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Black Knight: Korean Actioner Proves Allegory for Reunification

Adapted from the Korean webtoon, Netflix's Black Knight is a dystopian actioner that addresses the class war & reunification with the North.

Black Knight is the latest Netflix adaptation of a Korean webtoon that leans into Science Fiction dystopias. This time it's the future where the Korean Peninsula has been devastated by toxic air pollution. The people have been forced to live indoors and have their food and oxygen delivered to their homes. This makes the Black Knights, the delivery people who show up with their goods… our heroes. Imagine if your Grubhub delivery guy was Mad Max, and you get Black Knight.

Black Knight: A Korean Actioner that's an Allegory for Reunification
"Black Knight" key art: Netflix

Delivery man 5-8 (Kim Woo-Bin) is a legend amongst the Black Knights. There are no bandits or murderous gangs he can't outfight. Teenage refugee Yoon Sa-Wol (Kang You-Seok) worships him and strives to become a Black Knight. 5-8 reluctantly takes him under his wing and trains him to qualify for the brutal tests that would get him in. 5-8 has a secret: he was a refugee himself and has been secretly supplying food and oxygen to the refugees while investigating a conspiracy by the chairman of the corporation that owns employs the Black Knights to not only commit widespread genocide against the refugees but also stage a coup to take over the government and place the entire population on under constant surveillance and control.

Black Knight: A Korean Actioner that's an Allegory for Reunification
Still: Netflix

"Black Knight" is a Snapshot of the Korean Class War

The Netflix version of Black Knight changes the original comic to make it an action-packed six-hour movie with a beginning, middle, and end with all the increasingly common tropes Korean action movies are now known for. The expert fight choreography, inventive car chases, and carnage, lots and lots of carnage, including prolonging the Big Bad's survival for as long as possible so he can have a final fight with the hero.

At first, the story feels like another Class War parable with the refugees the impoverished have-not ignored and abused by the elite while the normal population is kept isolated, safe, and docile by social control and propaganda. The story becomes more interesting when you read it as an allegory about North and South Korean reunification. That hasn't happened in real life, but it is an ongoing concern in the prosperous South. The Right believes the influx of refugees from North Korea will strain the South Korean infrastructure and collapse the economy. The consensus is refugees deserve rights and protection too. Black Knight is an expression of that neoliberal belief with a belief in government to get things right in the end. Corrupt capitalism and politicians are the villains again, common in Korean movies and television. This is like an extended Black Mirror episode. And in the Class War, the hero is your delivery person who brings you what you need to live.

All six episodes of Black Knight are streaming on Netflix.

Black Knight

Black Knight: A Korean Actioner that’s an Allegory for Reunification
Review by Adi Tantimedh

BLACK KNIGHT: An inventive Korean action thriller with all the familiar Korean action and genre tropes but becomes even more interesting when you read it as an allegory for Class War and the South Korean anxiety about reunification wtih the North.

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Adi TantimedhAbout Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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