‘Song of The Bandits’ Netflix’s historical South Korean action show revolves around a group of outcasts that band together in Gando during Japan’s invasion of Korea to keep their land and their people safe. Lee-yoon, a deadly warrior born as a slave, fought for the Japanese army until the brutality of his actions forced him to seek penance, leading him to Choi Chung-soo in Gando. With nothing left to lose in life, Lee-yoon and Chung-soo decide to fight for their people by gathering like-minded, skilled fighters and forming their group of bandits dedicated to keeping Joseon people safe from Japanese cruelty.
During their efforts, the bandits cross paths with Eon Nyeon-i, a gun-for-hire assassin with a dark past and a cynical outlook on life. Soon, the group finds themselves embroiled in an insurgence against the Japanese army. If you’re curious to see where this Western gunslinging plot takes our heroes, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Song of the Bandits.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!
Song of the Bandits Recap
Haunted by the events that took place in Gurye, decorated soldier Lee-yoon continues to drown his sorrows in alcohol until news of Choi Chung-soo’s whereabouts pulls him out of his stupor. Despite his former master and friend, Lee Kwang-il, a Japanese Army Major’s protests, Lee-yoon leaves Gyeongseong and travels to Gando, where his friend, Seon-bok, helps him journey into the mountains to the Taepyeong-dong village. At the village, Lee-yoon crosses paths with Eon Nyeon-i, a young woman who pretends to be a meek girl but is actually an assassin out to get Lee-yoon.
Nevertheless, after learning about Lee-yoon’s unfinished business with Chung-soo, Nyeon-i uncharacteristically spares his life, allowing him to have his death delivered by the other man. Chung-soo, a former righteous soldier, lost his family after his village, Gurye, was burnt down by Japanese forces. Worse yet, Lee-yoon, a Joseon soldier fighting for the Japanese army, led the armies to the village’s doorsteps. As such, Lee-yoon believes he deserves to die at Chung-soo’s hands. However, after a violent gang war breaks out between Chung-soo and a rival, Chung-soo concludes that Lee-yoon should have to live out his days living with his guilt.
Furthermore, Chung-soo urges Lee-yoon to dedicate his life to a meaningful fight for protection for his fellow countrymen. As a result, the duo form a lethal bandit group made up of people who, like themselves, have nothing left to lose. Among their gang are ace marksman Kang San-gun, agile, nimble Choraeng-yi, and powerhouse warrior Geumsu. In the five years since their inception, the bandits gained a reputation as a deadly group of the Orangkae Pass.
Meanwhile, in Gyeongseong, Kwang-il’s betrothed, Nam Hee-shin, works as an undercover freedom fighter and plots a robbery of the railroad construction fund, being transported to Gando in a few days. With a plan in place, Hee-shin travels to Gando as the general manager with hired hand Nyeon-i in tow. At the town, rumors spread of the construction fund, bearing 200k won, prompting others, including Lee-yoon’s gang, to plan their own robberies of the transport truck.
Ultimately, Lee-yoon, alongside Jang Ki-ryong, Gando’s deadliest bandit, makes a play for the money only for Nyeon-i to outsmart them both and emerge with the prize. Nonetheless, Kwang-il becomes privy to the insurgents’ plan and starts hunting the illusive carrier, unaware that the latter is his own fiance. Although Lee-yoon tries to kill Hee-shin due to her government position, he decides to help her in her quest to deliver the money to Independence fighters after learning about her cause.
Simultaneously, Kwang-il, who hired Nyeon-i to kill Lee-yoon, discovers the other man is still alive, forcing the woman to finish the job. Although Hee-shin succeeds in her mission, Kwang-il’s pursuit of the robbed funds leads to a massive battle in Gando between his unit, the bandits, Ki-ryong, and the local police. In the end, Lee-yoon and his gang, of which Nyeon-i has become a reluctant member, come out on top. Still, Hee-shin— back in her life as an undercover government worker, learns something menacing remains in store for Gando’s future.
Song of The Bandits: Does The Japanese Army Attack Gando?
After Hee-shin successfully transfers the funds to Independence fighters, she returns to Gyeongseong to continue her double agent role. Likewise, due to his failed battle against Lee-yoon that cost him half his hand, Kwang-il returns home on probation, having failed in his own mission. Although Hee-shin knows that her fiance has spent the last few days trying to hunt her down, the latter still remains unaware that Hee-shin was the carrier. As a result, he keeps his guard down around the undercover insurgent, leading her to find out about The Decimation Campaign.
Given Gando’s unique standing as a land owned by the Chinese, funded by the Japanese, and populated with Joseon people, the town has complicated political implications. Since the land belongs to the Chinese, Japanese forces cannot enforce their own policing in the Manchuria area. Yet, the government wishes to exert more control on Gando due to the recent hike in rebellious activity. As such, Kwang-il’s superior, Kawaguchi, schemes to overpass this restriction.
Ki-ryong, a Japanese bandit, remains one of the most feared gangsters in the town, with too much power over the authorities because of his contribution to stifling Independence fighters. Therefore, he presents the perfect piece in Kawaguchi’s game. At the army man’s behest, Ki-ryong and his men attack the Japanese consulate force in Gando, granting Kawaguchi the opportunity to deploy his army on the Manchuria land. Since Japanese blood has spilled, the Chinese authorities must grant Kawaguchi his wish in the name of justice.
Once Japan secured his army in Gando, they put the Decimation Campaign in motion, wherein the Japanese soldiers would be free to kill any person of Joseon origin whom they deemed seditious, i.e., involved in rebellious activity. The plan will afford the Japanese an excuse to lay waste to Gando and its people akin to what they did to Gurye.
Once Hee-shin learns about this plan, she informs one of the Independance fighters about the same. Although the fighter seems reluctant to turn his minimal, struggling army to the town, he warns Lee-yoon about it after seeing him in Gyeongseong. The story comes to an end with the Japanese forces on their way to invade Gando. However, on their way, they must face off against Chung-soo and his bandits while Lee-yoon rides into town.
The show ends on an open, ambiguous ending, showcasing the never-ending struggle of the Joseon people during the early 1900s. Lee-yoon and the others spend the plot’s bulk trying to provide aid to the north-route Joseon insurgents, ensuring they can live to fight another day. Even though they succeed in the task, they meet a bitter end when their own friends and family come under threat due to their rebellion. The ending leaves a prominent message about the relentless necessity of resistance in the face of oppression despite its sacrificial nature.
Do Lee-yoon And Hee-shin End Up Together?
The show maintains a focus on its action-driven historical plot, highlighting the political and social standing of the Korean/Joseon people following the Japan-Korea treaty. Still, a romantic subplot revolving around protagonist Lee-yoon’s relationship with Hee-shin persists. Although Hee-shin’s introduction to the plot comes in the form of her engagement with Kwang-il, the viewers soon realize that her relationship with the army Major is only a ruse.
As such, when Lee-yoon’s feelings come out in the open, it’s easy to root for the couple to find their way to each other. Lee-yoon first met Hee-shin when they were both kids. Although the pair are barely acquaintances, Lee-yoon’s momentary interactions with Hee-shin leave significant impressions on him. Therefore, even though Hee-shin fails to recognize him from their brief interactions and one particular run-in, where Lee-yoon hid her from the authorities, Lee-yoon remembers Hee-shin and does his best to keep her safe.
Due to this connection, Lee-yoon also continues to stay by Hee-shin’s side in her mission. Eventually, after numerous shootouts, gang wars, and chases, Lee-yoon safely escorts Hee-shin to the Independance fighters. Consequently, as the time arrives for the two to bid their goodbyes, Hee-shin asks Lee-yoon for his name again since the man has been adamant about keeping it a secret. Lee-yoon knows Hee-shin doesn’t recognize him and doesn’t wish to remind her of their past.
Nonetheless, as Lee-yoon is faced with a farewell, he falters and lays out all his cards, kissing Hee-shin before sharing his name. As a result, Hee-shin remembers all their past interactions, wherein she showed Lee-yoon kindness, and he saved her life. The couple have come a long way from Lee-yoon’s admiration of her and have developed real feelings for each other. Therefore, they promise to meet again before Hee-shin leaves for Gyeongseong. Afterward, Lee-yoon travels to Gyeongseong in hopes of running into Hee-shin.
However, by then, Hee-shin had learned about the Decimation Campaign thanks to Kwang-il’s trust in her. The incident reminds Hee-shin that her continued relationship with Kwang-il will benefit the resistance movement in the long run. Due to her moral code, Hee-shin refuses to put her personal emotions before her nation’s fight for freedom. Therefore, when she notices Lee-yoon in town, she turns a blind eye, allowing him to return empty-handed.
Similarly, after Lee-yoon’s conversation with the Independence fighter, where he learns about the Japanese army attack on Gando, he also realizes he can’t care about his personal happiness at such a time. Consequently, even though Lee-yoon catches Hee-shin at the train station, where she arrives to find him in a moment of weakness, he denies himself and her their happy ending and worldlessly boards the train to Gando. The star-crossed lovers remain without reunion.
Near the end, Kwang-il also figures out the role her fiance played in the railroad fund theft, which led to his career’s downfall. Although he beats himself up for being so blinded by his affection that he fails to see the truth in front of him, Kwang-il decides to keep the information to himself without reporting Hee-shin to the authorities. Ultimately, Kwang-il marries Hee-shin, with both individuals keeping their secrets from the other.