I’m not talking to you. Why? Because you broke my poor Lee Hang’s heart. And now you’re set to break Chi-soo’s. Need more explanation? Didn’t think so.
Jang Ok-jung was not a drama I automatically expected to love. Or even like, for that matter.
Exhibit A: I love Kim Tae-hee, but after that whole thang with Rain, I don’t know what to think of her anymore.
Exhibit B: I loved Moon Jae-shin (for those who need a little help: the glorious Sungkyunkwan Scandal), but I fell out of love with Yoo Ah-in after ignoring everyone’s warnings and watching an episode of his weird reality-show-documentary thingy where he threw hissy fits like a prima donna. And after seeing him up against Lee Je-hoon in the disaster that was Fashion King? (I only watched 2 episodes and it was horrific.) No can do.
Exhibit C: Jang Hee-bin = a kind, sweet, good-willed fashion designer? Uh… I do love sageuks, and I love that more and more ‘fusion sageuks’ are popping up these days, but I wasn’t too sold on this one.
In any case, I half-anticipated, half-dreaded the premiere of Jang Ok-jung: Live for Love. Okay, interjection here. The Korean title is 장옥정, 사랑에 살다. The second half of the title can be understood/interpreted in different ways… but I think the closest thing would be that Jang Ok-jung lives by, or for, love. In other words, love is what is central in her life. Anyhoo, back to the premiere. Initially, I cringed at the hammy-ness of the backstory. But it’s hard to scowl at cute little kiddies, and soon I grew invested in their cuteness and was eager to see what would happen.
By chance, I happened upon a lot of promotional material for the show, and the chemistry between all of the actors and actresses outside of character really gave the show some much needed points in my book. Everyone – including poor Jae Hee, whom I’ll get to later – seemed very open, comfortable, and breezy around one another. Awkwardness in real life translates to awkwardness on screen. You just can’t hide it. But seeing how well everyone got along, I couldn’t wait to see what happened with all these people in character.
Well, Kim Tae-hee didn’t quite make the huge acting leap I’d been hoping for, but it was forgivable. And Yoo Ah-in definitely helped move himself from “blech” to “neutral” in my book. But then Nine happened. I would enjoy my episode of Jang Ok-jung from 10-11pm, and then be blown away by Nine (which aired from 11pm-12am). No bueno.
What kept me on the spaceship (I’m still in my weird spaceship phase) was neither Kim Tae-hee nor Yoo Ah-in nor even fav Sung Dong-il (who plays Jang Hyun, Ok-jung’s uncle). It was *drumroll* Lee Sang-yeob. *swoon* Excuse me, while I collect myself. *calls for smelling salts* Ahem. As documented in foreverland cyberspace, I fell for Lee Sang-yeob upon appearance in Nice Guy. And that torch is still burning, because I love me my Dong-pyung Goon Lee Hang the bestestest. For those confused, “Dong-pyung” is his title, “Goon” (not goon LOL) is like the indicator that “Dong-pyung” is his title. Uh, it’s kind of like calling someone the Duke of Hastings. “Goon” = “Duke” and “Dong-pyung” = “Hastings” though there’s no estate called Dong-pyung… but anyhoo.
Our cutie’s actual name is Lee Hang (and that’s pronounced with a short “a”). And he loves – and has loved – Ok-jung for a long looong time. But. Ok-jung is blind and poopy and oblivious to what is so very obvious. So, instead of choosing the path that could potentially have allowed her to remain historically irrelevant and happily married with amabajillion kiddies flashing smiles and adorably going “ahing!” she decided to throw Lee Hang over for Lee Soon.
Lee Soon, the boy-man whom I can’t get a handle on. As dictated by Kdrama laws, he and Ok-jung have an adorable shared past. And, as also dictated by The Laws, poor Ok-jung was left waiting on their date night with nary a word of explanation or apology. The two forgotsies bout each other but magically ran into each other – not once, not twice, but thrice! Perhaps it was four times? Frice? That looks too much like “fried rice” so nix that made-up word. Ok-jung met her once true wub Lee Soon, and they fell in wubsies, and Ok-jung stepped into the arena to duke it out with every person in sight – and out of sight! – to claim her place by Lee Soon’s side.
Now, I know he wubs her, I do, I really do. But… I’m not that comfortable with him ‘using’ her in his never-ending political games, or her being so desperate to please him in that sphere. Yes, equal partners who can support each other outside of the home is wonderful and what every Cinderella ever does. But… something just doesn’t feel right for this couple. Perhaps it’s because Ok-jung doesn’t actually get anything out of it, other than smiles and snuggles. She isn’t given due reward or recognition for her contributions – well, people recognize her for it and proceed to bash on her. In any case, Lee Soon loves Ok-jung, but that’s not enough for either of them, and I fear that’s where we may find the roots of our tragedy. As Dong-pyung Goon told Ok-jung, Lee Soon is “the king I love the most, but also the king I fear the most. … In the end, he will throw you away.”
Now, no royal concubine can only have two men who love her. This is Jang Hee-bin after all, she of eight(!!) portrayals before this one. Our last lover is none other than Hyun Chi-soo, the silent, invisible, self-appointed bodyguard who watched over Ok-jung since she was a child. Once again, as dictated by The Laws, Chi-soo came to Ok-jung’s rescue when she was stood up on date night and eventually passed out. Originally, Chi-soo was supposed to be THE knight in shining armor, THE other leg of the love triangle. But as one K-ent article pointed out, Dong-pyung Goon played that role so well that there isn’t much space left for Chi-soo in this particular triangle. Jae Hee (playing Chi-soo) was supposed to make his entrance in Episode 5, which then got pushed back to Episode 6. When did he actually show up? Episode 13, for all of 2 minutes. And then he got all of maaaaybe 10 minutes combined in Episode 14. It’s a 24-episode drama, and the sub-lead is being ushered in past the halfway point? *shakes head*
According to the official website, Chi-soo was almost tossed in the ocean – to drown – because he dared to love Ok-jung. Jang Hyun told Chi-soo, “Unless you amass more wealth than me, unless you have more power than Joseon’s king, you will never be able to have Ok-jung.” Well, talk about motivation for a moonstruck boy. Chi-soo overcame all kinds of trials and adversities in the foreign Qing land to come back to Joseon to claim his first love. Ok-jung, this is your second – and final – chance to run off into the sunset with a man who won’t condemn you to death. It’s worth a consideration.
So there you have it: the lovers of Jang Ok-jung, the three men who foolishly laid down their all for that undefinable thing called love. Well, I don’t know if Lee Soon has laid down everything… When Dong-pyung Goon asked if Lee Soon could give up the throne for Ok-jung, Lee Soon said he would consider the throne something he never had to begin with. But the way he’s been acting, I don’t know if he even remembers those words.
As I was telling Patch Friend BetsyHP, I vote for Dong-pyung Goon marrying me, Chi-soo getting Ok-jung for 7 episodes since he was deprived of 7 until now, and then (the episode count will be 21) Lee Soon and Ok-jung hightailing it out of that stuffy palace for the North American continent. Specifically, the yet-to-be-formed United States of America. They can live on the frontier, with Lee Soon hunting and trapping and Ok-jung making fur coats. Doesn’t it sound grand? We’ll see if the writer gets my memo.