Well, technically it still is. But there’s more to it than your average low budget knockoff.
Thanks to the pandemic, most of us were stuck at home and are doing everything to keep our sanities in check. For me, it’s basically skipping anything local and consuming more Korean content or media. I said ‘more’ because I’m not really new to watching Korean shows. In fact, I got to visit South Korea first before Japan, so I have some level of familiarity with their culture. Believe it or not, part of this culture is a beloved super robot Korean children look up to. A symbol of strength and hope. And this symbol totally looks like Mazinger Z.
Yes, I’m talking about Taekwon V.
Japanese super robot Mazinger Z was quite popular in South Korea at the time. Taekwon V creator Kim Cheong-gi wanted to create a hero for Korean childred and openly admits to taking a lot of design cues from Mazinger Z when he did Taekwon V. He also had the characters, and the robot itself, perform Taekwondo moves to reinforce ties to Korean culture. 1976 saw the release of Robot Taekwon V and like its Japanese contemporaries, the story is pretty basic.
Dr. Kaff, an evil scientist bent on world domination, creates an army of giant robots to kidnap world-class athletes and conquer the world. To fight off this attack, Dr. Kim creates Robot Taekwon V. Kim Hoon, the Taekwondo champion and the eldest son of Dr. Kim, pilots Robot Taekwon V either mechanically or through his physical power by merging his Taekwondo movements with the robot.
Despite the movie being really old, like 45 years old, it has been remastered back in 2005 as part of a restoration project by the Korean Film Council that costed around 1 billion KR₩ (roughly US$ 880,000 at the time). Robot Taekwon V became the first Korean movie to receive full digital restoration treatment. If this little history catches your curiosity for some reason, then you can check out the complete movie below.
Since the original 1976 film, several sequels have been made which were also… inspired by other Japanese robots. Super Taekwon V came out in 1982, with the titular robot design based on Xabungle; while 1984’s 84 Taekwon V was a refinement of the Super Taekwon V design. The last movie in the franchise was Robot Taekwon V-90, released in 1990.
Along with the movie’s digital restoration came a resurgence of appreciation for Taekwon V. They even held “The Taekwon V Experience” exhibit in 2016 which gave older fans quite the nostalgia treatment and also introduced younger children to the Korean robot hero.
This resurgence also led to new merchandise. In 2020, a new Taekwon V model kit based on the 1976 design was released by Onhobby as part of their Memories Model Collection. It’s at 1/280 scale which stands at around 20 cm and promises a great building experience. It’s not Bandai Spirits level of engineering but it’s very much a modern snap fit model kit with great parts separation and good articulation.
5Pro Studio, the same company that does the Carbotix line of high-end transforming robot figures, has also produced several high-end Taekwon V figures. They are fixed pose statues but still looks great thanks to the classic proportions, glossy metallic finish, and LED light up gimmicks.
But what got me really interested is their one-off collaboration with Toys-R-Us Korea to produce a Soul of Chogokin-esque figure of Taekwon V. And you probably know where I’m going with this.
Yes, though a South Korea-based middleman service, I got myself a copy of the TRU Metal Robot Taekwon V, originally released in 2018 at limited quantities. Which means I had to search Coupang, their version of Amazon, and pay after-market prices plus middleman services to get this guy. Because of this, I am immediately pulling it in as the next figure I’ll do a CATALOGUE Entry.