Kim Eun-hee’s epic period drama ‘Kingdom‘ blends horror with politics, both being virtues of horrible humans. The original series is set on a fictional Korean dynastic kingdom, the Joseon Kingdom, that flourished between the late 14th century to the late 18th century. At the center of its conflict, the drama explores a bizarre plague that stimulates the rise of the Undead.
A special spin-off Television Episode, Kingdom: Ashin of the North, delves into the origins of mysterious plants that resurrect the dead and the woman, Ashin, who brings wrath upon the Kingdom of Joseon. The events of ‘Kingdom: Ashin of the North‘ occur before the happenings of Kingdom Season 1. Thus, it can be binged as a standalone movie without worrying about the complexities of interconnected threads with the series.
‘Kingdom: Ashin of the North’ Plot Summary
An opening super (text) quickly lays down the ongoing political conflict in Southern Korea. The Japanese invasion had ruined the southern lands of the Joseon empire. The northern part was threatened by Jurchens. They had gathered their army at the basin of the Pajero River under the flag of the vicious and powerful Pajeowi. Any army in the world was no match against 10,000 Jurchens. Thus, measuring the scope of danger, the warriors of Joseon scouted a group of Jurchens to keep a check on Pajeowi. This group or tribe were inherently Jurcheas living in Joseon and thus were labeled as “Seongjeoyain.” These tribal people had resided on Joseon’s soil for over a century, but they were neither accepted by Jurcheans nor Joseon and snubbed by both. Kingdom: Ashin of the North begins with residents who live in Northern Seongjeoyain tribe village.
A young girl, Ashin, lives in the tribal village with her ailing mother and father, Ta Hab. He is an unofficial head of the Jurchen settlement who has pledged his loyalty to Joseon. Ta Hab is awaiting an official response from the royalty to lead his tribe. Ashin, on the other hand, is worried about her mother’s deteriorating health. She finds mysterious resurrection plants in the forbidden Pyesa-Gun forest to cure her, but her father shuns her to bring them to the tribe.
In the meantime, the Deputy Commander of the Chupajin group, Min Chi-rok, is informed about fifteen Pajeowi Jurchen men found dead in the Pyesa-gun forest pit. The villagers claim that a monstrous tiger killed these men. Chi-rok investigates and unravels that their death was orchestrated by a member of the banished Haewon Cho clan. However, Chi-rok holds back the secret because Pajeowi may use this slaughter as an excuse to invade the Joseon lands. Hence, Chi-rok hires Ashin’s father, TaHab, to travel to Pajeowi lands and spread misinformation about the tiger killing their men.
In her father’s absence, Ashin visits the forbidden Pyesa-Gun to bring back the resurrection plant to cure her mother. But when she returns to the village, the sight of the wrath crumbles her consciousness. Aidagan, the head of the Pajeowi, attacked the Northern Seongjeoyain tribe village and massacred everyone without mercy.
A stranded Ashin begs Chi-rok to avenge her father and her people, but Chi-rok refuses to intervene. Later, growing up, Ashin decides to wield the sword herself.
‘Kingdom: Ashin of the North’ Ending Explained
A few years later, the Japanese and Joseon tension got inflated further, and the majesty had ordered all the troops to assemble in the southern region for an upcoming battle. However, displacement of northern soldiers to the south would comprise their stronghold in Pajero Region. Thus, Chi-rok hires a grown-up Ashin to spy on the Pajeowi army settled at the basin of the Pajero River.
During her infiltration mission, Ashin found her father, TaHab, chained in Pajeowi captivity. She stabbed her father to relieve him of his miseries. Later, Ashin sneaked into Chi-rok’s chamber and, through a scroll, discovered that it was Chi-rok who fueled her village massacre.
According to Chi-rok’s notes, Some Pajeowi Jurchen sneaked into Pyesa-gun to steal ginseng (wild herb). All of them were ambushed and killed by Haewon Cho Clan (Joseon men). To stop an imminent war and prevent disaster, Chi-rok misinformed Pajeowi Jurchens that Seongjeoyain tribals killed 15 Pajeowi and threw them in the forest pit. To take revenge, Aidagan slaughtered the whole tribe, and Ashin’s father was declared a traitor.
Burning with a vengeance, Ashin killed and infected Joseon soldiers with resurrection plant flowers, turning them into undead zombies. The zombified soldiers destroyed the whole Joseon army camp.
Ashin wrapped the soldier’s body (who had been sexually abusing her) in a sack and brought it to a lonely wood house amid an abandoned forest. It was revealed that she had turned her loved ones (from the village) into zombies and chained them inside the barn. Ashin had been feeding these zombies for a long time, but the remains of animals weren’t enough to satisfy their ecstasy. Ashin promised them to bring more human flesh that highlighted her upcoming vile plans to destroy Joseon and the Jurchen Kingdom.
Revenge from Joseon and Jurchen Kingdom leading to Battle of Unpo Wetland
Ashin visited Lee Seung-hui, the King’s physician at Joseon Border, Uiju, before the “Battle of Unpo Wetland.” In the mysterious battle chronicled in Kingdom Season 1, 500 Korean soldiers surprisingly defeated an army of 30,000 Japanese invaders. The ailing villagers of Sumang were transformed into murderous zombies through the “resurrection plant” to fight in the battle against the Japanese. After the war, the zombies were lynched and buried to hide the secret.
At the end of Kingdom: Ashin of the North, it was revealed that the “resurrection plant” was handed to the King’s physician, Seung-hui, by Ashin, who later used them to win the Battle of Unpo Wetland.
Later, alone Ashin confronted Aidagan and his small group of Pajeowi warriors to take revenge for his father and her tribe’s massacre. In the closing shot, Ashin drew an arrow and pointed it towards the group riding towards her. She attacked them before they could reach her, and hence it could be suggested that she killed them without blinking an eye.
Kingdom: Ashin of the North is a 2021 Political Horror Thriller directed by Kim Seong-hun. It is a spin-off movie of the South Korean Series, Kingdom, written and created by Kim Eun-hee.