The world of espionage has its own eccentricities. It has its own unspoken rules that everybody has to abide by. “Yaksha: Ruthless Operations,” directed by Hyeon Na, is a story about a handful of people who, though invisible to the public in general, have the power to change the course of history. They are the ones who are responsible for charting the narrative for the future of the nation. When you see their lives, you often ask the question: why put your life in peril for something that you wouldn’t even be credited for?
In this world of espionage, people are either driven by a strong motive, or they are so broken from the inside that they have nothing to lose. They are the misfits, the outcasts, who are either too good or too bad to exist amidst the so-called normal people of our society.
The word “yaksha” has its origin in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist mythology. It is symbolic of that same extremity that is a characteristic feature of these spies. Sometimes the word Yaksha is used to denote a benevolent guardian angel, and sometimes a malicious demon is also called by the same name. A lot depends upon which side you are dwelling on. It’s the perspective that makes you see the Yaksha in a particular light.
We want to believe that these spies are driven by a strong sense of patriotism, but is that so? We want to believe that they are doing it for the nation, but is it a universal fact or a convenient assumption that allows us to protect the delicate fiber that binds our society? If you ask any spy, he or she will probably tell you that it is not the larger-than-life philosophies that drive them, but the more humane ones that might not sound ostentatious, but when, faced with peril, make a world of difference.
So let’s try to look at the intricacies of this world of espionage and understand the sensibilities of the people who reside in it.
‘Yaksha: Ruthless Operations’ Plot Summary
The film opens with a person handing over a storage device to a couple of men sitting in a car. Just then, an unknown individual dashed into the area and intentionally crashed his vehicle into the other car. We don’t know what these men were up to. It was a deal of sorts that wasn’t allowed to be completed.
The narrative then moves four years ahead, when a legal inquiry was being carried out by prosecutors in Seoul. The subject in question was the chairman of the Sang-In group, Mr. Lee. The prosecutors’ office believed that his company was involved in stock manipulation and bribery.
Mr. Lee was an influential man. Nobody dared press charges against him. But Han Ji-Hoon wasn’t going to leave him. For him, it was very simple: if you had committed a crime, then you should be punished for it, no matter what your status quo is in the society. Han Ji-Hoon had one rule. He believed that to attain justice, it was essential to follow a just path. For him, the essence of justice was destroyed as soon as unfair means and methods were employed to bring out the truth. His investigators had entered the office of the Sang-in group illegally, and Han Ji-Hoon felt it was not right on his part to hide the fact.
Mr. Lee is let free, and Han Ji-Hoon is demoted to the National Intelligence Services (NIS), in the legal support department. The NIS was a government agency, and there was not a lot of work there. The director of the agency, Yeom Jeong Won, came to meet Prosecutor Park, who was superior to Han Ji-Hoon. She had come there to reinstate him, but Mr. Park had other plans. He liked the unchallenging aspect of the job and had a family to look after, which is why he was reluctant to go. Han Ji-Hoon volunteered as he desperately wanted to climb the ladder after his demotion.
Han Ji-Hoon was sent to Shenyang, a center of East Asia’s power struggle over North Korea. It was a battlefield, where every second person was a secret agent. A lot of activities that happened in the area were kept classified due to the volatile nature of the same. South Korea had deployed black teams that carried out secret assignments. Over a period of time, it has become a habit to overlook activities that happened in Shenyang and not subject them to any internal reviews. The director tells Han Ji-Hoon that he was sent there to review the activities and bring about a certain order and transparency in how things were done.
Han Ji-Hoon reached Shenyang and realized that the civility he was used to, didn’t apply here. There was an all-out war that was taking place in the underbelly of the town. There were Japanese, North Koreans, and South Koreans who were fighting for leverage. Han Ji-Hoon meets the branch manager, Ji Kang-in, a.k.a. Yaksha. The man had a stoic face and was no less than a ticking time bomb. He was fearless and erratic in his pursuit. Han Ji-Hoon ends up in a bloody encounter taking place between the Japanese and South Korean teams. He doesn’t understand what they are fighting for. Later, a member of the South Korean black team sedates him. They had laid a trap to send the nagging prosecutor away to South Korea. When Han Ji-Hoon wakes up and finds himself in a brothel, he still cannot process why a person from his own nation did that to him. He somehow escapes the trap and meets Kang-in, the branch manager, once again. This time, Yaksha makes Han Ji-Hoon understand the whole situation, and takes the chance of trusting him.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Who Was Moon Byung-Uk?
There was footage that was recorded in front of the Dongbei Bank in North Korea. There was a shootout between the two groups. One group was identified as being the royal guard from North Korea, whereas Yaksha and his team were still trying to identify the other group. Both groups were fighting over a man named Moon Byung-uk. He was the head of Room 39, which was an integral part of North Korea’s central committee. Room-39 was responsible for raising investment and maintaining funds for Kim Jong-un’s family. Moon Byung-uk, who was responsible for the royal family fund that amounted to 4 trillion dollars, had asked Yaksha’s team for protection.
Yaksha got to know that there was Japanese involvement in the scheme of things. He visits a restaurant where the owner is an undercover agent. She worked for the Japanese but provided intel to Yaksha frequently. Yaksha asked the lady if she knew of a person who went by the code name “D7.”
D7, a Japanese spy whose real name was Ozawa, disguised himself as a lobbyist and was staying in Shenyang. He was also after Moon Byung-uk, and Yaksha found it imperative to ask him a few questions. Yaksha’s main intention in engaging in a conversation with Ozawa was to buy time for his team, who were raiding Ozawa’s residence. They hoped to find Moon Byung-uk there, but instead found a girl, who they got to know was Moon’s daughter. The girl escaped with Ji-Hoon’s help and later abandoned him too. The South Korean team located her with the help of a tracker that they had put on her. They reached the building where she went and found Moon Byung-uk lying there, almost on the verge of dying. In a cryptic manner, he told Yaksha that his daughter knew everything that he was trying to find. The Chinese police arrived, and Yaksha and his team escaped the scene.
What Secret Information Did Moon Byung-Uk Have?
Moon Byung-uk’s daughter, Ju-yeon, was once again captured by Ozawa. They took her to the Japanese consulate. The secret that Moon held was, in fact, a list that contained the names of all the spies incorporated by the Japanese all over Asia. He was working as a Japanese spy as he thought that it was for the good of both North and South Korea. But soon, Moon realized that he was being used by the Japanese and was only working for their benefit. That’s when he decided to turn against them. When he died, he passed on the information to his daughter, Ju-yeon. She had hidden the list in the database of a university in Santiago.
The South Koreans made a plan to infiltrate the Japanese Consulate. They valiantly rescued Ju-yeon, and Ji-Hoon took her with him. Ju-yeon and Ji-Hoon were hiding until it was safe to contact Yaksha. But before they could make any contact with the South Korean agents, they were caught by Ozawa. Ji-Hoon is in a compromising position now. To save his life, he assures Ozawa that he would bring Yaksha to him if he promised to spare his and Ju-yeon’s lives.
The director of NIS, Yeom Jeong Won, also came from South Korea under the pretext that she wanted to save Ji-Hoon’s life, but her real intentions were quite contradictory to her words.
‘Yaksha: Ruthless Operations’ Ending Explained: Is Kang-In Dead Or Alive?
We came to know that the director of NIS, Yeom Jeong Won, was also a mole. She was helping Ozawa and the Japanese spies. Through her, Ozawa was getting to know every move that Yaksha was going to make. Ji-Hoon often contacted her and told her the details and the ground report, which she conveniently transferred to Ozawa. She is tracked down by Yaksha and finally killed. Yaksha gets to know that she was also involved in the incident that happened in Hong Kong years ago, where he lost his whole team.
Ji-Hoon meets Yaksha and shoots at him. Then he reaches the facility of Ozawa, where a set-up has already been created for Moon’s daughter to break into the database and delete the spy list that she was going to give to the South Korean forces. Just when she is about to hack into the system, Yaksha arrives on the scene. Ozawa is baffled as he saw him dying after he was shot by Ji-Hoon. But he was saved by the bulletproof jacket that he had a reputation for not wearing.
The groups enter into a bloodbath, and Ozawa presses the delete button to permanently erase the database. To his horror, he comes to know about a unique setting of the software. The software was programmed in such a manner that if anybody tried to delete the data, then the information would be automatically transferred to intelligence agencies of the different nations. Yaksha takes him down and shoots him point-blank. The champion espionage, Ozawa, dies at the hands of his arch nemesis.
‘Yaksha: Ruthless Operations’ Mid-Credit Scene Explained: Will There Be A Sequel? What Happened To Ji-Hoon?
It was found out that even the Sang-in group’s CEO, Mr. Lee, bribed the Japanese intelligence agencies. Han Ji-Hoon was right to investigate Mr. Lee’s company. He is reinstated to his position as a prosecutor and returns to Seoul. After many days, Ji-Hoon gets a call from an old friend, Yaksha who was in London and wanted Ji-Hoon’s help for yet another case.
After the spy mission, Ji-Hoon learned a very valuable message. He had always thought that the means of reaching justice should also be just in every respect. But the mission made him realize that a lot of times, rules needed to be twisted to allow the truth to come out. He was a changed man and saw the world in a different tint now.
Yaksha valued his team more than anything. These were the people who were ready to give their lives for each other. A strong sense of camaraderie and respect binded them. During “Yaksha: Ruthless Operations” mid credit scene we see that Yaksha’s team was no longer in Shenyang. They were in different parts of the world: One was working as a tour guide in China, another was working in a construction company. The other two members were in Rio de Janeiro and North America respectively.
Nobody knew that these people doing their normal jobs were part of the South Korean intelligence team and executed the deadliest operations known to mankind. Yaksha was back on the battlefield and he gives a call to Prosecutor Han Ji-Hoon and tells him to keep his phone near him. The other members of the crew also receive Yaksha’s message. They stopped doing their work immediately and knew that it was a signal that another case awaited them, where once again they would have to risk their lives to get rid of the imminent threat to the security of their nation. A probable sequel, if made, would focus on yet another deadly mission undertaken by Yaksha’s team.
“Yaksha: Ruthless Operations” is a 2022 Drama Espionage thriller film directed by Hyeon Na.