Tag Archive | sageuk

Scandal: a girl enrolls in Sungkyunkwan

In this light historical drama that I watched a year ago I found myself asking, “So where is the scandal?” Ah, that a mere girl has infiltrated the hallowed halls of Sungkyunkwan is the scandal, hence the title Sungkyunkwan Scandal.

Let’s say I didn’t know that there’s a real Sungkyunkwan University, that I watched this series without knowing beforehand who the actresses/actors in it are, that I was just curious about a centuries ago campus life when school buildings were of wood, foot-walks to classrooms were paved with stone, attendance in the cafeteria was checked, and the dorm looked like the traditional countryside house, what could I say after watching it?

Sungkyunkwan S _ep20_ professor takes the blame for the scandal

Prof. Jung Yak-yong takes the blame for the scandal, humbles himself before the king.

Produced in 2010, this is set during King Jeongjo’s reign (Yi San, 28 October 1752 – 18 August 1800, the 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, r. 1776-1800), when his character in the drama is shown to be already using painkillers and is talking of how limited his time is and so he must speed things up. He secretly visits the campus to watch ball games and is at one time the arbiter of a campus crime investigation that he turned into an examination item.

The meat of this drama is in the dialogues. I was not disappointed in my quest at taking a peek at what elite Confucian students might have been looking into because they do recite here small snippets from the books. Taking note of the dialogues and putting them in a post here will have to be done at another time, though. Like with Tree with Deep Roots here’s another way to get introduced into the high regard for the Chinese classics, which form the basics of a Confucian scholarship.What makes the series interesting for me is the way the students and their mentors/elders make moves one after and against the other around the problems they have to contend with, making it seem like a chess game of wits with integrity at stake. When parts start to drag, like in the romantic scenes, I just fast-forward.

There are many characters here, which is usual. I can speak about the four main characters only for now, and on what makes them interesting for me. They each are from different spheres of their society, from different political influences, making their friendship an object of admiration even by the king. Although the drama moves around their involvement with each other the story starts long before they were born, in the strife between political opponents that got the present king’s father killed.

Sungkyunkwan Scandal _ep20 _King Yi San & Kim Yoon Hee

The king does not disappoint as the scholars’ father.

1.) Kim Yoon Hee sacrifices much for the sake of her family. She takes care of them, being the eldest child of a fatherless household that has a chronically sick younger son. This in itself is not unusual then and now, but what is unusual is her way of doing it: she transcribes books (a bit like “print on demand” type of job) for a bookseller. She has made good use of this skill and talent she has — unconventional for a girl during her time because it was only the men who can get a high level of literacy such as hers, so the bookseller knows her only as Kim Yoon Shik since she comes to the shop attired as a man using her brother’s name. She had a good start at the classics as a little girl when her father, who was a professor at Sungkyunkwan, was still alive. After she enters Sungkyunkwan in guise her schoolmates nickname her Daemul, meaning “big shot”. Sungkyunkwan, being the elite learning institution of Joseon, is exclusive to males and the uncovering of her successful entry comprise the scandal. She is the key, however, as the child of a former Sungkyunkwan professor who was highly trusted by the king, in locating a controversial document that several political bigwigs tried to destroy ten years ago.

Sungkyunkwan Scandal _Ep20 _4 friends, lull before the final storm

Lull before the final storm: four drunk scholars celebrating a coup.

2.) Lee Seon Jun is the child of the Left Minister who is also the leader of the kingdom’s strongest political faction. Hence he is an “untouchable” to the extent that the school’s chancellor is always on tiptoe in looking out for his welfare. He is as upright as can be, a perfect replica of his father in conduct and demeanor, which is consistently emotionless. He struggles with his attraction to his roommate whom he sincerely believes to be a man. Thus, he undergoes an existential struggle concerning an issue that is anathema to the principles he lives by: conservative Confucianism. He, an upright leader-to-be of the kingdom, becomes introduced into a world that is outside the scope of his upbringing and the contemporary norms — and this not only with regards to sexuality but also with the overall worldview, giving him opportunities for applying into deeds the principles written by scholars of long ago, those he had learned in books, on how to live a worthy life. A friend nicknames him Garang, meaning an ideal husband material. He represents the awkwardly fumbling bridge between erudition and the authentic human.

Gul-oh & Yeorim, best friends _Sungkyunkwan Scandal

The Crazy Horse and the Playboy, hidden talents, latent abilities, opposites, best friends.

3.) Moon Jae Shin is the surviving younger son of the Justice Minister. His older brother was a radical supporter on issues regarding the common people — he and Kim Yoon Hee’s father were killed while performing a secret royal order, the transport of a document that was written by the former king wherein stated is his remorse over the death penalty he gave to his own son the Crown Prince Sado, the present king’s father. Moon Jae Shin’s nickname is Gul-oh (also Geol-oh), the crazy horse. He disregards conventions practiced by Sungkyunkwan scholars and his teachers have “failed” him from graduating three times already, though no-one berates him, not even his father. He comes and goes to his dorm room at will, which he occupies by himself, and it’s not unusual for him to reek of alcohol, be unkempt, and be absent from or asleep in class. However, like his older brother he is an excellent writer, and has read all the books in the library. He leads a double life, being a masked vigilante at some nights who drops off from the rooftops to the main roads below seemingly subversive red notes. By these notes the king has ascertained that he’s a Sungkyunkwan scholar and thus wants to protect him from the powers that suspect him of knowing about the former king’s secret document, the recovery of which threatens the current strongest political faction’s hold on power.

Yeorim, Garang, Gul-oh

Yeorim, Garang, Gul-oh, and a ghost. Ep.8

4.) Gu Yong Ha is the son of a rich merchant. They can afford vacation trips to China, is always very fashionably dressed, has a dorm room all to himself that is lavishly decorated — whereas the others have to share up to three persons each, ones that are almost bare of furniture. He is very popular among the gisaeng (the female entertainers) and is nicknamed Yeorim, the playboy. Being not of the yangban (nobleman class), his father bought their status, thus making Yeorim acceptable to Sungkyunkwan and their family respectable. Having a traditionally merchant family has made Yeorim wise in the ways of the streets, making him “at home” not only among the aristocracy but also in the shops. Their wealth makes Yeorim a valuable ally among the leaders-to-be in his school but isn’t a strong enough buffer against political ignominy, thus his bought status is a well guarded secret. Yeorim is the tactician among the Jalgeum Quartet — which is the name given by the gisaengs to this group of four friends, meaning that to the girls they’re four exciting/thrilling young men. It is Yeorim who consistently puts two and two together, enabling him to anticipate happenings and so is never at a loss at any situation. Yeorim is the one who can be depended on to get things done. His shallow-playboy image is a mask that covers an introspective personality. He’s actually a cynic and only their teacher has discerned his propensity at distancing himself from disadvantageous situations. Using their individual means, he and Geol-oh are the most mobile of the four friends, having the confidence and the capicity to roam anywhere they want — Geol-oh using his martial arts prowess and Yeorim using his family’s resources that includes a private army.

Gul-oh _night smile

a rare relaxed Gul-oh smile but, alas, in the shadows 🙂

My favorite characters in the drama all in all are, briefly:

❤ Gul-oh – he uses academics as an end to something else, and is emotionally engaged in his aim, which basically is upholding the common folk – a value rubbed off on him by his brother
❤ Yeorim – he speaks out, knows his way through situations, operates with certainty while being unafraid of well-calculated risks
❤ Sun Dol, Lee Seon-jun’s personal servant – he’s so unguarded, so sincere in what he does that he doesn’t let conventions check the way he expresses himself: he teases, scolds, nags and hugs his young master
❤ the king (Yi San) – resists political pressures for the sake of the populace; he listens to the opinions of young scholars, trusts them, and gives generous appreciation where due
❤ the two professors – they have integrity and deserve the respect given to them
❤ the school principal/chancellor – always torn between being upright, dealing with the parents, and being on the good side of the powers-that-be — in his funny way manages this beautifully
❤ the school’s staff, including the children who run errands and ring the bell – they are the main keepers of order in campus, cleaning, cooking, and assisting the teachers

Garang at a loss. Gul-oh acts weird.

Garang puzzled, with obnoxious Gul-oh insisting to sleep next to him, replacing Daemul at the center spot.

Daemul and Garang, the romantic pair, are fine in their own way but they’re not the reason why I’ve counted this drama as a favorite 🙂 One’s always too nice and the other’s always too goody-two-shoes, what Yeorim might call “boring” if not for the events that arise because of them. But the way each of the four responded to their unusual friendship is engaging for me, and the dynamics makes the drama worth watching again. Children who have disappointments with regards to their fathers might find this drama interesting despite its obvious commercial attractions — the young men’s relationships with their prominent fathers are given attention in this drama. Considering that the unkempt Garang and the well-groomed Yeorim have been buddies for a decade now, and that the “cheat” Daemul bonds with the irreproachable Garang, the yin-yang concept is seen here. Daemul, who is not interested in the attractive Yeorim, was first found out by the indifferent Gul-oh who is “allergic” to girls — he hiccups when he gets close to one. Garang is also the opposite to Gul-oh, in temperament and in political orientations. Similar to Garang, Yeorim also once had to deal with his strong fascination over another male, Gul-oh, but which does not bother him now. Gul-oh is the most physically capable of the 4 but has to be “saved” by them several times. One thing that I appreciate in this drama: thankfully there’s no fighting among the 3 guys over Daemul 🙂

…that’s all for now… ciao 🙂 (all captures in this post zoom in when clicked on)




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Chuno, and those who live only for the day

Good afternoon 🙂 The sun is setting, a golden world ❤

This post is from a scene of the 2010 South Korean fusion sageuk The Slave Hunters ( 추노推奴 Chuno)Chuno _ slave hunters   (1) It was a year ago when I first watched it.  I have no summary here, but I can direct you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Slave_Hunters  if you wish to read one. All pictures here are captures from the drama. A sageuk is a S. Korean historical drama. Fusion because it has contemporary elements, those that are non-traditional to a sageuk such as stylized costumes and background music that does not belong to the period. The period of this drama is the Joseon Dynasty, in the early 1600’s. Aside from the traditional music featured here, which are lovely, there are also pop and rock sound tracks. Chuno _ slave hunters   (2)One of them, Stigma (Yim Jae Bum), will have its own post here one of these days. It embodies what for me the theme of the drama is, which is a chasing after something that cannot be had, in this lifetime at least.

The slave hunters are just that, they hunt for run-away household-slaves. They are mercenary-like in that they can be hired by anyone, or that they can claim rewards from owners whose slaves they have caught. They have a low status in society and are loathed by the slaves especially. They are not an organized body and hence there is competition among the different chuno gangs. They live by brawn mostly, and brains for some like the group in this drama, which consists of three friends who are among the best in the trade:

Chuno _Choi chamgun (1) Chuno _Choi chamgun (2)1.) Mr. Choi, nicknamed General Choi, or Choi chamgun, the oldest in the group and hence the older-brother-in-authority for the two younger ones;

Chuno _Daegil (0) Chuno _Daegil (1)2.) Daegil, about 6 years younger than Choi chamgun, is the originator of the group and has the most know-how on their trade;

Chuno _Wangson (0) Chuno _Wangson (1)3.) Wangson, the ladies’ man and the youngest of these three, lived formerly as what one would call a scoundrel; it was because he pick-pocketed Choi chamgun that the three first met, in a scuffle;

This scene here involves a newcomer to the group, Seolhwa. Chuno _Seolhwa (0) Chuno _Seolhwa (1)She’s only 17, about half the age of Choi chamgun, and maybe about 10 years younger than Daegil. She calls the three men her orabeoni, meaning older brother. Seolhwa was sold into slavery when she was 6 because her family was starving. (At another time I will relate this with Won Bin’s movie Ahjussi, where his character Cha Tae-shik has a small friend Somi who got into contact with children who were abandoned in a similar way by their parents. This is a modern-day setting movie.) Seolhwa was resold into prostitution in her early teens and is first seen in the drama as belonging to a traveling group of entertainers that goes around Joseon. She is a valuable asset to its owner, a nasty woman who has a retinue of private thugs. Chuno _ slave hunters   (3)One particular evening Seolhwa, apparently deciding to abandon her way of living, slipped through her guards and thus managed to come across the three chuno. From then on she has successfully attached herself to their gang. Hence, she has become an unofficial member, taken in by the “older brothers” out of their sense of responsibility for one in such a helpless and danger-full situation. She is a smart aleck but also surprisingly smart. Despite the three’s initial refusal to take her in she eventually gains their genuine acceptance.

In this scene the companions are momentarily at a walking-rest pace in the middle of their pursuit of a run-away military-baracks-slave, one whose price is a whooping 500 monetary units and so would be quite a catch to the struggling gang. The dialogue is mostly between Seolhwa and Daegil, who are walking ahead of the other two. Choi chamgun is at the rear, by reason of having the unspoken responsibility of watching his group’s back. Besides, he’s the quiet type. He doesn’t speak in this scene. Seolhwa has chosen to attach herself to Daegil. Wangson was supposedly, by an unspoken rule, be the one in charge of her (has something to do with age-related ranking within the group). But since Wangson is the playful playboy of the group and Seolhwa’s status normally elicits sexual innuendos from men then both continually clash. Daegil, therefore, seemingly grudgingly looks after her now. But the truth is that behind Daegil’s rough facade he’s the most sensitive of the three men, something which, I suspect, Seolhwa instinctively sensed since it was him who actually effected her rescue from her madame-owner and her thugs that night she ran away. The clothes she wears now is the one she ran away on — clothing was expensive, so it’s either they splurge for her or they steal for her or she just goes on with the only set she owns.

In the conversation Seolhwa reveals that she lives only for the day. For one so young it’s such a grave statement, as if she has seen so much already and is now resigned to just embracing what can be had right in front of one’s eyes and not so much as hope for more or for a better situation in the morrow. Wangson and Choi chamgun more or less have this same attitude to life, whereas Daegil thinks differently — but more on this at a later post ❤

It is just a simple conversation but one that I appreciate for its timelessness. For such situations as Seolhwa’s and the slave hunters dreaming of an abundant life is a luxury. Many would deem it an impossibility. I was a bit taken aback by the matter-of-fact way Seolhwa talks about it — this is how her persona is presented in the drama, as someone who has tasted the gruesomeness of life and yet manages not to let it show. Daegil, on the other hand, broods over and nurtures his pains. I’m happy to share with you here a tiny part of the entire story, and in pictures, too (a million thanks to the makers of Chuno). The gallery zooms in when clicked on.

❤ that’s it for this scene … the one that follows is a series of pursuits again, where Seolhwa will surprise Daegil with two more things, that she can ride a horse just as well as they can and that she can be sharp about discerning situations ❤ Seolhwa is basically for comic relief, because the drama is simply awash of heartaches plus it has many instances of sword fight violence — I watched it because my Korean classmate recommended it to me after learning that the plight of the lowest of classes in the old Korean society interests me, by the reason that I have found out that its mechanics greatly helps me understand the everywhere contemporary wo/man, and of course at the same time contemporary Korea/Japan.

The situations of the Chuno characters are, in one word, depressing. But Seolhwa in her role as the silly youngster in fact carries the light that would have been Daegil’s redemption from his perennial angst. Chuno can be spoken of as Daegil’s story but more can be seen within it after just a little more digging behind Daegil’s glaring presence. It is Daegil’s angst that provides the drive for the main plot but Daegil owns only one face of this angst — because it can be seen in the adjacent/parallel subplots as well. Almost everyone here is trapped by circumstances and are striving for some sort of restitution. There are no obvious answers at the ending, so it’s far from the happily-ever-after formula.

This journey with Daegil, this main body of the drama that is within this tiny period of fictional history, is much more value-full for me than any ending the writers would have come up with. Many are upset by the tragic ending and are only compensated by the hope that Daegil’s sacrifice has provided — he dies so that a future government, one that is redemptive, will have a fighting chance to emerge — at least this is the obvious conclusion to the story. For me I look at the entire story, which is the collection of the stories of the characters that I met here, as one of a perennial refrain in human life not so unlike that of Daegil’s at-times-pointless angst.  I was able to meet people whose faces can be replaced by any of us who are of similar dilemmas and aspirations, of waiting for, of giving loyalty to, of trusting, of risking, of giving beyond capacity, of just getting by, of going on despite everything … there is so much packed within this tiny bundle of a story … I am at awe of how its writers accomplished such a tapestry ❤ My only regret is that I do not understand the mother tongue that is the medium for all the conversations, otherwise I could have gained much more than what I can glean from the English translations so generously provided by many people including the one running with the captures above.

Seolhwa is among my favorite characters anywhere. There’s another girl character here that shines as well — a slave named Chobok and is also a favorite of mine. It’s her face, along with that of the young girl whom Daegil has saved, who are featured at the very end of the drama as they watch the sunrise together and is thus a closure to the story. It is a parallelism to the official soundtrack’s Stigma last lyrics “When will the morning come?”. As for Seolhwa, I envy her capacity for springing back to life, for her resilience, her matter-of-fact acceptance of what cannot be changed, and her insistence in ploughing through hopelessness just to get to the other end. Her status as among the society’s dregs does not weigh her spirits down. The drama makes it appear like she’s a potential romantic interest for Daegil, which helps bring in the profits, but is actually something that is obviously impossible to materialize right from the start. This aspect of the relationship between Daegil and Seolhwa, the being there yet not there, is such a delicate layering of interactions that I am very impressed at how the two artists, Mr. Jang Hyuk and Ms. Kim Ha-Eun, have successfully put it across clearly.

Somi and her ahjussi

Somi shows to her ahjussi ( = “uncle”) her nail art because he’s asking her what she’s saving her money for, as he quickly waters his cactus before the two eat a meal with her favorite sausages. A warning, though: this movie has lots (really) of violence and therefore must not be shown to children and the like. But the friendship between Somi and her ahjussi is as lovely as can be, even more touching than that of Alexandria and Roy in The Fall.

Please do not be misled by my appreciation for the drama, interpreting it as a recommendation for just anyone to watch it — it’s because it has lots of violence and I would really caution one to be prepared for this aspect in case (you) decide to take a look at it. It’s not for the “innocent” because it can leave scars to the unprepared psyche. That is, I would not recommend it simply for light-hearted entertainment’s sake.

I recall one scene where Seolhwa was utterly irresponsible, where she sold the gang’s horses and spent the money on drinks — yeah, the lot 😀 but Daegil did the unexpected, by collecting her home without the slightest fuss — and as of now the only way I can talk about that scene is to relate it again with Somi, the little girl in Ahjussi 🙂 . . . ’til next time then 🙂 ciao ciao

Han Suk-Kyu + Song Joong-Ki = King Lee Do = King Sejong the Great

Tree With Deep Roots.

A novel by Lee Jung Myung adapted into a sageuk (S. Korean historical drama) of 24 episodes. The name comes from a poem… and the roots pertain to the ministers…

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…This post is unfinished. But since I have already done much on it then I’ve decided to let it out. I do not know when I can have the chance to finish it. I ask for you kindness and understanding.

The things I say here do not do justice to the story, specifically the drama. I do not have much analysis here because it has already been a year since I saw it. I have forgotten the details. But what will always remain with me is the way the King Lee Do here fought off self-aggrandizement. He is ever wary of power but he knows how to make good with the privilege he has as the nation’s ruler. Perhaps when I pick up this post again, to edit, then I would be able to speak with more substance. For now, please excuse the mess 😛 . But please enjoy the photo galleries I have made. I am especially happy that it is for the sageuk Tree With Deep Roots’ King Sejong the Great, or informally King Lee Do, that I have first made them. Also, I am delighted to find out that South Korea names a new “city” after him. I have a little information about it here. I have another post about this drama, speaking of why I like it, please click here.

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King Sejong the Great (May 15, 1397 – April 8, 1450, reigned 1418–1450, fourth king of Joseon), of the personal name Lee Do, or Yi Do, is the subject of the story. This drama revolves around his efforts to create the first official native Korean script, called Han-gul or Han-geul. The most characteristic trait of King Lee Do portrayed here is that he refuses to succumb to the use of might.  The drama depicts the academic and logistic struggles of the king and his companions to eventually bring out into the common people the easily memorized Korean alphabet (compared to the official Chinese script that only those of the so-called upper class know how to read and write).

As his title states, King Sejong the Great is a highly honored person even today. Here was how his birth anniversary was celebrated in 2012:

modern day celebration of king sejong's birthday _2012

A celebration of the 615th anniversary of the birth of King Sejong took place on May 12 and 13 in Gyeongbokgung Palace (photo courtesy of the National Gugak Center). http://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Culture/view?articleId=100378

This year 2014 marks the inauguration of  an autonomous city named after him:

Sejong Metropolitan Autonomous City _map's caption

The map’s caption. This enlarges when clicked on.

From the article where the map above is found it reads:

“The Government Complex Sejong is the new home for 4,888 civil servants from ten central government organizations: the ministries of culture, sports and tourism; trade, industry and energy; health and welfare; employment and labor; and, patriots and veterans affairs. The 17-day move takes place from December 13 to 29. With this phase of moving, the total number of civil servants in the new government complex has reached about 10,000 and covers 31 organizations. So far, ten out of the total 17 central government organizations have moved to the Government Complex-Sejong, with state-funded research institutes having started the move in 2011. The shift to the new administrative city now being almost complete, the government’s new era at the Government Complex-Sejong is in full effect. “

There also is a Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, http://www.sejongpac.or.kr/eng/main/main.asp . It holds Asia’s largest pipe organ.

There is a movement for promoting the Korean language, undertaken by the King Sejong Institute.

An image-search on King Sejong the Great yields results that include a monument to him, a royal portrait done in the authentic style, and a poster of another drama based on his life. The king is usually shown wearing his robe, called the dragon robe, of a specific red hue. Even his official portrait has to have this specificity, a fact I learned from Painter of the Wind, which is another historical drama based on the lives of two of the best painters in the kingdom during Yi San’s reign (Yisan = Lee San) 🙂

King Sejong the Great _representations

Tree With Deep Roots, both the novel and the drama, incorporate much fiction. They are not factual authorities. This post deals with the drama and is from a perspective after almost a year of having watched it. This perspective is of a particular Asian who has not read the novel, does not know the languages and scripts of China and Korea, has not studied Confucianism, Buddhism, and Korea itself, and who has not been there, yet. Please excuse the deficiencies and the obvious delight over this particular film production.

Part I.   The king’s personal struggle against the ugliness of violence starts when as a child he accidentally discovers that his father is a ruthless ruler. He did so after having read an essay in a scholars’ exam. The examinee is the young son, not much older than him, of the person representing the main opposition to his father’s rule. He then meets this young scholar and does a verbal sparring with him. The naive Lee Do seemed to have been defeated in this encounter, leading him to be in the company of this boy, actually the future Bonwon (Main Root), as they witness one of the ways that Lee Do’s father employ in order to maintain his power. In this instance the violence is against the future Bonwon’s person and family itself.

The picture galleries zoom in when clicked on.

 

Part II.  Lee Do ascends to the throne as a young man, at an age when he does not yet have the adult men’s facial hair, the one that easily marks eunuchs, who do not have such. His father the former king, King Lee Bang-won (King Taejong), still holds power in every sense of the word. As such, Lee Do is king only in garb and name. His days are spent by himself, thinking and studying, away from the company that his father keeps. His encounters with his father is always tense because his father disapproves of his naivete.

Ministers stand before the king’s throne. But the kingdom is run by his father the former king, the one seated to the side of him in dark royal robes.

His favorite activity whenever he experiences fear due to his father is sudoku. In his massive personal/private study hall he has a giant 33 x 33 board on the floor, one that he has been trying to solve for some time now. As Muhyul enters the hall we see him passing by solved sudoku in increasing sizes, the biggest one visible is at the further right of the king who has his back turned to everyone as he figures out the puzzle on paper. All his attendants are palace maids. They are the movers of the blocks and the calculators, using the abacus. Later is father comes in and mocks the puzzle on hand, calling it the Devil Defensive Formation due to how it can engage the one who tries to solve it as if possessed by a demon. His father destroyed a 3 x 3 formation to show him his own solution to that pattern. It is to put only the value 1 at the center. Somehow this idea, along with another one that comes in later, enabled him to solve the 33 x 33.

His father constantly hopes and entices him through subtle psychological wars to engage in the wielding of power the way he does it. Lee Do refuses him until his death bed, even when his father keeps on insisting that his reigning of this power, keeping it in check with his will, will eventually “rot” inside him and “poison” him. This struggle against the wielding of power, against the wanton use of might, stays with Lee Do until his adult years.

A major psychological war between them took place on the night of the slaughter of prisoners, who are mostly household slaves of the young king Lee Do’s father-in-law (i.e., they are of the queen’s household), due to political machinations. This is in episode 2. Lee Do for the first time unknowingly shows his father that he is wise enough to figure out where to tap power from. This was a very engaging scene involving extreme emotions: disdain, fear, resignation, anger, pain, panic, and overall tension that could draw blood any moment. Lee Do’s winning move was found in his personal bodyguard, Muhyul (Moohyul). Lee Do thought that he had lost in this battle but in fact because of his lightning decision to engage Muhyul his father is now beginning to see him with new eyes. The direct point of contention, the root of the argument, was that Lee Bang-won wanted to kill an escaped slave’s son, a young boy, whom Lee Do has protected by hiding him in a shed nearby. Lee Do simply refuses to give up this boy (who will grow up to be the adult Kang Chae-yoon, portrayed by Mr. Jang Hyuk), and at that time a seemingly petty exercise on his part as the protector of the common people but nevertheless he’s determined to see it through against his father’s all-might.

Here next is an evolution in pictures of how Lee Do changed from a nervous adolescent into one who now carries a veiled threat to his father’s power, but in a dissimilar manner. As Lee Do steps into the soldiers’ target training area the powerful part of the longish soundtrack My Way plays. His father himself gives the order to shoot. The soldiers obey their commander despite their nervousness. The activity is an extreme insult to the young king, one which in ordinary circumstances would call for instant death. Lee Do knows, despite his understandable fear, that due to political reasons his father would not have the arrows be aimed at him, as well as he knows of the dexterity of the soldiers to not have any accidentally hit him. The greater fear that he has to face is therefore the one of him finally stepping out of the shadows and have it spelled out to his father that finally he knows what to do, and that he intends to do it. He offset his father in this encounter when he answered resolutely that from now on he would do things his own way. This final encounter between them came about when his father presented him with a no-win puzzle, with his life at stake. He was able to solve it by radically thinking outside of the box, literally and figuratively (there’s another picture gallery on this, after the one below). He interpreted Lee Bang-won’s puzzle in an unexpected manner, one that Lee Bang-won himself gave the clue to. Thus, his latent insightfulness was unveiled before his father’s eyes. He and his father downplay this potential, that is him, until the former king dies. Although Lee Bang-won never won in any of their ideas-parrying sessions, still Lee Do fulfills his promise of “humility”. He went on to build his Jip-hyun-jun, a hall for studying among fellow scholars, since he has resolved to wait it out and prepare the field for the time when his father is no more, when he at last becomes his own person as the people’s king.

That crucial encounter with his father was the result of him finally having solved the 33 x 33 sudoku puzzle. He has figured out a way to enable him to solve any sudoku game, of any size. Instead of just concentrating on the enclosed square space he expanded the area, making a bigger square that encloses the original one. With all the figures in place now, corresponding blocks are then inserted into appropriate places, back into the original square-area. Voila. All columns, rows, and diagonals add up to the same figure.

 

Part III.  King Lee Do’s reign is a triumph against the seduction of power. He is shown as a superb scholar with radical perspectives. As such he has to work things out away from the acidity of the kingdom’s conservative mainstream scholars. He is introspective, careful, systematic, patient, persevering. These few faces of the young and the adult King Lee Do speak of this personality. Adulthood has brought him self-confidence and openness in his interpersonal relationships. But his pensiveness and naivete remained with him. As time goes by the passion with which he pursues things for his people is of similar, if not slightly less, intensity to the one he subjects his own self to, in self-criticism, throughout the years that he, stage after stage, works out his plans. This group of pictures may be redundant for this post but still I include them because I admire this character, Lee Do, in this drama. He’s the reason why I gave up things today just to be able to do put this all up. It is also because of him that I was able to try making a picture gallery, here in this post for the first time. If not for him I wouldn’t have found out about the two great actors featured here, Mr. Han Suk-kyu as the adult king and Mr. Song Joong-ki as the young king, plus the others who also made the story adaptation great. [This particular picture gallery does not zoom in when clicked on, but a slideshow of them follows beneath.]

Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (1) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (1) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (2) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (3) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (4) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (5) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (6) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (7) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (8) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (9) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (10) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (11) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (12) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (13) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (14) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (15) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (16) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (17) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (18) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (19) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (20) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (21) Tree with Deep Roots _King Lee Do _King Sejong the Great    (22)

 

 

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[12 April 2014 addition]

It is timely that I am now in Episode 18 of re-watching the drama. Without taking note of the specifics, the points being made clear now are of the promulgation of the king’s letters. The antagonists think of it as a life-and-death situation. They oppose the enabling of the commoners’ literacy because this would take power away from the aristocrats. This, they say, will cause the kingdom to collapse. King Lee Do thinks otherwise. He mobilizes his allies, both overt and covert, against an enemy the capability of which matches his.

I anticipate that by the time I get through this episode, and most likely the next as well, I would have arrived at the heart of all the arguments. Most likely I would recall why I got attached to Lee Do’s story this strong, why I thought that he’s radical as well as credible, not just a revered icon but a real human, and why I fell for him 🙂 I have a feeling that these two episodes need a separate longish post as well 😛

Here now are those whom I call as composing King Lee Do’s Machinery, and a tiny glimpse of the “antis”. The whole story works with intersections among the characters. What I have here, for now, is the simplest of delineations. The other characters who are as crucial to the entire movement I will have to leave off until the next part:

 

This part is about the king, Ddolbok and Soyi, plus the king’s self-deliberation scenes with his younger self. ___________ : [I pressed enter here before uploading the pictures]

 

This part shows the relationships between the main protagonists and antagonists. ———- ?

 

This part shows the cast _________ :

 

This part shows related discoveries ____________ :

 

The main trigger as to why I was encouraged to make this longish post was a modelling picture of Song Joong Ki that I saw. When I noticed that he, too, had make-up on I was reminded of how make-up is basic to show business/entertainment, both then and now. Not even Song Joong Ki is spared of it despite his clear skin. I was just at first looking at that picture of his, marveling at the make-up he has on, and suddenly had to recall to myself when and how did I notice that he is not just a face but a talented artist, too. So I thought that instead of just commenting at his looks why not talk about the drama where I first admired the way he projected a character, that of young King Lee Do side by side with a respected veteran, Mr. Han Suk-kyu. So here are just a few other faces of Mr. Song Joong-ki, including that one where I noticed the make-up on him. My top favorites here are, of course, the ones where he just poses as himself, the common citizen who is known by the name Song Joong-ki in the glamour world. [The original owners have the credit to these pictures).

By the way, it’s not only the male celebrities who patronize make-up in South Korea, and in other countries as well. In South Korea the qualification for employment, which involves fierce competition, is assumed to be taking into consideration the way a person fixes his face (i.e., equally with men & women). Somehow it’s a manifestation of the drive to excellence. But you know how the business world is… push push push … treating assets, living and inanimate, all alike …

 

 

..

My Appreciation for Some Film/Drama Artists and Their Work

yisan poster

Yisan

This post is complementary to the post Dear Actor/Actress, I Respect You. This is a collection of my personal expressions of appreciation for some of the characters/artists and movies/‘dramas’ (here for now mostly South Korean) in the past year or so that I’ve started to turn to them for my vicarious learning-of-the-wider-world, and for entertainment, too. The fonts in pink are links to other posts in this blog. ❤

There has already been numerous “stories” I’ve wanted to speak about in this blog, to share my pleasure in them — also Japanese, Chinese/Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Filipino — but there isn’t time enough. In the mean time I decided to little by little pool some my thoughts related to them and post them here in order to reaffirm and say more of my appreciation for the hard work put in by writers, directors, staff, artists, and everyone who has put their sincerity in producing such quality work.

This little post of mine is a way of saying a BIG THANK YOU to the artists/musicians and visionaries working with the film industry who have contributed to the going-round-of-the-world, in the positive way, wherever they are and however they are doing in life now.

Every time I see a “film” I cannot help but be emotionally affected anew by the money-side of the business, just barely able to imagine for myself the financial difficulties that many of the workers/artists involved are experiencing. One “big” example that has made me very sad is the event involving the director of Taewangsasingi ( = The Legend, or The Story of the First King’s Four Gods). With that event this drama has become more valuable to me. Many a time has Taewansasingi lifted my spirits, what with the fantastic soundtracks by the superb Mr. Joe Hisaishi.

Jang-geum and her adoptive father Dukgu

(Dae Jang-Geum = Jewel in the Palace) Jang-geum and her Dukgu ahjussi (“uncle”)

I feel bad that “stories” and story-making is dealt with around the world like just any other mass-produced commodity. People keep imbibing these products, films and dramas, because the stories of our lives and the stories we see/hear about talk to each other. These stories are us, our lives (Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes has THE BOOK on this: Women Who Run With the Wolves). The way that greed takes advantage of our need for stories is one ugly reality. My wish for us all story-lovers is to be of help in propagating the pro-biotics, the good germs, the life-supporting elements that we pick up from these stories and anything associated in their making, and to identify those that kill the heart and so be able to deny their power in our lives.

[I hope to add more thoughts here, and pictures also, when I can have the time. Some pictures here enlarge when clicked on. Thank you to the original owners, the makers of these films. ❤ ]

 

Tree_With_Deep_Roots  (2-3).mp4_snapshot_17.00_[2013.10.16_23.39.51]

a young King Lee Do solves a giant sudoku

for:  Tree With Deep Roots

I’ve seen enough sageuk and I say this is among the top.

a young King Lee Do

young King Lee Do (Song Joong-ki)

It fills the sensibilities much more than it pulls at the heartstrings. I am grateful to those who were involved in making such a valuable treasure — I don’t care if it’s just mostly fiction. What matters is that it talks about humanity and is a champion of compassion, openness, and hope. The cinematography + music is refreshing, too. Congratulations to all who have worked hard on it, and it’s not only the actors/actresses but are also all those myriads of people not seen on screen. Banzai! Ganbei! Salud! Prost! Mabuhay! Long live 뿌리깊은 나무 ! Hooray!

radical King Lee Do

the adult King Lee Do

 ⇐for:  Han Suk-kyu

Sir, I fell in love with your King Lee Do / Sejong in Deep Rooted Tree ( = Tree with Deep Roots). I’m so inspired by the character you projected. Though he had much sorrow he was also surrounded by superb people, his friends. I said to myself, wow, a king who makes an impossible dream come true together with friends who in turn love him not as a king but as a person, not the least his son the prince. It’s out of this world yet I find it all realistic. I look forward to seeing more of you on screen, sir. I wish you the best, and much happiness.

Chuno_24 CLOSURE 23

Jang Hyuk as Dae-Gil in Chuno

 

for:  Jang Hyuk⇒

At first I thought you were just some show-off actor when I first saw you in Chuno. But seeing you in Tree with Deep Roots raised my respect for you into unprecedented heights.   🙂    Thank you for putting your heart into your work, Mr. Jang Hyuk. May the many people you inspire by the characters you play be blessings to you as well. I wish you the best.

 

Muhyul decides for Lee Do

Muhyul decides for Lee Do

for:  Cho Jin-Woong

I already admired Mr. Cho Jin Woong when I saw him in Chuno, with the role of an upright soldier ordered by his direct superior to betray the same. When I saw him again in Deep Rooted Tree in a yet another heroic role I decided that I’d like to watch more of his movies/dramas. Though all the actors/actresses in Deep Rooted Tree are superb, and I really fell in love with the king, !and I’m awed by the storyline, but I think Moohyul is among the most regal sageuk personas I have come across. Every time Moohyul appears on screen I would think ‘handsome’, ‘elegant’, ‘proper’, and he’s the best dressed in the drama, too. However, it’s his tiny facial expressions that qualify him as human enough to be the king’s buddy == their teamwork/friendship is impressive … (Sir, I wish you happiness in your work. Salud!)

 

for:  Kim Sung-hyun

… awesome character in Tree With Deep Roots  (as legendary mercenary Kareupaeyi) … wish you all the best!

 

for:  Painter of the Wind

Dan Won & Hye Won paint a mural

 Dan Won teaches Hye Won how to do a mural

 DanWon-HyeWon = the best love story. It’s comparable to the best of love stories there is out there. I believe it’s due largely to the very authentic acting. Their body language speak volumes and the music (Song of the Wind), especially in Episode 4 when they were doing that mural, is smack on the mood. I found myself wishing for a Sonsaengnim like Kim Hong Do  🙂   There’s so much to see and hear (wow lots of music) in here. 20 episodes is too short for me  🙂   I’d have loved to see Dan Won and Hye Won work together for a loooong time, make beautiful art together, make up for lost time, enjoy their special relationship with the king. They still have so much to learn from each other. I love it that their personalities match, and that’s why they always have fun when they’re together, and they understand each other without too much words. So much symbolism and parallelisms.. and I also love the art school guys’ support for Yun Bok and Sonsaengnim. I must mention Hyung/Orabeoni Young Bok as an ideal bff, and even lover…he’s the sweetest… Congratulations to the author, writer, artists/musicians, and directors for a story that will live on. I’m so happy for all the staff/workers and actors/actresses that were involved in this production — you’ve accomplished something very valuable and relevant…I’ve been so touched by its gravity and respect for the audience…thank you very much…I wish you all the best…blessings.

Portrait_of_a_Beauty _fireflies Yunbok & Kangmu

fireflies Yunbok & Kangmu, in Portrait of a Beauty

for:  Portrait of a Beauty  (added 20Feb2014. This film was based on the same novel as Painter of the Wind, above, was. The story is, of course, treated differently here, but is just as haunting.)

Is the movie good? Yes. Is it worth discussing? Yes. Would adolescents understand it? No (they will flounder among the themes; the story’s sense will simply pass over their heads). Was it made just to make money? No. Is it credible? Yes. Where do the depths lie? 1) In Kim Hong-do’s confession of how he failed his student. 2) In Yun-bok’s integrity, in expressing into paper the contents of his/her mind and heart with full honesty. 3) In the film’s reliance on visuals rather than on verbal elaborations. 4) In showcasing the contents of a human’s heart: jealousy, greed, violence, generosity, openness, frailty, trust, courage, lasciviousness… How does the entire film strike you? It’s a fusion of a novel-storytelling (I feel like I’m watching in front of my eyes the words that I read that sound in my head) and a painting (I will never forget the golden sheen of the lovers’ skins, and the general lighting with which they were encased inside that building as they laughed/glowed in each others’ company) and an anthropological study (of a society where females have very limited range of freedom plus that they exist to cater to the needs of the males, where the males were like demi-gods, where royalty is as distant as the moon, where societal class was the measure of a person’s worth). What is the over-all mood? It has a cadence with which one won’t be disillusioned into expecting a happily-ever-after ending. One sits in front of the screen with gravity. For me, I was constantly feeling watchful, because of the constant threat of Yun-bok being uncovered. Then I felt protective of the love between Yun-bok and Kang-mu, where Kang-mu (by actor Kim Nam-gil) was freed from his class thereby becoming just another man reveling in his love for a woman, and Yun-bok’s true form was uncovered and she became a female just like any other human female. Then I felt disgust over the whole cannot-be-helped situation, in the weakness of the respected teacher, in the arrogance of traditions. If the darkness of the night is the context/environment within which Yun-bok’s art/”beauty” exists, then the fireflies are 1) Yun-bok being able to draw out from within herself and transfer onto paper her perception of life; 2) Yun-bok and Kang-mu’s love, where Kang-mu the mirror-maker is himself the mirror with which Yun-bok saw her real self.

 

Lee Bang-ji, warrior (musa), Ddolbok's teacher (sabunim)

Lee Bang-ji, warrior (musa), Ddolbok’s teacher (sabunim)

for:  Woo Hyeon

Sujini & Ahjussi, drinking buddies

drinking buddies, Sujini & ahjussi (Lee Ji-ah & Woo Hyeon)

Dear Mr. Woo Hyeon, I immediately became your fan the first time I saw you in Taewangsasingi. Now I’ve just seen you in Deep Rooted Tree and your character Lee Bang Ji is among my favorites ever. I’m looking forward to your character in The King and the Clown which I plan to watch next. Please stay healthy and thank you very much. Mabuhay po sila!

 

for:  Kim Sun-Kyung

Ma’am, I saw you first in Taewangsasingi interpreting a very strong character, though regrettably the storyline had to kill Ho Gae’s mom early in the drama. Crime Squad was where I saw you next and I really appreciated the way you incorporated being funny, scary, and cool into the character of a cop who is always ready for action. Crime Squad is among my favorite drama series. I look forward to watching your other roles. I wish you the best in life!

 

Gen. Go & Bason, in Taewangsasingi

Park Jung-hak & Kim Mi-Kyung, as Gen. Go & Bason, in Taewangsasingi

for:  Park Jung-hak

Sir, I really really love your role in The Restless  🙂   It was a superb projection — even as a woman myself I don’t think I could outshine your elegance and finesse in there — and it made me see that you’re among the best actors! I wish you the best, always!

for:  Kim Mi-Kyung

Ma’am, my hats-off to your Ba-Son character (Taewangsasingi), such a far contrast to your Dae Jang Geum (Fugitive of Joseon) … my respect …

 

for:   Crime Squad (Detectives in Trouble)

hungry, Sae-hyuk & Min-joo

hungry after the fall, Sae-hyuk & Min-joo

I rated this drama 100%. I like the personalities/roles of Song Il Guk and Song Ji Hyo here (plus the others in the main cast also). Despite that she calls him ‘Ahjussi’ still Park Se Hyuk and Jo Min Joo are right for each other, they’re funny together, not sticky sweet to each other, each passionate of their respective jobs, supportive of each other, accepted as a close-buddy-pair by everyone around them, and so their ‘romance’ wasn’t a source of ‘stress’ for me. Their bond, and the scenes where they are together, was a ‘comfort zone’ to me all throughout the drama, since the scenes have crimes for base stories. The crime-storylines cannot be underestimated also, especially the last case, on which I really gave my full attention to. I am relieved that Se Hyuk and his team are shown to be competent cops who sincerely care for people, and so for me this itself is the drama’s statement, that evil intentions does not pay. Wow, the actors/actresses here are among the best, including those who played small parts. I salute Mr. Jang Hang-Seon (as Retired Team Leader Kwon) and Mr. Kim Kyu-Cheol (as Jo Sung Tae) for roles that are unforgettable to me. This is among the dramas I am never tired of watching repeatedly, the music is good, there’s always something to laugh about, there are many very important life lessons to be picked up, though I do speed thru some gory scenes (!!ironically I learned a nice Korean phrase from one of them: “jal-hae-sseo-yo”, meaning “Well done!”) The bonding within Se Hyuk’s work team and the hilarity in Min Joo’s workplace also endear this drama to me (thank you Shocking.com!) !Park Se Hyuk and Jo Min Joo! Aja! You’re my favorite pair! Thank you ‘Crime Squad’!

 

for:  Chuno (The Slave Hunters)

Chuno_23_1. yangban-in-disguise converse with slave-rebel 12

Eop-bok

Chuno _Seolhwa (0)

Seolhwa

I’d still say NO NO NO to violence but in this series, notwithstanding, I see balance restored, demons vanquished, hope nurtured. My topmost favorite is the slave Eop Bok.  He’s as subdued as the foundation of a huge edifice, having learned to keep to himself that he used to hunt tigers. Of the females my favorites are the slave Cho Bok-yi (she projects an aura of hopefulness despite her dismal status and she neither looks down on slaves nor envy the nobles — she has an inner joy that shines through her ragged appearance, especially that she’s in love) & the silly entertainer/prostitute Seolhwa (her beauty lies in her “simpleness” and I’m happy that she falls in love with Dae Gil). The fast action-music is super! I’m infatuated with it as much as I am with the hot male leads. On a serious note, this series has been enlightening for me, on the way “slaves” and “nobles” see themselves and the world around them, on the distance of the “gap” between them so much so that it’s difficult for somebody of one class to connect with or to get across to the other. The friendship of the 3 buddies Daegil, Choi & Wangson is really admirable. I’m very glad I decided to watch this one not so much because I was entertained but because I learned much about human beings. My many thanks to all who worked hard in this drama. If you’re a fan of Mr. Jang Hyuk then I heartily recommend Tree with Deep Roots.

 

for:  Lee Han-Wi

Mr. Lee Han Wi is definitely one of my favorites. I’m always glad when I see his face on screen, like having that feeling of coming home. I first saw him in Damo, then in Chuno, then in Freeze, then in War of the Arrows — there’s always something ‘hard’ yet ‘soft’ about his character portrayals. I wish Mr. Lee Han Wi the best, and good health!

 

for:  Damo (The Legendary Policewoman)

Ah, Damo, you broke my heart, then you restored it, then broke it again, then offered to mend it. Millions love you already because of that, so what else can I say?   🙂   You’re one of the best romantic sageuks out there. I wish blessings to all who have been blessed in the struggle to get hold of what your story had to say. The struggles and the triumphs of the 4 main characters (for me they were Yoon, Ohk, Sung Baek, and Soo Myung) was awesome. The supporting cast did not lag behind in prominence, too. I greatly appreciate the presence of Mr. Lim Hyeon Shik in it even for the short time that it was. Ah, Damo, I’m still looking forward to analyzing the movement of your storyline.  🙂 As of now I’d say the Yoon-Ohk, Ohk-Sungbaek, and Sungbaek-Soomyung tandems, as well as the camaraderie in the Left Police Bureau, are worthy of envy. May the good influence of Damo live long!

 

for:  Kwon Oh-Jung

Sir, you’re definitely definitely hot in Damo  🙂   I wish you happiness, salud! [added 19March2014: At last, by Empress Ki episode 36 I got to see the whole of your face and it felt so right. I hope the hairstylists don’t pull your hair down over your face again…]

 

for:  The Restless

Jung Woo Sung _The Restless _2006I watched this movie because of Jung Woo Sung — his eyes mesmerize me. I got a very nice surprise when I saw Mr. Heo Jun Ho in here also — I’ve become a big fan of his since Jumong and so I always think of him as ‘Haemosu’ 🙂 I treasure this movie The Restless because of ‘Haemosu’ PLUS Mr. Park Jung Hak’s portrayal of his role — which is another very nice surprise. What impressed me most here is Ban-Chu’s regality, especially the effect of his hair. However, it’s Yi Gwak’s hair that I fell in love with  🙂   its ‘softness’ complements his eyes. I had a big laugh when somebody asked him of what he ate that made him so tall 🙂 ! The panoramic views, the lush grass, the petals, and the firefly-like lights are delightful…they echo the plot’s insistence that it’s love that changes the world.

 

for:  Ji Jin-Hee

It’s been almost a decade since I first saw you, Mr. Ji Jin Hee, and after so many dramas/sageuks that I’ve been through you remain a big favorite. I watched the movie Paradise because of you and afterwards I found myself so inspired by it. Thank you very much, to you and to everyone involved in its making. Your parents must be very happy to have you, indeed. Please continue to be in projects that will encourage the ordinary everyday person. May God bless you.

 

for:  Lim Hyeon-Shik

Sir, thank you for your portrayals in Dae Jang Geum (as Jang-geum’s Dukgu ahjussi, seen sitting with her at the second topmost picture in this post) and Yisan (the eccentric painter who teaches Songyeon). You’re one of the best! I wish you happiness and health 🙂

 

for:  Seo Beom-Sik     Seo Bum Sik

Just want to say a WARM HELLO to one of my favorite actors ever! Ever since I saw you in Jumong I’ve always looked for you whenever I’m into another sageuk/drama and always am happy whenever your face appears on screen regardless of your role. I wish you all the best, and blessings! [added 19March2014: I knew it! Since you are cast as antagonist to Goryo’s King Wangyu ( in Empress Ki) then most likely the character you play will be killed in battle. I was not wrong. Phew! Well at least I got to see that you’re doing as great as ever…]

 

for:  A Frozen Flower

I’m glad I watched this film. I looked at the struggles of the three main characters. I find it awesome, how they handled it. The three actors did very well, always a tug of war between suppressing or expressing emotions. A Frozen Flower 2008 _posterThe king is frightening, the queen is courageous, Hong Lim is true to himself, wonderful set design and costume, and music. I think the ‘flower’ also refers to the CAPABILITY of the queen and of Hong Lim TO LOVE AS PERSONS, as an individual, that would have remained ‘frozen’ had there been only the king as the object of that love (Hong Lim as lover and the queen as wife). Had it remained so then Hong Lim would not have known passion of the like that he had with the queen. And the queen would not have gotten pregnant (you know what I mean). Unfortunately for the king an un-freezing/thawing/warming happened between the two persons closest to him and, well, he just had to do something to re-freeze it, so to say. I agree with xxxxx, that “the interpretation of the ending will depend on the person.” For me I choose to see it as a happy ending for both the queen and Hong Lim because somehow, given the context vis-a-vis the capability/power of the king, both Hong Lim and the queen evolved into his/her “own person”, they became ‘persons’ and not just ‘bodyguard/subject’ and ‘queen’, and they also came to know how it is to truly/selflessly love another “person”.           

and also:

… yeah I’ve been wondering too about the flower that’s been “frozen” ..

sword dance, A Frozen Flower

sword dance, A Frozen Flower

It does make sense that the queen’s facial expressions have to be “frozen” and yet have to express emotions at the same time, and I think she has done it very well… she has to project coldness and distance because this is what’s expected of her in that setting…
Hong Lim was VERY COURAGEOUS when he sent the honeysuckle tea to her, and again when he gave her the necklace—a mere “servant” does not do that to his queen, because in this setting doing that is like shouting out your love, nevertheless the queen answered when she wore the necklace in public—it was a very safe way of shouting out her love, in which Hong Lim would only be the one to understand the message…

Hong Lim’s sexuality has also become “unfrozen” when he fell in love with the queen… instinctively he just kept mum about it when the king asked him how it was to become a “man” at last— he gave the king an evasive answer to protect all three of them, knowing that the king would be jealous of the queen and he didn’t want her to be a target of such ill-feelings, knowing that the king would be hurt and he didn’t want to betray the king even in that way, and for himself guarding that his newly found wonderful “freedom” isn’t “crushed” at its bud…

A Frozen Flower main cast _Jo In Sung _ Song Ji Hyo _  Joo Jin Mo

Jo In-sung, Song Ji-hyo, & Joo Jin-mo: the main cast having fun promoting their movie

What makes this story unforgettable for me is the portrayal of choices of victims of circumstance. I love it that Hong Lim and the queen did come to the point of being willing to die for each other’s sake—both had nothing at first, but eventually a self-sacrificing love blossomed, became unfrozen. Also, that Hong Lim might have felt betrayed by the king when he was ordered to father the queen’s child—I mean, he might have looked at sex as an expression of deep affection—and in a sense it would have bothered him that the king himself, the object of his affections then, would order him to a “betrayal” (one can’t simply switch affection on and off) …the saving grace is when he sees that the queen is alive, who with his growing baby inside her is the redemption of his castrated state, and so was willing to forgive the dead king, and be reconciled with him at his last breath for old time’s sake…

 

Hong Da-in's Do Mun Jipsanimfor:  Seong Woong

   🙂   if the doctor had not been there I really wished you for Da-in  🙂 but too bad the social stratification didn’t allow you to pursue her affections for you, because I saw that Da-in had a strong attachment to you also   🙂   — in The Fugitive of Joseon (Mandate of Heaven)…  anyway, your Do Mun character is unforgettable to me … I wish you the best!

 

Park Sae Hyuk_Jo Min Joo .Crime Squad. ep12  (6)

Jo Sang-tae under investigation

for:  Kim Kyu-Cheol

Sir, thank you for your Jo Sang-Tae role in Crime Squad … that has touched me, plus that he brought together all the main characters in the drama, at the finale … I’ll always remember your poignant scene with Jo Min-joo in front of her house   🙂   I wish you good health and the best!

 

for:  Jang Hang-Seon

Sir, I’ve seen you only twice — Taewangsasingi and Crime Squad — but you’re already one of my favorites   🙂   Please stay healthy for a long long time … !Ganbei!

 

for:  Strongest Chil Woo (Chilwu, the Mighty)Chil Woo ending

?who cares about the criteria of a “good” drama? For me this one’s so lovable with or without Eric and I’m counting it as among my favorites   🙂 The cast is super, many of my favorite actors/actresses are here. Even though for several their parts are small, still I will treasure this drama because of them. Personally I feel like for the 20 episodes I’m seeing the personality of Eric in drama form: serious depth and bursts of silliness   🙂

 

for:  A Werewolf Boy

This film is so human. I’d score it more than 100% if I could. It doesn’t matter that I had to depend on the translation. It’s not the fantasy or the scientific possibility part that attached me to this film but it’s the way the folks involved handled the situation. The mother, the neighbors, and the children are simply lovely people. Even a non-Korean like me can clearly appreciate that. This question plays in my head about it: what-if-it’s-true? If it’s indeed true then the story is simply beautiful, as beautiful as the lush garden that Chul-soo keeps in his home.

 

for:  Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Gul-oh!ahahaha umuulan ng kagwapuhan! ( = a raining of handsomeness)  🙂 this drama is so student-life, albeit set in sexist Joseon era, but that’s just how it was  🙂 I’ve had lots of laughs in here, it’s so entertaining as long as one can overlook the usual dragging dialogues. I’m in Lesson 7 now and I’m not gonna breathe until I finish this one, and then I’m gonna watch it again over vacation for in-depth analysis  !students rock!  🙂

 

for:   Tajomaru

It’s a fairytale — sort of, where the protagonists and antagonists keep switching. Beautiful scenic shots. Lovely lovely costumes. There’s tragedy all throughout but I like the ending, because it makes sense and it sets Naomitsu free from a horrible life under the shogun. I’m currently infatuated with Oguri Shun so any film that has him I’d definitely “like”.  🙂

 

for:  The Woodsman and the Rain

I have to write it in capitals: Oguri and the Woodsman _seatsTHIS IS A VERY GOOD MOVIE. This is my most memorable Oguri Shun character because this is where I first saw him and immediately I warmed up to him. Of course, Mr. Yakusho Koji is in his usual best. This movie is warm-hearted, funny, quirky, uncluttered, cozy to the heart. It reminds me of woodblock prints, seemingly monotonous but is actually rich and detailed if only one looks close enough. I’ve seen many other Oguri Shun characters after this but I love him most in here — and with his natural unruly hair! This is about family, friendships, authentic rural neighborliness, and film-making, too. If you love people, and if you also like anything Japanese, then this film is a treasure.

———————————————

A Sleeping Forest _poster

A Sleeping Forest

… that’s it for now … … I’d love to talk next of Kaneshiro Takeshi (Golden Bowl, & more), Kimura Takuya (A Sleeping Forest, & more), Eita (Toad’s Oil), Secretly Greatly, Ahjussi, Jun Matsumoto (Smile), The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail, Seven Samurai, Zatoichi (2003 film, especially on the geisha siblings and The Stripes tap dance at the end), Sakuran, Petal Dance, …  … currently re-enjoying the soundtracks of Return of the Condor Heroes 2006 … currently trying to watch Gu Am Heo Joon and Su Baek Hyang (theme song here is lovely) whenever I can … had just sped through the jewel Water Bloom and I highly recommend this old drama to anyone who loves the simple things in life or anything Korean or has Song Il Guk in it … set to watch old Keanu Reeves films plus his two newest, Man of Taichi and 47 Ronin  …

  … really want to find the time to make a nice post featuring Park Sae-hyuk, Jo Min-joo, Jumong, and Ye Soya  

  ♥

  ♥

  ♥ —————————————-

 

added 9January2014:

for:  Kisaragi

Kisaragi _posterAs usual, I wasn’t surprised at how this film ran, after watching several Japanese films already. It’s simplicity in complexity and complexity in simplicity, a constant harmonious motion from one point to the next, so artful, so tasteful, so subdued and successful in highlighting where it should — and great acting! I’d say the story borders on the absurd, but that’s storytelling for you. I was glued to the screen without meaning to, because I was skeptical at first and thought that I’d fast-forward. But then it just happened that didn’t realize I was mesmerized until the film’s almost over. If you’re an Oguri Shun fan it’s a must-watch. The heart of the story, though, is very realistic and should be taken with respect and gravity. It’s a statement on the personal lives of the faces in the entertainment industry.

 

added 16Feb2014:

for:  King’s Daughter, Su Baek-hyang

… (by Episode 89 –> ) … waaa! Kuchon dies! I don’t like this! waaa!

Kuchon says farewell to step-daughter Solnan

Kuchon says farewell to step-daughter Solnan

I really can’t comprehend how Solhi turns out like that when her parents were like angels. Solnan-Kuchon is the best step-father-daughter relationship I’ve ever encountered on screen. However, it’s the king and Jinmu that I worry most about, and on what effect it will be on Myongnong when he finds out that it’s for his and his father’s sakes that the king did all of these…I laughed loudly when I read somewhere that her blood boils whenever she sees Solhi on screen. Mine simmers. It’s unbelievable how twistedly selfish this character is. I really have no sympathy for her. Unlike many other sageuk antagonists, this spoiled brat has no excuse at all for her behavior. She’s just fortunate that Kuchon has not abandoned her, ever since then, despite seeing through her lies. In the real world there are indeed kids who end up that way despite being born in a nice and caring family. So, she better not have her cake and eat it, too, because I’m rooting for the happy endings for the nice people around her, including Jinmu. Would it be too much to hope that Solhi finds the right path somehow? Poor, poor, girl. She missed the opportunity of being good friends with one of the nicest queens I’ve seen on sageuk-land! As for Solnan and the nice prince, I really really wish for your happinesses 🙂 Please, let them end up together. [added 19March2014:  !ek! the smileys are now pudgy little faces 🙂 so kawaii! ah, I just finished the 108th episode, the final. well, what can I say of the ending?:everything was put into their places. it felt like I have just done reading a legend that will give me sweet dreams. I had thought that the way Solhi was resolved is rather the easiest way out. But then again I remember that in our class discussion in school me and my classmates rather saw that us humans actually have no free choices. It’s because there are factors affecting our behaviors of which we are not aware of, of which we have no control over. Still, I’d say Solhi had it really easy, lucky girl. But then if love is at work no power can go against it. subaekhyang. centennial fragrance. lovely story ❤ ❤ ❤ <– see I was right heheh the hearts are now available! ❤ nice WordPress, thanks 🙂

 

 

a very scared heir to the Yuan empire

a very scared heir to the Yuan empire

Anna taste-tests Bongi & Dong-hae's recipe

Anna taste-tests Bongi & Dong-hae’s recipe

for: Ji Chang-wook

hah… “Bakit ngayon ka lang dumating sa buhay ko?” ( = “Why is it that you’ve come into my life only just now?”, and it’s a nice song, too)  ahh… Ji Chang-wook-ssi, I like you now despite of your very pretty face 🙂 Baek Dong-soo didn’t convince me then; it’s this scared-ly Yuan emperor that did it, this adorably pale awkward spoilt rich kid, enough to make me go through Dong-hae’s life (Smile, Dong-hae) while waiting for the rest of the episodes (of Empress Ki), enough to make it fine for me that Sungnyang does not end up with the gorgeous Goryo king …

Dong-hae, Anna, & Bongi's family

Dong-hae, Anna, & Bongi’s family

 Bild 2014-07-06_14-07_003Mr. Ji Chang-wook, I wish you the strength to choose film-roles that will provide positive inspiration for the everyday person on the street, especially the youth 🙂 may you prosper in your choices and plans whatever they may be in the future … banzai! [Please see also about My Too Perfect Sons, below, after a bit of scrolling… thanks ❤ ]

 

 

Park Ki Woong _& Secretly Greatly co-stars

Secretly & Greatly co-stars

added 25Feb2014:

for:  Park Ki Woong

Hello Mr. Park, your character in Chuno Park Ki Woong _in Chunomade me think “Just another wannabe actor taking advantage of his good looks” because appearing as a villain like that shouldn’t be such a difficult job, and I especially detested how that character betrayed my favorite Eop Bok. But then I saw you as among the good guys in Secretly Greatly, in a subtle-multiple-layer character that you did very easily despite your pretty face, and so I thought I judged your face rather harshly. I am very sorry, Mr. Park. 🙂 Peace. I’m looking forward to appreciating your work again in Gaksital Park Ki Woong _sweetand I’m now preparing my heart and my mind before watching it, knowing that I will get involved in the story and I will not escape its effects on me 🙂 Mr. Park, please remain the sweet guy that I have found out you to be.Secretly and Greatly Kamsahamnida 🙂

 

… I will find time to write about Secretly and Greatly … I need to find a way to salvage it from the glaring violence that occupies much of its time … [added 23June2014]

 

 

added 2March2014:Donnie Yen - Tang Wei - Wu Xia - 2011

for:  Wu Xia (Dragon)  

… this 2011 movie, Wu Xia (or Dragon), says it is neither the past nor appearances nor parentage nor affiliation that makes a man … it has the stars Kaneshiro Takeshi, Tang Wei, and Donnie Yen set against the backdrop of an obscure Chinese village where life is simple and sweet … it features two kinds of family life: one is full of love and peace, the other is as gruesome as hell … Kaneshiro Takeshi _Wu Xia poster 2011if you plan to watch this movie then it’s best to find time for it because it deserves an undivided attention … it’s like a dish that has been richly flavored by subtle additions of an array of condiments and spices … what one can take out from it depends on how much of life one has already come across … it is neither shallow nor simply entertaining, because it remains as something to be pondered about long after you’ve seen it … this poster featuring Kaneshiro Takeshi’s face says the truth about it …

 

added 4March2014:

for: Emergency Couple

Baby Gooki

 (as of episode 11 15) !ahahaha I totally Emergency Couple- on the setunderstand why this drama is so beloved, coz it’s also making me grin with glee from ear to ear just witnessing the developments 🙂 I wonder how the story will end. Whether Jin-hee ends up with the awesome & handsome chief [ ❤ he is the actor Lee Pil-mo, more about him below, in for: My Too Perfect Sons] or gets back with cutiepie Chang-min I hope the other guy can end up happy, too (is that possible? !haha) Baby Gook _Emergency Couple _yawnI’m happy for Song Ji-hyo because she’s doing great here but I do hope she gets more rest …    Emergency Couple _Baby Gook _ ep15  I’m a bit worried that she looks like she’s not getting enough sleep … I really admire this actress 🙂 I can spot several events here that are similar to Crime Squad & I’m just delighted at the coincidences (having a meal together with Chief Gook/Park Saehyuk & where he secretly gets amused at her; she shops for a gift for Chief Gook/Saehyuk at a clothes store; Emergency Couple _Baby Gook  ep15she’s comfortable & nimble in footwear without heels; she has non-flamboyant but trendy/cool wardrobe; she’s struggling to prove her worth in her job) … I wish the best for whole team that’s making this series refreshing, intelligent, & fun to watch! And please don’t pressure Baby Gooki to work!  🙂  Emergency Couple _Baby Gook _ep15!NO NO NO NO! I just saw baby Gooki cry! Don’t put him in a situation where he’ll possibly cry! Or else remove him totally from the series! You can’t use a baby this way! Arrrgh!!! <– I’m sorry. Gooki visits Chief Gook_Emergency Couple ep15I think that was very strong language there. I still feel strongly against babies crying for no reason, but at the same time I understand the situation. [added 22March2014: By episode 16 baby Gooki is fine. I have a post on it, here, where I also share a few captures of him — has been updated and includes those until episode 21.]

 

for:  My Too Perfect Sons  (added 14March2014)

My Too Perfect Sons _castThis is a 54-episode family type drama. I’m in episode 13 now and its magic for me has not waned. This series has been cracking me up since the beginning. My Too Perfect Sons _ castI still don’t know how it ends but as of now I am convinced that I have found another jewel. I had no idea before I started watching it that it’s this good. I have already cried a load along the story but please don’t be put off by this. It’s a drama after all. I appreciate these tear-inducing parts because they help in making the characters more real-like. Also, many of these for-cry episodes act as removers of sting from the nasty characters. Harabuji Abuji MiranThus I am not stressed out by any one character here, making me appreciate more the unfolding of the story. So it’s not all silly laughs, and it’s not even an all-sweet-flow because there’s lots of nagging from all sides that personally I would be exasperated many times a day had I been living among them.

My Too Perfect Sons poster

this thumbnail zooms in greatly when clicked on

The story revolves around a family that has 4 adult single sons, of which the eldest 3 are professionals and are being nagged by their mother into marriage. I have put here photos of the main cast because I don’t have the time now for writing much about any and each. If you’ve been around quality K-dramas for a while you’d recognize that most of these faces are among the ablest in the industry. Names on the upper rows are the artists’ names, while those on the lower rows are their character names in this drama. I ended up here in my search for other Ji Chang-wook (the emperor in the current Empress Ki) and Lee Pil-mo (the ER chief resident in the current Emergency Couple) characters. If you like these two then My Too Perfect Sons is a must for you (incidentally, it’s Ji Chang-wook’s first drama). My Too Perfect Sons _mother Okhui & hers 4 sonsI already have lots of love for each of the main characters (except Choi Soo-hee, who has appeared only once so far hence the audience still has to get to know her). If, like me, you’d want to know more about ordinary folks’ lives in present-day South Korea then you’ll be charmed by this series. Don’t expect, though, that what you see here is an accurate description. Song Daepung & Kim BoksilIt is a tailored presentation, after all.     But I have warmed up to it this much because it’s near to the normal family situation where farts, burps, dog poops, and blowing of noses are part and parcel of living with loved ones within close proximity. My Too Perfect Sons _Song brothers + BoksilThere are lots of bond-drinking, too, but thankfully none has thrown up on another yet. I hope there’s none of this  here, hahaha. However, there was already something similar to this in one of the episodes. That one also cracked me up. The menfolk here are as crazy and as whacky as the womenfolk. This is among the rare K-dramas where I am not irritated by a bitch-type or a meek-type character. Yes, both types are here but somehow they manage to come across as bitch/meek with a substance.

My Too Perfect Sons _Song brothers L-R _Daepung, Jinpung, Seonpung, MipungNo one’s paying me to say things here. I’m just sharing my joy with you 🙂 I’m going back to watching episode 13 now. Have a super day! (Thanks to asianwiki for the My Too Perfect Sons main cast photos.)

>added 19 March 2014. Superb. I have just finished the watching the drama. I relished every episode of it. I’m smiling like the Cheshire Cat right now as I’m writing this update. My Too Perfect Sons did not disappoint me until the end. I now confirm that this is among my favorites. My Too Perfect Sons _Song brothers L-R _Mipung, Seonpung, Daepung, JinpungThe story of the Song family, of their 4 handsome sons and of the people involved in their lives, was carefully crafted to showcase family related events so as to encourage the viewer with the message that no matter what the situation is living shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s because in life no matter what the situation is unexpected events could always turn up and they could lead us to paths we never thought we’d take. Ahh, I’m so sleepy now I can’t think much anymore. I’ll just describe the entire drama this way: it’s like a cuddly teddy bear, big, soft, cushy, and warm. My Too Perfect Sons _Song familyIf I have to choose a most favorite character then it would be Song Gwangho (by the great actor Mr. Baek Il-seob), the father of the 4 sons. Anyone who has a father like him can’t be anything but a happy child, and anyone who has a child like him can’t be anything but a happy parent. But the rest of the main characters are also lovable in their own unique ways, including Miran the boys’ cousin who’s not in the photos above.

I now count this as among my treasure of ‘comfort’ dramas, stress relievers without fail, the others being:

Golden Bowl (Japanese) [background theme: bowling],

Hana Kimi – Taiwan [background theme: a girl in a boys’ school],

Yankumi's class at play _Gokusen 1Gokusen-1 [Japan, whacky boys’ class + whackier teacher],

Crime Squad [police work & a journalist],

The Legend (The Story of the First King’s Four Gods or Taewangsasingi) fantasy-myth,

The 5 kids studying _God of StudyThe God of Study [down-to-earth teenage kids and their awesome school teachers],

Take Care of Us, Captain [aviation & admirable characters of the 4 leads],

Return of the Condor Heroes 2006 [wuxia-fantasy],

❤ and, hopefully Emergency Couple [medical] based on episode 15 so far.

Kaja! (let’s go!)

    

 

 

 

 

 

Painter of the Wind: an impression

a.  Painter of the Wind _official poster b.  Dan Won - Hye Won meet c.  Dan Won - Hye Won meet e.  Painter of the Wind _ siblings, best friends, loves _Yun and Young f.  the Artist and (her) his muse _Painter of the Wind g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (1) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (2) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (3) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (4) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (5) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (6) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (7) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (8) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (9) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (10) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (11) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (1) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (2) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (3) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (4) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (5) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (6) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (7) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (8) i.  Painter of the Wind _capturing frames together (1) i.  Painter of the Wind _capturing frames together (2) i.  Painter of the Wind _capturing frames together (3) j.  Danwon _Ssireum_ Wrestling j.  Hyewon - Ssanggeomdaemu _Double Sword Dance k.  Dan Won and Hye Won _loversHalfway through this sageuk I underwent stress. I was hard put foreseeing what the writers/producers intended for the package to be. Is this to be a statement on ‘free love’? Would this work be labelled as an expression of ‘carnal lust’? Are the people involved in making it aware that they are treading delicate ground? Sageuks are, after all, ‘safe’ genre, intended for everyone. If the ratings have to be high (which is understandably a major aim) then the drama cannot afford to be ‘scandalous’. I was not willing to have such a lovely work ‘ruined’ by harsh reviews.

I was anxious because I could not easily put myself into the shoes of the characters. I am not an ‘artist’, I do not have their eyes, I do not have their ears, I do not have their perception. This drama is about the two best artists of the Joseon era, in this fictional setting set on the first year of King Jeongjo’s reign (Yi San). The drama cannot be comprehended unless the ‘artist’s’ perspective is taken. And, as we already know, artists are ‘out of this world’. They have worlds of their own. Like mathematicians and physics theorists.

Ah, I had taken so many snapshots that I was hard pressed into forcibly leaving off most of them. In the end I chose the ones that show the relationship between Dan Won, the teacher, and Yun Bok (aka Hye Won), the disciple. Through most of the story it’s a bit of a problematic relationship. There were all these staring in the eyes and body contact that Korean society, then and now, would not deem proper between a teacher and his pupil, more so between two people of similar gender. Painter of the Wind is so full of this between Dan Won and Yun Bok that at times I could feel the hairs at the back of my neck stand. I believe it can be attributed to the excellent acting, plus the theme song. There’s constantly this hand-grabbing and piggy-back-carrying between Dan Won and Yun Bok. They could even do it in front of so many people. And the people around them, seeing how eccentric these two weirdos are, just take it for granted that it’s fine. But for the two it’s not fine. Their feelings for each other slowly unfold, like a blank canvass at first, and as the artist’s instinct guides, takes hold little by little, the empty space is filled with entities that take a life of their own. An unknown form is slowly revealed. The unknown is unveiled.

What’s more problematic is that Dan Won is already a mature individual, a veteran of the world,  not intimidated by conventions, and yet here comes one whom he calls ‘little bean’ who manages to upset his equilibrium — he’s trying to figure out how to deal with the attraction he feels to this little bean. Does what Dan Won feel for Yun Bok similar to what Yun Bok feels for the gisaeng (female entertainer)? Yun Bok has told her that she is special to him (her). The gisaeng has already fallen in love with Yun Bok. On that bridge scene I was bracing myself against the pain that I will see on the beautiful face when Yun Bok breaks her heart. Her question is similar to what I would have asked myself had that happened to me also: What do I do now?

By their eventually unfolding dialogues I was able to understand the depth of the attraction that Yun Bok/Hye Won felt for the gisaeng. Hye Won is an artist of the highest calibre. S/He worships beauty. S/He has never been a girl ever since her parents died. She even shares the same bedroom with her older brother, Young Bok (almost similar names). She is virtually a he. She had stepped onto the shoes of the male of his era. He walks and talks and projects masculinity. She and her foster family cannot afford to get caught of this lie. Had they been not brothers Young Bok and Yun Bok could probably already have thought of running away and getting married. Dan Won himself saw this intimacy between them.

The gisaeng is blameless. Her love for the Artist is in its proper place, and it is beautiful. There’s that scene, the night before Yun Bok was to be punished, where both were performing their arts simultaneously, painting and music. A special episode of the drama explained how that take left a profound effect on the participants: the professional musician, the professional painter, and the working staff present. On screen the scene is utterly moving, a frenzy of passion on the throes of … impending oblivion …

Are Yun Bok and Dan Won just artists ‘attracted’ to each other, the way Yun Bok and the gisaeng are, primarily because ..they could ‘understand’ each other?..they could feel each other’s passion for beauty? Do they, each respectively, value the other because of the ‘treasure’ that the other is? Ah, if only I were an artist I wouldn’t have so many of these questions. Like Dan Won and Hye Won and the gisaeng I would have taken everything in stride, have accepted whatever is there without much ado.

What’s poignant is the way Yun Bok is slowly revealed. Her self-portrait in the end is the revelation. But why oh why oh why couldn’t she just be selfish and accepted her teacher’s desire to run away with her? The reason why she had to break the gisaeng’s heart is that she couldn’t respond to the love that the gisaeng had for him/her. She knew it was wrong for her to have kept at it. Simultaneously her attractions to both the gisaeng and her teacher became revealed to her, and she decides to finally tell them her secret.

Many times as I watched on (I did it in one go, taking a break only to sleep) I felt envious of the relationship between Dan Won and Hye Won. He is her guardian angel. He never fails her. Maybe that’s the main reason why she eventually falls in love with him. He’s so positive and so profound that not even his confusion with his emotions could drive him away. He finds a treasure and he stakes his life on it. Only Young Bok could be equally capable of this self-sacrifice…and he had to be killed!?!? … tsk tsk tsk … why did Young Bok have to die?—he’s among the sweetest sageuk characters I have come across and I really didn’t want him to die. However, it was primarily to provide angst for Hye Won so that the wheel can keep on turning. It’s his death that brings the main characters together. What a pity. Is it really justifiable this way? … ah, dying is really too easy in dramaland … in moments like this it’s, well, ah, I don’t have the words to say …

Yun Bok said that when she looks at the gisaeng it’s as if she’s looking at her own self. She has lost her femininity and she is all of a sudden confronted by it when she sees the beautiful gisaeng. Yes, the gisaeng is very beautiful, so beautiful that the richest merchant simply had to have her. And when he acquires her he treats her with utmost care, like how a priceless porcelain is guarded from scratch and breakage. Yun Bok lost her femininity along with her childhood, along with many of her memories. As her attachment to Dan Won grows she slowly retrieves these memories, this life as being her father’s, and mother’s, doted little girl.

I felt that 20 episodes was too short. Only the relationship between Yun Bok and the gisaeng (ah, Jeong Yang her name I think is) have developed fully. The teacher-disciple and person-person relationships between Dan Won and Hye Won have ended prematurely. Hye Won is too young to be parted from her Sonsaengnim (teacher). Was that competition supposed to indicate that Hye Won has already matured as an artist and hence has come to her teacher’s level? It was too abrupt for me. Couldn’t have they been given a longer time together spent learning, together, and learning from each other, and producing art together? Their partnership as teacher-pupil is so dynamic and I felt that what they had should have been shown to have spilled over to the other artists surrounding them. There were hardly any scenes where fellow artists are checking out their work. The other artists were left out in the painting-analysis scenes. I had wanted to see how Dan Won’s and Hye Won’s style could have impacted the common people, since it’s about them in the first place.

Also, Hye Won has just newly hatched from her shell of masculinity. Surely the evolution of her relationship with her teacher, and the king, would accord the three of them new perspectives in life. But she had to be sent away so abruptly she might as well not have gone out of her shell after all. So, see, look at the consequence, she had to leave her teacher. That was the best choice. She couldn’t sacrifice her teacher’s happiness. If he leaves with her his great talent will come to oblivion. She cannot face that, especially now that he has become precious to her. Earlier she had asked him that crucial question, that what if ‘he’ were a ‘she’, then, what, Teacher? I was so scared of that suicidal question that my relief was so great when he kissed ‘his’ forehead.  The teacher so loved this disciple that regardless of what, ‘he’ or ‘she’, he couldn’t hurt his/her feelings and so he just goes and expresses what’s real for him. That scene is so unbelievably selfless that I couldn’t help but, along with Hye Won, fall intensely in love with this great teacher.

I don’t know how the novel on which this drama is based reads. As of the 6th episode the novel’s author has expressed satisfaction with the portrayals. I have been rewarded in having decided to see this one. My guide in finding this were the names of the writers and directors that did Tree with Deep Roots. Like that one, this is also a beauty. However, this is the first time that I am so affected by an ending. It felt like something precious has been blown away by the wind from my hand and I can’t get it back anymore. I’m sure both Dan Won and Hye Won, however they led their lives after that, would always long for that which they lost, each other, and this longing will have to be expressed in their paintings else they would simply stop.. ..breathing.

Dan Won:         “What is a painting?…”

Yun Bok/Hye Won:   “It is a longing…”

 

Tree With Deep Roots: An Overview

a rabbit hops by as Chae Yoon digs for prince's medicine

a rabbit hops by as Chae Yoon digs honeysuckle, for the prince’s medicine

Confucian scholars dialogue with the king at the palace gate _ep16

Confucian scholars debate with the king at the palace gate, a skirmish with words _ep16

king + highest palace maid + 3 girls + chief scholar search clues to find missing Soyi, Moohyul has urgent news _ep12

king + chief palace maid + the 3 assistants + chief scholar look for clues to missing Soyi; Moohyul hurries in with news _ep12

King Lee Do slips on the stairs seeing Prince Gwangpyung is safe

King Lee Do slips on the stairs, overwhelmed with joy, when he sees that Prince Gwangpyung & Soyi are safe

King Lee Do, Prince Gwangpyung, Soyi, & Ddol Bok on the day he becomes the King's friend _ep15

Lee Do, Gwangpyung, Soyi, & Ddol Bok (on the day he becomes the King’s friend) _ep15

Moohyul defeats Yeon Pyung and meets Kareupeyi

Moohyul defeats Yeon Pyung (kneeling) and meets Kareupeyi (center, in monster mask)

Moohyul, the king, and chief scholar in one of their confidential meetings

in the king’s main hang-out his study hall, he + Moohyul + chief scholar in one of their casual confidential meetings

Scholar Han teaching the king's alphabet to sweet Yeondoo and mysterious Kareupeyi _ep16

Scholar Han teaching the king’s alphabet to sweet Yeondoo and mysterious Kareupeyi _ep16

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

Bursting with the triumph of the goodness in man. It’s the answer to a particular monarch’s gamble at sharing responsibilities with the common everyday folk.

It’s a 24-episode South Korean historical drama (sageuk) based on King Sejong the Great’s “invention” of the Korean writing symbols, han-gul. In one of the scenes it is explained that the ministers are like the roots. Hence the title symbolizes the balance of and struggle for power among the participants in the kingdom’s governance as guided by Confucianism.

The king depicted here is a lovely person. He is so sincere I’ve easily fallen in love with him. How I wish all of us in the world have purposes as pure as his, of whatever ‘kind’ or size or leaning or ‘significance’, so that only the hopeful, hence life, comes out through all the faults that a human may have. King Lee Do (his personal name) faces his fears, he wrestles with the foes in his head and in his heart, he comes out very bruised but stays on his feet and goes on with living. How I admire him.

The king has to do these battles alone but it’s very fortunate that he has friends around him. First there was the queen in his younger days. Then now there’s his son the handsome prince who has no problems with his father, his bodyguard Moohyul, the baby-faced soft-spoken very-steady chief scholar who is as much a support to the king as Moohyul is, the head of the palace maids together with the four younger ones who are like extensions of the king’s brain, the two young scholars who are the smartest in the Hall of Worthies, then finally Ddol Bok a.k.a Kang Chae Yoon. I should also mention Garion, although he doesn’t belong to the group because he has other motives.

Instead of the peacock feathers on the military men’s hats there are strips of cloth or yarn. The king does not wear dragon-design shoes but one that is similar to the ministers’. His main hang-out is his high-ceilinged wooden study hall. His four girl attendants have jewels on their hair ribbons. There are no evil queens, palace maids, and concubines here. The king is amused of the effect it has on his attendants whenever he speaks swear words. He is an expert on sudoku, having solved a 33 x 33 game when he was yet an insecure young king overpowered by his father — his attendants and computers then were all palace maids (yes!!). And these are the best: the king casually quasi-sunbathes (because he still has clothes on), and himself applies watered fecal matter as fertilizer to experimental plants, and he gladly pours a drink to the butcher (the lowest ranking person in his society).

There are 7 martial arts masters in here: Moohyul (very handsome and proper), Chae Yoon, Lee Bang Ji (the best for me), the half-masked pale face (Yeon Pyung, who has a blue ribbon on his hair, respectable as a warrior but is scared of Moohyul), a high-rank Confucian scholar in the court who went to the dark side of the force, a legendary Chinese mercenary (Kareupeyi/Kareulpae, who’s a little girl’s best friend), and a female Chinese agent who’s understandably terrified of the latter.

The subplots emerge, interweave and synchronize like a Jabbawockeez dance. There is humor interspersed all-throughout. The contrast between sleekness and bulkiness, the suave and the coarse, weakness and strength, simplicity and complexity blend in harmony so that it has the same effect as the OST’s subtle playing — they are well integrated and do not get in the way of where the focus is.

The focus is on the story itself — on how the king could go on with his plans. It is a story not of personalities but of a big dream, a wonderful dream that solicits horror from the opposing ‘brains’. Even the charm of the Ddol Bok–Dahmi sub-story pales beside this dream. This dream is bigger than the king — aside that it is not his will alone that feeds it, he knows that its fruition is precarious. It’s like a seedling that must be protected from the elements until it waxes and its roots have taken depth. Each speaking scene is essential, no dialogues are superfluous, at times the words themselves serve as swords. Some dialogues are picked up from where they were left off as if the participants are engaged in a continuing board game. The next time I watch it I intend to take note of the dialogues the king is in. He’s very good at saying things indirectly that he manages to confuse the Confucian scholars.

The viewer will find himself steadily hoping for goodness to win out, that Ddol Bok and Dahm meet without a mishap, that the king comes out of his lone battles sane, that Bonwon must have blind spots, that Lee Bang Ji dies with honor and happy, that somebody can defeat the Chinese mercenary, that the four girls and Chae Yoon’s buddies stay unharmed, that the prince keeps faith with his father, that the half-masked man doesn’t harm So Yi, that Chae Yoon doesn’t kill the king, that Bonwon doesn’t kill the king, that Moohyul doesn’t get ahead of the king, that the king doesn’t kill himself with overwork, that the han-gul characters finally gets known to the common people.

The fights makes the drama unfit for children to watch. Aside from that this work of art is solid food for the heart and the brain. It does not sugar-coat the reality of human struggles, though I am thankful that grime isn’t graphically depicted — I carry with me the consciousness of this condition of the majority in the world that it’s quite easy for me to disbelieve the ‘clean-ness’ of drama sets. I appreciate that the palace decorations are toned down and they do not steal attention. Even the grand study hall’s impact is neutralized by the gravity of the dark wood interior. It looks so lived in that I can almost smell the fine dust that could have collected through the years within its tiny crevices.

Deep_Rooted_Tree poster

an official poster: great king, palace guard, prince’s maid — each is essential to each other

This drama doesn’t glorify the king, in fact a bit of going on the other extreme of making King Sejong a ‘human’ whom everybody could love. There are no doll-like females — yes they’re as pretty as dolls alright but they don’t invest on dreamy-gazes intended for frames, and hence even the crybaby visual artist didn’t jar my nerves. Soyi and her 3 friends look delicate but they are made of stuff such that they are the king’s strength: his database, processor, and memory bank.

Jang Hyuk as Dae Gil in Chuno I’d think as theatrics, whereas here Chae Yoon is just brimming with contained potential, a dynamo held in check. Chae Yoon’s life parallels that of the king’s. He is a reflection of the king and So Yi is the mirror with which they see themselves.

Lee Bang Ji and Ddol Bok/Chae Yoon are the perfect teacher and disciple, warm and open to each other — what I wished for Munno and Bidam had Munno been not too wrapped up in his ideals. There is a host of interesting characters here but Lee Bang Ji fascinates me the most: he is ephemeral, lowly (by his own description), fatal, and also utterly tragic had it not been for Chae Yoon’s need of him. Chae Yoon is very fortunate to have had two very loving fathers. The place where Lee Bang Ji went to die helped the story obtain a full circle.

What’s saddest for me is that the king had to pay so much in exchange for his people’s sake. What’s happiest for me is how the king finally emerges with the conviction of the depth of his love for the common people. The scenes of common folks’ singing at their work lifts the spirit. Ddol Bok’s vision of his and Dahm’s father is like a glimpse of heaven. A beautiful facet of the story is in the showing of how the relationship between parents and children is a foundation for a person’s major decisions.

The drama Tree With Deep Roots or Deep Rooted Tree depicts the yin and yang of life on earth: interacting, fluid, flowing, hardly ‘happily-ever-after’ nor one-directional. Yet it insists on goodness, it insists on the worth of persons both individual and collective, and it denigrates the greed for power in its varied forms. It is a jewel of an expression of the humbled human soul.

Lee Bang-ji Sonsaengnim and Ddolbok

Lee Bang-ji, musa (warrior), sabunim (respected elder) and sonsaengnim (teacher) to Ddolbok

Putting Bidam and His Story Into Perspective

An official poster of the drama. From left to right: Bidam Sangdaedung, Mishil Seju, Deokman Paeha, Kim Yushin Chamgun, Princess Cheonmyong

An official poster. Left to Right: Bidam Sangdaedung, Mishil Seju, Deokman Paeha, Kim Yushin Chamgun, Princess Cheonmyeong, Prince Kim Chunchu

This is a rumination of the 2009 sageuk (South Korean historical drama) The Great Queen Seon Duk. I rushed my way through Episodes 53 to 62, not having seen everything in detail but enough to grasp the overall picture, and I am now about to store it to where it belongs in my psyche, so that I could draw breaths from it whenever I need to in my ongoing journey of earthly life 🙂 Ja, some intense sageuk characters do hit me hard, almost wrenching me away from non-screen life, and so I have to place them among my scheme of thinking, and so to be washed off of the business-world’s intent to profit from emotions. I really condemn mass media’s shameless exploitation of the human psyhe, but, it’s shikataganai (nothing-can-do-about-it). However, knowing the opponent is a first rule in conflict, and that’s why I have to put into perspective an exploitative drama that is just one among the thousands 🙂 Simply put, I feel the need to tame my reaction to the story 🙂 One of these days I will go back to it, see all the gruesome scenes and hear all the maddening scheme-ings, so that, in Chunchu’s words, I’d be able to turn all the stones.

Mishil, and the valiant men who are willing to die for her

Mishil, and the valiant men who are willing to die for her

This drama presents the extent to how far power can disfigure and dehumanize. Mishil, the concubine to two kings here, pining after a dead love, lover to a general, wife to a noble, mother and aunt to warriors, and mother to the abandoned direct-descendant-royal-prince Bidam, plays with the viewer’s life-defense-instincts until you (at least it happened to me) realize that her angelic smirks are too theatrical to take seriously. And so I managed to shift from being terrified of her potency to laughing every time one of her brows lift.

I have already seen a bit of this drama years ago. I have marked the Bidam character to be worth looking at again, and that’s why I recently did so. I have marked also that the Mishil character is vile, the accompanying OST to her I deemed to be like those from the horror movies. Chincha. Fortunately time has passed, I have seen Sa Taek Bi and Eun Go, I have re-viewed Kiha and her dark-lord guardian, and several other near-invincible antagonists, and so things have resettled again: evil never wins. Mahatma Gandhi is my hero.

Mishil ceases to be an empathetic woman and excels in moving people around in her many years of romance with power. Her early life isn’t depicted here. She only says that one day she suddenly stopped being abhorred by violence — she stopped crying for other people. She simply stopped feeling. And there was that love whom she abandoned, she says, because she went for the king.

young Deokman and her best friend Cartan the Roman merchant

young Deokman and her best friend Cartan the Roman merchant

Deokman and her desert world

Chilsuk and Deokman could have been friends. He catches up with her in her desert world of international merchant-buddies.

That lost love was her downfall: he provided her with the key to more power-sucking, the capability to be seen as super-human through the use of pure science.  She used an astronomical almanac and a mathematician monk to get the better of her shamanistic-drenched society. Until Deokman, by her knowledge of the wider world through her international contacts in the desert, and by the naive fearlessness of her friend Bidam, pulled an eclipse on her face. Mishil’s sun was darkened starting that day.

And so Deokman engages in conquering the evils of her inherited kingdom. Alas, she will not prevail. The worm Yeomjong will defeat her. The guile that is her beloved nephew Prince Kim Chunchu will cut her heart to pieces. Alas, we, all of us, continue to contend with evil everyday. Trusted persons may and do betray us. And that’s why we hope, and we also pray. And that’s why we teach our children to hope, and also to pray. And that’s why even sincerely hatched ideologies cannot bring in utopia. And that’s why sageuks and regular dramas will continue to be a very profitable industry. Kaja.

Kim Chunchu the guileful

Kim Chunchu the guileful

The day Deokman wielded power, on her installation as Silla’s ruler, the ‘Deokman’ persona disappears. She must be on guard against everyone and everything because she ultimately is responsible for all that will befall her kingdom. The sense of ‘taking responsibility‘ is taken very seriously in the world of sageuks, and that’s why the ‘ranking’, the ‘ordering of status‘, borders on insanity, borders on discrimination, fosters marginalization, and, since it involves humans, feeds on greed. Shikataganai. That’s how it was then. That’s how it is in the world today, albeit that ‘responsibility’ part is something that only the likes of Kim Yushin can consistently adhere to.

Kim Yushin has it in himself to cleave a rock by striking it thousands of times with wooden swords = the result of a straightforward warrior's weird form of meditation

Result of a straightforward warrior’s weird form of meditation. Yushin has it in himself to cleave a rock by striking it thousands of times with wooden swords.

It is the most staunch of warriors who take the issue of loyalties very seriously. The fiercest in Deokman's generation, from left: Bidam, Yushin, Alcheon, Bojong

It is the most staunch of warriors who take the issue of loyalties seriously. The fiercest in Deokman’s generation, from left: Bidam, Yushin, Alcheon, Bojong.

Gen. Kim Yushin is so steadfast that he can cleave a rock by sheer perseverance. This, his unbending course, almost caused him to deal Deokman a double-wham in the heart, losing both Bidam and him. Yushin is not spared of the tension of wavering between two loyalties. The characters are all presented with agonizing choices of loyalties, be it to persons or to causes or to self. Bidam was torn between Munno, Mishil, and Deokman. Yushin was torn between Deokman and Gaya. Alcheon was torn between which person represents his true calling as the people’s protector: Mishil or Cheonmyeong. Bojong is torn between his father’s sense of personhood and his father’s devotion to Mishil. The viewer’s logic is constantly bombarded with issues of ethics and morality that their real-life manifestations are in danger of being relegated as just matters for passive viewership. Like being slowly convinced that violence is the norm. It’s a very dangerous phenomenon.

The ruler now, formerly Deokman to all, flanked by the heir apparent her nephew Kim Chunchu and the Dowager Queen, formerly Lady Maya.

The ruler now, formerly Deokman to all, flanked by the heir apparent her nephew Kim Chunchu and the Dowager Queen, formerly Lady Maya.

Bidam, his basic persona

basic Bidam, self-sufficient yet empty

Bidam faces

a Bidam of expressions

Bidam, faulty material to begin with

…unguarded moment

Bidam, the mal- and under-fed soul

Bidam, needful soul…

That’s why I have no excuse to offer for the genius of craftiness who is Kim Chunchu. The nearest would be ‘nationalism‘, and that’s why I understand why Germany for one is wary of this noble phenomenon. Like Bidam, nationalism is a double-edged sword, it both builds up and distorts, carrying both life and death. Kim Chunchu, in his nationalistic fervor, cause the downfall of both queens Deokman and Eun Go (of Baekje, of the drama Gye Baek 🙂

Deokman grew up with the boys. Here, in a fierce dialogue with Alcheon.

One of the boys. Deokman clashes with Alcheon.

Deokman and her hands

Bidam says nobody touches this kid.

Even if Deokman had been effective in everything else the presence of Kim Chunchu would constantly threaten her predetermined course. Well, it would be illogical to surmise that Deokman less Chunchu would have been tragedy-less. Even as supreme ruler Deokman wouldn’t have been able to contain all the freely-moving thinking entities surrounding her.  Like the way atoms would move, in the Brownian model, to new directions after being mutually hit by others, there’s no way of predicting how isolated human decisions would end up in the domino effect of things. The nakedly base persona who is Bidam — itinerant, instinctual, eccentric, unbound, expressive, vulnerable, deadly, emotionally hungry, naive — through leaps of events that usually happen in fairy tales he metamorphoses into the queen’s soul-mate. Or should I say that, in the words of Bidam himself, all things find their final place. Bidam said this to himself when, upon his engagement to the queen, decided to accede to Munno’s wish of giving the geographical books to Yushin. Bidam’s metamorphosis is reflected in Deokman’s, whom the desert eventually spewed back into Gyerim, where she became one with the boys, though not becoming as warrior-fierce as Mishil once was.

Deokman and her hands (2)

Yushin & Bidam rescue the princess.

Alcheon vs Yushin

Alcheon, a legitimate alpha male candidate, in tournament combat vs. Yushin.

Bidam vs Yushin, the alpha males

Yushin vs. Bidam, tournament

Deokman and her hands (1)

Alcheon steps back, though remains as the queen’s personal guard.

And, as in mirror images, their ‘directions’ are opposite: Bidam came from isolation and had to prepare to be the ruler’s consort; Deokman came from the openness of free thinking but must now focus on the path of wielding absolute control but where as she controls she is also being controlled, manipulating but also being manipulated. Many personalities evolved in this story: Jukbang, Godo, Seolwon, Chilsuk, Munno, Sohwa, but it is the transformation of Deokman and Bidam that are most remarkable. And, between the two, it is Bidam’s. On the contrary Yushin stayed as steady (as the rock before he cleaved it 🙂 — otherwise Deokman would have been left with nobody to be thankful to on her dying chair.

The Great Queen Seon Duk utilizes this steady image of the great hero Gen. Kim Yushin in order to cook up a tale of males vying for the alpha position. The male characters have their own charms, even the funny Santak and Jukbang who in the end teamed up in trying to bridge the misunderstanding between Bidam and Deokman. Even the slime Yeomjong could be attractive to some, with his wealth, position, influence, and the capabilty to mobilize amrs. Ah, needless to speak of the array of masculinity, from Chunchu down to the Hwarangs, down to the resistance movement where Wolya is the most beautiful. I am relieved that Alcheon was spared of the bloody battle for Deokman, and he becomes Deokman’s beta instead (a step down, supporting, positive). The final alpha candidates, Yushin and Bidam, are a confusion to me because Yushin was never aggressive towards Bidam. It was difficult for me to accept the battle between them.

Bidam, the alpha male for me, was simply a damaged material to begin with. But for many that’s no excuse. Episode 53 was a painful watch for me, where Bidam, basking under Deokman’s confidence, starts to push people around including Yushin-the-ever-good. Uhm Tae Woong was a very good choice for this role because his face, even in his ‘fierce’ look, communicates “sincerity”, truth, jinsil.

Deokman-Bidam twin dragon rings (2)

Deokman-Bidam twin dragon rings

Bidam does not want to leave

Bidam, who wants to protect Deokman, is being protected by her. Otoke?

Bidam, loved but scared

A giving, but also a depriving. Otoke?

Deokman, powerful but helpless

Deokman, the helpless ruler

Bidam & Deokman, forced to do something they don't like = be away from each other

Bidam & Deokman, forced to do something they don’t like = be away from each other

Bidam, the instinct to protect what's his

The alpha male’s instinct is to protect. Bidam reclaims his sword.

Bidam crumbles

Bidam, assessing…

Deokman intends to live with him

Deokman ready to retire, with Bidam

However, when Bidam “saw the light”, which is his term for his bond with Deokman, he settles. He refutes Mishil’s reasoning that loving is taking. He says that it is the opposite: it is giving up. He becomes the pupil that Munno would have been howling proud of. His volatility quiets. It didn’t count for him that he’s the son of a Holder of the Royal Seal and a former king. He wishes to forsake the world on the day that, if ever, Deokman dies before he does. He gives up his claim to Munno’s premature promise that he’ll be the one to unify the three kingdoms. He basks in Yushin’s thankfulness. Deokman fully embraces, gives him the highest government post, sends him away to safety as she battles the hidden traitors. She gives him what is equivalent to the West as the marriage ring. He achieved THE alpha position beside the top female. (I have to refocus against the fact that Deokman’s father is his cousin; this might be strange to me but it’s natural in that part of history.)

The fault lies in the Brownian motion. I will side with Deokman and I will not condemn Bidam. The queen may have abandoned the traitor but Deokman did not abandon Bidam. Indeed it was only him who was responsible for all his actions but Bidam was simply too ‘deficient’ to start with, or whatever safe description there is, to take the quantum leap of accepting-betrayal-in-exchange-for-200%-sincerity. Not everyone has the capacity to be like the biblical character Job. The author-philosopher C. S. Lewis says something like it being more laudable to appreciate the man who has traversed from ‘badness’ to even a bit of ‘goodness’ than a man who has always been ‘good’. THAT IS, if Bidam did betray Deokman… Bidam had found his rest. He had renounced all claims in favor of the light who for him is in Deokman. He had become a happy man getting ready to retire 🙂 I was already at rest with his happiness. The writers simply had to find a good excuse to have the drama end ‘very dramatically’. On the other hand I’m glad that it showcased personhood. Personhood is the redemption of the tragedy that is Bidam and Deokman.

I will have to write another post on the anatomy of their separation. It has something to do with the frailty of trust. What I believe in now is that none of the two betrayed each other. Deokman’s hands were tied with the country’s laws. Bidam may act on the contrary in the face of people he intends to confuse but I will stick to my conviction that, in his own reasoning, he will work for what would be advantageous for Deokman.

When Deokman sent him away from the city with a ring the twin of her own Bidam was concerned of the separation, an echo of repeated abandonment in the past, plus he instinctively wants to protect Deokman knowing that she is facing a big problem that is threatening the royal family’s safety. When a fake assassin fails to take him he says something like: if that throne is too heavy for you then I will be responsible for it on your behalf, or I along with those who threaten you will disappear from this earth, or that I will become the throne so that you will not be torn into different loyalties anymore. What’s tragic is that as Bidam was formulating all this, slumped against a tree and clutching his ring, Deokman was writing him a letter, that she will abdicate after she solves the current problem and so he just wait for her, find a temple where they will stay together, because, ugh, she is dying. I don’t want to cry right now so I need to finish this long post fast.

The fault lies in the Brownian motion. Chunchu acts. Yeomjong acts. The power-greedy act. The fearful act. Bidam was cut off from his line of communication with Deokman. Deokman cannot be as expressive as she was in her childhood. Bidam, who only very recently got healed from being damaged, but still hurting from the cruelty of his mother, crumbles in the onslaught. He returns the dragon ring to Deokman. Disaster. Everyone has a field day. I think about life. I mourn for the possibilities. I have to accept so that I could move on. Shikataganai. I breathe because Yushin is still standing. Like Dongyi’s orabeoni. Like Songyeon’s Daesu. He carries on the legacy of the woman that he loves.

Bidam Deokam beginning

Bidam-Deokman, embrace instead of condemnation

Bidam pats Deokman to sleep

Bidam pats Deokman to sleep

Bidam offset by Mishil's trick

Mishil pulls a trick on Bidam

Mishil in a regular meeting with her family

Mishil in a regular meeting with her family

Deokman embraces Deokman in her dream

Deokman embraces Deokman, in her dream

Deokman and Yushin best friends forever

Deokman, Yushin, best friends forever

Deokman and Yushin best friends forever (1)

Not persons, but ruler & subject

Deokman says goodbye

The ring on the limped hand

Deokman says goodbye (1)

goodbye world, hello Bidam

I am relieved that the suave Seolwon died with honor. He was a sincere beta to Mishil’s alpha, and his speaking voice commands respect. I am saddened that Deokman’s and Cheonmyeong’s father, the king, was such a weakling. Perhaps that was the result of being born to a household drenched with tension: one opts for the extremes. The way Mishil’s men face each other at their table meetings, concocting schemes, in terror of her, and maintaining superficial amicability, is sickening. I wouldn’t want children to watch this drama. Mishil herself, with the OST accompanying her, is a dose of unhealthy information about a reality that isn’t necessarily so.  I’m sure the Mahatma Gandhi would have thought so, too. Confronting an evil structure does not necessarily entail violence, and so the supposedly frightening monster is reduced to an object of perspective. For Deokman it took only a sincere dialogue with the mathematician monk. And confidence in Bidam’s ingenuity. And the guts to risk a bit bigger than she ever did before.

The likes of the character that is Bidam does not come along often. I am glad that I have come to know him. His image as a killing machine is something I would like to protest against. I don’t believe that anyone as simple as child like him has the heart of a cold killer. He does kill very efficiently, yes, but the standard at that time was to exactly excel in that art. That’s why Munno realized in the end that he was wrong about Bidam. Bidam is his pupil, is like him, and is not a monster. It’s just that Kim Nam Gil’s eyes can really shoot daggers 🙂 His theatricals are excusable considering that Bidam has to be portrayed as a character of extremes. However, I wish the violence in that last fight, one against many, was done away with. If it was only to feature Bidam’s Munno-like prowess then it wasn’t entertaining at all. It was very painful to watch. Why did the writers have to make Bidam decide to fight his way to her? It’s a pointless recalling of the theme of mass murder that happened to him a long time ago. Was it to emphasize who the real Bidam is and so justify the violence done against him? The writers should have made the queen shout for everyone to stop. Or to rope him. Or a net. It’s ridiculous that all those troops couldn’t stop a single un-armored man, as if to really put him across as a killing machine.  No wonder Deokman’s heart rioted. Also, I simply protest against the killing of Santak. It was pointless.

I can generalize the story’s theme this way: touching another person creates miracles. The Bidam-Deokman bond was defined when she embraced him, they embraced each other, figuratively and  bodily, instead of condemning him for a lie she found out about. From then on it was only him who could continue to address her casually and hold her hand. He pats her to sleep, a replica of how he touched her forehead when they were babies.

Bidam’s heart was touched at Mishil’s unexpected touch, extracting a stalk from behind his ear, a trick she may have conjured to trick him into filial piety despite everything she did to him. Earlier he was already startled when it was his arm that Mishil took instead of Chilsuk’s to support her on the rough terrain.

The tensions in the entire storyline are tied to the relationships of these three.  Mishil’s safety net is her people’s devotion to her. Deokman’s are Yushin and Alcheon. Bidam’s, well, lest I say Munno’s acceptance of him, then he has nothing. But for me Munno would suffice for him, and that’s why I have faith in his final decisions. He faced death just so to relay to Deokman that her love for him was not betrayed. That, I believe, was her foundation why she continued to wear her pair of their rings on the day she died, which was only three days after he did (so, Bidam’s answer to Mishil became true, that he’d die three days before the ruler of the kingdom does). I repeat: The queen may have abandoned the traitor but Deokman did not abandon Bidam. Deokman fulfilled Bidam the vow that he gave to her, to give up the world also in the event that the other dies first. But Deokman went all the way for both of them. She did not merely retire from power. She left everything.

Kim Yushin the incorruptible

Kim Yushin the incorruptible

There was also that embrace from somebody, in a dream when she first came to Gyerim, that she relates again to Yushin. She says she now knows who it was, and Yushin repeatedly asks her to tell him. We don’t hear her tell him. We are instead shown a scene of grayed Yushin and Alcheon (whom to my delight was put by the queen in the position that Bidam vacated, the Sangdaedung, the highest office in the court) unexpectedly meeting at the queen’s mound, each to report of the success that Silla had over Baekje (ah, poor Gye Baek and Eun Go). Next we are shown the teen-age Deokman’s dream: the unknown woman who embraced her was the Queen Seon Duk wearing mourning clothes. Was the queen mourning her own death? Did the queen signify the Deokman who will die once she comes to the palace? Does it say that Deokman has been embraced by ‘non-person’, a queen but not a person, the moment she came back to where she belongs? That one who embraced her also urged her to endure until the end.

Bidam, shikataganai

Bidam, virtual royal consort, put on a pedestal but used shamelessly. Shikataganai. The warrior is a child.

And how about Yushin, her first love? Yushin deserves all her gratitude and more. Yushin more than deserves to hear all those words from her. Yushin became a man side by side with her, had been hers and her twin’s strength. But she and Yushin were not ‘people’ to each other. They were subject and ruler. It was only with Bidam that she is a ‘person’. Naturally she collapses when he died. Three days she was unconscious, on regaining consciousness she goes out to see the sky and the land — much the same scene at Eun Go’s final moments — she goes out and be with Yushin for a few hours, expressing her love for him. She asks him to run away with her now like the way they planned to a long time ago. But Yushin becomes flustered, and seems to say he possibly couldn’t because she, after all, has just left to him all the tasks for the sake of land still left undone . In Bidam’s insecurity he believed that it was Yushin who achieved everything, who had ‘all’. He didn’t see how Yushin would have liked to be in his shoes since a long time ago. Yushin knows how Deokman loved Bidam despite of her being unsure herself of that love. Love for many cannot really be formulated into words. But when Deokman told Yushin earlier that she wanted to spend her final days with Bidam then what more can be said about how she truly felt? So Deokman closes her eyes, tears fall (of regrets? of happiness? of relief?), and then she goes to follow Bidam.