KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

a landing site for quick, completely biased, and totally snarky korean drama reviews


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jumong (2005/2006)

Jumong Prince of Legend
삼한지-주몽 편
(May 2005 – Mar 2006)

who’s in it
Song IlGook (Lobbyist, Kingdom of the Wind)
Han HyeJin (Be Strong, Geum Soon!, Terroir)
Won KiJoon (The Grand Chef)

what’s it about
Song IlGook wonderfully portrays Prince Jumong, the lazy and carefree son of King Geumwa’s Royal Concubine, Lady Yuhwa; he is the youngest out of three princes in line for the throne. Despite his boozing and whoring, Jumong is King Geumwa’s favorite son, in part because Jumong is an affable prince, but also because the king has loved Jumong’s mother the way he has never loved his queen. When Jumong learns of his true heritage (which had been kept hidden from him), he also wakes to the political hatred simmering under the veneer of civility in palace life, and realizes he has spent all of his youth in ignorance. With the burden of his past heavy upon his shoulders, he embarks on a new path. This is an embellishment of legend (loosely based in fact) of the young prince destined to unite the scattered city-states of present day Koreans under one banner, a race of people estranged from one another and oppressed by Han tyranny (loosely China). It would be impossible to go further into detail, not only because of the sheer depth of characters and story (as it spans generations!) but also because the twists and turns of the journey is precisely what makes Jumong so involving to watch.

A substantial 81 episodes


wildcard factor
Historical pieces can be difficult. True historicals tend to be favored by the older generation of drama watchers because they demand a lot of patience and time and are usually steeped in an overwhelming package of traditional theme and speak. They are the choice entrée for my parents, for example. Now, unlike the fusion sageuks that have recently come into popularity, ones that blend historical settings with contemporary panache, true historical dramas rarely care to be fast-paced or comedic in delivery. Jumong is that sort of heavily political historical drama that is both serious and steeped in war, and tests you through lots and lots of dialogue. How Jumong separates itself from the pack, however, is by having a very capable leading man that was both the everyman and heroic. Song IlGook was able to keep Jumong grounded and easy to connect with despite the pomp and fuss of being a historical character of “grave importance.” Jumong also had a fairly brisk storytelling pace that kept itself accessible. Action-packed and, yes, at times very romantic—his female lead was the headstrong Han HyeJin, a competent merchant’s daughter who takes notice of Jumong after an unfavorable chance encounter.

after the first episode
W-O-W. I’ll be truthful, I don’t always care for historical dramas, they requiring more committment than I usually am able to give. I also rarely like the fusion saeguks. I will acknowledge they usually tell a good, well-developed tale but I lack the patience for them. But this one…I was instantly hooked. Not only did I immediately take a shine to Song IlGook as Prince Jumong, but I didn’t find the “historicalness” of Jumong overwhelming and headache-inducing. It felt suprisingly modern in the telling and well, surpise me, exciting. It had a feeling of grandness and a pinch of magic. I really liked it; somehow it felt new to me.

gave up

snoozer moments
Being 81-episodes long, yes, there were definitely some storylines/scenes that dragged.


what didn’t work

what did
Song IlGook and Han HyeJin were truly truly wonderful to watch. They made me care so much about their characters…it was unhealthy.

The writing was also top shelf - very important.

what made me want to gouge my eyes out
Nothing comes to mind, honestly. There were story arcs that made me scream in frustration and anger, but in a good way…I was way too invested.

what kept me going


Other factors:
predictability No
engrish No
originality Yes
eye-candy n/a
hair and fashion Beautiful costuming and scenery. Very visually striking. 

is it worth trying to find?

total enjoyment factor 

total disdain factor

why this review is completely biased
This isn’t my personal favorite drama of all time, but it gets my vote for one of the best written dramas of all time.

could a non-kdrama fan like this

Now this is what you would call a serious long-term relationship, the sort of undertaking that leaves one sleep-deprived, obsessed and at the end, completely heart-broken. At a dense 81 episodes, we flew through dozens upon dozens of characters, multiple wars, the falling and creating of nations, and of course, the many betrayals of the heart. It was an arduous and draining journey.

After Jumong, I better understood why Song IlGook was such a mega insane superstar in Korea. After the kind of breath he gave to Prince Jumong, it could be no other way.

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