Fusion Sageuk – How Lee Byung Hoon changed historical drama with Heojun

lee byung hoonDirector Lee Byung Hoon has been credited with revamping the sageuk industry in Korea. He became famous internationally when he directed Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum, 2004). But he made his comeback to directing with the drama Heojun, 2000. Previously, in the 1990s he observed that sageuk was very popular in Japan and had high ratings because it was watched by all ages and gave the Japanese viewers a sense of pride in their country.

But Sageuk in Korea was only watched by the over 40s. For several years he had been overseeing drama production at MBC, but then decided to go back to directing. He told his family that he wanted to direct sageuk. But his daughter was against it because she and her friends thought that sageuk was boring and dull. He decided that he needed to make his dramas appealing to schoolchildren and young adults too. Continue reading “Fusion Sageuk – How Lee Byung Hoon changed historical drama with Heojun” »

Notes from the book by Jewel in the Palace Director Lee Byung Hoon

lee byung hoonIn his book, Build a Kingdom of Dreams, Lee Byung Hoon, the director of the Korean historical drama blockbuster hit Jewel in the Palace (MBC 2004) writes about his approach to directing dramas – from choosing a writer, to working with cast, filming and editing. Not to mention the dreaded challenge of tackling viewer ratings! Here are some of the points that I found interesting in the book including how he revamped historical dramas and anecdotes from drama sets. The book is also great for studying Korean reading which I wrote about here.

Continue reading “Notes from the book by Jewel in the Palace Director Lee Byung Hoon” »

Korean Book Review: 꿈의 왕국을 세워라 Build a Kingdom of Dreams by Director Lee Byung Hoon

lee byung hoon For any Korean language students who are also interested in Korean historical drama, (sageuk), reading director Lee Byung Hoon’s 2010 book 꿈의 왕국을 세우라 Build a Kingdom of Dreams is a great way to kill two birds with one stone: improve reading and vocabulary whilst learning more about the world of Korean drama.

Lee Byung Hoon (not to be confused with the famous actor Lee Byung Hun) is the director of several blockbuster hits including Heojun (MBC 2000), Sangdo (MBC 2002), Dae Jang Geum (MBC 2004), Dong Yi (MBC 2010), and Horse Doctor (MBC 2013). He became a household name in Korea after the hugely successful MBC drama Heojun in 2000 when ratings reached over 60%. It is still one of the most successful dramas of all time in Korea. (it’s still my favourite drama too and I really recommend it :) ) Continue reading “Korean Book Review: 꿈의 왕국을 세워라 Build a Kingdom of Dreams by Director Lee Byung Hoon” »

Korean film review: 수상한 그녀 Susang Hannyo; Miss Granny (2014)

This is an adorable comedy film which begins with common problems – ageing and living with extended family. A 74 year-old widow (played by Na Mun-hee) lives with her son and family but their relationships are strained due to her cranky personality. So her family discuss moving her to an old people’s home. This news depresses her and she goes off and has a photograph taken in preparation for her funeral only to miraculously have a metamorphosis and arrive back in her 20-year-old body! Continue reading “Korean film review: 수상한 그녀 Susang Hannyo; Miss Granny (2014)” »

Day Trips from Seoul: Biking in Ungilsan and Yangpyeoung, Gyeongi-do


For anyone needing a rest from Seoul, the Yangpyeong area of Gyeongi-do offers lots of things to do from making kimchi to climbing up mountains. But the area also has some fantastic cycling opportunities. It’s an easy day trip from Seoul and with bicycles for hire at the local stations it’s a must-do activity at this time of year. Actually if you are really hardcore you can cycle all the way down Korea along the bike path from Incheon to Busan in the south. But that must take several weeks surely 😕 So we opted for a more sedate two-hour tootle along an old rail track which has now been converted into a very nice bike path totally away from cars. :)  We took the train to Ungilsan, just over an hour away on the Jungang line from Yongsan station in Seoul. Continue reading “Day Trips from Seoul: Biking in Ungilsan and Yangpyeoung, Gyeongi-do” »

Book Review: The Annals of King Taejo

If you are interested in Korean historical drama then The Annals of King Taejo (translated and annotated by Choi Byong Hyon, Harvard University Press) is a fascinating read. There are 1,893 volumes of the Annals of Joseon but the volumes of King Taejo, the founder of Joseon, are the only ones that have been translated so far! So it’s a fantastic opportunity to really get a sense of the first few years of the new dynasty in the late 14th century.

I spent many hours this week skimming through the 897 pages. It’s not the kind of book you read from cover to cover like a novel and then put away. The records are written in diary-form with notes entered almost every day of the 7-year reign. Some days have short entries on the weather, other days have long descriptions on serious happenings such as the execution of high officials for treason. But even the weather notes are interesting because bad weather was interpreted as being a message from Heaven to the King. Continue reading “Book Review: The Annals of King Taejo” »