. Wallflower Press. pp. 34–35. ISBN 1904764118. 
  3. ^ a b Min, Eungjun; Joo, Jinsook; Kwak, Han Ju (2003). Korean Film: History, Resistance, and Democratic Imagination. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 30. ISBN 0275958116. 
  4. ^ Lee, Se-gi (2011). "아리랑 [Arirang]". 죽기 전에 꼭 봐야 할 한국영화 1001 [1001 Korean Movies You Must See Before You Die] (in Korean). Maroni Books. ISBN 9788960531840. 
  5. ^ "Eulogies for legendary director Na Woon-gyu discovered". Yonhap News Agency. 2016-09-28. Retrieved 2018-03-06. 
  6. ^ Kim, Mee-hyun, ed. (2006). "The Japanese Colonial Period, Heyday of Silent Films 1926~1934" (PDF). Korean Cinema: from Origins to Renaissance. Korean Film Council. 
  7. ^ "Arirang Hill - birthplace of Korean film". The Korea Herald. 2010-03-30. Retrieved 2018-03-06. 
  8. ^ Yu, Min-yeong (1995). "나운규(羅雲奎)" [Na Woon-gyu]. Encyclopedia of Korean Culture (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-03-06. 
  9. ^ Lentz, Robert J. (2008). Korean War Filmography: 91 English Language Features through 2000. McFarland. p. 459. ISBN 1476621543. 
  10. ^ "아리랑 1957년" [Arirang (1957)]. KMDb. Retrieved 2018-03-06. 
  11. ^ "아리랑 1968년" [Arirang (1968)]. KMDb. Retrieved 2018-03-06. 
  12. ^ "S. Korean Film to Screen in N. Korea". Plainview Daily Herald. Associate Press. 2003-05-14. Retrieved 2018-03-06. 
  13. ^ "Collector's Death May Free Long-Lost Korean Classic Film". Archived from the original on 2006-02-04. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 

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