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This year I have done a lot of finishing old dramas on hiatus, so from the kdramas mentioned in the previous posts here and here only Merchant Kim ManDeok is still unfinished.


Gumiho: Tale of the Fox's Child
16 episodes

I have already mentioned this one more than once, but I'm still going to add it here to have a complete list.


It's like an episode of Hometown of Legends made into a series. A gumiho wants to become a human and for that she has to spend ten years as a human's wife and he has to keep his promise never to mention having seen a gumiho. He is not that good husband and they have a daughter. One day when the ten years is almost over, the man breaks his promise and the gumiho and her daughter have lost their chance to become human and leave. The daughter Yeon Yi's powers will not manifest before her 10th birthday, so the mother decides to stay with humans till then. Unfortunately they end up with an aristocratic family with a cursed daughter whose only chance at life is to eat Yeon Yi's liver. Prepare for betrayals, endless chase through the woods and eventually the gumiho's revenge. The whole series has quite a depressing atmosphere. Yeon Yi is doomed from the start, people cry for various reasons almost nonstop, even my mother who was not even watching it commented on it. On one hand it was a powerful and desperate story on the other hand you could call it melodramatic and draggy.



Ballad of Seo Dong/Seo Dong Yo/Seo Dong's Song


55 episodes

This reminds me of Queen Seon Duk for many reasons, yet I wouldn't say they are similar. It takes place in the same era and while it is about a Beakje king, about half of it takes place in Shilla. The female lead Sun Hwa is Seon Duk's sister (non-existent in QSD) and the third princess Cheonmyung is something of an antagonist. Princess Deokman herself is only mentioned from time to time and I think she walked past once. Also both QSD and BoSD are basically stories about a hidden prince/princess coming back and claiming the throne.

Now the actual story. Beakje's king has little power and one night when he is supposed to prepare for some ceremony he sees a dancing girl and spends the night with her. This ruins the dancing girl's marriage plans to the man she loved and even puts her life in danger because the king can't admit he was the man with her. All he can do is give the necklace on the picture, something only a prince of Beakje can have, for her unborn child. The dancing girl hides and later sends her son to the man she liked who has become a head scholar in a research institute. Well things happen, there is a power struggle and a group of talented people from the institute have to escape to Shilla. Even in exile they stay loyal to Beakje, something that causes them a lot of trouble. There the young prince meets the third princess of Shilla. The story is too long to summarize it here, but basically it is about inventing things from tofu to weaving techniques to floor heating systems, the prince's search for his father, his love for the princess, power struggle against his uncle and cousin and eventually becoming the king. The story was entertaining enough to watch, but in hindsight not that special. What I liked the most about this one was his relationship with the princess. They actually spent a lot of time together, did things together, supported each other and didn't give up at the first obstacle for the other party's sake like it so often happens in drama.



Sungkyunkwan Scandal


20 episodes

To support her family Yoon Hee has crossdressed and worked as a scribe since she was young. After meeting the prime minister's son she is forced to enter Sungkyunkwan university. There she forms friendships with interesting characters bringing together the children from families belonging to three different political parties and she is not the only one with a secret. There is also the secret of what happened to her father. It is refreshing to see a more lighthearted historical drama that doesn't end in heartbreak. True, the punishment for entering the school as a woman is death, but in a way it is still a story about young people going to school, idealism vs corrupt world and love. The main character must be the most unconvincing crossdressing heroine ever. The problem isn't so much that she looks so girly and publicly cries a lot, but that she gets away with it. You could say this is Joseon Hanakimi, but it has some purpose and maturity Hanakimi did not. People more familiar with the latter, correct me if I'm wrong, I only read some parts of the manga.



Iljimae


20 episodes

If you remember my last post, I talked about a drama called The Return of Iljimae there. The only connection between the two is that they are about the same legendary character. Personaly I'm not into silliness in my dramas and that made it a bit hard for me to get into this one. An innocent nobleman is killed for treason and his son is taken in by a kindhearted thief. Later he becomes the legendary thief who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. When most kdramas have silly comic relief characters, here most of the cast seems to be bitten by the silly bug. I liked the story much more after Iljimae reclaims his memories and actually becomes Iljimae. Once I got into the story it was fun and had more engaging storytelling, but I think I still prefer the Return of Iljimae. Also, what's up with the ending? For me the most colourful memory of the series is the thief stepfather.



Kingdom of the Winds


36 episodes

Another lost prince story, this time Goguryeo. It seems that every one of the three kingdoms has to have one. After the prince is born there is a prophesy that he will kill his parents and siblings, cause the end of Goguryeo and eventually even kill his own son. The priestess tells the king to kill that baby at once. King Yuri doesn't have the heart to do it and only pretends to do it and sends the baby away. Some of the themes (supporting the older brother, eventually ascending the throne, loving the enemy princess, having a frenemy in the enemy country) are similar to Ballad of Seo Dong, but BoSD was mostly about the advancement of technology, KotW is rather militaristic, about reclaiming the ancient "fatherland" and going to war with Buyeo. Due to misunderstanding and grudge towards Goguryeo the main character Muhyul spends some time in Buyeo's special forces. Quite different from the scholars in BoSD who didn't abandon Baekje even when they had reason to. This time I was not at all impressed with the romance, but liked the frenemy much better. I had a thing for king Yuri - not as powerless as the fathers usually are in this kind of story. I don't know it was the actor or what, but I found something really impressive about him. Interesting fact - I heard this one is based on a manhwa.



Princess Ja Myung Go



39 episodes

After finishing The Kingdom of the Winds I thought this might work as some kind of continuation as Muhyul's son Hodong is the mail lead here and the killing the son part of the prophesy was not addressed in Kingdom of the Winds. well, I did learn what happened to Hodong, but Muhyul was so different here that it can't really be considered a sequel in any way.

The tone of Princess Ja Myung Go is quite different from usually idealistic kdramas. It's a story about a fall of a kingdom I would call a tragedy.

The action takes place over twenty years or so and not necessarily in chronological order. The focus is on two royal families - the rulers of Nakrang and Goguryeo. Two generals from Nakrang overthrow their Chinese rulers and establish a Korean kingdom, but before that happens one of them, Choi Lee, has two daughters on the same night by his two wives and there is a prophesy - ha - saying that one of them will cause the downfall of Nakrang. Their Chinese king orders both girls killed, but the ambitious second wife manages to save hers using underhanded methods. The first wife's baby is stabbed with a hairpin and put on a tiny boat. Time passes and the generals win and now have to face the reality that despite being friends and in-laws only one of them can be the king and live. This kill or be killed mentality is quite characteristic of the series. Meanwhile the abandoned baby managed to survive and grows up in a circus. In Goryeo Muhyul rules and even though he loves his son, he is one of the most ruthless kings I've seen in kdama and saves no effort to raise all softness out of him. He also refuses to sleep with his queen, because he doesn't want Hodong to have any rivals and consequently causes his queen and Hodong to have another kill-or-be-killed relationship. Muhyul really, really wants to have the fertile land of Nakrang. By marrying Hodong to Choi Lee's remaining daughter Lahee or by war. Lahee has become Nakrang's crown princess and starts out wanting to live and die for the people, but ends up tearing the mythical drum that protects Nakrang for Hodong while the other sister whom he really loves can't escape the destiny of choosing Nakrang over his life. The series didn't do as well as they expected and ended up shorter than originally planned resulting in some abandoned storylines, but I don't think it mattered too much unless you had special interest in side characters.



Conspiracy in the Court
Seoul's Sad Song / Conspiracy in the Court


8 episodes

When I was looking for more historical dramas to watch, I saw this one recommended a lot and I kind of understand why, but I still couldn't make myself enjoy it. Sometimes reading comics is just more fun than praised epics. It all comes down to taste really and for some reason I this was not my thing. I wouldn't want to scare you away from it just because I didn't like it, but an episode has never felt this long while watching historical kdrama.

Some years ago lived a progressive nobleman who loved all the ideas and things brought from the West. His daughter taught their slaves to read and encouraged her half-noble lover to go to study in China. Soon afterwards the father was killed for treason and his family became slaves. Having lost everything after her mother's death she joins some people in hopes for revenge and is trained as assassin. She is involved in cases testing a new poison on people. Her lover has now become a police officer who works on those cases while one of her ex-slaves has become a merchant who is desperately looking for her. As it turns out they are all pawns in somebody else's game who is after the king's life. The series is very artistic, pleasing to look at, people keep having meaningful discussions. It gives a feeling of hopelessness, everybody, including the king, are fighting for a lost cause. Maybe it's the lack of positive thoughts or maybe I'm just too impatient for the poetic presentation. Still can't figure out why I was so bored with it.


At the moment I'm watching The Duo. It's about a nobleman and a beggar switched at birth. There is very little information about it and even after watching 12 episodes I'm still not sure where it's going, so I'm not including it this time.

I'm not quite satisfied with the way this post turned out and I'm sure it's still full of broken sentences etc, but I've spent on it long enough. There are other thing to do with my time like sleep. Or maybe finish Jade Palace Lock Heart.
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April 2011

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