궁 / Princess Hours
(Jan – Mar 2006)
who’s in it
Yoon EunHye (Take Care of My Lady, Coffee Prince)
Joo JiHoon (Antique Bakery – film)
what's it about
Drawing obvious parallels with England, including frequent references to the torrid tabloid scandals that concerned Prince Charles, Camilla and Princess Diana before the latter’s tragic car accident and death, Goong cheerfully speculates an alternate version of history where the Republic of Korea is a constitutional monarchy and has maintained a figurehead sovereignty instead of adopting a purely presidential system of government.
When the reigning king begins to suffer in health, the elders make the sudden decision to wed off the crowned prince, Joo JiHoon, to solidify his status as the heir-apparent despite his still being in high school. There’s a problem though and it’s called a (let’s sing it together now) secret lover, that’s what we are...our little stuck-up prince has a real amour in his life and doesn’t take a shine to the girl chosen for him by the old people who want to dictate his every move in life. Apparently, the previous king (his late grandfather) had betrothed the crowned prince to a commoner’s granddaughter a long time ago, Yoon EunHye, a goofy art student who turns out to be his classmate at the very art institute he currently attends.
Throw into the hotpot of fun 1) extra meat: the sensitive exiled prince with emoting hair and his vindictive mother who wants her son on the throne and, 2) raw garlic: the abandoned ballerina who was the crowned prince’s secret first love, one that decides she needs to get her stud back. Now we got ourselves some salacious tomfoolery of the royal stew variety.
Yoon EunHye – the singer turned actress does a really fine job here, to my surprise. She’s natural and funny as the hopeless school girl who crashed the royal party.
after the first episode
I liked it but I wasn’t sure if it would continue to impress. The concept was fun…but I was concerned about how far the novelty of this alternate world would carry before the story thinned and became too silly.
I occasionally found the political intrigues on the dull side…but I’ve never been a massive fan of historical dramas in general so that is my own quirk.
what didn’t work
It just did, it all worked quite masterfully.
The mother of the exiled prince was a great foe. I liked her because she was complicated. She was a woman with a past and her actions were dictated by her own demons and they felt very true to her character. She was scary as hell and a big raging meanie, but she wasn’t just a plot device, she was a person.
what made me want to gouge my eyes out
Off the top of my head, I can’t really say I hated anything that much about this drama.
what kept me going
eye-candy I personally didn’t find much eye-candy to enjoy
hair and fashion The costuming was truly beautiful. The traditional fare was of course grand and extravagant, as one would expect, but I especially loved the many variations of the hanbok integrated into Yoon EunHye’s contemporary wardrobe throughout the show.
is it worth trying to find?
total enjoyment factor
why this review is completely biased
This is fairly objective for me. I didn’t go into it favoring any of the actors involved, in fact, the opposite. I was never a fangirl victim to Joo JiHoon’s supposed charms (my lack of favor for him has nothing to do with his recent drug scandals, which being on this side of the world, celebrities smoking weed is kinda par for the course), but I thought he did a good job here. I think Yoon EunHye was perfect for this drama, but I would hardly call myself a great fan of hers, though I did like her in The Vineyard Man and Coffee Prince – so maybe I am a closet Yoon EunHye fan?
could a non-kdrama fan like this
Hard to say…I’m going to go with yes, but only for those of the feminine persuasion.
There are lot of similarities between this one and the uber successful Boys Over Flowers that aired a few years later, including but not limited to the idea of a earnest ‘commoner’ warming the icy-heart of a ‘prince’ while the soft-spoken and wounded third-wheel hottie pines for the heroine, although never to stand a chance with her. The same actress even plays the mother to both Yoon EunHye and Goo HyeSun's characters. Despite the similarities, however, as the episodes progress in both dramas, Goong provides a more compelling argument as to why it will remain the premier example of the Cinderella kdrama, not Boys. It was just that well-done.