Netflix’s latest supernatural drama series, Gyeongseong Creature, is one of its biggest South Korean productions this year, with the first season released in two parts. The first part, with seven hour-long episodes, sets the premise and the main action of the series, as it revolves around a businessman and a detective who have to face off against treacherous Japanese imperialism in 1945. The blending of fiction and fact is quite enjoyable in the show, as it puts enough emphasis on the historical context and events of the time. Overall, the first part of Gyeongseong Creature is not the most consistently thrilling or gripping, but it also fairly entertains, despite stretching matters a bit more than required.
Plot Symmary: What is the Netflix K-drama about?
Gyeongseong Creature takes place in 1945, when the Japanese still ruled over Korea, as part of the annexation that began in 1910. Some months before the Japanese officially left the nation, a group of soldiers in the Manchuria region of modern-day China received orders from higher authorities to retreat from the place. The unit had been conducting some horrific biochemical experiments on Korean subjects who had been imprisoned, and so the order mentions either taking back all the results to the mainland or burning them down, leaving no evidence. The instruction is followed by the rushing soldiers, while General Kato, who had been directly involved in some experiments, wants an update regarding his work. He is informed that twelve vials of serum have been secured, along with eight najin, which appear to be some tiny organism safely kept within a vial. As everything else is burned down, something monstrous appears to be trapped behind a metal door, which is finally seemingly killed when the entire facility is put on fire.
Following the retreat in Manchuria, General Kato and his army moved to Gyeongseong, which is the modern-day capital city of Seoul. Along with them, a father-daughter duo, Yoon Joong-won and Yoon Chae-ok, also reach the city for a very specific purpose. Despite being professional detectives, the two characters have been in search of Chae-ok’s mother, who has been missing for the past ten years. Some time ago, they found a sketch of the missing woman, made by a Japanese artist called Sachimoto. Now they have come to Gyeongseong in search of the very same man in order to find some more information about the woman.
On the other side, a rich and influential Korean businessman named Jang Tae-sang gets into trouble with the police chief of the city, Ishikawa. Although he runs a famous pawn shop in the city, Tae-sang is known for having a big network of informers, and he is often consulted by people of power with regards to missing people and items. Currently, Ishikawa appoints the man to look for his missing illicit lover, Myeong-ja. Since Ishikawa is already married to a noblewoman, Yukiko Maeda, he cannot tell anyone about his current dilemma and, therefore, orders the Korean man to find Myeong-ja. The police chief also threatens to ruin Tae-sang’s business and life in the city if he fails to comply.
Tae-sang and Chae-ok eventually meet each other, with some romantic sparks gradually flying between the two as well. They decide to work together in their search for Sachimoto and Myeong-ja, and soon, they learn that both are linked to a local Japanese hospital where normal Koreans cannot go without special permission. While Myoeng-ja is believed to be kept hostage inside the place, Sachimoto happens to be the official sketch artist for the hospital’s lead doctor, Ichiro. Therefore, Tae-sang and Chae-ok manage to infiltrate the hospital, only to find themselves in immense trouble against the Japanese while a monstrous creature starts to wreak havoc at the place.
What is the najin, and who is the monster?
By the end of Gyeongseong Creature Part 1, the exact details about the najin are not made entirely clear, but a fair idea about it has been given. The najin basically seems to be some sort of organism possibly created through bio-mutation experiments that were conducted by General Kato, who is also a scientist and researcher along with being an army general. It could also be that Kato found the najin somewhere and was not the creator of it, but regardless of the organism’s origin, it is extremely deadly when in contact with any human being. Stored carefully in vials of some compatible serum, the najin is used as a bioweapon by Kato, who tests the true power of it on helpless Koreans.
When a human being is made to consume the najin, the organism makes its way through the blood and nerves in some time to reach and take over the brain. Along with taking full control of the human body, it also mutates inside the host, turning the human into a horrific monstrosity with tentacles and regenerative qualities. It was such a monster that was seen behind the doors of the Japanese research facility in Manchuria, and when Kato moved to Gyeongseong, he continued his experiments there. This was why women were going missing in the city, for Kato was experimenting only on women, probably because the najin works most effectively only in a female body.
But finding an ideal subject was not so easy, as the bodies of most women could not withstand the effects of the najin, and they died after the organism entered their body. With limited stock of the najin, Kato still continued his experiments and eventually found a woman who was able to withstand the effects, and she turned into a wild and violent monster. This monster now causes massive destruction in the hospital facility once it is let out of the ward, and since the najin takes full control over it, the monster keeps killing humans out of a compulsive need for violence. When inactive under the effect of nitrogen gas, the creature’s body also secretes anthrax, which burns and kills any human in contact. The lead doctor, Ichiro, tries his own experiment with the monster, attempting to train the creature to associate its hunts with the ringing of a bell. However, the effects of the najin do not work like that, and its spree of murder does not follow any logic or training.
Incidentally, the woman who is turned into the monster happens to be Sheishen, the mother of Chae-ok. Sheishen had been captured by the Japanese forces, and she had been sent to Gyeongseong as a subject for the cruel experiments. Although the effect of the najin on her seems to be complete, she is able to use her own mind to take decisions when Chae-ok is in front of her. It seems as if the power of motherhood is stronger than the evil effects of the najin, for Sheishen does not attack her daughter but, in turn, protects her from the Japanese soldiers by using her tentacles to make a safe bubble for the young woman. In the end, Sheishen, or the monster, is held captive inside a prison cell with the help of nitrogen gas, which is the only way to make the monster inactive. Whether there is any antidote against the najin and whether Sheishen can ultimately be saved would perhaps be covered in the next part of the series.
Who had gotten Myeong-ja kidnapped?
Myeong-ja is indeed seen kept captive in the army prisons inside the Japanese hospital compound, along with the other prisoners who are kept as subjects for Kato’s experiments. Initially, it seemed like police chief Ishikawa himself might have been involved in this kidnapping since he had some reasons for doing something like this. Only a few days before her disappearance, Myeong-ja had revealed to Ishikawa that she was pregnant with his child, and the man did not appear too excited about the news. As a married man, he would have to hide the child, too, and this could have been a reason for Ishikawa making his illicit girlfriend disappear.
However, the perpetrator behind Myeong-ja’s disappearance ultimately turns out to be Ishikawa’s wife, Lady Maeda. The wife had somehow found out about her husband’s affair, and she had also learned that Myeong-ja was pregnant with Ishikawa’s child. She then made this elaborate plan to get the woman kidnapped, and for this, she directly approached Ichiro for his help. Maeda seems to have a lot of power and influence over the Japanese army, possibly because of her familial position, and so she ensures that the army kidnaps Myeong-ja and keeps her hostage at the hospital. Maeda wanted Myeong-ja to be held until she gave birth to the baby, probably because the wife wanted the baby for herself. It could be that the couple could not have children of their own, and so Maeda now wants to keep the baby and raise it as her own. However, it can also be that there is a twist in the tale, and the wife has only been protecting Myeong-ja from death as she is carrying a baby, for Maeda possibly suspects that Ishikawa would kill his lover in order to avoid scandal. But by the end it is also clear that Maeda is definitely more involved with the experiments, as it was she who had given over Sheishen to the Japanese army ten years ago.
Did Chae-ok and Tae-sang escape the hospital?
Once Tae-sang has found Myeong-ja and a few other Korean prisoners, and Chae-ok has also learned that her mother is the very monster on a rampage in the hospital, the two protagonists decide to escape the hospital with the help of friends from outside. One of the Japanese soldiers, named Soma, had cut out a deal with Tae-sang, offering to join their side in exchange for money that would help him settle in Gyengseong with his family after the Japanese rule ended. With the help of Soma and a few other Korean workers inside the hospital, Tae-sang gets in touch with his two trusted associates, Nawol and Gu, asking them to come up with an elaborate plan of escape.
The plan is indeed quite lengthy, and it requires the help of the police chief, Ishikawa. The chief is informed that his lover, Myeong-ja, is kept hostage inside the hospital, and the army won’t let her leave in any way, so he agrees to participate. Ishikawa reaches the place with a convoy of police trucks, one of which is driven by Gu. While the police chief keeps the army leader engaged, Gu takes the truck in front of the exact building where Tae-sang and the others are and waits for them to climb down the tower. While everyone else, including Chae-ok, manages to escape, Tae-sang bravely stays back to ensure that the woman and the other prisoners can escape safely. If all of the prisoners flee together, then the Japanese army would hunt them down with all force, and so Tae-sang stays back to continue a serious gunfight and provide a distraction for his friends to escape. At the end of Gyeongseong Creature part 1, Tae-sang is still inside the Japanese hospital, and he clambers his way out of a room with a huge pile of human bones.
On the other side, Gu manages to take all the Koreans inside his truck back to the city center, but the danger is not over yet since Ishikawa sends another truck to follow him. Nawol and Gu had not told Ishikawa the entire plan, and the police chief was informed that Gu would rescue only Myeong-ja from the hospital. However, the shrewd man had also guessed that other Koreans would also escape, and so he sent his men after Gu. But Tae-sang’s friends were prepared for this outcome, and with the help of the local citizens, a helpful tailor, and rickshaw pullers, they managed to safely transport the prisoners out of the truck and on to trains leaving Gyeongseong city. At the end of the series, Chae-ok and her father, Joong-won, also leave the city, with the woman extremely sad that Tae-sang, with whom she had started to feel a romantic connection, is still trapped inside the Japanese hospital.
Who had drunk the water mixed with the najin?
At the end of part 1, a moment of great tension is created when it is revealed that somebody else must have drunk from a cup of water in which the najin had been kept mixed. Originally, the evil General Kato’s plan was to turn Chae-ok into a monster, too, and observe how the mother and daughter reacted to each other in their monstrous forms. In order to execute this plan, he had mixed a najin in a cup of water and offered it to her. Chae-ok incidentally did not take a drink then, and the cup remained on the table for quite some time, when a number of things happened.
Other than Chae-ok and Kato, another soldier had also been in the room, but he swore not to have drunk from the cup. He reveals that Tae-sang had also come to the room, so the protagonist is feared to have drunk the water. It is then also revealed that Soma had passed through the same place, along with Myeong-ja, and so these two are also added to the list of suspects.
During Gyeongseong Creature Part 1’s ending, the identity of the individual who had drunk the water mixed with the najin is ultimately revealed. It was Myeong-ja who had taken a sip, and so the najin had entered her body. As she spends the night with Ishikawa, the organism is seen crawling under her skin, and this confirms that she is about to turn into a monster. So far, even the Japanese have been careful about not letting the monster escape into Gyeongseong City, but now exactly that is about to happen. How the Japanese and the Koreans fight against such a horrific creature in their city would be interesting to see. Along with that, Gyeongseong Creature part 2, coming only a couple weeks later, will also excitingly reveal more about Tae-sang’s fate and possibly the origin of the najin organism.