“My Way” is a poignant, dramatic account of two men, one Korean (Jun Shik) and the other Japanese (Tatsuo), who forge a bond in their favorite activity, running. Early on in life, it’s clear that the Koreans living in Japan, during the days of the Japanese Empire were looked down upon. Even Tatsuo projects this attitude towards his friend.
One day at a party, when both the boys were young adults, a package arrives at a party, where Tatsuo’s grandfather, a high ranking military man, was greeting party-goers. The package is delivered by Jun Shik’s father, who works for the family. It turns out to be a booby-trapped grenade wrapped in a Korean flag, an obvious assassination attempt. It explodes, killing Tatsuo’s grandfather instantly. Tatsuo blames Jun Shik and vows to kill him if he ever sees him again.
Years later, Jun Shik and Tatsuo race against each other in a qualifying marathon for the Olympics. Jun Shik wins, but the Japanese judges refuse to acknowledge his win, saying that Tatsuo actually won. This caused a riot, and all those who instigated the riot get sentenced to military duty. Jun Shik becomes a low ranking enlisted man whereas Tatsuo becomes a colonel. Through plain bad luck, Jun Shik falls under his command and Tatsuo assigns him a suicide mission. When he refuses, he is sentenced to execution, but escapes, getting some of his Korean friends to safety, but eventually returns; only to be captured with Tatsuo and most of the rest of the survivors. The Survivors all end up in a brutal Russian gulag. In the gulag Tatsuo is finally put in his place by a lowly Korean soldier. However, during the outbreak of hostilities with Germany, all the gulag members are drafted into service for the USSR. Running across the line during battle, and seemingly journeying hundreds of miles, Jun Shik and Tatsuo are recaptured and forced to join the German army, being sent to Normandy.
Throughout the film there is a constant reminder of the evilness of the Japanese, and the righteousness of the Koreans. Tatsuo is depicted as blood-thirsty, illogical, fanatical and racist, whereas Jun Shik is depicted as being humble, intelligent, clever and honorable. Whether or not the director and writer meant to, they painted a picture of the Japanese as a fanatical race, one without logic or love for his fellow man. Even when Jun Shik is killed, Jun maintains his integrity and is still portrayed in a more positive light than Tatsuo. What is strange is the fact that even after Tatsuo fanatically executed his own men during battle with the Soviets, he still finds a way to see him as a decent man. Perhaps this is a method of painting the Korean character as superior to the Japanese. Whatever the purpose, it is strange that someone who clearly abhorred his rival for the despicable acts he committed, would be able to find it in his heart to forgive and even to grow to care about that person again.
Overall, there is very little realism to the story. Obviously, this is not supposed to be a true story. If it were, it’d be one of the most epic war tales of all time, but obviously it’s not. To some degree it feels like a repeat of “Taegukgi,” probably because the lead character in both war movies is the same actor Dong-gun Jang. Additionally, the storm of emotions the lead character goes through towards his running rival is almost the same type of back-and-forth liking to hating that was used in Taegukgi. Furthermore, the scene when the main character is pulled away from his family is almost identical to the sequence in Taegukgi. With that set aside, the film is a pretty good flick, and certain scenes will really keep you on the edge of your seat. There is much suspense in the film, but be prepared for some extremely chaotic action sequences as well.