on Lee Seo Jin (S. Korean actor, part 1)

For the Love of the Actor Lee Seo Jin:

Part 1. The Characters Geum and King Sukjong of “Dong Yi” Led Me To Him


❤ I would like to apologize to those who may be frustrated of my limited descriptions, though I’m sure that those who have seen the shows that I mention below will be able to understand with relative ease what I’m saying. This ramble is an expression of my joy of having found Lee Seo Jin at this point of my historical existence. Please enjoy (it) with me. Thank you. A million thanks to the generosity of the sites that made the films accessible. The shots here are explanations in themselves. Please be lenient on my inconsistency with proper names. Thank you. Part I. now talks mostly about Geum and his father King Sukjong in Dongyi, the same Geum that will become Yisan’s grandfather. Part II, here, talks more of Lee Seo Jin’s character roles — Yisan, Gye Baek, Hwangbo Yoon, and the prince in Shadowless Sword. Welcome, and thank you for visiting 🙂

“Dong Yi” start of episode 45. (Prince) Geum, in purple and blue clothes, goes with some peasant children he befriended in the streets. They climb a roof so that they may have a good view of the parade. An adult spots them and three fall through the roof as they scamper. A nobleman gets hold of one of them and repeatedly hits him. Geum speaks up in defense, quoting Taegong. Fortunately his mother finds him in time and speaks down on the arrogant adult in behalf of the children. Dongyi and Geum were exiled from the palace and that’s how Geum got to spend his childhood among the common people. After a reprimand from the local police Dongyi decides to forgive the man and asks for the other children to be sent home. Please click on the pictures if you wish it enlarged.


❤ After marathon and repeated viewings of Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi + Dae Jang Geum + The Land of the Wind + Jumong + Return of the Condor Heroes 2006 + Dong Yi + The Great Seer + Mandate of Heaven + 14 Blades + Shinobi + Frozen Flower + Hanakimi Taiwan + Crime Squad (not necessarily in that order) I had thought that I already had the fill and feel of some of my favorite sageuk/wuxia-plus actors and angsty themes to get me by for a looooong time. 😉 None of them has Lee Seo Jin in the cast, ergo, I had no idea of his existence after seeing all of them. I had decided on postponing my next drama viewing for next year. For many weeks already I had stayed up from dusk till dawn for my greed of these stories. I have acquired puffed panda-eyes from crying. The skin around my nostrils suffered from the tissue paper friction. Luckily I have good oils that soothe the skin fast, but alas my puffed-panda eyes silently worried my teacher.

My immediate starting point is “Dae Jang Geum” that has the dashing Mr. Ji Jin Hee, which led me to “Dong Yi”. One of these days I’ll have the chance to elaborate on my love for “Dong Yi” but for now I need to focus on the immediate lead to “Yi San”. It is Geum, Yi San’s grandfather, who is named Prince Yeon Ing, and then later as King Young Jo. I started above on the scene where Geum is first introduced in the series. That mingling with the common folks will indeed be consistent with the elderly Geum later, that is Yisan’s grandfather.

“Dong Yi” was for me a really rich find, along with “Dae Jang Geum” and “The Land of the Wind”. They have already satiated me. However, as I was surfing along I spotted that the adorable little prince Geum becomes a controversial king in another television series. That was what led me to “Yi San”.

I paid attention to the dialogue, which made me see that this prince could be worth my time. However, I wanted more convincing. Yisan is 77 episodes. Dae Jang Geum, 54. Jumong, 81. Dongyi, 60. Return of the Condor Heroes 2006, only 41. The Legend, an easy 24. I have decided that the exhaustion I got from sitting for long lengths of time for these series, plus neglecting other not-so-urgent concerns, was very much worth it. These stories are like jewels to me, like windows into human nature, into my own self. But another 77 episodes would, nevertheless, be a challenge.

Jumong fed me with highs, The Land of the Wind with family sense, Dae Jang Geum with sensibility and substance, Dong Yi with heart, and the others with various psychological foods––I felt myself well-fed already and I didn’t want to consume another tear-jerker (hehehe) with the same thing to offer as the ones I already had. I didn’t want to be overfed. Besides, however I’m into the story, many times I find myself skipping over the dragging dialogues and pose-frame shots, which I guess are formulaic in a television genre.

I decided on opening Episode 28 on my first venture into “Yi San”. I was hoping that I would land onto a substantial part of the story which would give me a feel of what the series is all about, of where its soul lies. This is my first glimpse of Mr. Lee Seo Jin in action:

There’s nothing to it. He’s just sitting down, mumbling in dialogue to a subject (who I later discover was the most trusted Minister Hong). This prince hardly opens his mouth when he speaks. However, it’s the gist of the conversation that sustained my interest: he was instructing his subject to be careful while he’s at whatever he’s doing, which he hasn’t divulged to the prince, and not to get caught. Whoa.  I thought to myself that this prince sure has self-confidence, takes risks, has a big heart, and an open mind tempered with a mature self-restraint. He is comfortable dwelling in the background but has the innate capacity to stand in the limelight. He can face his fears and he trusts himself without being arrogant. He knows what he’s doing and is not bound to abuse. Also, the timbre of his voice lacks violence–it sounded safe enough to sleep on. In contrast I could suspect a hidden ferocity in the docile-looking Hong.

Jang Geum’s foster father Duk Gu Ahjussi.

Onto the episode later I was delighted to discover that a collection of my favorite character-actors from the other series appear as “good guys” in this one. Later on in the consequent episodes I actually had a tear-jerking jump of a “coming home” feeling when I spotted the actor that played Jang Geum’s foster father Kang Duk-Gu. He provides comic relief in the plots but his role is a major one. Duk Gu is well known among his circle in the palace. He is very friendly as well as an experienced palace cook. Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho seek his help many times in the story. He is actor Mr. Im Hyeon-sik (임현식, 林玄植).

Okay, I assured myself, so far, so good. I’ll tackle the 77 episodes with an open heart, seeing that I’m in familiar territory. No need to rush, though. It’s just another drama, albeit by this time, two-thirds into Episode 28, I already had respect for the character Yisan as presented in the series. In this scene below with the First Minister I acquired a concrete impression of how this monarch carries himself.

In his bearing here he has not let down his great-grandfather King Sukjong (as presented by the Mr. Ji Jin Hee). I decided that, yes, the Yisan that I see here is a worthy descendant of one of my favorite kings (on screen).

King Sukjong (in his violet dragon robe conversing with a Chinese government guest), the great grandfather of Yi San

King Sukjong, in his violet dragon robe conversing with a Chinese government guest, is the great- grandfather of Yi San.

 I first saw Mr. Ji Jin Hee in “Dae Jang Geum” (Jewel in the Palace) where his role as the nobleman Min Jung Ho has a remarkable absence of flaws. He’s the reason why I spent time and got hooked on “Dong Yi”. This series had so much to teach me it was worth all the time spent for it. For me it was not for the sake of entertainment at all, but it was a newly-found wellspring of wisdom. Many of my favorite story characters are in this series, like the queen of King Sukjong who befriended Dong Yi, Dong Yi’s friends in the Music Bureau, both of Dong Yi’s natural and adopted brothers (Bae Su Bin), her father, and her father’s friend Police Officer Seo Yong-gi (Mr. Jung Jin-Young, who is King Yuri, Jumong’s son, in “The Land of the Wind”).

Below are a few of my favorite shots from “Dong Yi”. They continue from Episode 45 (started above) after King Sukjong meets Geum by accident and goes to seek him out the following day. Due to a prank from Geum’s classmates both end up spending the day with each other in the fun in the city, with the king having no choice but to introduce himself as a Justice Officer. The king’s men follow them along discreetly until they were exhausted and had to have a refreshing wash in a stream nearby. Geum, having made himself known as a royal prince, “talks down” to the Justice Officer, which is proper, and the latter properly addresses him as “Your Highness”, his superior, which is proper. The king’s eunuch, his most trusted companion, is pleasantly amused by this and is happy for his king. Here’s the part when they met again at Geum’s school gate:

One of the things I like about “Dong Yi” is that it made me realize the significance of social ranking in that particular setting, and which in turn has made me understand better about discrimination in general. I also find it refreshing that King Sukjong has been presented here as someone less than a superman. In fact he isn’t as “manly” as General Lee Sung Gye, which Ji Jin Hee’s character in “The Great Seer”, who eventually becomes the first King of Goryeo. He’s presented here as a fun-loving king with an “embarrassing” flaw of being not as athletic as he’s supposed to be. Dongyi and Geum can in fact run faster than him. His bodyguards know that he’s not that strong and so were very ecstatic when he won the wrestling match, which was part of the fun that they had that day:

Adorable Geum happily waves farewell. His father resolves to take his family back to the palace, a decision which he knows will meet with intense opposition from the ministers.


Fortunately Geum reached home just as his mother knew that he was missing in class. He has to face her displeasure and explain himself to her. King Sukjong accompanies Geum home in secret, looking down at them from a nearby elevation. He shares his plan to his eunuch-bodyguard. After many events in between Dong Yi returns to the palace with the little prince.

Alas, Geum is shocked to discover that the person he made to fight a wrestling match in the market square is none other than the king and so is terrified of the implied crime, which is that of insulting the king. His parents look for him, stage an impromptu play to reassure him that the king is not offended at all, and proceed to make him feel “at home”. This is one of Dongyi’s most refreshing features, the way King Sukjong’s family with Dongyi, Geum, and then the Crown Prince show affectionate expressions to each other. This isn’t usual for a sageuk (historical drama) royalty.

I have to do the rest in a Part 2.  I was carried away by my love for the “Dong Yi” characters that I talked about them more than I intended. ❤ These July posts are my first foray into attaching media into a post and so these projects are for practice purposes, too. I’m so happy about this achievement. 🙂

“Dong Yi” for me is a major find because it taught me greatly about discrimination. I don’t see it as just a nice series that is very entertaining. I see it as a strong representative story of how humans are everywhere. Dongyi and her birth-family plus the friends they have—all of slave status—, and then Geum plus his personal Sonsengnim (Teacher), all of them have so much to teach on life’s values. That’s why I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how Geum turned out to be as a king, him being both of slave-blood and a prodigy. The mechanics and implications involved in the power of the “social-strata” interests me because it is a major mover of our lives.

Alas, I can’t go deep into Korean history for the lack of time and opportunity. But I don’t want to discount these sageuk films just because their main aim is entertainment. One can simply breeze through them or one can look a little bit closer and discover universal truths.

(more on Lee Seo Jin himself in Part 2.)

❤ ♥

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