Dong yi (2010)–A beautiful historical romance

Promotional poster for Dong Yi;

Promotional poster for Dong Yi;

After Jewel in the Palace sparked my interest in Korean dramas,  I was not disappointed in my next choice–Dong Yi, a Korean historical drama shown in 2010.  Dong-yi is about the love story between King Sukjong (Joseon dynasty) and Dong-yi (Choi Suk-bin) and tells it all in 60 episodes.

The drama  traces the life of Dong-yi,  an orphaned slave who found her way into the Royal palace Bureau of Music and because of her ability to solve court cases, becomes a  palace investigator.  She later became  a royal concubine with the  rank of Suk-bin, then bears a son who, under her tutelage, later becomes the 21st king of Joseon, Yoengjo, the father of Crown prince Sado and grandfather of Yi San.  Throughout her life, she has protected  the lowborn commoners.  Dong-yi met King Sukjong, who  introduced himself as a court judge and enjoyed his treatment as an ordinary person.

I enjoyed watching Dong-yi because its plot was made interesting through a combination of  romance, comedy, history, Korean culture and court life, suspense, intrigue, magic and even sword fights.  In this sense, it is similar to Jewel in the Palace.

Han Hyo-joo won a major best actress award as the optimistic and determined Dong-yi.  I loved the way Jin Ji hee  portrayed the character of King Sukjong–especially when Dong-yi treated him as an ordinary person and even stepped on his back to climb a wall during one of her investigations.  I think Jin Ji hee looks better with a beard and in period costumes.  I saw him in Perhaps Love but I think he looks more handsome in Jewel and in Dong Yi.

The theme song  is also very memorable -“Walking on a Dreamy Road” by Jang Na-ra.  It has a simple yet sad melody.

After Dong-yi, I have not yet found another interesting historical drama that I would like to watch.  A candidate is Jumong, said to be the most popular of all.  But when i watched the trailer, I sensed a heavy kind of drama.  Any recommendations?



Jewel in the Palace (2003): An insight into Korean culture and history


Nine years after this worldwide hit Korean drama series  Jewel in the Palace  (Dae Jang Geum) was first shown in the Philippines in 2005 and was a phenomenal success among Filipinos, It is also a drama that my Korean intellectual friends know.  I finally watched the drama in July 2014.   I am not really a full-fledged drama addict; I do not like sad endings and tearjerkers and do not have the patience to watch dramas in installments.  I have a preference for light comedy-romance dramas that are usually between 10-20 episodes max, so I was hesitant to watch a 54-episode historical drama even when everybody was raving about it.  But after watching my first “serious” Korean historical drama, I was not disappointed.

Jewel in the Palace is a fictional drama based  on a  Korean historical figure  Seo Jang-geum  (played by Lee Young-ae)  during the reigns of King Seongjong (1457–1494), King Yeonsan (1494–1506) and King Jungjong(1506–1544).  It follows the story of Jang-geum,  an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the Joseon dynasty king’s first female royal physician. Min Jeong-ho (played by Ji Jin hee) is a goodlooking and intelligent  outstanding Korean scholar who became romantically involved with Jang geum.

Lee Young-ae’s portrayal of Jang-geum, marked by her warm smile despite all the challenges that came her way is very powerful.  The child actress who portrayed the little girl Jang geum was  really good; I liked the way she recited the memorized passages from the classics and the medicinal properties of herbs. Ji Jin-hee was really dashing and  one of the more good-looking Korean actors that I have encountered.

Jewel in the Palace sparked my interest in Korean historical dramas.   I thought Jewel in the Palace would be boring, but  this drama combined the elements of history, Korean culture (Korean royal court cuisine and traditional medicine), comedy, romance, tragedy, mystery and intrigue to make the plot interesting.   Moreover, Jang geum’s  perseverance  in a time when women’s status in society was low was truly inspiring.  The use of traditional Korean music in the theme song “Onara” also enhanced the drama.

Secret Garden (2010) and the Resurrection of Hyun Bin

Secret_garden_korean_dramaI was so happy to see Hyun Bin’s dedimpled cheek again on Secret Garden, five years since I first saw him in Kim Sam Soon.  I thought he had gone  into hibernation because of his compulsory military training, only to find out he only went there after Secret Garden, which was shown from 13 November 2010-16 January 2011..  I watched Secret Garden because I  read that it is the best drama in 2011.  Although I wouldn’t say it is the best drama for me, I found the drama series very entertaining–it had both light and funny momentI watched Secret Garden because it was listed as the best Korean drama of 2011 (it showed from November 13, 2010 to 16 January 2011), having won several awards  for best drama and actor/actress. I was surprised to find that Hyun Bin is the lead actor, who played Kim Joo Woon, a 34 year old rich, arrogant and spoilt CEO of a huge department store and heir of a huge Korean conglomerate in property development. It was reported that his career was lackluster after Kim Sam Soon and was revived with Secret Garden). Kim Joo Won  falls in love with a poor stuntwoman, Gil Ra Im (played by Ha Ji Won), but does not know why because a woman without the “proper family background ” is not his type.  In the end, he finds admits that  Ra Im is an “amazing” woman who can ride a race car like a devil, kick the ass of sexual harrassers,  etc.  Of course, the rich and haughty mother of Kim is against the relationship. This K drama is very entertaining–it has light and funny moments, dramatic and crying moments, mysteries and intrigues, fantasy,and best of all, romance.  In fact, this is one K drama where there is quite a lot of touching and kissing scenes between the lead actors.  (In fact I read in Wikipedia that Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won are currently dating as of 2012). There were some dragging moments in the middle of the series, but there were also surprises and twists and turns around the switiching of the two lead actors.  Most of the funny moments were during these switching times when Kim Joo Won would be in the body of Ra Im.  But the saddest moment also had to do with switching.  Kim gave up his life for the unconsious Kim by sntaching the unconsioud Ra Im from her hospital bed so that they could switch bodies when the rain comes. Thus, Kim would be in the body of the unconsious Ra Im while Ra Im will find herself alive but in the body of Kim Joo Won.  In the end, the spell that led to switching was lifted by this courageous act of Kim giving up his life for the love of Ra Im.  The two end up married to each other and blessed with three kids but until the end of the drama, the relationship of the couple was not yet recognized by the very haughty mom of Kim.  In the end, it was also revealed that the two were destined to be together since Ra Im’s father was the one who dies while saving Kim Joo Won when he was trapped in an elevator during an accident when he was 21 years old.  He forgot the events during the accident and was made to believe that he had a car accident and claustrophobia so he did not ride elevators. A cute scene is the star struck Ra Im everytime she sees her idol Oska (Choi Joo Won, cousin of Kim, played by Yoon Sang Hyun) and calls her “oppa”  and wears Oska socks, which makes Kim jealous because Ra Im does not call him “oppa.” Funny moments include the scenes when the lead actors swiched so that they would find themselves in compromising situations like when Oska and switched Kim would be in the spa and swticed Kim-Ra Im would blush when he seen the private body parts of Oska.   Also, there are some angles where Yoon Sang Hyun looked like Japanese idol Kimura Takuya, for example, his expressive eyes etc). I think the weak pint of the movie is the lack of explanation for the reason for the switching and the end of the magical spell but these seems to have been glossed over since the drama is not realistic anyway.

older woman, younger guy romance dramas

So far, I have seen at least four older woman-younger guy romance Asian dramas. Three are J-doramas–Maho no Jouken (Forbidden Love), Kimi wa Petto and Anego;  and one Korean –My name is Kim Sam Soon.  The J-doramas really played up the age difference since the gap is really wide, as in 8-10 years.  In KSS,  the woman was just four years older.  Kimi wa Petto is light comedy drama, where the women are tall, beautiful, successful career women, graduate of so-called “elite” universities, but unskilful or lacking in love, and they usually become obsessed (or desperate) about getting married when they reach the age of around 32 years.  

In Maho, the woman was only 26, but the guy, her student, was only 17 yrs, a minor,  so there is a deeper societal abberration here than in Anego and KWP, where the guys are in their early 20s, and have finished  compulsory schooling already.  In Anego,  Jin Akanishi is  the young guy in love with his older officemate.  Jin is a famous Johnny’s Entertainment talent  and also a member of the boy band KAT TUN. In KWP, the young guy was played by Matsumoto Jun, also with Johnny’s and member of the popular boy band ARASHI.

I have yet to see a May-December romance where the guy would be older than the woman, except for one Korean drama-Sweet Eighteen; but this didn’t play on the older guy’s weakenesses but rather focused on the younger girl’s immaturity.  Looking at it both ways,  the Asian dramas I have seen so far played on the women’s limitations rather than the guy’s.  Is this a reflection of these countries current society’s thinking?

 In the Philippines, although I am not updated on the movie-drama scene,  I would think that there are more May-December movies where the guys are older than the women.

My Girl–My First Korean and Asian Drama

February 2007 marked my first year of watching Asian dramas.  The very first one was “My Girl” (SBS 2005), a Korean drama, comedy romance.  I received a DVD copy as a going away gift from my officemate, Mitch. Fortunately, the DVD copy she gave me had good subs and quality picture so I had the incentive to watch.  From the first episode, after seeing Lee Dong-Wook as Gong Chan, the grandson heir to a hotel chain) , I was hooked.  I found him really attractive and quite handsome, compared to other Korean actors.  I couldn’t stop watching the video.  I thought Lee Da Hae (as Joo Yoo Rin, the interpreter/tourist guide whom Gong Chan asked to pose as his long missing cousin for the benefit of his ailing grandfather) was reallly pretty,  I found the clothes she wore here cute,  I also found the fashion style of the lead guys here, one of them Lee Dong Wook to be really “interesting”. (You know, hot pink tie, waist suit, etc). The OST was also superb.  To top it all, there were so many internet sites dedicated to it that I was able to download for the first time the whole OST, including the lyrics, plus the scripts.  I had watched the drama twice; but I try to avoid the scene with the con-dad of Yoo Rin.  I also found out that Lee Dong Wook had visited Manila and guested in the noontime variety show Wowowee in February 2007, but I didn’t know it because I don’t really watch local free TV  (Was his coming ever covered in the news?)  I also learned thru internet sites that among Lee Dong Wook’s dream is to go on a honeymoon to Boracay Island (but he added that this won’t happen until ten years later).   

After My Girl, I watched Full House (which I didn’t quite like because of verbal abuse of lead star Rain to his beautiful Korean  co-star).   My third DVD was Goong or Princess Hours, which was really good except for the bad subs of the DVD , which was also a gift from Mitch.  I can’t remember if my next K drama was Kim Sam Soon.  This is also one of my all time favorites, and although the lead star Hyun Bin isn’t handsome, he was so good here that I found him really “hot”.  I also watched Winter Sonata (2002) starring Bae Hyoon Jun, even though it wasn’t a comedy, when I found out this was THE K drama that started the interest in K dramas worldwide, even in Japan.

Goong-one of my all time favorite Asian dramas

I have been writing about recent Tv dramas that I have watched-mostly Japanese and some Taiwan dramas.  However, I have not written about my favorite drama–a Korean soap–Goong or Princess Hours (2006).  I saw it in March 2007-the third drama I have watched since i became a Korean, Taiwan and Japanese drama addict in February 2007- but I have started to watch it (Goong) again.  Moreover, I have successfully downloaded additional songs from the soundtrack–one of my favorite OSTs too.  BTW, this is the only TV drama I have watched that is not based on a Japanese manga; it is based on a Korean manwa.

The plot is simple–a handsome, intelligent but detached prince (Lee Shin played by Joo Ji Hoon) at age 19 years and in his senior year has to marry a doe-eyed spunky girl (Chaeyong played by Yoon Eun-Hye) about his age with whom he has been bethrothed from childhood by his king grandfather and the girl’s grandfather. The prince and his wife-to-be are from the same elite art high school in Seoul.  (Note: There is no monarchy in Korea now since it is said that the Japanese destroyed the Korean monarchy when it colonized the country).  Now, adding more texture to the simple plot are the previous relationship (first love) of the prince with another schoolmate (Hyo Rin) an aspiring and talented ballerina, who dumped him when he proposed marraige, and the undying love of the second prince Yul for the prince’s wife.

Simple as the plot may be, I love the acting and the storyline.  It is one of the most romantic dramas I have ever watched.  Also, the setting and costumes are great; moreover, the what-if-Korea-was-under-a-constitutional monarchy-storyline is really great.  It showed some traditional Korean sports, the Korean monarchy way of life, although I have not verified these with actual Korean history.   I heard that this is a big budget production, despite the appearance of newcomers Joo Jee Hoon and Park Eun-Hye.  I also think that  the kissing scene in Episode 23 is the best I have seen so far, in terms of the chemistry between the two lead stars and the effect the scene has on me.

It is too bad the two lead stars are not really prolific in making dramas–Joo Jee Hoon has “The Devil” which I have started but have stopped watching and I have seen Park Eun-Hye’s “First Shop of Coffee Prince” which I also enjoyed. Other than that, I have not seen these two stars again, although I have to see if Joo Jee Hoon has finished making the movie “Antique.”

*photo from kristabelle16 on Flickr