Tag Archive | Chae Ohk

Why I prefer Ye Soya and Buyoung over Soseono, Eun Go over Choyeong, and Yihwa over Jiwoo

🙂 updated 16th April 2014 ❤

(…still pending further editing and illustrations upload… The author of this essay is very grateful to all sites that have made available in the net all the illustrations shown here.)

Maybe it’s just me. There could be others like me out there who sometimes don’t go along with the crowd. I am seriously meditating on how to talk about the similarity between Kiha and Eun Go, both bad girls, but also wronged by circumstances. Both are characters of serious depth that the producers/writers have to ruin because of necessity. Kiha is simply superb though rationally I go with Sujini. Equally irrationally I go with Eun Go, all the way. I guess it’s not the fundamentalist-morals that I’m looking at here. That’s why I choose Yihwa, too. There’s got to be some X-factor, and I want to try hard to get my hands on it. If I can. I’ll try my best to be coherent.

The dramas mentioned here are primarily these three: Jumong, Gye Baek, Freeze. Though there are illustrations I hope they’re not spoilers—I don’t have summaries here. Then, in passing there’s, some more, some minimal: Dongyi, Yisan, Return of the Condor Heroes 2006, Damo, Kingdom of the Winds, Jang Geum, Crime Squad (Detectives in Trouble), The Legend (Taewang Sasingi), Mandate of Heaven (The Fugitive of Joseon), one very precious movie of 1997, Gattaca, and a couple of unforgettable series, The Thorn Birds and Highlander.

I must confess, though, that I have not seen that much Korean dramas. I watched what I already have only because of the actors/actresses appearing in them, and I don’t have a lot on my list. As a rule I find dramas emotionally exhausting to engage in. It so happens that there are characters that can cause me to engage more with life, even with the weighing of values, and these characters I do treasure. I believe that the soul of collective humanity can be discerned in the mass media, like a sort of a gauge. This essay isn’t that serious, though. This is just an indulgence.

A favorite character Chae Ohk I can’t include in the billing here because she doesn’t have a rival in her story. Same with Miss Long, the famous gugu who doesn’t age—the many girls surrounding Guo’er can’t really compete with her. As to Yeon, well, I like the character Hye Ap better. Much much better. And who would seriously want to rival with Jo Minjoo? She doesn’t care about such things. She doesn’t even know much about falling in love (as Sae Hyuk points out to her). She simply suspects she’s sick of some mysterious ailment.

Pictures zoom in when clicked on. A million thanks to the makers of these dramas. Here we go.

The King of Goguryeo, Jumong, and the queen, Soseono

The King of Goguryeo, Jumong, and the queen, Soseono

Soseono is Jumong’s number 1 supporter. She was never aggressive towards either Buyoung or Soya. She’s filial, pretty, smart, pro-active, generous, loyal to, and loves, Jumong, very much. The sacrifices she made for Jumong cannot be quantified. But somehow I find myself happier for Jumong when he had Buyoung with him, and then Soya later. For me Soseono has a flavor of just another Jumong but in female form, a character who manages to accomplish magnificent feats by will, someone who must be projected as larger than life on screen.

"Best friends" Eun Go and Queen Sa Taek chatting.

“Best friends” Eun Go and Queen Sa Taek chatting.

Eun Go, similar to Soseono, is filial, pretty, smart, pro-active, generous, loyal to, and loves, Gye Baek, very much. The sacrifices she made for Gye Baek cannot be quantified. Eun Go and Soseono are both rich merchants in their own right, with families influential to the crown. On the other hand, Choyeong is similar to Buyoung. They are both without riches, power and influence. They’re both commoners, servant/slave in fact. But since I side with Buyoung rather than Soseono, and with Eun Go rather than Choyeong, then it’s not the social standing that I’m looking at.

Jumong catches up with Buyoung after missing her for a year.

Jumong catches up with Buyoung after missing her for almost a year, he says.

However, Jumong really pursued Buyoung. Whereas, Gye Baek gave personal attention to Choyeong only at the remaining 6 episodes of the series. It seems like Choyeong had to be kept in the series so that Gye Baek will have a respectable wife at the end of the story. Just like Wootae had to be there so that there’d be an acceptable husband for Soseono. This shows that Eun Go did not really need a female bodyguard, just like Soseono didn’t. If history hadn’t called for a wife for Gye Baek then Choyeong’s role is dispensable. The same with Wootae, as history calls for Soseono to marry someone before Jumong and she must have two sons by him. The difference between Choyeong and Wootae, however, is that early on in the story Wootae was already a bulwark to Soseono, a silent devotee. Like Seongyon’s Daesu, Da-in’s Domun, and Dongyi’s Orabeoni. Choyeong, on the other hand, just seemed to be there to provide a contrast to Eun Go’s regal demeanor.

If Soseono was pressured into leaving Jumong’s side, so was Eun Go. Both needed to survive. Granting that Soseono did not know that Jumong did not die and that marrying Wootae a.s.a.p. was the only solution. Granting that Eun Go had to choose, between staying alive — or die but remaining as Gye Baek’s. Soseono was initially sarcastic to Jumong. So was Eun Go to Gye Baek. When Jumong met her he was in the role of a good-for-nothing jerk. When Gye Baek met her he was the son of a drunkard. My preference, therefore, does not lie in these factors.

Jumong happy to get Buyoung

Jumong and Buyoung. It could have been them.

I think it’s the factor of emotions coming from Jumong and Gye Baek whenever they direct them to Buyoung, Ye Soya, and Eun Go that caused me to prefer them over Soseono and Choyeong. jumong presents buyoung to the threeIt’s comparable to how Dam Duk treats Sujini. The viewer somehow knows that Dam Duk wants Sujini there, with him, in that scene. Like, it’s always clear to the viewer that regardless of Hwangbo Yoon’s mood at the moment his main concern is Chae Ohk’s welfare. Even Officer Park Sae Hyuk’s treatment of Jo Minjoo is (more) exciting despite that he is almost always care-less of her, and with a dynamite of an ex-wife-still-in-love-with-him to boot. Jumong makes everyone happyI have the impresson that Jumong’s bland treatment of Soseono after their marriage is comparable to Gye Baek’s of Choyeong. Jumong values her but there’s a space surrounding him that she’s not allowed to enter. He keeps hoping that Ye Soya is still alive. Gye Baek values her because she’s there for him after Eun Go, has given him precious children, but she’s more like a friend than an inspiration.

Gye Baek has invested so much of his self with Eun Go. His investment in her is almost the same as Yoon’s in Ohk—it’s a lifetime’s investment and this kind doesn’t simply get blown off by the wind. It has roots. Although, Jumong’s in Soseono’s seems to be greater than in Soya’s, but a mere sense-of-duty shouldn’t have been able to sustain 18 years of painful hoping. Soya, after all, is Yuri’s mother. Though not as great as being a co-founder of Goguryeo as Soseono is, Ye Soya had no preparation whatsoever for the life she had to lead after leaving her village plus after marrying Jumong plus after escaping from the palace. She did not have the safety nets Soseono had but still she had to bring up the king’s firstborn, Yeohwa’s and the great Haemosu’s only grandchild.

Of course it was all bliss between Jumong and Soseono before Soya came into his life. They were an ideal couple. But did Jumong suddenly just up and killed his feelings for Soseono when she married Wootae? However, they eventually got married, too. That was opportunity enough for reviving the feelings. But these feelings that should have been revived between ex-lovers that got married anyway were referred to only at Soseono’s departure-meeting with Jumong, when she told him of her decision to uproot her clan and settle somewhere else away from his kingdom. That’s the only affectionate scene between them in their 15 years of marriage. There were no affectionate expressions anymore involving Jumong and Soseono in between the events of his mother’s death plus loss-of-Soya-Yuri up to the coming back of these two in his life. It’s as if Soseono is just there because she’s the deserving queen of the new kingdom, and that a heartfelt scene from Jumong had to be presented at her departure to justify that Soseono is billed as the main romantic interest of the hero in this drama series.

There was more engagement on Jumong’s part at that time Buyoung was still with him, even at the period overlapping with Soseono’s presence. He was a funny dork in his pursuit of Buyoung at the time when she was a temple acolyte. Buyoung, though having severely suffered because of him, still treated his fatal wound. Buyoung was his intermediary between his hide-out and the world-out-there during the time he was with Haemosu. Even though he was stripped of his princely status, thus left helpless in the dangerous world outside the palace, he still exerted his best for Buyoung’s redemption from slavery. That meant being patient, daily risking Buyoung’s safety, and saving up a huge sum through his own sweat. When he was kicked out of his comfortable world, seemingly abandoned even by his mother, it was Buyoung who constantly reminded him that he is a prince of Buyeo, someone with worth. So she prods him to take care of himself. She had nothing but she did not grasp at the chance to have an easier life with Ohyi. There was only Jumong for her. In fairness, when Buyoung was in danger Jumong went ballistic and thankfully succeeded in rescuing her, finally redeeming himself in everyone’s eyes over the matter with Buyoung, whom the series had to discard in preparation for the places Soseono and Soya had to take in the storyline.

Buyoung’s value lies in that she is the fulcrum on which the brotherhood Jumong-Mari-Ohyi-Hyeopbo solidified. These three became witnesses to Jumong’s personal journey from Buyoung to Soseono to Yesoya to Yuri. Also, the problem involving Buyoung was Jumong’s baptism into how to fight for survival in the political arena involving the two other princes. Prince Youngpo, who knows about her connection to Jumong, got her kidnapped a second time, to use her against Jumong in the race for the crown. The character Buyoung was taken out from the series at the 23rd episode. In preparation for that, Jumong frees her then from the burden of guilt by confiding in her that he’s really at the crossroads, what with his recent discovery of his true parentage and the responsibility he does not feel equal to, and so she’s not to be blamed at all. Buyoung resolves everything by leaving, refusing Ohyi’s offer, and providing a perspective as to why Ohyi remained unmarried till the end.

12. Jumong traces Buyoung and goes to get her, alone

Jumong traces Buyoung and goes to get her

13. Jumong singlehandedly rescues Buyoung

Jumong singlehandedly rescues Buyoung

14. Jumong takes away Buyoung

Buyoung is safe for now

15. Jumong takes away Buyoung..

Success for now

16. Jumong has Buyoung

The prince rescues the slave

17. jumong surprises the three

Jumong surprises the three

18. Jumong happy to get Buyoung for all

Simply relieved and happy, Buyoung with Jumong

19. Jumong asks forgiveness for jeopardizing everyone

Jumong asks forgiveness for jeopardizing their brotherhood

20. Jumong and the sworn brothers make Buyoung happy

Precious Buyoung-rescue effect: brotherhood solidified

12. Buyoung was a pawn in the power struggle

Buyoung was a pawn in the power struggle.

13. Start of Younpo_s series of machinations _Ep_23

Youngpo’s evilness emerges. Ep.23.

14. Jumong_s reaction.

Jumong is on his way to mastering self control.

15. Youngpo gauding Jumong. Ep_23

Youngpo underestimates Jumong.

16. The value of Buyoung.

The value of Buyoung.

17. Heopbo again articulates their feelings.

Hyeopbo again articulates their feelings.

18. The self-effacing Buyoung caught in the chaos.

The self-effacing Buyoung caught in the chaos.

19. Of course Buyoung would rather sacrifice herself.

Of course Buyoung would rather sacrifice herself.

20. Soseono is jealous that Jumong withdraws from the competition because of Buyoung.

Jealous Soseono learning why Jumong withdrew.

21. Buyoung is freed.

Buyoung is indeed freed.

22. Buyoung is freed.

Disbelief at Jumong’s capitulation.

23. Jumong caught in the trap.

Jumong was caught in the trap.

24. Jumong and the guys caught in the trap.

Buyoung was not the only factor, though.

25. Heopbo articulates their feelings. Again.

Frustrating for everyone nonetheless.

26. Of course Buyoung would rather sacrifice herself. _1

Buyoung’s heavy burden.

27. Soseono overhears the 4s conversation.

Soseono overhears the four.

28. The self-effacing Buyoung.

Buyoung owns up to responsibility.

29. Jumong ever nice to Buyoung.

Jumong is ever nice to Buyoung.

30. Jumong ever nice to Buyoung.

Jumong frees Buyoung of guilt.

31. Ohyi proposes to Buyoung.

Ohyi proposes to Buyoung.

32. All in favor of Ohyi and Buyoung.

All are in favor of Ohyi for Buyoung.

33. Buyoung says goodbye to the series with a letter for Jumong, which he reads in sight of everyone.

Buyoung says goodbye with a letter for Jumong, which he reads here.

34. Buyoung is not allowed to love Jumong.

Buyoung is not allowed to love Jumong in the first place. Chincha.

35. Buyoung resolves her part of the story.

Buyoung resolves her part of the story by leaving.

 

Jumong  embraces  Buyoung_ep_11

Jumong and Buyoung. Ep-11.

Jumong embraces Buyoung_ep_11

Jumong kisses Buyoung’s forehead.

Jumong Buyoung under the open sky_ep_11

Jumong hugs Buyoung under the open sky.

Last glimpse of Buyoung_ep_23

Buyoung wishes Jumong farewell as she and her siblings walk away, along the mountain path

For me three of among the most touching scenes in Jumong were when he hugged Buyoung under the open sky, when the ‘brothers’ knelt together in a covenant after Buyoung’s first rescue, and in her last scene where she turned around on the mountain path to silently say goodbye to Jumong for ever. She is among my favorite characters and this little discussion on her is a tribute.

Of course Soseono got Haemosu’s ring, the one Yeohwa gave to Jumong. That’s very symbolic, like Seongyon inheriting Dongyi’s ring through Geum before he died. Of course Soseono got to save Jumong’s life, fishing him out of the quicksand with the help of Wootae. That establishes a very strong connection between him and her. Soseono stakes her reputation and her business in her support of the fledgeling Jumong. She hands out her wealth to make a grand palace for him. Soseono goes to battle side by side with him. She supplies Jumong’s battle needs. She decimates assassins for him. She even banishes her relatives for him. She welcomes and protects Yuri and Ye Soya on their return to Jumong. She is never the capricious queen. She metes out justice and does not permit those closest to her to play out on power. She protects her sons from going over to the dark side. She can govern in place of Jumong. She is almost perfect.

Jumong’s and Ye Soya’s meeting was also “magical”, to borrow King Sukjong’s description of his first meeting with Dongyi and then with Geum — in the sense that it was similar to his parents’ meeting. Jumong and Haemosu were severely wounded unknowns and were treated back to life by pretty clan-chief daughters who live beside the river. But although this treating-back-to-life theme is romantic it didn’t  endear Yeon at all to me for Muhyul. Instead, I felt that it’s Deojin and Yeon who should have been together — that scene where Yeon was sitting weak and still in prison and Deojin could only bottle up his anguish at the sight, while Park Wan-kyu’s For As Long As I Live starts to play softly, was really as touching as could be and made me embrace Deojin the way I embraced Kiha.

That Jumong and Soya were “fated” to be together as seen in how their meeting mirrored that of Haemosu and Yeohwa is again seen when images of escaping Yeohwa-with-baby-Jumong were flashed during escaping Soya-with-baby-Yuri. Although Jumong was definitely “going home” to Soseono, after being wounded in battle and abandoned to be swept away by the river, but now his buddies having searched for and saved him, and Soya as well, there was no instance where he neglects Soya. It’s heartwarming how he repeatedly rescues her against that very aggressive traitor orabeoni. It’s heartwarming how he introduces her to his mother. It’s heartwarming how Yeohwa welcomes Soya with understanding and enthusiasm—and she does not compare her with Soseono at all. It’s heartwarming how the king appreciates her and thinks fondly of her father. It’s like making it clear for all to see right from the start that Soya and Jumong are together. All interactions between them, from the first to the last, are harmonious, peaceful.

Jumong is visibly at rest and at home with Ye Soya—he made her a part of him and refused to sever their tie from the first day they met until he found her again. This is absolutely not the case with Choyeong and Gye Baek. He was indifferent to her until the time that the series had to marry them off. Choyeong was extremely rude to him and was disproportionately envious of his and Eun Go’s bond—hardly a respecting-the-person-Gye-Baek foundation material. Even the muddled Jo Minjoo gave this respecting-the-person to the more muddled Sae Hyuk the first time they crossed paths, when he crossed the road at the wrong time.

When Gye Baek had to be exiled off with Choyeong and the rest of the gang the series informed us of Eun Go’s “permission”. She accidentally overhears Choyeong’s confession of love to Gye Baek and so she “has to let him go”, towards a life without her. That’s why it was a relief for me when it wasn’t only Choyeong’s face present at Gye Baek’s last breath—more importantly his children were there. Children are representatives of “new life” and I had to give that to Gye Baek after he “died” when he lost Eun Go. The poor puppy of a victimized clean-hearted general has to be made to smile at his final scene. It is a must.

Although the buddies empathized with Soseono at Jumong’s marriage to Soya, they had nothing against the marriage itself. Daeso and Seolran were malicious in suggesting it, to hurt both Soseono and Jumong, but it served to “settle” the ex-couple, that eventually became a ‘couple’ again. Soseono becomes a good wife to Wootae the valiant, a good mother to their two sons, and a strong clan leader. Jumong devotes himself to Goguryeo, to his parents’ dream, and to reclaiming his family. With these being settled Jumong and Soseono became partners for the mutual benefit of their constituents. Their partnership was now on the business side and it showed thoughout the series. On the positve side of it, none can say that Soseono was unfaithful to Wootae nor that Jumong was unfaithful to Soya, even until the three boys have finally grown up. When Soseono was gently breaking the news to her two boys over Yuri’s sudden appearance, the three’s affection for Wootae was clearly put across in the dialogue. Soseono reminds them that their father gave them their names, Biryu and Onjo, and so they must live up to their parents’ wish for them, to be generous and welcoming.

It’s as if Wootae was to Soseono as Choyeong was to Gye Baek—second choice spouses with children to cement the connection. But even seen from this angle Wootae’s character still has much more substance than Choyeong’s. Wootae was a pillar to Soseono and I cried with Soseono when he died. Gye Baek’s future wife, on the other hand, could might as well have been anyone he met during his exile, just so the series could provide a family for him to… well… we already know what to, at the ending…

When Jumong was parted from Soya the hope of having her by his side again did not leave him. His constant passionate partner in this hope is Ohyi, the brother-friend who was the most mad at him over Buyoung. In fact, Ohyi later got to slap Daeso’s wife for her treatment of Soya at the palace. The hope intensified at Soya’s pregnancy, and then at Yuri’s birth. Perhaps this hope has the foundation on Haemosu’s instruction for him to not fail to protect “the one by his side”—which for Haemosu was Yeohwa, and now for Jumong it means the three: mother, wife, and child. That scene where Soya reads Jumong’s letter for Yeohwa and her is among the sweetest expressions of love I have come across.

It is these scenes, minuscule as they are, that solidifies my stand that Soya was not only there to serve as a mother for Yuri. Jumong felt more than duty towards Ye Soya. She healed him of his broken heart. She, in turn, didn’t feel insecure over the partnership of Jumong and Soseono. She gives to him whatever it takes for her to support his dream—for his parents and for the people—and this is her strength, that she gives even though she has nothing herself, and does not ask for anything in return. Yeohwa successfully transferred her strong will to her, to survive, but unlike Yeohwa she had nothing and no one to lean on to. Her only purpose for living was to bide for the right time to bring Yuri to Jumong.

Hyeopbo said the pain of losing mother and son has never left Jumong for one day.  There were no more affectionate scenes between Soseono and Jumong after she got married to Wootae, that is, when Ye Soya appeared in the series. Sure, Jumong never abandoned his support for Soseono (and it’s heartwarming how he and Wootae appeared to be “friends”, never rivals), but it always had the flavor of “business”. Whereas with Soya and Yuri, even after his mother was gone, it was always deep-seated feelings, one that Soseono isn’t allowed to share. Jumong’s angst over his beloved three is shared only with his brother-friends: Mopalmo, Musong, Ohyi, Mari, Hyeopbo. There was that sweet scene among them drinking at a feast table, together with the later three Jaesa-Moogul-Mukguh, where Jumong was teased about being happy to see Soya again. Ah, that gave me a high. Then following that scene we are shown that Jumong sleeps at Soya’s chamber, like regular husband and wife and not monarchs who sleep separately, with Jumong mulling over a crucial decision over leaving Buyeo for ever while from time to time glancing at his peacefully sleeping pregnant puyin (wife).

Soseono may have loved Wootae the way Jumong loved Soya, but here’s the argument: Jumong did not transfer to Soseono the place he reserved for Soya in his heart even after he and Soseono got married, even after everyone else believed that his first wife and son are dead. He may have continued to love Soseono but she was not allowed to enter the home in his heart where Soya and Yuri are. Soseono was not able to take over that home in the same way that I suspect Choyeong wasn’t able to take over Eun Go — Gye Baek simply had to come to her prison cell and give her encouragement as he was about to go into battle. Despite everything that happened Gye Baek does not abandon Eun Go in the end. Eun Go did not deserve this faithfulness from him the way Chae Ohk deserved it from Hwangbo Yoon. As he himself said it to her, her sin is unforgiveable. Yet he stood by her side. Chae Ohk, on the other hand, got it relatively easier with Yoon.

It was horrific how Seolran, Daeso’s wife, treated the pregnant Soya. It was magnificent how both mother and child survived that treatment. It was magnificent how the pampered clan-chief’s-daughter Soya managed to rear a Yuri up worthy of a Jumong-son. It’s anti-climactic how Soya and Jumong across the crowd locked eyes for the briefest moment, during the contest-fight of Yuri and Biryu, and then she had to disappear fast — just because she does not want to give him problems. Still, he searched for her. It’s painful how he and Ohyi just didn’t give up on the search until Yuri was 18 years old. Sure Soseono gave so much to Jumong, but she was never alone in it. She had her clan, her family, her wealth, her self-confidence, her brains. Soya had only the innocent Yuri and nothing else. They did not have a safe place to stay, were always in hiding. Soya’s health just kept on worsening. They were ostracized because Yuri had no father to speak of to the world. The only treasures that Soya can give to Yuri were love, an upright upbringing, and literacy.

The most intense emotions coming out of Jumong’s face in the entire series were in these scenes: his first meeting with Yuri, finding Soya again, and witnessing the blacksmiths’ quarters burn while thinking that Yuri was inside. Seeing how Song Il Gook does not tend to over-react, these three scenes are not superfluous. These events deserve such emotions from Jumong. Soseono cried for Wootae but Jumong sobbed his heart out for Ye Soya and Yuri.

Granting, Jumong was really in pain over Soseono’s departure. That was intense, too. Still, it was because she chose to go. She could have stayed. King Sukjong had 3 wives all at once. Yisan had 3 also. Everyone in the kingdom wanted her to stay — and Soya has told her in their touching conversation that she will gladly depart from the palace once she gets strong enough. However, Soseono chose to be a mother first before being a queen. As I said, she’s almost perfect. It would break her heart to see her son Biryu wrestling over the crown with Yuri, whom Jumong clearly favors. However, Jumong has flatly stated to her that he wants Soya to stay with him for keeps. Meaning, keeping Soya with him was a priority. Soseono’s planned departure had no leverage on his giving up on how to treat Soya in the palace. He found her again and he intends to take care of her, as he should have always been doing, and as payback for the years she had to sacrifice herself, and Yuri’s childhood, for his and Soseono’s sakes.

Maybe it’s this constancy of intentions between Jumong and Ye Soya that makes them endearing to me. On the other hand, there was a time when Soseono was calculating her choices, between Daeso and Jumong. Sujini was money-greedy, yes, but her attachment to Dam Duk was without calculations even after he ridicules her and even after she discovers that he’s the prince, and then long after that until she decides to get as far away from him as possible. Chae Ohk and Hwangbo Yoon fought out their commitments to each other until the very end, amidst navigations along totally blind alleys. Yoon and Ohk momentarily let go of the reigns but they got right on back again — they simply couldn’t abandon each other. Whereas, Jumong and Soseono started out with calculating profits in mind and ended up with a political partnership, with just a bland friendship to show after the initial closeness.

Eun Go and Gye Baek, on the other hand, still managed to hug until the 29th episode — a military general doesn’t hug the queen unless he’s sure that it’s the right thing to do, which tells the viewers that in 29 out of the 36 episodes the bond between GyeBaek and Eun Go has remained. Until the very end there is only Gye Baek for Eun Go, a fact she made clear to him at their last conversation in the series, where she tells him that he’s the source of both her joy and her pain. Ui Ja did not come close to this — in fact she came to hate him. Gye Baek, too, has also told him that he will never forget how he separated, snatched away, Eun Go from from him, and that he refrained from revenge for the sake of Baekje.

If Eun Go had indeed “let go” of Gye Baek in the years they were turning into an adults then she could have married Ui Ja long before Gae Baek reappeared in their lives. Ui Ja’s in love with her and princes usually marry at a very young age (though, there’s the issue of the Crown Prince to look at, and I don’t know the mechanics on this, because when Geum was married off — before he was teen-aged at that — it was understood that he’s to live outside the palace as he’s not the crown prince). Eun Go stuck with Ui Ja for the sake of the joint revenge and of cleansing the country of corrupt nobles. When Gye Baek reappeared she’s all bent on protecting him. Ui Ja was with Eun Go in this, but it turned out later that Eun Go had to protect Gye Baek from Ui Ja even.

However, the story distorts: Eun Go exposed Gye Baek to danger when she gave out to Silla information on his battle plans. Whew. This part is very hard for me to accept. Chae Ohk’s and Jang Sung Baek’s saranghae to each other, in the cave, and Yoon’s engagement to Nan Hui, were easier for me to accept than this. In fairness, Eun Go could not forgive her own self for this. Fortunately she did an about-turn (there are so many U-turns in this drama and I haven’t fully pegged them out yet; it actually turns out that her trip to the “other side” was a self-appointed mission to avenge Baekje). She came back to Baekje, to pay out her sins, to give a very valuable information about the enemies’ plans, to give to Ui Ja the responsibility of meting out her death, to make it clear to Gye Baek that she does care more for the people than for her life.

Theirs is an ending sadder than Dam Duk and Kiha’s. Dam Duk got to walk towards Kiha’s direction at least. But still here’s the argument: Choyeong never got the passion that Gye Baek has always shown towards Eun Go. I’m still on my way to counting the number of hugs and handclasps Eun Go and Gye Baek made on the entire series — I think it exceeds those of Gou’er and his gugu-teacher-wife Miss Long’s (Return of the Condor Heroes 2006). Until Choyeong jumped on Ui Ja (and so deverved death) and spoke of her love for Gye Baek on her supposedly death bed, there has always been Eun Go for Gye Baek. It’s not that I’m against girls declaring of their love first — Jo Minjoo did this to Officer Park while dangling from a building (Crime Squad) — it’s just that it seems to turn out like, otoke, Gye Baek with Choyeong and the rest of the gang are exiled together and so it’s quite normal that they end up together. Although, I’m thinking of how come Min Jung Ho didn’t get married at all after his end-of-the-line separation from Jang Geum (maybe there are no girls there where he was exiled?).

As I reasoned out in another post Eun Go and Gae Baek had to be separated because he had to kill his wife (and kids) in the end, and this is not supposed to be Eun Go because she’s supposed to be a powerful political villain — all according to some historical account out there. Notwithstanding, the Gye Baek-Eun Go relationship is a main thread in the series and is intricately woven into Ui Ja’s life. It’s a major factor in this weak king’s decision making. It’s his downfall. He just had to separate Eun Go from Gae Baek, and he succeeded. I lament for my favorite pair. Theirs was not a perfectly magical bond even right at the start. Eun Go’s will is in fact stronger than Sa Taek Bi’s and so the gently-reared Gye Baek is no match for her during arguments. But Eun Go, just by her own volition, willingly lets her heart melt towards Gye Baek and not for the reason that at that time he was already adolescent-crazy over her. She just ups and decides to take care of his needs and supports him in her own way regardless of consequences to her. She simply decided to embrace him despite her adoptive clan’s objections. (I need to check again if General Mu Jin was the major factor in this).

It is endearing to consider that Gye Baek and Eun Go held on to each other despite years of separation (first while yet teen-agers and for ten years, and second for seven years after Eun Go’s survival-marriage to Ui Ja), and despite the distance of their social status. Eun Go is a very rich merchant and the best friend-turned-adopted sister of the queen. Gye Baek grew up with a one-armed drunkard of a father and waits on tables for a living. But Eun Go cooks twice for Gye Baek in the series. She rolls up her sleeves and helps him clean his old house. She launders for him at the stream. What’s big is that she spends her wedding night with him instead of with Ui Ja her husband. Then, even before she knows when she might meet Gye Baek again after years of separation, she makes winter clothing for him and carries it along with her for the chance of handing it over to him — and she was already Ui Ja’s concubine all this time.

At least three times in the series Gye Baek urges Eun Go to run away with him. But Eun Go is always held back by one thing or another. Foremost of this is the thought that once she gives in to Gye Baek he will never have the chance to fulfill his father’s dream, to rid the people of suffering, which is primarily due to the corruption of the powerful nobles. The two hyungnim-advisors, Seong Chung and Heung Su, were subsequently instrumental in showing to him this very point that Eun Go keeps on arguing with him about, that it’s his power as the General Gye Baek that makes things possible for him to accomplish. If Eun Go should be accused of being power hungry, I’d say that she’s not. I’d say that she was honest to Seong Chung when she told him, before she had him killed, that she will become a nun once Prince Hyo her son “ascends the throne”.

Ye Soya and Eun Go were similar in that they were both left to fend for themselves. They had none to depend on. It went on like this for Soya until Jumong found them again. It went on like this for Eun Go until Ui Ja decided to get out from his pretend-coma. But whereas Soya remained the angel, Eun Go went all out and really schemed, lying through her teeth and justifying her crime. Still, she went back to Gye Baek’s side like the way Chae Ohk went back to Hwangbo Yoon’s side. That’s the main point.

Many say that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Dam Duk became indifferent to Kiha (which makes me sympathize with her despite my happiness over the DamDuk-Sujini pair). Eun Go eventually hated Ui Ja, though I’m not happy about the way she shamelessly manipulates him, which incidentally is a strong expression of her indifference to whatever will be the effect on him.  Nevertheless, Ui Ja deserves contempt. But Gye Baek did not become indifferent to nor hated Eun Go. He was about to face an impossible battle but, and despite of Eun Go’s depression, he still goes out of his way and talks gently to her. I find it redemptive how both had the chance to wish the best for each other during that final meeting they had. If history did not insist that Gye Baek had a family it would have been Eun Go’s face he sees with his last breath at the battlefield. If history didn’t insist that Gye Baek has to have a wife, he and Eun Go were almost like Chae Ohk and Yoon — circumstances pry them apart but they keep gravitating back towards each other. Their bond is simply strong, and elastic.

Yihwa and Joongwon, 300 years ago.

Yihwa, Joongwon, 300 years ago.

Aha. This gives me now a concrete line of reasoning for preferring Yihwa over Jiwoo for Joongwon (Freeze). For 300 years Yihwa and he had been together. Why in the first place did he risk his life in rescuing her that first time they met? There must have been something in there between them. It was just Yihwa who knows of the monster in him. If he wanted to end everything so badly then he perfectly knew the very way to do it. It wasn’t a great unknown and could easily be done. Jerome Eugene Morrow did it the neatest way possible (self-immolation, in Gattaca). Yihwa would have already been there, at the other side of life and at rest, had he not interfered. But Joongwon had to brood it out all the while knowing that he has Yihwa to watch over his back. For 300 years this couple had together perfected sophistication that there was nothing left novel about life. Yihwa goes through it carelessly, breaking hearts along the way. Joongwon was dead bored with the material aspect of life that he has become a minimalist. With this same perennial boredom, his self-loathing could not be shaken off also. We had to be led to 300 years after their meeting so that we’d be able to witness two resolved vampires dying.

Jiwoo and her very lovable boyfriend.

Jiwoo and her sweet boyfriend

I wonder how many loves Connor MacLeod had over his 500+ years of life (The Highlander, with Christopher Lambert). He did love each one of them. With Joongwon we are informed of only Jiwoo, and her mother who was the most beloved mortal to him. Though this “little girl”, as Yihwa refers to her, was just a child when they first met, Meggie was also a child when she met Ralph de Bricassart (The Thorn Birds, 1983 TV series). But Meggie’s “What else have I ever done but pay for the great sin of loving Ralph de Bricassart?” could not possibly become Jiwoo’s line because she has another boyfriend, and he is so lovable and is of her generation. Besides, she has reconciled with her now very sober and loving father. The discovery that she and her mother had the same lovers should have been more shocking to her than losing Joongwon “in an accident”, or finding out that he’s a blood-imbibing living-dead.  After all she worked really hard at seducing him, all the while believing that their parents were lovers, which to her puts a right-ness into it. Besides, Jiwoo would have been just a redemption for her mother, in view that he really was happy with “that little girl” but that he had to “hide” from her then so as not to endanger her to that which happened to his sister. “Declaring” himself to Jiwoo is tantamount to healing his pain with “that little girl”. Facing up his monster-ness to a valued mortal is tantamount to healing his pain over his sister. It’s like owning up to responsibility, a matter of integrity and honor.

This scene in Episode 5 confirmed my intuitive preference for the Joongwon-Yihwa couple. Joongwon gently gathers Yihwa to him.

I have no concrete reason in the lines of my arguments above why I root for Park Sae Hyuk and Jo Minjoo, because they can, after all, survive without each other. However, although Sae Hyuk and Eun Young, his ex-wife who was misinformed and manipulated by her father just to separate the two, still cared for each other…he stopped himself from even touching her shoulder.

Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11. Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.a Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.b Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.c

She was mourning over their daughter Hye In but Sae Hyuk did not want to be misunderstood. He has decided to keep his distance from her and a simple touch would be a misstep. This non-act from Park Sae Hyuk’s banished my fear over his bond with Jo Minjoo, hazy as it may be till the end. The significance lies in this: that at that same time Jo Minjoo stayed where he left her earlier, and waiting for him to come back to the restaurant like he said he would.

But Joongwon gave it to Yihwa. He collects her close in a gesture that looks like they have always been at home with it. He relates more than just concern in this act. It’s similar to how Yoon or Sung Baek would touch Ohk’s face. Yihwa clears him of blame. He acts as her pillar now. They have always had this understanding between them. This is their most restful stance in their shared long lives. Granting that they were both starved at this time, still we were already shown that there is a way out of that starvation. This “coming together” has more than just physical hunger for a reason. And so I ask myself, what about Jiwoo and her mother? Where do their values lie for Joongwon? I’d say they were bursts of life in a long-dead existence, and so they are precious. Life is always precious. Love is always precious.

Joongwon has always cared for Yihwa. I can’t push that it’s the “infatuation” type, but “being there” all the time nonetheless, else he could have abandoned her long ago. The impression is that he doesn’t let her into it because we have to be shown the brooding side of him. He was just broody over the long years of constancy in their lives but he was not contemptuous of Yihwa. If any, he has taken her for granted. But he depends on her. The series is clear about this. She is literally his lifeblood. Joongwon can barely manage without her.

Dam Duk does not die by Jumong's sword.

Sujini catches Dam Duk before he falls flat on the temple floor. She sees him open his eyes again after Kiha stabbed him with Jumong’s sword.

Although Sujini is not a “lifeblood” to Dam Duk (just nearly), Joongwon is just like Dam Duk who doesn’t explicitly inform Sujini of her value to him (until he finds her again), because maybe that’s how the “ideal” goes. Maybe it’s a “male” thing. I don’t know. And the reason why Yihwa has stayed alive?—because he is alive. Ah. So like Yoon and Ohk. Except Yoon and Ohk are articulate about this to each other — surprise!

Joongwon is clear about how he blames Yihwa for his condition. What we have in the end is therefore a closure, a coming into full circle. He rescued her and she is happy she met him, and she tells him so. She stuck with him till the end, owning up the responsibility of reviving him into a life of struggle. Yihwa’s life, in essence, was already complete at his arrival into her life. She was just only waiting out until he is healed of the damage she caused him, until finally we have two multiple-lifetime companions meeting up with the heavens in smiling anticipation.

If my arguments have not been logical at all then I rest my case. Perception being relative cannot be over-emphasized. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Etc. 🙂

added 16.April.2014.

Good evening. How are you? Welcome again. At last I can put some of Lady Ye Soya’s captures here. Instead of including just her I decided to get some also from Episode 54. In here Jumong has been invited by King Geumwa back to Buyeo. Jumong arrives with the king’s personal bodyguard and the Damul’s six leaders under General Jumong: Mari, Hyeopbo, Ohyi, Jessa, Mugol, and Mukgo. This is the first time Jumong sets foot again inside the palace after that attempt to get out Yeohwa and Soya in Episode 50, that time when Yeohwa couldn’t go because she was so sick and already pregnant Soya met Jumong at the temple where he broke off half of the short sword for her to keep for their child as proof of his fatherhood.

Jumong ep 54 the Damul leaders visit BuyeoHere is General Jumong of the Damul Army and his officers, plus the king’s bodyguard, ascending the stairs to the main royal hall, to greet his foster father the king who is waiting for him there.

After greeting the king the 6 companions are ushered into a room for refreshments, to be warmly welcomed as guests of the king’s adopted son. Jumong shortly goes to his mother’s house, where his pregnant wife waits with her for him.

The 7 men are already relaxed with their banter, food, and wine. The king’s bodyguard was originally at the head of the table but he gets called out by a messenger. In a little while General Jumong arrives. They continue with the merriment at this small banquet, one they never had together because of their life as founders of Damul. Then Jumong gets teased by Hyeopbo, who in turn gets teased by Mari and Ohyi, as the other three just laugh along.

When the royal bodyguard went out it was to meet a general of Buyeo. The secret talk was about eradicating Jumong for the sake of Buyeo, which is the Prime Minister’s action-response for King Geumwa’s wish for a peaceful Buyeo. Jumong and the king has talked about this surprising change of heart in Geumwa’s case. Discouraged, he talks to his mother about this in her chambers. Her consistent response to him is that his duty is to carry out his father Haemosu’s dream, which is to gather their displaced and suffering people and re-form their lost nation against the might of the Han.

Jumong has to decide once and for all, of whether to continue with his father’s dream and disappoint his foster father, or to please Geumwa and to abandon everything that his family and many loyal friends and supporters have worked so hard for. He retires to Soya’s chambers. He now wears his sleeping robes and pregnant Soya is already resting though without her blankets on. Thus in this scene there is only Jumong’s face to look at, at the change from deliberation to an arrival at a decision after taking into consideration everything, including the risks to their unborn child.

The following day Jumong and Soya head for their mother’s house, to speak of his decision to leave Buyeo. As they round a corner they are seen by Soseono and her father from a distance. The father and daughter wish to speak with the king today, and so they have entered the palace. Jumong and Soya seem to be in a conversation as they walk. As is proper, Soya shows deference to her husband while in public, by walking slightly behind him. This might be just for the camera angle here, or it may not be so in Korea, but in Japan this is certainly the norm, and thus this is how I take it here to be, too.

Yeohwa fully agrees with him, as expected. She suggests to Soya that she leaves with her husband. This, I think, is one of those unfortunate decisions made by this family — but otherwise the ensuing drama out of this decision wouldn’t have materialized, which is, the losing and the finding of Jumong’s family. Soya should have said “yes” to her mother-in-law’s suggestion but since they have no idea of the brewing evil plan against Jumong the ladies decided for the common sense that the baby’s birth can be more attended to while Soya is in the safety of the palace, in the company of the soon-to-be grandmother of the baby. Though they knew that King Geumwa will be disappointed by Jumong’s decision still they had the confidence that no mishap will ensure, especially that Jumong’s decision is what Geumwa had hoped to accomplish also since in his youth together with Jumong’s father.

Jumong, though primarily a narration about a hero’s life, has many subplots that are in themselves complete stories. There’s the life of Geumwa and his troubled family, of Soseono’s growth into a mother and a strong leader, of the tragedy that is Ye Soya since her tribe was betrayed by one of their own, of the happy-sad love triangle that is Haemosu-Yeohwa-Geumwa, of Wootae’s life as a servant’s son who became the master’s son-in-law as well as the leader’s husband, of Daeso’s triumphs and failures both in his public and personal lives, of Youngpo’s misadventures, of Yuri’s coming out into his own… Jumong isn’t called a drama for nothing, and it has stayed as one of the best.

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Damo is mae hwa and dan shim ga

!good morning! I have only one post on Damo and it doesn’t center on the two main characters, Ohk and Yoon. It centers on my reaction to the theme song called mae hwa bat. Because I have not studied music then I have no discussions on what kind of music it is, sorry. For a layman’s viewpoint I can only say that it’s a lovely instrumental, haunting, and it pictures the mood of this drama. I edited this post because I finally learned how to create a picture gallery, which I thought was fun, so I made them here. !and it is spring! — a post with ume and sakura rightly deserves attention 🙂 Today is April 20, 2014. I greet Happy Easter all who celebrate it. Here’s to a new life for all!

Damo is one of those unforgettable tale of loves, in its varied facets and set in a specific time. But it speaks for the entire history of mankind. I share with you some of my thoughts on it, welcome again. The smaller pictures enlarge a bit when clicked on. Have a nice day everyone 🙂 … thanks for dropping by …

 

—————– original text:

I can sum up Damo this way: it is a statement on commitment. In this particular story its focus is the one between Hwangbo Yoon and Jang Chae Ohk.

Sure there are the usual political intrigues and plot twists but these are, to me, only background material against which the dynamics of “commitment” are played. The entire series follows the development of the investigation involving counterfeit coins, until the point where a conspiracy almost succeeds. This line by itself is absorbing, substantive, and it’s strong enough to make Damo into a no-nonsense quasi-extended movie. However, it is the dynamics in the personal relationships between the three main leads that produces the episodic sub-plots.

The start of the story is a presentation of the challenge to this commitment. Before this first episode ends the commitment has been made crystal clear. It is awesome how Yoon and Ohk can go to extreme lengths just to be able to ensure the well-being of the other. This is the scene that I remember their commitment to each other by:

Yoon and Ohk passing through an ume (?) grove

I had thought that these are cherry blossoms, sakura. However I noticed that among the official soundtracks is one called mae hwa bat, translated as A Grove of Japanese Apricot Blossoms. Ah, so, these are ume, and not sakura. This is only a conclusion by association, and is not necessarily a proof.

There are two incidents that immediately precede this scene. The earlier one is the day’s polo match with the other branch bureau that ended in a riot because of Ohk’s furtive participation in the game, which was sanctioned by all the guys. In that event was shown the close camaraderie within Yoon’s command.

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Because of that riot Ohk independently decides to take all the blame to save Yoon’s career, by offering her right arm to the sword of the Right Police Bureau Commander. This enrages Yoon and he quarrels with Ohk as well as with that other commander.

Commander Hwangbo treats Ohk’s sword cut

Fortunately Ohk’s arm wasn’t cut off. But the sword grazed her. Yoon treats it on their way home. As Yoon applies medicine this is their dialogue:

Hwangbo Yoon:  “Does it hurt?”

Chae Ohk:  “Yes.”

HY: “It hurts me as well.” (background music starts) “Although you are my subordinate you are no different from a younger sister. Don’t hurt me.”

CO:   “My lord, since I was seven I’ve been at your side. I would lay my life down for you, but I do not want to become an obstacle. I have served you for 15 years. I know the suffering you went through better than anyone else. I do not want to see your dream fall apart because of me.”

protecting each other (2)HY:  “I have no intention of sacrificing you in order to achieve my dream.”

This conversation is significant because personal involvements across class levels is illegitimate in their society. However, both have crossed this line on the very day they met, when they were just children. As Yoon’s servant Ohk is not permitted to even lift her gaze while he talks to her. She is vigilant, therefore, that her association with Yoon does not tint his reputation in society, which is that of the noble class. Ohk understands this very well because she herself belonged to the noble class by blood. Yoon, too, understands this very well because his mother is of the servant class and he has seen how she had suffered.

There are many reasons why I like Damo but I cannot name all of them yet. I do not have to justify why I like Damo. It’s more than just a love story or the exploits of a policewoman-cum-tea-server in a society that denigrates her status. It’s a valuable work of art. I would recommend it to anyone anytime anywhere who has an interest in non-West themes about life and the human capacity for loyalty, or devotion, which is what steadfast love is. Only that I have to say, too, that it’s 14 hours long and that it’s bound to make one cry, a lot. But this depends on the viewer’s constitution, of course. For myself I could still cry over it days after having watched it.

There are scenes that are not believable, but that’s part of the art, of the martial arts genre films. These are the scenes in the series that belong to the dream world, where people can fly. I had to brace myself against the sword-fights and such, though. (Btw, do horses get hurt when they are shot being shot? These scenes in films bother me.) I appreciate that the night-lighting effects considers the realistic illumination by fire. It’s cozy to the eyes. The four female characters aren’t “protector” dependent. They are just humans that happen to be female and they didn’t make me want to gag. I’d say the story is awash with machismo, but that certainly isn’t a reason why I like it. It goes with the context and so the male egoism is not out of place. The two ideals, Hwangbo Yoon and Jang Sung Baek, have very heavy burdens to carry. straw sandals for Chae OhkThey have dedicated themselves to fighting the ills of their society. I appreciate it that they were not projected as superheroes. They are like any one of us who have dreams and are motivated towards that goal despite the narrow road or the uphill path.  I also saw the gravity of straw-sandals-for-servants versus shoes-for-the-nobles, at all times, even in winter. This thing really speaks volumes.

There are five people-forces interacting in the story. First is Hwangbo Yoon’s immediate circle, in the Left Police Bureau. Second is Jang Sung Baek’s immediate circle, just ordinary poor people but tagged as “rebels” nevertheless. Third is the potential represented by the king, one that can move much but depending on the information that reaches the throne. Fourth is the hidden government officials who ruthlessly manipulate Jang Sung Baek. Fifth is the common folks living ordinary everyday lives. The main characters Hwangbo Yoon, Jang Chae Ohk, and Jang Sung Baek navigate among these forces within the parameters of their societal values.

I am not Korean. I am new to the world of the Korean culture. I do not know the teachings of Confucius and Mencius. I know that I have to know the words spoken in the dialogues so that I can get into the delicate nuances that have mountains of meaning behind them, which is of a particular worldview. Alas, I am totally dependent on the English translations (and millions of us around the world are very grateful to the translators!) But I know deep within my bones what discrimination is, what helplessness is, what hopelessness is, and of that bubbling spring present within me that resuscitates hope and self-help.

This is the beauty of the sageuks that I have so far seen, that they cater to the presence of the bubbling spring deep within any one of us. (But I do not agree with the formulaic emphasis on revenge.) This should be one of the beauties of Damo: that it fights against helplessness and hopelessness. Any human can identify with that. When I watch a sageuk I do not think of the events I see on the screen as confined only in that part of Korea and in that particular period of history only, but that I am in fact looking at the soul of the human being. This is what a human is. S/He can be strong, weak, corrupt, upright, joyful, depressed, cruel, gentle, vindictive, generous, and s/he can be anyone anytime anywhere, of any age, in the entire globe, regardless of ideology or conviction or worldview. Not one is exempted—most especially those who consider themselves privileged because of one factor or another, like class or economy or education or achievement or status or heritage or conviction.

Both Yoon and Sung Baek are precious to Chae Ohk. To Yoon, she is mute. The forces limiting their bond are too strong for arguments. In their last scene together in the series, Yoon had to remove the binding around her mouth so that she could shout out her most important line in the entire story. To Sung Baek she is blindfolded. She gropes in the dark in her acknowledgment of their bond. It was within the darkness of a cave where she intuitively saw Jang Sung Baek’s significance to her.  Chae Ohk is an epitome of will-power and loyalty. Any Yoon would be very blessed to have an Ohk, and vice-versa. Indeed I wonder if her character is realistic, though it is one worth aspiring to. All in all the story of these three has a feeling of a (modern-day) mythology.

Having considered all of these it is now worth noting that the couple’s scene beneath the blossoms does not have mae hwa bat (A Grove of Japanese Apricot Blossoms) as the background music, but has dan shim ga (A Song of Devotion) instead. A Song of Devotion plays whenever the story focuses on the bond between Ohk and Yoon, like in this scene under the blossoms. I found out about this in my quest to familiarize myself with the melody of mae hwa bat, thinking that it is played in this ethereal scene.

I have located six scenes where mae hwa bat is played: in Episode 4 (in one Ohk drinks out her misery of having separated from Yoon, in another Ohk cries after it got emphasized to her face that her servant status makes it “impossible” for her to “mix” with Yoon’s social class); in Episode 6, as Ohk thinks of her father and is having a conversation with Sung Baek; in Episode 7 when Sung Baek was removing the bullet from Ohk’s shoulder; in Episode 9 when Yoon, after the royal doctor’s failure, holds Ohk to his chest, and astride his horse, is on their way to their Teacher (Seonsaengnim actually, or Sonsengnim, but to my ear sounds like Susunim) as the last measure to save Ohk; finally, in Episode 10 when Ohk was revived by Yoon using their Teacher’s harrowing method.

 

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Mae hwa bat plays in scenes where Ohk is “hurt” and her resilience, for survival itself, is tested. It’s an apt symbolism because the mae hwa blossoms at the end of winter, in coldness. Speaking of which, there is a magnificent shot of Yoon and Ohk practicing their sword skills learned from their Teacher, in their mountain world, their home, their heaven, before they came down to the police bureau.

Damo_Episode_2_English_Sub_Korean_Drama_damo___02_part_3.flv_snapshot_11.57_[2013.08.01_08.42.38] BOTH IN SNOWYoon’s circumstances is similar to Ohk’s. He realized this the moment they met, when immediately forged a bond as Ohk, the newly acquired family servant, took his offer to be carried on his back as they ran in the rain through the bamboo forest. Though favored by his nobleman father, Yoon is still a half-blood because of his lower-class mother. He’s like a non-person, like those of Ohk’s class. It is illegal to call his father “father” and he is not qualified to take the military service exams, let alone the civil service. Yoon and Ohk had to grow up and blossom under these suppressions.

Mountain home, aerial view. Yoon and Ohk appear as dots right in the middle.

 

Sung Baek_4 Damo_Episode_8_English_Sub_Korean_Drama_damo___08_part_2.flv_snapshot_04.10_[2013.08.06_11.37.08]Jang Sung Baek is also a mae hwa. Sung Baek_3 Damo_Episode_6_English_Sub_Korean_Drama_damo___06_part_2.flv_snapshot_07.59_[2013.08.06_10.30.57]His father was the capital’s library director. Sung Baek had already received excellent education from him before the family tragedy happened. His father had him brought then to an excellent teacher who was exiled in the mountains. As the son of a nobleman convicted of treason, and so forever in hiding from authorities, Sung Baek also had to blossom in dire conditions.

Sung Baek_6 Damo_Episode_1_English_Sub_Korean_Drama_damo___01_part_3.flv_snapshot_14.35_[2013.08.06_09.49.30]

Soo-myung

Sung Baek_1 Damo_Episode_7_English_Sub_Korean_Drama_damo___07_part_2.flv_snapshot_04.26_[2013.08.06_11.26.30]

Jang Sung Baek

  I would like to give special mention to the character Soo-myung, the constant companion of Sung Baek. She is also a mae hwa. She is beholden to the scum who manipulates Sung Baek but when the time came to draw the line she chose Sung Baek without any hesitation. Her speaking lines are short and her role is simple but she is projected as a bulwark for Sung Baek. She locates her life’s meaning in Sung Baek — this is nearly similar to what Ohk and Yoon are to each other. Their harmony is apparent all throughout the story and most likely they would have lived together happily until whenever had the circumstances been different. But the winter was too cruel for this mae hwa of theirs to blossom.

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On the other hand, dan shim ga is played many more times in the series. It is played when Yoon worries about Ohk, when Ohk worries about Yoon, when it is emphasized how one is committed to the other against an opposing factor like a disagreement, or when both express to each other his/her intention to her/him like in the scene under the Japanese apricot blossoms. Dan shim ga is certainly calling for another post. Ma ji mak ahn shik chuh (The Last Haven), which is associated with Yoon, and bi ga (A Song of Sorrow), which is associated with Jang Sung Baek, are also worth looking at. Damo’s main soundtrack is sook myung (Destiny) – it’s self-explanatory.

The ume and the sakura look similar but they bloom at different times of the year and so that’s a major indication. However, those who have paid attention to their differences can generally tell one from the other. To the none-too-particular viewer they are indistinguishable. To everyone they are both as lovely.

SONY DSC

sakura = cherry blossoms

SONY DSC

ume = maehwa = Chinese plum blossoms = Japanese apricot blossoms

The maehwa is the Chinese plum blossom meihua (梅花), or simply the plum blossom, and is also called the Japanese apricot blossom. In Wikipedia it says that in Chinese culture: The plum blossom is seen as a symbol of winter and a harbinger of spring. The blossoms are so beloved because they are viewed as blooming most vibrantly amidst the winter snow, exuding an ethereal elegance, while their fragrance is noticed to still subtly pervade the air at even the coldest times of the year. Therefore the plum blossom came to symbolize perseverance and hope, but also beauty, purity, and the transitory-ness of life. In Confucianism, the plum blossom stands for the principles and values of virtue.

In Damo the maehwa largely symbolizes the relationship of Hwangbo Yoon and Chae Ohk, as well as of Jang Sung Baek and Chae Ohk (…I hope to find time to write on this…it’s the dynamics in these two intertwining relationships that makes this sageuk unforgettable…).

Thanks to thegardenofzen.com for the pictures of ume and sakura. A million thanks to the sites that made it possible to access Damo shots, and a billion thanks to all translators.

Thank you for reading and all the best to you.

♥ p.s. [My post on Seiji and Kiyoha, click here, has a picture of a sakura grove.]

hello. uhm, just a quick note before this amazing realization slips my mind… 😉 I was at my usual meditative position (hahaha) when I sort of just suddenly snapped together some strains of thought that have been with me for several days now… im jae bumfirst, it’s just that I suddenly got hooked on Yim Jae Bum’s voice and so I simply had to take a peek at Chuno again — in fact I’ve made a 6+ minute video of captures from episodes 12 & 13 using the OST Stigma — and so it got me to compare Chuno and Damo, of how can two dramas of despair be alike and yet be different, or are they? This actually is a continuation of my meditation on why is it always imperative for movies to include romantic themes in order to be assured of box-office success — I was thinking along the lines of: what if the romance was removed from Dae Jang Geum, Chuno, and Damo? I was actually thinking of how come there are no kissing scenes in Dae Jang Geum (the lead actress suggested that it wasn’t important in the story line) and despite of it/because of it, it was a big success? Then how come that Hwangbo Yoon’s and Daegil’s angst are hinged on their love for a woman, and would the story be empty without this angle? And so I came to the conclusion that (but not an answer to the last question) Damo is actually just Ohk’s story, of her world and what happened to her, and that Yoon is not an essential part of it, because any man not as magnificent as Yoon could just take his place WHEREAS Jang Sung baek is ESSENTIAL to Ohk’s story. Sung Baek_5 Damo_Episode_5_English_Sub_Korean_Drama_damo___05_part_3.flv_snapshot_18.10_[2013.08.06_10.23.13]I now even say that Damo is the story of both Ohk and Sung Baek, and that the main male character is in fact not Yoon but Sung Baek <— 🙂 this is that sudden amazing realization 😀 and I must write something on it one of these days. I mean, sure, what I wrote above in the original post still goes, that is, if one looks at the back-and-forth movements of Ohk from Yoon to Sung Baek and back and back (hehehe yeah it really begs for another post 🙂 ) then it is commitment. But then this vacillation happened because Sung Baek exists, and in fact the start of the story has both Ohk and Sung Baek at the center of it. For Yoon Ohk was just an accessory, an accident, and it could have been anyone or none there in that way for him. But for Sung Baek Ohk is an essential. The angst of the entire story line could not have materialized had there been no Ohk and Sung Baek, and of what happened to them.

As to Daegil, well, I’ve come up with the conclusion that the underlying story is the chasing after hope, after a dream, after a false dream, after a mirage, after a dream that will bound to disappoint one, albeit has Daegil’s particular world as the main sphere of movement, and so it must be presented in different manifestations (though I don’t intend it to sound this negatively, and in fact it’s something I, too, would opt for, I mean, rather than just “lay down and die” so to speak PLUS that Daegil’s life Chuno_24 CLOSURE 23wasn’t at all that empty and useless like he thought it was, and me at first impression, too — but all these have to be written on one separate lovely post ❤ ).  For example, unrequited romantic love is one popular and easy illustration for it. Also, the chasing after the slaves, the life and cause of the slaves, the motive/incentive of the minister’s son, the life of a chuno, Seolhwa’s life and the likes of her, Chuno _Seolhwa (1)the life of the female innkeepers, the cause of Song Tae Ha & companions — these are the vehicles where hopelessness has been illustrated and I like the way all these threads were woven together into one story that at first glance didn’t make me see all of them (I was immersed at the action and the music 😉 ). Actually I’d say the Un-nyeon part somehow represents the vanity of all this chasing after something that forever eludes… I mean, the Un-nyeon character is the embodiment of how pathetic a chasing-after can be. Sorry, it doesn’t mean the way I’m sounding here, because I certainly with all my heart concur that the slaves’ cause and the ordinary folks’ lives like Seolhwa isn’t pathetic — but, there, see, it’s too complicated to speak about in just a handful of sentences … and so I just need to put them all here before they all totally escape me and I wouldn’t be able to catch them again (so to say) haha!

today is April 26, 2014, a lovely spring day, and I’m trying not to panic over my undone homework 😉 ciao. May God bless us all.