Book Review: The Confucian Kingship of Korea: Yongjo and the Politics of Sagacity

the confucian kingship of korea

Now I’m watching the drama Jang Ok Jung, Living in Love (SBS, 2013) about the romance between King Sukong (r.1674-1720) and his infamous concubine Hui Bin. Hui Bin’s son became King Gyeongjong (r.1720-1724) but he died young and his half brother became King Yeongjo (r.1724-1776). There were rumours that King Yeongjo killed his half brother to take the throne. Later he had his own son Crown Prince Sado suffocated to death in a rice chest …

So since I’m watching dramas set in the late Joseon period I recently read the book – The Confucian Kingship of Korea: Yeongjo and the Politics of Sagacity by Jahyun Kim Haboush, a Korean American scholar of Korean history and literature. (This is the 2001 paperback updated version of the book first published by Columbia in 1988)

(BTW In Sageuk historical dramas King Yeongjo appears as a child in Dong Yi MBC 2010, Crown Prince Sado dying in the rice chest appears in the drama Yi San, The Wind of the Palace MBC 2008, and in the upcoming 2015 film The Throne )

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Mungyeong Tea Cup Festival and Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park


In Joseon dramas we often find characters travelling great distances across mountains to get to the capital – on foot if they are poor, by horse if they have money, or perhaps even on a palanquin if they are really posh. But they definitely don’t travel by car on nice expressways that go through mountain tunnels, so it was fascinating to go and see part of a mountain path that has been preserved just as it was during Joseon times – Mungyeong Saejae. Mungyeong Saejae is now a tourist attraction but in the Joseon period it was part of the route that travellers had to take to get from Busan in the south to Hanyang (now Seoul). Continue reading “Mungyeong Tea Cup Festival and Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park” »

Dong Yi recaps episode 45-60 FINAL

dong yi 59

The fourth and final phase of the drama Dong Yi is all about who will become the future King. So the story centres around the two princes – Jang Ok Jung (JOJ)’s son who is the Crown Prince and Dong Yi’s son, Prince Youn Ing (the future King Yeongjo). JOJ has accepted that her relationship with the King is over and she must live with the humiliation of being demoted from Queen back to Hui Bin, a concubine. So she lives for her son to be King. But his position isn’t stable so JOJ is determined to destroy the competition – DY and her son. DY tries to make peace with JOJ who refuses to trust her and so in the end JOJ is the cause of her own tragic downfall. Continue reading “Dong Yi recaps episode 45-60 FINAL” »

Dong Yi recaps episode 30-44

dong yi

Dong Yi carries out ancestral rites for her father and brother

In the third part of Dong Yi, JOJ has lost the King’s love and trust but desperately tries to cling on to her title of Queen. To do that she needs to get rid of DY who has proof that JOJ is guilty of framing the dethroned Queen. JOJ seems to think that she can get away with anything and by the end of this part it looks as though she is right, because she manages to get DY arrested and then pushes to have her executed. Continue reading “Dong Yi recaps episode 30-44” »

Dong Yi recaps episode 19-29

Jang Ok Jung Coronation

Jang Ok Jung finally becomes Queen

Here are the recaps for the second part of Dong Yi (MBC 2010). see here for episodes 1-18 JOJ (Jang Ok Jung, the future Hui Bin) has changed from an ambitious but respectable lady to a vicious villain prepared to get rid of anyone standing in her way of becoming Queen. She does eventually become Queen but it’s not the complete triumph that she had hoped for as the King becomes aware of her ruthlessness and the crimes she has committed and she loses his trust and love. Continue reading “Dong Yi recaps episode 19-29” »

Dong Yi (MBC 2010) episode 1-18 recap

king sukjong and dong yi

Dong Yi (Han Hyo Joo) and King Sukjong (Ji Jin Hee) 

I’ve finally got the recaps together for the sageuk drama Dong Yi (MBC 2010) that I’ve just watched for the second time. I’ve broken the drama down into 4 parts. In part one (episodes 1-18) we learn about DY’s background and childhood. She enters the palace where she looks up to King Sukjong’s favourite concubine, Jang Ok Jung (future Hui Bin). Jang Ok Jung (JOJ) is ambitious and very good at getting what she wants. But gradually she realises that in the ruthless palace you can’t play fair. So persuaded by her immoral brother, Jang Hee Jae (JHJ), she turns to the dark side and vows to do whatever it takes to become Queen. And if that means committing murder? Well, so be it… Continue reading “Dong Yi (MBC 2010) episode 1-18 recap” »