[K-DRAMA] Jang Ok Jung, Live by Love

warning: may contain spoilers

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May look like your ordinary present time plot wherein the guy falls head over heels with the girl, only dressed in traditional clothes.

Jang Ok Jung is a woman with great talent in fashion design. She came from the low class since her mother was also from the low class. The division of classes was strictly followed during the Joseon Dynasty and the people greatly despised the low class. Jang Ok Jung and her mother experienced a lot of hardships since they were from the low class. Since then, Jang Ok Jung wanted to escape to China and end all their hardships. She met her uncle, Jang Hyun, whose daughter had committed suicide after having an affair with a royal family. Jang Hyun wanted to take revenge to the royal family and fulfill his dream to become a father-in-law of the King.  Jang Ok Jung is the only one who could help him. By entering the palace, Jang Ok Jung could be the King’s concubine, or maybe a Queen, and this could save her and her mom. She decided to join hands with Jang Hyun.

As a whole, rather than despising Jang Ok Jung or Jang Hee Bin, this drama made the audience pity her instead. The scriptwriters gave a whole new interpretation to Jang Ok Jung’s story. I can’t say that the scriptwriters followed the history of Jang Ok Jung exactly the same, but the main facts were followed religiously. It’s nice that there were little twists as I watch the drama so that there’s thrill in it. If they were to follow it exactly the same, then it would be no fun; though the first few episodes were obviously draggy and just placed it there for creative effects. Jang Ok Jung and Lee Soon had childhood memories together even if in reality, there wasn’t any evidence of that. Jang Ok Jung was also a fashion designer and they showed a fashion show scene. I think it was non-existent in the past, and since women were not prominent figures yet. In spite of the colorful hanbok and accessories, it wasn’t much appealing to me so I was looking forward for the next parts. The time when she entered the palace as a low court maid was just like the ordinary present day plot wherein the guy falls head over heels with the girl, only dressed in traditional clothes. I couldn’t imagine the King actually not care about his position and having an interest on a low court maid like Jang Ok Jung. At least as the story progressed, as Jang Ok Jung was gaining the favor of the King, the story became interesting as well.  One memorable scene was the stand-off among the three ladies inside the palace — Queen InHyun, Jang Hee Bin and the new concubine Choi Suk Bin. It goes back to the first episode where they all met in Jang Ok Jung’s clothing shop. Another memorable thing was King SukJong’s unending love for Jang Hee Bin. Contrary to history, where King SukJong lost interest to Jang Hee Bin, the drama showed the King’s true love for her. Regardless of the mistakes that Hee Bin did, the King forgave her in everything and even covered up her mistakes. The King dethroned her and made her level 1 Bin again, because they were the happiest at that time when she was Hee Bin. The King’s love for Jang Hee Bin was simply touching, especially the last scene wherein she was dying in his arms. King SukJong never let go of Jang Hee Bin’s hand.

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The characters were suitable for their roles. Although there were many minor supporting characters which I felt weren’t able to show enough acting skills due to lack of screen time. Nevertheless, I highly appreciated the cast as a whole.

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Yoo Ah In as Lee Soon / King Suk Jong — I wasn’t used with Ah In’s portrayal of a Crown Prince or King at first. His gangster look in Sungkyunkwan Scandal was still stuck in my head even after years. The thought of Ah In as a King was simply a no-no. Also, pairing up with Kim Tae Hee seemed to be a little off. I thought he wouldn’t be able to match Tae Hee’s acting. After a few episodes, I realized that I was completely wrong and I was totally underestimating Yoo Ah In’s acting ability. He actually exceeded my expectations and his pairing with Tae Hee was also cute. He portrayed Suk Jong as a powerful and witty King. He isn’t a king that would just spend all day long sleeping, eating or playing with his concubines. He had control over the court and made his decisions wisely. Yoo Ah In’s emotional scenes were also convincing especially the last scene. Yoo Ah In literally shined and owned this drama and he definitely earned my respect for him as an actor. This would probably be his acting project so far; and also my personal favourite aside from his role in Sungkyunkwan Scandal. (though I haven’t watched Strongest Chil Woo yet)

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Kim Tae Hee as Jang Ok Jung / Jang Hee Bin — I liked how Kim Tae Hee was able to portray her role as Jang Ok Jung really well. This simply proves her flexibility in portraying different kinds of roles. She also did a job well done in both Iris and My Princess. She is definitely one of my favourite actresses up to date. She portrayed Jang Ok Jung / Jang Hee Bin as a strong woman. Jang Hee Bin also sincerely loved King SukJong. She wasn’t a greedy, cruel concubine in the drama, but she was only protecting the King. In fact, I pitied her life story. Kim Tae Hee didn’t fail me, and she is always at her best. I’m hoping to see her take more challenging roles in the future.

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Hong Soo Hyun as Queen Inhyeon — She wasn’t really exactly a mean antagonist in the drama but she carried Queen Inhyeon’s character with dignity. She was suitable for her role and she displayed her acting skills as well.

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Jae Hee as Hyun Chi Soo / Jin — I was excited to see Jae Hee in another drama. However, I heard that his scenes were drastically lessened so he appeared at episode 13. His character wasn’t really that useful in the story. He was quite useless and I was sad because he deserved a lot more air time. Hyun Chi Soo should just not come back from China, because it wouldn’t make much difference. I’d say give him a better and useful role next time. I’m so disappointed with the production team >.<

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Lee Sang Yeob as Prince Dongpyeong — I haven’t seen him in any other dramas, but he looks young as an “Uncle” Dongpyeong. He was great as an actor, and simply seeing his happy face also makes me smile 🙂

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Han Seung Yeon as Choi Suk Bin — She was fitting for her role since she had to act mean. Her face and voice matched her character well. As an idol-turned-actress, she displayed her acting skills well. I got annoyed with Choi Suk Bin which means she successfully portrayed her role well.

The soundtrack is wonderful. The tracks and the instrumentals were memorable as I could recall the scenes in the drama. Many instrumentals had that royalty vibe in it, and very palace-like. “Song of Sorrow” by Im Jae Bum was sung sorrowfully with the singer’s husky voice is such a perfect combination. “Voiceless” by Lee Jung is another track which was sung beautifully. Most of the tracks are memorable since they were well used in the drama.

I simply love the retelling of Jang Ok Jung’s story; making her a strong female protagonist. She was known to be an evil royal concubine, but this reinterpretation made a considerate justification. Her actions and decisions ended up that way because of other people’s treatment towards her. This had a lot potential to be a great drama, only if they reduced the first parts. It definitely takes a lot of patience to appreciate this drama, but it was all worth the wait because the good and exciting events happened during the half until the last episode. I’m considered a sageuk newbie, since I didn’t appreciate historical dramas in the past. Thanks to dramas like these, I learned to appreciate history more.

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Rating: 7/10 

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Recommended Korean Dramas (2013) | My Asian movie & drama

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