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[Film] Uigwe, The 8-Day Festival (KBS, 2013)

Original title: 의궤, 8일간의 축제
Release date: April 17th, 2014 (Korea, 3D)

Jeongjo, the 22nd monarch of the Joseon dynasty, is one of the most revered Korean rulers of all time. Politically, he successfully managed to balance factionalism between the many parties. Diplomatically, he opened up to Western powers for their technology while repressing Christianity  (the Joseon Sillok records that Jeongjo wore glasses in his forties due to his deteriorating eyesight). Socially, he paved the way for equality: Seo-eol, sons of concubines, were recruited in key government positions; efforts were made to abolish the slavery system. Culturally, advances were made in the printing press & The Suwon Fortress was built using modern technologies such as pulleys.

In 1762, Jeongjo’s father, then crown prince Sado, was sentenced to death. His mental illnesses escalated in killing and raping sprees. Yeongjo, Sado’s father, eventually sentenced he be locked up in a wooden box without any food or drink. He died after 8 days.
Although Jeongjo did not avenge political figures who supported his father’s death (and who subsequently argued that Jeongjo had no right to be crown prince since he was the son of a ‘criminal’), he reinstated his father’s title to ‘King’ and ‘Emperor’, built the Suwon Fortress and held annual ceremonial visits to Crown Prince Sado’s grave which was moved there.

This documentary is a re-enactment of the Wonhaeng Eulmyo Jeongri Uigwe (원행을묘정리의궤), royal record of Jeongjo’s 8-day festival held in Suwon. Created by the producers at KBS (Korea Broadcasting System) in 3D format, the film truly catches the grandness of the festival with in all its details, with the dramatic life of Jeongjo and his feats as a backdrop.

9-2  9-3
Digital renditions of the original Wonhaeng Uigwe
Image source: Korean Studies Center, Seoul National University 

 This very Uigwe contains all the festivities and their arrangements in elaborate detail – the costumes of different participants, the colours used in the palanquins, and so on. It is also notable in the fact it was distributed to the public for free. Uigwe, royal records, were by rule accessible only by the royal family and nobility (Hangeul, then considered ‘vernacular’ was only came to be widely used in the late 20th century). The Wonhaeng Uigwe contained pictures to a large part, allowing the public to enjoy them despite being illiterate.

All in all: highly recommended for those interested in history, 3D cinema, and graphics.

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Internationally lost since 2000, Emily was born in Seoul, raised in India, and has been living and studying in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands since 2014. A translator and interpreter by profession, she enjoys talking and debating just about anything.

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