Category Archives: 사극 (Sageuk)

王維 Wang Wei (701-761) 終南別業 (Zhongnan Mountain Retreat)

中岁颇好道,晚家南山陲。 兴来每独往,胜事空自知。 行到水穷处,坐看云起时。 偶然值林叟,谈笑无还期。 WANG WEI (699-761) “Zhongnan Mountain Retreat” “Zhongnan Mountain Retreat,” by Wang Wei In my middle years I came to much love the Way and late made my home by South Mountain’s edge. When the mood comes upon me, I go off alone, and have glorious moments all to myself. I walk to the point where a stream ends, and sitting, watch when the clouds rise. By chance I … Continue reading

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Ikseongwan 익선관

For a long time I wondered why the bulbous hat worn in the Joseon court had what appeared to be Cicada wings in the back. Now I know! Thank you Arirang TV!

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자장가 – 신돈

신돈 – 자장가 어젯밤에 바라본 달님이 엄마얼굴 닮아서 오늘 밤도 하늘을 보지만 구름속에 가려져 작사 : 김태윤 작곡 : 노형우 ,황상준 편곡 : 노형우 Shin Don – Lullaby Last night the moon shone Recalling a mother’s face Tonight we see the sky Shrouded in the clouds Lyrics: Kim Tae-Yoon Music: Noh Hyeong-Woo, Hwang Sang Jun Arrangement: Noh Hyeong-Woo

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궁중잔혹사 – 꽃들의 전쟁 (Cruel Palace – War of Flowers)

Greed, betrayal, vengeance — all this and the casual brutality wrought in their service — are at the raw, bloody heart of 궁중잔혹사 – 꽃들의 전쟁 (Cruel Palace: War of the Flowers), where a veritable Pandemonium of malignant narcissists —essentially functional psychopaths, the lot of them!— has the run of King Injo of Joseon’s court. Joseon era sageuk are generally replete with a particularly acrid flavor of palace intrigue, but none more so than those … Continue reading

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성균관 스캔들 – ’tis not poetry

Without love for the people and concerns for the nation, ’tis not poetry. Without aching for our era and outrage at the world, ’tis not poetry. Without striving for good and guarding against evil, this too, is not poetry. attr. Jeong Yak Yong (Sungkyunkwan Scandal)

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주몽 (Jumong)

  “Trust is more important than life. Kill them all!” So declares Soseono (소서노) with admirable equanimity on her first outing as the leader of the trade troop owned by Yeontabal (연타발), Chief of Keru and Leader of the Jolbon (졸본) confederacy. Soseono is destined to inherit the troop from her father and this is her first opportunity to prove her mettle as a trader and to freely wield her authority as the troop leader. … Continue reading

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동이 (Dong Yi)

What a discovery! Watching 동이 (Dong Yi) is like unwrapping a present you received a long time ago and decided to open later but then ended up neglecting to open because “later” never came and you soon forgot about it. And then one day you discover the still-wrapped package in the top shelf of the coat closet and  take it down and start opening it out of idle curiosity, absent any expectations, only … Continue reading

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선덕여왕 (The Great Queen Seon Deok)

“Chess” may be the word best suited to conveying the drama of open-faced intrigue and gamesmanship that is 선덕여왕 (The Great Queen Seon Deok). The war between Princess Deokman (the future Queen Seon Deok) and the formidable Mi Shil for control of Silla is the stuff of epic. And perhaps because our contenders are both women, heroic prowess is here not framed in terms of brute force and naked aggression, but rather through strategic craft … Continue reading

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Notes on 자명고 (Ja Myung Go)

There is so much to say about Ja Myung Go, the first of which must be that it is beautifully complex… and also rather narratively intricate at the beginning. The complexity is wonderful: it is in the characters, in the political intrigue, in the lost history of Naklang, in the legend of Prince Hodong’s tragic love(s). But the initial narrative intricacy can be disorienting, especially since the significance of what happens in the … Continue reading

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Notes on 근초고왕 (King Geunchogo)

Ah! What a relief – an historical saga that feels like an historical saga! After the foamy travesty that was Kim Soo Ro and the less-than-solid despite its beauty Ja Myung Go, it is refreshing to once again happen upon a Goguryeo-era sageuk drama that has some of the appealing traits of Jumong. It is becoming increasingly clear to me as I watch this that among the elements that makes Jumong so engaging is the spot on mix of political … Continue reading

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Series or Feature Film? Hwang Jin Yi and Shin Yun Bok, a Case Study.

who tells the better story? – who tells the story better? It’s one thing to watch two kdrama adaptations of the same story, like MBC’s  The Return of Iljimae and SBS’s  Iljimae. It’s quite another to have at your disposal feature film interpretations of stories already elaborated in full length dramas as happens with two artistic geniuses of the Joseon era whose lives are dramatized in the television series Hwang Jin Yi and Painter of … Continue reading

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Playing Favorites… the KDrama and Film ‘Must See’ List

Long overdue is the time to tip the nib of my (virtual) pen to those dramas and feature films to which I have been awarding my highest rating, three stars.  If you wish to see a comprehensive list of titles I’ve explored since setting off on this adventure, you may find it in “Curio in KDramaland… (or, Through the Sageuk Lens)“. You will also find the key to the asterisk and numeric annotation. … Continue reading

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Curio in KDramaland… (or, Through the Sageuk Lens)

I have been contemplating the virtues of the well made sageuk and what its persistent appeal to me (and maybe even to other viewers) might mean. Surely, something… It turns out that while I apparently have watched only one third as many sageuks as contemporary fictions (from comedies to melodramas and everything in between), I am more disposed to want to collect historical dramas than I am contemporary fictions. When it comes … Continue reading

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Notes on 돌아온 일지매 (The Return of Iljimae)

Chapters 1-2 Okay… the first adjectives that come to mind during episode 1 and most of 2: “weird” and then “bizarre” and then “camp.” I barely made it past the first (structurally very rocky and disjointed, hyper-didactic, excessively-yet-not-quite-adequately-expositional) episode… Were it not for the fact that I have committed to following this drama through, especially since I enjoyed SBS’s Iljimae so much, I would have had a very difficult time moving on to episode … Continue reading

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일지매 (Iljimae) – birth of a hero…

Just finished watching Iljimae and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I went in expecting little more than a two-dimensional comic book hero in a campy fusion sageuk. Instead I got a light-hearted yet touching folk-hero novel that is amusing and moving — with plenty a wink and a nod yet full of pathos as well. And tropes, tropes and more tropes… yet sooo much fun to watch as the story of Lee Joon Gi’s Iljimae … Continue reading

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Island in the stream…

The summer after I received my diploma in Romance Languages and Literatures and struck out into the world as a Medievalist, I happened upon I know-not-what Korean Drama on hulu and I could not take my eyes off the 16-episode tale so woeful that it wrung from me every last tear my lacrimal glands could produce, leaving me quite spent. Then I discovered DramaFever and for six months after that I drank … Continue reading

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