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The King’s Affection: A Tour Of The Ancient Joseon Dynasty

Written by Nena Morena

The King’s Affection is a Korean historical show set during the Joseon dynasty, a kingdom that lasted for five centuries. The story is fictional but the filming locations, costumes, and antique décor chosen are done very well and bring the audience back to a time when royal families ruled the land and decided the fate of its people. The sword fights and the characters’ attitudes also successfully contribute to the replication of the era of King HyeJong of Joseon. Unfortunately, with power comes responsibilities and duties that must be fulfilled even if it means sacrificing oneself entirely. Political corruption, unspoken secrets, and family drama make the perfect frame for the development of an unthinkable romance within the Palace’s walls.

The story starts off on the night in which the Crown Princess is giving birth to her first child. Everyone rejoices at the sight of a boy, but the happiness soon changes into fright as another child is born. The birth of twins is considered an ominous sign in Joseon and therefore, the King gives the order to kill the girl. With the help of her loyal servants, the Queen manages to fake her daughter’s death and sends her away. Years later, a pre-adolescent Dam-yi returns to the palace as a court maid and meets her twin brother Lee Hwi for the first time. When the twins’ grandfather finds out, he orders her murder to ensure the prince’s position as future King. However, his most loyal guard makes a fatal error while executing the treacherous task and accidentally kill Lee Hwi. When her mother finds out, she forces Dam-yi to secretly take her brother’s place and leave her previous life behind. Ten years pass and Dam-yi is now a 22-year-old “prince” who trains every day to become the future King of Joseon. Her loneliness and anger have made her a cold and detached person, but her persona changes as she falls in love with her tutor Jung Ji-woon.

The series contains twenty episodes with each being about 65 minutes long. For the first half of the show, I was so taken by the story that I didn’t realize the passing of the time. The events were happening at a fast pace and the relationships between the characters were very captivating. Although the Crown “Prince’s” feelings were still the main focus of the show, the intrigue, action, and sub plots were just as interesting. I could not stop wondering when the Dam-yi’s identity would be revealed, what would happen when her grandfather’s private army finally attacks the palace, how would she avenge her family, how would Jung Ji-woon react to finding out that the Crown Prince was Dam-yi, to name just a few things. Unfortunately, when the romance between the two protagonists took off, I was a little disappointed. Not only did I not feel the chemistry between the two characters, but their interactions were often silly and unrealistic. Dam-yi has been concealing her identity from the world for many years in order to save herself and the people she loves. Her cousin Lee Hyun, which always knew the truth, hid his love for her to protect her from being executed. Instead, Jung Ji-woon repeatedly exposes their love by kissing and hugging her multiple times. This is very dangerous since anybody could have seen them and unrealistic since public displays of affection is forbidden for royal family members. Also, some of the scenes involving these two characters felt long, repetitive, and uninteresting. I preferred watching the fight scenes and the drama among the other characters. Compared to the first part of the show, the second half feels like not much happens and some of the acting is not good enough to keep the audience glued to the screen. In my opinion, the writers should have focused more on the events of the story and how Dam-yi reacts to them and less on romantic plotlines. The ending was also predictable, and I would have liked more suspense like in the beginning of the show.

In the King’s Affection, the Crown Prince and Dam-yi are played by Park Eun-bin. Despite her looks being very feminine, she does a great job interpreting a male character for most of the show. Because of her position as the Crown Prince and her identity being a secret, she must often act against her will. In my opinion, the actress successfully shows the audience the internal struggle that she is living and the feelings that she has to keep concealed. Physically she was not a convincing male, but her acting made her character believable. I wish the writers would have given more space to Dam-yi to see the differences between acting as the Crown Prince and her true self. The royal tutor and Dam-yi’s lover is played by Rowoon. Because this is only my second Korean drama, I have not seen this actor in other movies. He is quite famous in South Korea, and I read many people praising his acting skills in other shows. However, I did not like him much here. He played his role adequately, but he never convinced me fully. Despite having tears in his eyes, he did not give me the impression of real sadness and despair. His expressions of love were also weak. Part of the blame is because of the character he had to play. Jung Ji-woon was surely a loving, smart, and generous man that deeply cared for Dam-yi, but he was also too cheerful and confident, especially around His Majesty. He touched her often without permission and reprimanded her with no fear of the consequences; it would have been okay if the survival of his friends would have not depended on his job. He was also very clingy and, at times, so idealized that it became annoying. I rather prefer his best friend Lee Hyun played by Nam Yoon-su. He was the Crown Prince’s cousin who has watched over Dam-yi and protected her since they were kids. The actor did an amazing job portraying this loyal, sweet, and attentive man who suffers deeply because of an unreciprocated love. He uses his smile to convey happiness, sadness, jealousy, and pain. He was kind but also very firm when the time called for it. I empathized so much with him that I found myself rooting for him instead of the male lead character. The rest of the cast gave great performances and made the show a must see.

I rate the King’s Affection as Above Average on the five-tiered scale (Bad, Below Average, Average, Above Average, and Excellent). The story was well-written and very compelling despite becoming a little predictable towards the end. The characters were well-cast, the costumes were impeccable, the cinematography was excellent, and the locations were perfect. Everything transported me to a different time and place. My favorite aspect about the show was the music. The director chose great background music that perfectly matched the mood of the scenes. While it’s easier to find songs for a romantic moment, it is much harder to find music that reflects the feelings of two men fighting to the death to defend their honor or the sadness felt after a war. For the most part the dialogue was pertinent and quick-witted. The language in which I saw the King’s Affection was Korean with English subtitles, but the audio is also available in English and Spanish. Unfortunately, I cannot rate this show as Excellent because I found too many mistakes that, although small, were distracting enough to bring down my rating. For example, the Royal tutor’s inappropriate attitude toward the Dam-yi, the unnecessary length of some unimportant scenes, the lack of suspicion that the Crown Prince was a woman despite all the evident clues, and a miraculous and unexplained healing which was completely uncharacteristic of the series. I still recommend this show to those who like romances and I hope for a season 2 to bring some closure to the unanswered questions in the last episode.

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