Yellow Sea, The (Hwanghae) (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 24-May-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer-UK & Korean Theatrical Trailers
Teaser Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 140:09
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hong-jin Na
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Jung-woo Ha
Yun-seok Kim
Seong-Ha Cho
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Young-kyu Jang
Byung-hoon Lee

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Korean DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     A while ago I reviewed on this site The Chaser (Chugyeogja), a tense, compelling, violent and disturbing thriller from Korea directed by Na Hong-Jin. The Chaser was a terrific film and I was looking forward to Na’s latest, The Yellow Sea (Hwanghae), which also stars his two main leads from The Chaser.

     Ga-num (Ha Jung-woo) is a Joseonjok, a Korean / Chinese cab driver living in Yangi, a city in the province of China near where Russia, North Korea and China meet. His wife has left Ga-num and their young daughter to go to South Korea to find work, but he has not heard from her for some time. Ga-num is drinking heavily and is deeply in debt to local gangsters. Then Yangi crime boss Myun Jung-hak (Kim Yun-seok) offers Ga-num a deal; if Ga-num will go to Seoul and kill a man, Professor Kim Seung-hyun, his debts will be forgiven.

     Ga-num takes the deal and is smuggled by fishing boat across the Yellow Sea into South Korea with other illegal immigrants. He finds where Seung-hyun lives, but also takes time to search for his wife, finding that she is now living with another man. On the night Ga-num arrives to murder Seung-hyun, he finds that other killers have already done the job! When the police arrive, Ga-num is suspected of being the killer but he manages to evade the police and flee. The police commence a manhunt for Ga-num, but this is not the worst of his troubles; he is also being hunted by local gang boss Kim Tae-won (Cho Seong-ha), who has his own reason for wanting Ga-num dead. When Myun and his men also arrive in South Korea, the stage is set for a bloody gang war between Myun and Tae-won, with Ga-num, and the police, somewhere in the middle.

     The Yellow Sea is a violent thriller with enough car chases, smashes and general mayhem for a dozen films. These action scenes are not graceful or balletic, although a truck tipping over comes close; the car crashes are loud, abrupt and violent. However, it is the hand to hand sequences that are brutal and kinetic; only the police have guns in this film, the gangs make do with edged weapons such as kitchen knives and hatchets, as well as anything solid at hand, and so the resulting battles are gory, bloody and very brutal. This is very realistic, and not for the squeamish. Ha Jung-woo is quite good as the man caught in the middle of the mayhem, but the standout performance comes from Kim Yun-seok who lights up the screen as the deadly Myun.

     To my mind, it is the convoluted scripting that is the weakest part of The Yellow Sea. There are numerous subplots, such as the search for the wife, and a lot of characters including the police who do little except slow down the plot. Even the main plot has numerous side turnings which means that the film is not as tightly structured as The Chaser and feels about 30 minutes too long. However, when it gets down to business it certainly delivers. If you like your thrillers brutal and bloody The Yellow Sea is well worth a look.

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Transfer Quality


     The Yellow Sea is presented in a ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p MPEG-4 AVC.

     While the film looks OK it is not one to show off the benefits of HD. It is sharp and detailed enough, blacks are good and shadow detail fine. The colour palate is quite dull and muted, and browns and greys dominate as befits the winter environment. Skin tones are also muted, brightness and contrast consistent. However, there is aliasing evident (such as 4:25 on bars and 10:57 on the car stripes) as well as motion blur. It is not distracting, but not something you want too often in your HD films.

     There were white burnt in English subtitles that were easy to read and seemed error free.

     Lip Synchronisation is good.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a Korean DTS-HD MA 5.1 that is quite good and gives a nice enveloping feel which is not overdone.

     Dialogue is clear and centred and the surrounds constantly in use for music and effects, including some panning of engines during the car chases. When car smashes occur, the audio is loud, resonate and very effective. The sub-woofer gave good support to the action when needed, but never unbalanced the sound stage.

     The music by Jang Young-kyu and Lee Byung-hoon was low key but was quite effective in enhancing the mood of the film when needed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


The Making ofYellow Sea (77:00)

     This is a reasonably interesting and extensive behind the scenes look at the filming. It consists mainly of fairly unstructured behind the scenes footage interspersed with interview segments conducted at the time of filming. Covered is the look of the film, locations, stunts, filming in cold and water, the costumes. Interviewees include Na Hong-jin (director), Lee Sung-je (cinematographer), Yoo Sang-seob (martial arts choreographer), Kwon Ki-duk (stuntman), Lee Hwo-kyoung (art director) and cast members Cho Sung-ha, Ha Jung-woo, Lee Chul-min and Kim Yun-seok. It is an honest piece, not filler, and it is good to see how they did some of the stunts. However, the piece is a bit long for what it is.


     Three theatrical trailers for the film: the UK trailer (2:06), the Korean trailer (1:32) and a Teaser trailer (1:17).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The UK Region B Blu-ray is identical to our release. There is currently no listing of a Region A US version.

     There are at least two Blu-rays available in Asia: Region A Japanese and Region A Korean “Director’s Cuts”. Both seem to have a wide range of extras, but neither has English subtitles available for either the feature or extras. For English speakers, our version is fine. For a listing of differences between the Korean and International cut of the film (which our release is) see here.


     The Yellow Sea is a violent thriller from Korean writer / director Na Hong-Jin with enough car chases, smashes and general mayhem for a dozen films. If you like your thrillers brutal and bloody The Yellow Sea is well worth a look.

     The video is not the best HD you will see but is OK, the audio is good. There is one genuine, extensive extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, July 23, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
UK BD got optional subtitles - Anonymous REPLY POSTED