The box for this set tells us that the figures are intended for the 16th and 17th centuries, a period that for Korea began with many years of relative peace (thanks to warm relations with neighbouring Ming China) and ended with a similar arrangement, although the new ‘elder brothers’ were now Manchus. In between there were numerous piratical raids to deal with, as well as invasions by the Manchus and, most importantly, the Japanese (1592 and 1597). Given the other sets produced by RedBox it is the Japanese invasions that are likely to be the main focus for these figures – the most turbulent and destructive war of the period.
16th century Korea did not have a large standing army, relying instead mostly on conscripted peasants called out as the need arose. As a result a very large part of any Korean army was made up of poorly armed and clothed troops who lacked much in training and experience, and these troops have already been depicted by RedBox in their Korean Infantry set. The heavy infantry pictured above would have been small in number and would have included such units as the royal bodyguard. However their costume is much the same as the officers of the main army, which certainly helps to expand the usefulness of this set.
Korean military thinking was heavily influenced by China, and these figures demonstrate that well. They wear a heavy coat studded with rivets that would usually have held small plates of armour inside, giving them more protection than was apparent. Their multi-sectioned helmets with three curtains covering the neck are also very Chinese in style. Weaponry includes much the same weapons as used by the rest of the army – swords, spears, polearms, bows and tridents – and everything is in order here. Clearly those with swords would serve well as officers for the ordinary infantry too.
The poses are not bad, although those using the longer weapons are fairly awkward. Nonetheless these are not nearly as flat as some previous RedBox figures, and there is a good deal of action about them. The variety of weapons are well chosen and the first figure in the top row makes a great guardsman.
Past RedBox figures have not been amongst the better sculpted figures on the market today, with ill-defined detail and lots of flash. These Korean figures certainly have plenty of flash, at least in some places such as between the legs, but the standard of sculpting is surprisingly good. All the detail is quite sharp and the rivets have all been carefully done to really show up well. Faces too are very nice, so this is about the best product this company has yet produced. There is no assembly required, but there is a lack of excess plastic thanks mainly to the cumbersome poses of those who might otherwise have had some.
With these attractive soldiers RedBox have taken a small step forward in the quality of their products. They still need to improve the posture of their men, and certainly much remains to do in terms of eliminating all that flash, but it is nice to report some improvement which makes these figures very usable and certainly a welcome addition to the range.