Category Archives: Notes on…

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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김수한무 거북이와 두루미 (A Fable)

More fun from Secret Garden “김수한무 거북이와 두루미 삼천갑자 동방삭 치치카포 사리사리센타 워리워리 세브리깡 무두셀라 구름이 허리케인 담벼락 서생원에 고양이 바둑이는 돌돌이“. So the story goes: A long, long time ago, a man who was descended from a long line of only sons per generation became father to a baby boy. So he consulted a name-specialist to give his only son a name symbolic of a long life. But no matter what the name-specialist suggested, … Continue reading

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시크릿 가든 (Secret Garden)

I had no idea Binnie was such a fantastic singer! 1) 그 남자 (That Man) – Hyeon Bin 한 남자가 그대를 사랑합니다 그 남자는 열심히 사랑합니다 매일 그림자처럼 그대를 따라 다니며 그 남자는 웃으며 울고 있어요 얼마나 얼마나 더 너를 이렇게 바라만 보며 혼자 이 바람같은 사랑 이 거지같은 사랑 계속해야 니가 나를 사랑하겠니 조금만 가까이 와 조금만 한 발 다가가면 두 발 도망가는 널 사랑하는 날 지금도 옆에 있어 그 남잔 … Continue reading

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Once upon a time… Dr. Stranger, take notes!

Dear writers, directors and producers of Dr. Stranger, it has come to viewers’ attention that you were absent from class on the day we covered “The Fundamentals of Storytelling.” Although your actors have been bending over backwards and executing death defying thespian somersaults to breath life into the *___ you have foisted upon them, it is clearly time for an intervention – on their behalf and on behalf of well-meaning viewers everywhere. Rather … Continue reading

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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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49일: An Exploration of Empathy

“There is a pain that you cannot truly understand until you have experienced it yourself…” So runs the dominant theme in the beautiful, unexpectedly humorous, yet haunting  49 Days featuring the exquisite Lee Yo Won and the blithe Nam Gyu Ri. Indeed, it is empathy, or the lack thereof, that is at the core of each of the stories woven together to create the tapestry that is 49 Days. It is through empathy that the … Continue reading

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밀회 (Milhwe)

  I cannot believe it…! I just let myself get roped into a new drama live… arghhh! Oh, who am I kidding! I could have kept myself from falling into this trap. But I saw “piano prodigy” and saw Kim Hee Ae (recent of Midas), and then saw JTBC who last brought us Jeong Kyeong Ho’s brilliant 무정도시 (Heartless City) and I thought, “hmm, I wonder…?” 10 minutes in and I love it. Three minutes … 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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황금의 제국 (Empire of Gold)…

Among all the sins a man might commit, betrayal – a species of fraud – ranks among the most ethically abhorrent. The key to understanding the gravity of the sin of betrayal, and the crime of fraud, is the fundamental role of trust in the organization, function and governance of society. In Aristotle’s model of the ethical spectrum whereby human relationships range from the primarily transactional (business and trade) to the largely … Continue reading

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I ♡ 무정도시 (Heartless City)… truly… sadly… deeply…

…by the end of the first chapter I could already tell that things are not going to end well for our protagonist. When we first meet him, it is the middle of the night in Seoul and Jeong Shi Hyeon is standing on the roof of a tall, tall building from which an undercover police officer who suspected he had been made has apparently just plummeted to his death in the street below. … 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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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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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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