Tag Archive | love

The Parable of the Good Taxi Driver

Hello everyone 🙂 happy Sunday. I’d like to share with you a very powerful but not-so-nice story. It’s an updated version of The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Okay, if that name puts you off then consider that I didn’t mention it at all and just take the story by its given name as posted. It doesn’t change the potency of what it has to say. The title, whatever it’s called, won’t even matter after you’ve read it all. Because after you’ve done so what will remain with you are the pictures that the story bring out and cause to be echoed and re-echoed in your memory bank.

Its setting is the present England. That means everything is different from the original Jesus of Nazareth the Teacher’s setting. Unless you indeed believe that the Jewish worldview two thousand years ago, if such a thing can be called so, is a bit similar to the present-day rich-Western-nation worldview, if such a thing can also be called so. Let me emphasize at least one basic thing here: that Jesus of Nazareth the Teacher did not speak English and so that follows that he did not think in the same manner that so-called native English speakers do. For the non-native English speakers I have nothing to say. You might want to study the language the original parable was written in, in order to find out for yourself.

One way of checking if you’ve indeed understood the essence of that good parable, the one that’s in Luke 10:29-37 only, is to compare if the feelings you got after reading that is similar to the feelings you get after reading this post that I’m pointing you to. If not then that means you haven’t understood The Parable of the Good Samaritan all this time that you have been calling yourself a Christian.

At this juncture I wash my hands of the matter. Read it at your own risk, most especially if you worship the Bible or that version of the Bible that your exalted circle has legitimized.

If you have no idea at all what The Parable of the Good Samaritan is, I apologize for my long-windedness. Please, I highly recommend the story that I’ve been trying to introduce here, the one that you can access by clicking on the link “View original” below. If after you’ve read that you’ve become curious enough as to ask for the remote origins of the core idea of the story then you will find lots of information on it on the web. Searching for “the parable of the good samaritan” will suffice for a start. But please don’t be confused by the diversity of opinions on it. If you’re really interested in knowing more about it then you’ll find along the way that somehow you are able to discern which explanation makes sense. If you have gone that far then I suspect that, somehow, the story has taken root in you and that, somehow, you have become more courageous than you were before. What’s more, you’ll discover that the story will keep on increasing in value for you… Peace… I wish you the best.

Many many thanks, Mr. Francis Garfitt (Fran) for your work, and for sharing.

Dear everyone, I wish you a happy reading, through that link in pink, way down below, beneath the first parts of the original post that you can see here. Ciao 🙂

Unexpectedly Meeting Kiyoha & Seiji, in Sakuran

Updated April 3, 2014 🙂 All these captures from the film enlarge when clicked on ❤

PART ONE.

 0.  Seiji & Kiyoha happiness  Sakuran (2006) is the most riotously color-full film I have ever seen. The kaleidoscopic backdrops are enough for me to like this movie. Its soundtracks are as engaging (Ringo Shiina’s album Heisei Fuuzoku = Japanese Manners). Most of them sound celebratory, some are as defiant as courageous splashes of adolescent rebelliousness, and at the correct times so mournful that they transport me back to reality all the way to the tears.

1.  Kiyoha-Higurashi & her sisters entertain a guestIt is based on a manga, one which I have not read and so I have no points of reference other than the little that I know of Japan like its woodwork, clothing, paper walls, woodblock prints, communal bath, ground drenched by rain-pour, a field of cherry trees in bloom, a stiff sense of honor and shame. It was a very enlightening tour into a past life yet also instructive of norms that prevail. Sakuran will not pale against any comics-rendition of the life of an independent-willed girl sold and reared in a pleasure district of feudal Japan, in a courtesan house.

2.  Kiyoha & an admirer _infatuation & camaraderieThis is not a film for those who see all women entertainers, past and present, who dress up and perform roles like that of the geishas of today as nothing but just dispensable prostitutes. If it is approached with this mindset then the film will be reduced into just another commercial project, having profit as the worshiped purpose. The foundational but covered-up elements of soul-captivity and abandonment of alternative life choices will get trampled under the power of the intent to titillate. The heroine in this film represents those who constantly rage against their caged fate — it is her refusal to be dampened that always gets her in trouble with the others and it is around this characteristic of hers that the story revolves.

6.  Seiji is behind Kiyoha _parade of Higurashi the Oiran

The Oiran Parade, which is still done until today.

For a fact, there are distinctions between Japanese women entertainers of the past and geishas of today, and other classifications I am not familiar with. This can most likely be easily surfed in the net (see the added note * below). There are those that were termed as courtesans, which connote sexual involvement, whereas geishas are professional entertainers, very expensive, very strictly trained in the well-defined structure of the traditional Japanese arts. Entertainers such as the geisha are living icons of entrenched Japanese ideals, expressions of a unique worldview set in studied harmony. They are breathing windows into a world where many would like to be but couldn’t. They are 3-D picture frames, animated paintings, enfleshed music. Though this film may not lead us down into the depths of a courtesan’s introspections it does form a bridge with which we are allowed to see a glimpse of the richness of souls inhabiting a so-called “floating world”. 5.  Sakuran_2007 _a little bragging does not hurt(added 1March14:  There’s the film Yoshiwara Enjo, which is also called Tokyo Bordello, set in the 20th century that treats issues related to the floating world with more depth than Sakuran does. There’s also a legend going by the term Oiran Abyss or Oiran Edge that tells of several courtesans’ tragic fate, but I still haven’t looked this up.)

If there is one fault in the film it is that the main character has too pretty a face, a potential distraction from the seriousness of the running themes. But when seen against the fact that this is a real-life rendering of a manga heroine, Kiyoha, then the choice is perfect. Anna Tsuchiya does give Kiyoha a distinctive persona, one that is a bit different from the rest. Moreover, she does not hesitate to move the appropriate facial muscles, and admirably too, to generate the range of emotions felt by either Kiyoha the tigress, or Kiyoha the kitten and several more.7 .  Seiji & Kiyoha mourn a friend

In this film is where I first saw Masanobu Ando, as Seiji, who is among my favorite heroes. Seiji is not a man of expressive passions. His role is that of a dedicated and upright businessman and overseer of the establishment. He has to have eyes at the back of his head for Kiyoha though, because he has learned early on that she is not the meek conformist. Nevertheless Kiyoha has a higher regard for him than for the house’s owners, who in turn trust him in his ability to peacefully handle her. Kiyoha’s personal little girl apprentice addresses him in honorifics, as Seiji-dono (whereas its equivalent would be Seiji-sama nowadays).

7.  Sakuran_2007  the Yoshiwara main street at dawn

Unlit Yoshiwara main street at dawn. This aquarium, in the foreground, is hoisted on top of the entrance gate.

For the fans of Oguri Shun, I assure you that you’ll see his face here within a span of 10 seconds only, but it’s a face that will surprise and delight you. He made the most of the 10 seconds to make a very unforgettable appearance.

Kiyoha’s last glimpse of her hometown was with the cherry blossoms, sakura, lining the road as a madam hurries her to her new house. She enters the gates of the red district at night, when all the lanterns along the main street are lit and she, the little girl, is just as appreciative of the sights as she was with the sakura. But not for long she gets fed up with the all-women company within the enclosure and she develops the perpetual urge to run away, which she does attempt sometimes. Women can be bitches to girls who have complexes — usually girls, or any human, will not run away from where there is warmth. Plus, she misses the sakura. Seiji, who was already a young adult by then, catches up with her at a little shrine in the district during one of these flight urges. 8 .  Higurashi & her samurai suitor In this shrine stands a forlorn cherry tree that has never bloomed even once. He placates her and promises to take her out of the enclosure once this tree shows a flower. In fact, no sakura has ever bloomed within this entire pleasure district.

Kiyoha grows up retaining her independent spirit. She scratches and growls whenever she is wronged. She does not guard her speech or her actions as rigidly as the other girls do. She has become a streamlined rebel, conforming yet apart. Then her heart gets broken by a puppy of a man. Seiji supports her as she adds more rigidity to her back. She goes on with living, generously giving affection to whomever she likes — to little trainee entertainers, to elderly or penniless clients — she does not discriminate, and being nasty to those who violate the common codes of courtesy.

9.  Seiji confers with his benefactorsShe gets pregnant by an anonymous father, then loses the baby. Seiji nurses her like a mother throughout her pain, staying up beside her bed. As she mourns for her baby Seiji’s surrender to their separate fates is palpable. Seiji was born of a “whore”, of an unknown father, and his conversation with her was analogous to a declaration of a non-obsessive love. When she woke up in the middle of the night, still physically weak, she covers the now sleeping Seiji with her blanket and then goes out to seek peace at the shrine. There only the bright moon could see and hear her, in her midnight blue kimono with a print like that of distant galaxies. Seiji tracks her down.  He feels her pain and he stays put like the nearby cherry tree as he catches her sobbed surrender to a loss so great she felt like her breath was being drawn from out of her. Seiji comforts her like a father or a brother or a sister would.

10 .  Seiji is mother father brother sister to KiyohaThey have a strong but well-guarded bond. Kiyoha is the head courtesan, Higurashi the Oiran, the main reason why their business flourishes. Seiji is the house’s chosen heir and is soon to be married to the owners’ niece. In his heart he would rather have Kiyoha, but, shikataganai, he cannot. It cannot be helped. Convention, duty, and gratitude to the couple who reared him and supported his mother prevent this. A samurai falls in love with Higurashi, puts a forest of blooming cherry trees all over the district, formally and publicly announces his intention to marry her, being rich enough to give the house the amount to offset their loss of her to him. But in her heart she’d rather have Seiji. Similarly, shikataganai, it cannot be helped. She is but a bought woman bound to the rules of the house, and a powerful samurai must not be embarrassed.

10. Seiji & Kiyoha farewellKiyoha and Seiji, on the last of the evenings she’ll be at the house, speak their goodbyes and well wishes to each other by subdued glances and short words. No drama. No fanfare. No lingering exchanges. Their faces, softly lit in this late night, spoke loudly enough in the stillness and in the helplessness of it all.

The following morning while the fog has not yet lifted Kiyoha arrives almost breathless at the little shrine. Her face lifts a smile. There Seiji stands, staring up at the tree. A desperate storm is raging in their separate lives but they greet each other as if each day in the world will always turn out bathed in golden sunrise. Then surprise. A gift.

11. Seiji & Kiyoha last hopeDomo arigato gozaimashita, Sakuran. An adolescent who is attentive of life will easily understand the plot. But most likely it will take one who has truly lived and loved to sense the delicate layers of this fairytale-like story. A non-Japanese will, of course, perceive many of the themes differently, like possibly being confused that the oiran (an artist as well as a courtesan) is more highly regarded than the geisha (strictly an artist only)*.

In the end one of its general messages could be that it takes a tremendous amount of courage to get hold of a happiness that is outside the bounds of convention. And faith, too. As Kiyoha’s first lover told her before he died, “There can’t be a cherry tree that doesn’t flower.” However, there are different sorts of conventions to be basing happiness on. Seiji’s & Kiyoha’s family in the house think they have chosen the foolish way but for me, one from the audience, I concur with them. Seiji has forever been witnessing Kiyoha raging against the world that is full of suffering, as she herself described it in one of their dialogues.

“World” meaning where she finds herself now and from which there seems to be no escape. Seiji & Kiyoha are like these two fishes trapped in a small worldSeiji, too, may have silently raged against the way his entire life has been, and will henceforth be, tied to the house where his mother once worked. They are like the two goldfishes living in just a few handfuls of water. Happily for them they dared that there is life outside the gilded cage (though none for the poor fishes outside the bowl). Sometimes, too, happiness is just a matter of timing, or that only those who look out for it will catch it as it passes by.

*added 1March14:   Thanks to the page http://www.kawaiistudyjapan.com/?p=197  I now know that sakuran means confusion. Indeed, almost each frame is a riot to the eyes. It’s right on the film’s theme: Kiyoha’s life is surrounded by a confusion of flamboyance and artifices; she herself constantly fights to stave off confusion in her thoughts and feelings; there’s an aquarium stuck on top of the Yoshiwara’s gate defying/mocking the fishes’ inability to be suspended in air, although its primary message would have to be “captivity”.

PART TWO.  …half of the story retold in pictures…

1.  Kiyoha leaves home

Kiyoha leaves home.

2.  Kiyoha enters the gate of Yoshiwara

It was night time and there was a feast when she first entered the Yoshiwara gate.

3  a.  Kiyoha, fascinated at first sight of Yoshiwara at night

The sight was fascinating to her.

3 a.  Kiyoha attempts to run away

She keeps attempting to run away.

3 b.  Seiji catches up with her, at the Inari Shrine, still inside the red district

Seiji catches up with her at the Inari Shrine.

3a.  Seiji tells Kiyoha to stop trying to run away

He tells her to stop trying to run away.

3b.  Seiji shows Kiyoha the cherry tree and says he'll take her out of Yoshiwara once it flowers.

He shows her the cherry tree, and says he’ll take her out of the Yoshiwara once it blooms.

3 c.  Kiyoha is punished for attempting to run away

She is punished for her misbehavior.

4.  Kiyoha is betrayed by Soujiro

Kiyoha is betrayed by her lover, Soujiro.

5.  Kiyoha is punished for misbehaving

She is punished for her misbehavior.

6.  Seiji knows Kiyoha's going out to look for Soujiro

Seiji asks her if she’s ready to face anything as she stealthily goes out to search for Soujiro.

7.  Seiji tells her not to waste her tears on Soujiro

Seiji tells her not to waste her tears on Soujiro.

8.  Seiji rushes

Seiji rushes in at the commotion.

9.  Seiji holds back Kiyoha

He holds Kiyoha back.

10.  Seiji drags Kiyoha away from the fight

He drags her away from the fight.

11.  Seiji says... Cry and you lose.

He tells her three things… Cry and you lose.

12.  Love and you lose.

… Love and you lose.

13.  Win and you lose.

… Win and you lose.

14.  Oiran Parade of Higurashi from Tamagikuya, Yoshiwara _Sakuran 2006

Kiyoha succumbs and becomes the Tamagikuya Oiran, Higurashi. This is her parade.

15.  Seiji is always behind Kiyoha

It is Seiji who is behind her…

16.  Kiyoha surrenders and becomes Higurashi Oiran

The Oiran, the highest ranking courtesan of the floating world, is a highly regarded person.

17.  Seiji & Kiyoha, performing their roles bravely

Higurashi and Seiji, at the center of the frame, dutifully perform their roles in life.

18.  goldfish hoisted atop Yoshiwara's gate

Night view of the goldfish atop Yoshiwara’s gate.

 

On True Friendship

Chuck & Wilson _Castaway

Chuck & Wilson in Castaway

“True friendship holds the other accountable and treats the other with consideration.” – Lohr.

This means that consequently gestures have to be reciprocal, or it’s no friendship at all.

Gordie Chris Teddy Vern _Stand By Me

Gordie, Chris, Teddy & Vern in Stand By Me

However, there’s no general rule because situations are all different from each other. The giving and the giving-up between two friends could be of dissimilar criteria, and it’s only the persons involved who know and see and feel if there has been ‘accountabilities’ and ‘considerations’ going on in the relationship.

Dirkie & Fifi _Lost In the Desert

Dirkie & Fifi(?) in Lost In the Desert

That’s why ‘true friendship’ is labelled as a ‘treasure’ by many — because it’s not a-dime-a-dozen thing, it’s something rarely come across, and when one finds it one must recognize its value. Moreover, true friendships are tested by time, and circumstances. If it’s only a one-sided accountability-and-consideration then one must look at one’s heart for the truth of the matter, and pray for guidance on what to do.

the guys at Ying Kai _ Hana Kimi _Taiwan

The lovable guys at Ying Kai in Hana Kimi -Taiwan

Just like what Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

 

Ursula Janet Andrea _Ladies in Lavender

Ursula, Janet, Andrea in Ladies in Lavender

If a person has found even just 1 true friend then it deserves rejoicing. It means two hearts have recognized that invisible thing, and two persons have come to treasure each other.

♥   Salamat to the films from where I got the shots from.

To the ones who are celebrating it, Happy New Year to you!  🙂 ♥

sithandra & aeon _friends

Sithandra & Aeon, in Aeonflux.

garth and violet

Violet & Garth, in Ultraviolet.

Cha Tae-sik and Somi, in Ahjussi (The Man From Nowhere)

Cha Tae-sik and Somi, in Ahjussi (The Man From Nowhere)

On Loving Rightly

Alexandria  & Roy

Alexandria & Roy

Kiyoha-Higurashi & Seiji _looking at the moonKiyoha-Higurashi & Seiji

The prerequisite to love rightly does not lie in the rational plane.

 

The right way to love is not bound by any set of guidelines there is. It can never be fully described by rhetoric. It does not depend on emotions. It cannot be defined by sociology. Religion or theology are not adequate tools for categorizing it. Love is a living phenomenon, and therefore it is always in motion, dynamic, many-faceted, and more than the sum of any of its parts that will ever be identified. It is a creative phenomenon just as it is being continually created. It is a ‘being’ that cannot become better or worse than what it already is.

 

‘Love’ as a concept is perceived and communicated differently depending on the context — cultures, worldviews, influences — yet it is also something that can cut across these barriers. Those who know what love is are also the ones who are able to give and receive it even without being aware that it has already been done. It may not even be something emotional, hence dramatic. Loving and receiving love is more natural than breathing. Like the wind’s movement that cannot be defined it is there all the same, and is very real.

Many thanks to The Fall, Chuno, Crime Squad, and Sakuran for the shots.

Cheol-su, the werewolf brother

A Werewolf Boy - 2012 South Korean movie

Song Joong-Ki in A Werewolf Boy, a 2012 South Korean movie

A Werewolf Boy - playing   (1) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (2) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (3) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (4) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (5) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (6) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (7) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (8) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (9) A Werewolf Boy - playing   (10) Cheol-su's playmates A Werewolf Boy - playing   (11) Cheol-su, Suni & kids feed paper to goats A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (1) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (2) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (3) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (4) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (5) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (6) A Werewolf Boy - the call of dinner   (7)There’s something wrong about this movie.

A stinking-to-heaven animal-like human is taken as part of the family in the shortest time imaginable.

The family consists of a middle-aged, pretty, smart, bubbly, kind, warm, loving, simple, responsible, very busy widow, a pretty teen-aged daughter, and just as pretty elementary-school younger daughter.

The animal-like human transforms, after a thorough wash, into a tall and handsome young man about the age of the older daughter. He fell asleep sitting as the mother was scrubbing his back, suds and all, in the spacious bathroom. They have become mother and son after just hours of being acquainted.

He later is named Cheol-su by mom, something she liked doing since she had regretted that she had not borne a son to her husband, who wanted one so much.

Cheol-su wolfs down, literally, food at the dinner table. He lived with wolves, presumably, after all. Despite so, he is always expected to eat with everyone, as family should. And, as is expected, other members of the family adjust to him. They calmly guard over their bowls and plates against him, thereby everyone gets to eat, too.

Cheol-su is very smart. He cannot produce the word-sounds but he understands whatever is told him. This way he is just like a deaf-mute member of the family, very sensitive to facial expressions and body language. Thus, 98% of the time we have a werewolf boy who is docile, clean, sweet, nice to be around, goes along and plays with the kids, listens and looks at everything, absorbing, learning.

We have, what is, a very handsome and smart asexual young man. After learning from Suni, the older daughter, not to wolf down food, we have a virile man with whom no threat stemming from any passion whatsoever can be associated with — he will not rape, nor assault, nor even verbally abuse any-one around him, not his family, not his neighbors, not the kids, not the animals, not even the plants.

This is not a movie about a werewolf. This is a movie about how love can be so comfy and warm and giving between people who have just come to know each other. Among strangers. Among neighbors. In the family. In a small remote village with wide open spaces. This movie just bubbles over with natural warmth and generous welcoming. True loving. Only one nasty presence is here, and he is so misplaced that he’s almost like a caricature. He, however, represents what to many of us the real world is. Violent. Unreasonable. Selfish. Egoistic. Arrogant.

This movie to me is so painful and so painfully beautiful that I feel I shouldn’t talk much about it lest I do it a disservice. Besides, I don’t quite know where to start talking about it. The science involved here is hazy, but with genetic engineering it could be possible. This aspect of the story did not receive much attention anyway. What’s concrete is that Cheol-su is there, breathing, living, loving. He just loves and loves like an ever-flowing stream, clear and calm, and that’s all that matters.

I hate the way time, and everyone, forgot Cheol-su. I hate the way he was deprived of so many things that we all have: circle of friends, company, a family relationship that’s always beside you. What’s even more poignant for me is that Cheol-su has no perception of having been deprived. He is like a plant, a full-grown tree, stationed in a tiny spot on earth and content with the rain and the sunshine that come his way. He thrives all by himself. He keeps his love and learns of things associated with this love: he teaches himself to read, write, and speak. Just that. He has no ambitions beyond that.

I hate the way a story caged a Cheol-su inside a story. But I really have no idea, as of now, what I could do for Cheol-su. If there’s something I can do for him at all then I would really do it. Right now. I really hate it that he’s there stuck playing with no-one but not seeing his loneliness. I hate it that I can see him like that, but he himself doesn’t have any idea of what it’s like to be able to see him like that, to know about him, knowing that he doesn’t perceive the pain of having been left alone.

I really wish that Cheol-su has not existed at all. However, if he did not, I wouldn’t have known that love can be like this.

I will never ever forget this movie. There are only about two other like it for me: Lost in the Desert (1969/1970), and The Fall (2006).

Painter of the Wind: an impression

a.  Painter of the Wind _official poster b.  Dan Won - Hye Won meet c.  Dan Won - Hye Won meet e.  Painter of the Wind _ siblings, best friends, loves _Yun and Young f.  the Artist and (her) his muse _Painter of the Wind g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (1) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (2) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (3) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (4) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (5) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (6) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (7) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (8) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (9) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (10) g.  Dan Won helps Yun Bok heal by painting _Painter of the Wind (11) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (1) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (2) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (3) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (4) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (5) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (6) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (7) h.  Dan Won and Yun Bok _trials and triumphs _Painter of the Wind (8) i.  Painter of the Wind _capturing frames together (1) i.  Painter of the Wind _capturing frames together (2) i.  Painter of the Wind _capturing frames together (3) j.  Danwon _Ssireum_ Wrestling j.  Hyewon - Ssanggeomdaemu _Double Sword Dance k.  Dan Won and Hye Won _loversHalfway through this sageuk I underwent stress. I was hard put foreseeing what the writers/producers intended for the package to be. Is this to be a statement on ‘free love’? Would this work be labelled as an expression of ‘carnal lust’? Are the people involved in making it aware that they are treading delicate ground? Sageuks are, after all, ‘safe’ genre, intended for everyone. If the ratings have to be high (which is understandably a major aim) then the drama cannot afford to be ‘scandalous’. I was not willing to have such a lovely work ‘ruined’ by harsh reviews.

I was anxious because I could not easily put myself into the shoes of the characters. I am not an ‘artist’, I do not have their eyes, I do not have their ears, I do not have their perception. This drama is about the two best artists of the Joseon era, in this fictional setting set on the first year of King Jeongjo’s reign (Yi San). The drama cannot be comprehended unless the ‘artist’s’ perspective is taken. And, as we already know, artists are ‘out of this world’. They have worlds of their own. Like mathematicians and physics theorists.

Ah, I had taken so many snapshots that I was hard pressed into forcibly leaving off most of them. In the end I chose the ones that show the relationship between Dan Won, the teacher, and Yun Bok (aka Hye Won), the disciple. Through most of the story it’s a bit of a problematic relationship. There were all these staring in the eyes and body contact that Korean society, then and now, would not deem proper between a teacher and his pupil, more so between two people of similar gender. Painter of the Wind is so full of this between Dan Won and Yun Bok that at times I could feel the hairs at the back of my neck stand. I believe it can be attributed to the excellent acting, plus the theme song. There’s constantly this hand-grabbing and piggy-back-carrying between Dan Won and Yun Bok. They could even do it in front of so many people. And the people around them, seeing how eccentric these two weirdos are, just take it for granted that it’s fine. But for the two it’s not fine. Their feelings for each other slowly unfold, like a blank canvass at first, and as the artist’s instinct guides, takes hold little by little, the empty space is filled with entities that take a life of their own. An unknown form is slowly revealed. The unknown is unveiled.

What’s more problematic is that Dan Won is already a mature individual, a veteran of the world,  not intimidated by conventions, and yet here comes one whom he calls ‘little bean’ who manages to upset his equilibrium — he’s trying to figure out how to deal with the attraction he feels to this little bean. Does what Dan Won feel for Yun Bok similar to what Yun Bok feels for the gisaeng (female entertainer)? Yun Bok has told her that she is special to him (her). The gisaeng has already fallen in love with Yun Bok. On that bridge scene I was bracing myself against the pain that I will see on the beautiful face when Yun Bok breaks her heart. Her question is similar to what I would have asked myself had that happened to me also: What do I do now?

By their eventually unfolding dialogues I was able to understand the depth of the attraction that Yun Bok/Hye Won felt for the gisaeng. Hye Won is an artist of the highest calibre. S/He worships beauty. S/He has never been a girl ever since her parents died. She even shares the same bedroom with her older brother, Young Bok (almost similar names). She is virtually a he. She had stepped onto the shoes of the male of his era. He walks and talks and projects masculinity. She and her foster family cannot afford to get caught of this lie. Had they been not brothers Young Bok and Yun Bok could probably already have thought of running away and getting married. Dan Won himself saw this intimacy between them.

The gisaeng is blameless. Her love for the Artist is in its proper place, and it is beautiful. There’s that scene, the night before Yun Bok was to be punished, where both were performing their arts simultaneously, painting and music. A special episode of the drama explained how that take left a profound effect on the participants: the professional musician, the professional painter, and the working staff present. On screen the scene is utterly moving, a frenzy of passion on the throes of … impending oblivion …

Are Yun Bok and Dan Won just artists ‘attracted’ to each other, the way Yun Bok and the gisaeng are, primarily because ..they could ‘understand’ each other?..they could feel each other’s passion for beauty? Do they, each respectively, value the other because of the ‘treasure’ that the other is? Ah, if only I were an artist I wouldn’t have so many of these questions. Like Dan Won and Hye Won and the gisaeng I would have taken everything in stride, have accepted whatever is there without much ado.

What’s poignant is the way Yun Bok is slowly revealed. Her self-portrait in the end is the revelation. But why oh why oh why couldn’t she just be selfish and accepted her teacher’s desire to run away with her? The reason why she had to break the gisaeng’s heart is that she couldn’t respond to the love that the gisaeng had for him/her. She knew it was wrong for her to have kept at it. Simultaneously her attractions to both the gisaeng and her teacher became revealed to her, and she decides to finally tell them her secret.

Many times as I watched on (I did it in one go, taking a break only to sleep) I felt envious of the relationship between Dan Won and Hye Won. He is her guardian angel. He never fails her. Maybe that’s the main reason why she eventually falls in love with him. He’s so positive and so profound that not even his confusion with his emotions could drive him away. He finds a treasure and he stakes his life on it. Only Young Bok could be equally capable of this self-sacrifice…and he had to be killed!?!? … tsk tsk tsk … why did Young Bok have to die?—he’s among the sweetest sageuk characters I have come across and I really didn’t want him to die. However, it was primarily to provide angst for Hye Won so that the wheel can keep on turning. It’s his death that brings the main characters together. What a pity. Is it really justifiable this way? … ah, dying is really too easy in dramaland … in moments like this it’s, well, ah, I don’t have the words to say …

Yun Bok said that when she looks at the gisaeng it’s as if she’s looking at her own self. She has lost her femininity and she is all of a sudden confronted by it when she sees the beautiful gisaeng. Yes, the gisaeng is very beautiful, so beautiful that the richest merchant simply had to have her. And when he acquires her he treats her with utmost care, like how a priceless porcelain is guarded from scratch and breakage. Yun Bok lost her femininity along with her childhood, along with many of her memories. As her attachment to Dan Won grows she slowly retrieves these memories, this life as being her father’s, and mother’s, doted little girl.

I felt that 20 episodes was too short. Only the relationship between Yun Bok and the gisaeng (ah, Jeong Yang her name I think is) have developed fully. The teacher-disciple and person-person relationships between Dan Won and Hye Won have ended prematurely. Hye Won is too young to be parted from her Sonsaengnim (teacher). Was that competition supposed to indicate that Hye Won has already matured as an artist and hence has come to her teacher’s level? It was too abrupt for me. Couldn’t have they been given a longer time together spent learning, together, and learning from each other, and producing art together? Their partnership as teacher-pupil is so dynamic and I felt that what they had should have been shown to have spilled over to the other artists surrounding them. There were hardly any scenes where fellow artists are checking out their work. The other artists were left out in the painting-analysis scenes. I had wanted to see how Dan Won’s and Hye Won’s style could have impacted the common people, since it’s about them in the first place.

Also, Hye Won has just newly hatched from her shell of masculinity. Surely the evolution of her relationship with her teacher, and the king, would accord the three of them new perspectives in life. But she had to be sent away so abruptly she might as well not have gone out of her shell after all. So, see, look at the consequence, she had to leave her teacher. That was the best choice. She couldn’t sacrifice her teacher’s happiness. If he leaves with her his great talent will come to oblivion. She cannot face that, especially now that he has become precious to her. Earlier she had asked him that crucial question, that what if ‘he’ were a ‘she’, then, what, Teacher? I was so scared of that suicidal question that my relief was so great when he kissed ‘his’ forehead.  The teacher so loved this disciple that regardless of what, ‘he’ or ‘she’, he couldn’t hurt his/her feelings and so he just goes and expresses what’s real for him. That scene is so unbelievably selfless that I couldn’t help but, along with Hye Won, fall intensely in love with this great teacher.

I don’t know how the novel on which this drama is based reads. As of the 6th episode the novel’s author has expressed satisfaction with the portrayals. I have been rewarded in having decided to see this one. My guide in finding this were the names of the writers and directors that did Tree with Deep Roots. Like that one, this is also a beauty. However, this is the first time that I am so affected by an ending. It felt like something precious has been blown away by the wind from my hand and I can’t get it back anymore. I’m sure both Dan Won and Hye Won, however they led their lives after that, would always long for that which they lost, each other, and this longing will have to be expressed in their paintings else they would simply stop.. ..breathing.

Dan Won:         “What is a painting?…”

Yun Bok/Hye Won:   “It is a longing…”

 

Tree With Deep Roots: An Overview

a rabbit hops by as Chae Yoon digs for prince's medicine

a rabbit hops by as Chae Yoon digs honeysuckle, for the prince’s medicine

Confucian scholars dialogue with the king at the palace gate _ep16

Confucian scholars debate with the king at the palace gate, a skirmish with words _ep16

king + highest palace maid + 3 girls + chief scholar search clues to find missing Soyi, Moohyul has urgent news _ep12

king + chief palace maid + the 3 assistants + chief scholar look for clues to missing Soyi; Moohyul hurries in with news _ep12

King Lee Do slips on the stairs seeing Prince Gwangpyung is safe

King Lee Do slips on the stairs, overwhelmed with joy, when he sees that Prince Gwangpyung & Soyi are safe

King Lee Do, Prince Gwangpyung, Soyi, & Ddol Bok on the day he becomes the King's friend _ep15

Lee Do, Gwangpyung, Soyi, & Ddol Bok (on the day he becomes the King’s friend) _ep15

Moohyul defeats Yeon Pyung and meets Kareupeyi

Moohyul defeats Yeon Pyung (kneeling) and meets Kareupeyi (center, in monster mask)

Moohyul, the king, and chief scholar in one of their confidential meetings

in the king’s main hang-out his study hall, he + Moohyul + chief scholar in one of their casual confidential meetings

Scholar Han teaching the king's alphabet to sweet Yeondoo and mysterious Kareupeyi _ep16

Scholar Han teaching the king’s alphabet to sweet Yeondoo and mysterious Kareupeyi _ep16

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

Bursting with the triumph of the goodness in man. It’s the answer to a particular monarch’s gamble at sharing responsibilities with the common everyday folk.

It’s a 24-episode South Korean historical drama (sageuk) based on King Sejong the Great’s “invention” of the Korean writing symbols, han-gul. In one of the scenes it is explained that the ministers are like the roots. Hence the title symbolizes the balance of and struggle for power among the participants in the kingdom’s governance as guided by Confucianism.

The king depicted here is a lovely person. He is so sincere I’ve easily fallen in love with him. How I wish all of us in the world have purposes as pure as his, of whatever ‘kind’ or size or leaning or ‘significance’, so that only the hopeful, hence life, comes out through all the faults that a human may have. King Lee Do (his personal name) faces his fears, he wrestles with the foes in his head and in his heart, he comes out very bruised but stays on his feet and goes on with living. How I admire him.

The king has to do these battles alone but it’s very fortunate that he has friends around him. First there was the queen in his younger days. Then now there’s his son the handsome prince who has no problems with his father, his bodyguard Moohyul, the baby-faced soft-spoken very-steady chief scholar who is as much a support to the king as Moohyul is, the head of the palace maids together with the four younger ones who are like extensions of the king’s brain, the two young scholars who are the smartest in the Hall of Worthies, then finally Ddol Bok a.k.a Kang Chae Yoon. I should also mention Garion, although he doesn’t belong to the group because he has other motives.

Instead of the peacock feathers on the military men’s hats there are strips of cloth or yarn. The king does not wear dragon-design shoes but one that is similar to the ministers’. His main hang-out is his high-ceilinged wooden study hall. His four girl attendants have jewels on their hair ribbons. There are no evil queens, palace maids, and concubines here. The king is amused of the effect it has on his attendants whenever he speaks swear words. He is an expert on sudoku, having solved a 33 x 33 game when he was yet an insecure young king overpowered by his father — his attendants and computers then were all palace maids (yes!!). And these are the best: the king casually quasi-sunbathes (because he still has clothes on), and himself applies watered fecal matter as fertilizer to experimental plants, and he gladly pours a drink to the butcher (the lowest ranking person in his society).

There are 7 martial arts masters in here: Moohyul (very handsome and proper), Chae Yoon, Lee Bang Ji (the best for me), the half-masked pale face (Yeon Pyung, who has a blue ribbon on his hair, respectable as a warrior but is scared of Moohyul), a high-rank Confucian scholar in the court who went to the dark side of the force, a legendary Chinese mercenary (Kareupeyi/Kareulpae, who’s a little girl’s best friend), and a female Chinese agent who’s understandably terrified of the latter.

The subplots emerge, interweave and synchronize like a Jabbawockeez dance. There is humor interspersed all-throughout. The contrast between sleekness and bulkiness, the suave and the coarse, weakness and strength, simplicity and complexity blend in harmony so that it has the same effect as the OST’s subtle playing — they are well integrated and do not get in the way of where the focus is.

The focus is on the story itself — on how the king could go on with his plans. It is a story not of personalities but of a big dream, a wonderful dream that solicits horror from the opposing ‘brains’. Even the charm of the Ddol Bok–Dahmi sub-story pales beside this dream. This dream is bigger than the king — aside that it is not his will alone that feeds it, he knows that its fruition is precarious. It’s like a seedling that must be protected from the elements until it waxes and its roots have taken depth. Each speaking scene is essential, no dialogues are superfluous, at times the words themselves serve as swords. Some dialogues are picked up from where they were left off as if the participants are engaged in a continuing board game. The next time I watch it I intend to take note of the dialogues the king is in. He’s very good at saying things indirectly that he manages to confuse the Confucian scholars.

The viewer will find himself steadily hoping for goodness to win out, that Ddol Bok and Dahm meet without a mishap, that the king comes out of his lone battles sane, that Bonwon must have blind spots, that Lee Bang Ji dies with honor and happy, that somebody can defeat the Chinese mercenary, that the four girls and Chae Yoon’s buddies stay unharmed, that the prince keeps faith with his father, that the half-masked man doesn’t harm So Yi, that Chae Yoon doesn’t kill the king, that Bonwon doesn’t kill the king, that Moohyul doesn’t get ahead of the king, that the king doesn’t kill himself with overwork, that the han-gul characters finally gets known to the common people.

The fights makes the drama unfit for children to watch. Aside from that this work of art is solid food for the heart and the brain. It does not sugar-coat the reality of human struggles, though I am thankful that grime isn’t graphically depicted — I carry with me the consciousness of this condition of the majority in the world that it’s quite easy for me to disbelieve the ‘clean-ness’ of drama sets. I appreciate that the palace decorations are toned down and they do not steal attention. Even the grand study hall’s impact is neutralized by the gravity of the dark wood interior. It looks so lived in that I can almost smell the fine dust that could have collected through the years within its tiny crevices.

Deep_Rooted_Tree poster

an official poster: great king, palace guard, prince’s maid — each is essential to each other

This drama doesn’t glorify the king, in fact a bit of going on the other extreme of making King Sejong a ‘human’ whom everybody could love. There are no doll-like females — yes they’re as pretty as dolls alright but they don’t invest on dreamy-gazes intended for frames, and hence even the crybaby visual artist didn’t jar my nerves. Soyi and her 3 friends look delicate but they are made of stuff such that they are the king’s strength: his database, processor, and memory bank.

Jang Hyuk as Dae Gil in Chuno I’d think as theatrics, whereas here Chae Yoon is just brimming with contained potential, a dynamo held in check. Chae Yoon’s life parallels that of the king’s. He is a reflection of the king and So Yi is the mirror with which they see themselves.

Lee Bang Ji and Ddol Bok/Chae Yoon are the perfect teacher and disciple, warm and open to each other — what I wished for Munno and Bidam had Munno been not too wrapped up in his ideals. There is a host of interesting characters here but Lee Bang Ji fascinates me the most: he is ephemeral, lowly (by his own description), fatal, and also utterly tragic had it not been for Chae Yoon’s need of him. Chae Yoon is very fortunate to have had two very loving fathers. The place where Lee Bang Ji went to die helped the story obtain a full circle.

What’s saddest for me is that the king had to pay so much in exchange for his people’s sake. What’s happiest for me is how the king finally emerges with the conviction of the depth of his love for the common people. The scenes of common folks’ singing at their work lifts the spirit. Ddol Bok’s vision of his and Dahm’s father is like a glimpse of heaven. A beautiful facet of the story is in the showing of how the relationship between parents and children is a foundation for a person’s major decisions.

The drama Tree With Deep Roots or Deep Rooted Tree depicts the yin and yang of life on earth: interacting, fluid, flowing, hardly ‘happily-ever-after’ nor one-directional. Yet it insists on goodness, it insists on the worth of persons both individual and collective, and it denigrates the greed for power in its varied forms. It is a jewel of an expression of the humbled human soul.

Lee Bang-ji Sonsaengnim and Ddolbok

Lee Bang-ji, musa (warrior), sabunim (respected elder) and sonsaengnim (teacher) to Ddolbok

Putting Bidam and His Story Into Perspective

An official poster of the drama. From left to right: Bidam Sangdaedung, Mishil Seju, Deokman Paeha, Kim Yushin Chamgun, Princess Cheonmyong

An official poster. Left to Right: Bidam Sangdaedung, Mishil Seju, Deokman Paeha, Kim Yushin Chamgun, Princess Cheonmyeong, Prince Kim Chunchu

This is a rumination of the 2009 sageuk (South Korean historical drama) The Great Queen Seon Duk. I rushed my way through Episodes 53 to 62, not having seen everything in detail but enough to grasp the overall picture, and I am now about to store it to where it belongs in my psyche, so that I could draw breaths from it whenever I need to in my ongoing journey of earthly life 🙂 Ja, some intense sageuk characters do hit me hard, almost wrenching me away from non-screen life, and so I have to place them among my scheme of thinking, and so to be washed off of the business-world’s intent to profit from emotions. I really condemn mass media’s shameless exploitation of the human psyhe, but, it’s shikataganai (nothing-can-do-about-it). However, knowing the opponent is a first rule in conflict, and that’s why I have to put into perspective an exploitative drama that is just one among the thousands 🙂 Simply put, I feel the need to tame my reaction to the story 🙂 One of these days I will go back to it, see all the gruesome scenes and hear all the maddening scheme-ings, so that, in Chunchu’s words, I’d be able to turn all the stones.

Mishil, and the valiant men who are willing to die for her

Mishil, and the valiant men who are willing to die for her

This drama presents the extent to how far power can disfigure and dehumanize. Mishil, the concubine to two kings here, pining after a dead love, lover to a general, wife to a noble, mother and aunt to warriors, and mother to the abandoned direct-descendant-royal-prince Bidam, plays with the viewer’s life-defense-instincts until you (at least it happened to me) realize that her angelic smirks are too theatrical to take seriously. And so I managed to shift from being terrified of her potency to laughing every time one of her brows lift.

I have already seen a bit of this drama years ago. I have marked the Bidam character to be worth looking at again, and that’s why I recently did so. I have marked also that the Mishil character is vile, the accompanying OST to her I deemed to be like those from the horror movies. Chincha. Fortunately time has passed, I have seen Sa Taek Bi and Eun Go, I have re-viewed Kiha and her dark-lord guardian, and several other near-invincible antagonists, and so things have resettled again: evil never wins. Mahatma Gandhi is my hero.

Mishil ceases to be an empathetic woman and excels in moving people around in her many years of romance with power. Her early life isn’t depicted here. She only says that one day she suddenly stopped being abhorred by violence — she stopped crying for other people. She simply stopped feeling. And there was that love whom she abandoned, she says, because she went for the king.

young Deokman and her best friend Cartan the Roman merchant

young Deokman and her best friend Cartan the Roman merchant

Deokman and her desert world

Chilsuk and Deokman could have been friends. He catches up with her in her desert world of international merchant-buddies.

That lost love was her downfall: he provided her with the key to more power-sucking, the capability to be seen as super-human through the use of pure science.  She used an astronomical almanac and a mathematician monk to get the better of her shamanistic-drenched society. Until Deokman, by her knowledge of the wider world through her international contacts in the desert, and by the naive fearlessness of her friend Bidam, pulled an eclipse on her face. Mishil’s sun was darkened starting that day.

And so Deokman engages in conquering the evils of her inherited kingdom. Alas, she will not prevail. The worm Yeomjong will defeat her. The guile that is her beloved nephew Prince Kim Chunchu will cut her heart to pieces. Alas, we, all of us, continue to contend with evil everyday. Trusted persons may and do betray us. And that’s why we hope, and we also pray. And that’s why we teach our children to hope, and also to pray. And that’s why even sincerely hatched ideologies cannot bring in utopia. And that’s why sageuks and regular dramas will continue to be a very profitable industry. Kaja.

Kim Chunchu the guileful

Kim Chunchu the guileful

The day Deokman wielded power, on her installation as Silla’s ruler, the ‘Deokman’ persona disappears. She must be on guard against everyone and everything because she ultimately is responsible for all that will befall her kingdom. The sense of ‘taking responsibility‘ is taken very seriously in the world of sageuks, and that’s why the ‘ranking’, the ‘ordering of status‘, borders on insanity, borders on discrimination, fosters marginalization, and, since it involves humans, feeds on greed. Shikataganai. That’s how it was then. That’s how it is in the world today, albeit that ‘responsibility’ part is something that only the likes of Kim Yushin can consistently adhere to.

Kim Yushin has it in himself to cleave a rock by striking it thousands of times with wooden swords = the result of a straightforward warrior's weird form of meditation

Result of a straightforward warrior’s weird form of meditation. Yushin has it in himself to cleave a rock by striking it thousands of times with wooden swords.

It is the most staunch of warriors who take the issue of loyalties very seriously. The fiercest in Deokman's generation, from left: Bidam, Yushin, Alcheon, Bojong

It is the most staunch of warriors who take the issue of loyalties seriously. The fiercest in Deokman’s generation, from left: Bidam, Yushin, Alcheon, Bojong.

Gen. Kim Yushin is so steadfast that he can cleave a rock by sheer perseverance. This, his unbending course, almost caused him to deal Deokman a double-wham in the heart, losing both Bidam and him. Yushin is not spared of the tension of wavering between two loyalties. The characters are all presented with agonizing choices of loyalties, be it to persons or to causes or to self. Bidam was torn between Munno, Mishil, and Deokman. Yushin was torn between Deokman and Gaya. Alcheon was torn between which person represents his true calling as the people’s protector: Mishil or Cheonmyeong. Bojong is torn between his father’s sense of personhood and his father’s devotion to Mishil. The viewer’s logic is constantly bombarded with issues of ethics and morality that their real-life manifestations are in danger of being relegated as just matters for passive viewership. Like being slowly convinced that violence is the norm. It’s a very dangerous phenomenon.

The ruler now, formerly Deokman to all, flanked by the heir apparent her nephew Kim Chunchu and the Dowager Queen, formerly Lady Maya.

The ruler now, formerly Deokman to all, flanked by the heir apparent her nephew Kim Chunchu and the Dowager Queen, formerly Lady Maya.

Bidam, his basic persona

basic Bidam, self-sufficient yet empty

Bidam faces

a Bidam of expressions

Bidam, faulty material to begin with

…unguarded moment

Bidam, the mal- and under-fed soul

Bidam, needful soul…

That’s why I have no excuse to offer for the genius of craftiness who is Kim Chunchu. The nearest would be ‘nationalism‘, and that’s why I understand why Germany for one is wary of this noble phenomenon. Like Bidam, nationalism is a double-edged sword, it both builds up and distorts, carrying both life and death. Kim Chunchu, in his nationalistic fervor, cause the downfall of both queens Deokman and Eun Go (of Baekje, of the drama Gye Baek 🙂

Deokman grew up with the boys. Here, in a fierce dialogue with Alcheon.

One of the boys. Deokman clashes with Alcheon.

Deokman and her hands

Bidam says nobody touches this kid.

Even if Deokman had been effective in everything else the presence of Kim Chunchu would constantly threaten her predetermined course. Well, it would be illogical to surmise that Deokman less Chunchu would have been tragedy-less. Even as supreme ruler Deokman wouldn’t have been able to contain all the freely-moving thinking entities surrounding her.  Like the way atoms would move, in the Brownian model, to new directions after being mutually hit by others, there’s no way of predicting how isolated human decisions would end up in the domino effect of things. The nakedly base persona who is Bidam — itinerant, instinctual, eccentric, unbound, expressive, vulnerable, deadly, emotionally hungry, naive — through leaps of events that usually happen in fairy tales he metamorphoses into the queen’s soul-mate. Or should I say that, in the words of Bidam himself, all things find their final place. Bidam said this to himself when, upon his engagement to the queen, decided to accede to Munno’s wish of giving the geographical books to Yushin. Bidam’s metamorphosis is reflected in Deokman’s, whom the desert eventually spewed back into Gyerim, where she became one with the boys, though not becoming as warrior-fierce as Mishil once was.

Deokman and her hands (2)

Yushin & Bidam rescue the princess.

Alcheon vs Yushin

Alcheon, a legitimate alpha male candidate, in tournament combat vs. Yushin.

Bidam vs Yushin, the alpha males

Yushin vs. Bidam, tournament

Deokman and her hands (1)

Alcheon steps back, though remains as the queen’s personal guard.

And, as in mirror images, their ‘directions’ are opposite: Bidam came from isolation and had to prepare to be the ruler’s consort; Deokman came from the openness of free thinking but must now focus on the path of wielding absolute control but where as she controls she is also being controlled, manipulating but also being manipulated. Many personalities evolved in this story: Jukbang, Godo, Seolwon, Chilsuk, Munno, Sohwa, but it is the transformation of Deokman and Bidam that are most remarkable. And, between the two, it is Bidam’s. On the contrary Yushin stayed as steady (as the rock before he cleaved it 🙂 — otherwise Deokman would have been left with nobody to be thankful to on her dying chair.

The Great Queen Seon Duk utilizes this steady image of the great hero Gen. Kim Yushin in order to cook up a tale of males vying for the alpha position. The male characters have their own charms, even the funny Santak and Jukbang who in the end teamed up in trying to bridge the misunderstanding between Bidam and Deokman. Even the slime Yeomjong could be attractive to some, with his wealth, position, influence, and the capabilty to mobilize amrs. Ah, needless to speak of the array of masculinity, from Chunchu down to the Hwarangs, down to the resistance movement where Wolya is the most beautiful. I am relieved that Alcheon was spared of the bloody battle for Deokman, and he becomes Deokman’s beta instead (a step down, supporting, positive). The final alpha candidates, Yushin and Bidam, are a confusion to me because Yushin was never aggressive towards Bidam. It was difficult for me to accept the battle between them.

Bidam, the alpha male for me, was simply a damaged material to begin with. But for many that’s no excuse. Episode 53 was a painful watch for me, where Bidam, basking under Deokman’s confidence, starts to push people around including Yushin-the-ever-good. Uhm Tae Woong was a very good choice for this role because his face, even in his ‘fierce’ look, communicates “sincerity”, truth, jinsil.

Deokman-Bidam twin dragon rings (2)

Deokman-Bidam twin dragon rings

Bidam does not want to leave

Bidam, who wants to protect Deokman, is being protected by her. Otoke?

Bidam, loved but scared

A giving, but also a depriving. Otoke?

Deokman, powerful but helpless

Deokman, the helpless ruler

Bidam & Deokman, forced to do something they don't like = be away from each other

Bidam & Deokman, forced to do something they don’t like = be away from each other

Bidam, the instinct to protect what's his

The alpha male’s instinct is to protect. Bidam reclaims his sword.

Bidam crumbles

Bidam, assessing…

Deokman intends to live with him

Deokman ready to retire, with Bidam

However, when Bidam “saw the light”, which is his term for his bond with Deokman, he settles. He refutes Mishil’s reasoning that loving is taking. He says that it is the opposite: it is giving up. He becomes the pupil that Munno would have been howling proud of. His volatility quiets. It didn’t count for him that he’s the son of a Holder of the Royal Seal and a former king. He wishes to forsake the world on the day that, if ever, Deokman dies before he does. He gives up his claim to Munno’s premature promise that he’ll be the one to unify the three kingdoms. He basks in Yushin’s thankfulness. Deokman fully embraces, gives him the highest government post, sends him away to safety as she battles the hidden traitors. She gives him what is equivalent to the West as the marriage ring. He achieved THE alpha position beside the top female. (I have to refocus against the fact that Deokman’s father is his cousin; this might be strange to me but it’s natural in that part of history.)

The fault lies in the Brownian motion. I will side with Deokman and I will not condemn Bidam. The queen may have abandoned the traitor but Deokman did not abandon Bidam. Indeed it was only him who was responsible for all his actions but Bidam was simply too ‘deficient’ to start with, or whatever safe description there is, to take the quantum leap of accepting-betrayal-in-exchange-for-200%-sincerity. Not everyone has the capacity to be like the biblical character Job. The author-philosopher C. S. Lewis says something like it being more laudable to appreciate the man who has traversed from ‘badness’ to even a bit of ‘goodness’ than a man who has always been ‘good’. THAT IS, if Bidam did betray Deokman… Bidam had found his rest. He had renounced all claims in favor of the light who for him is in Deokman. He had become a happy man getting ready to retire 🙂 I was already at rest with his happiness. The writers simply had to find a good excuse to have the drama end ‘very dramatically’. On the other hand I’m glad that it showcased personhood. Personhood is the redemption of the tragedy that is Bidam and Deokman.

I will have to write another post on the anatomy of their separation. It has something to do with the frailty of trust. What I believe in now is that none of the two betrayed each other. Deokman’s hands were tied with the country’s laws. Bidam may act on the contrary in the face of people he intends to confuse but I will stick to my conviction that, in his own reasoning, he will work for what would be advantageous for Deokman.

When Deokman sent him away from the city with a ring the twin of her own Bidam was concerned of the separation, an echo of repeated abandonment in the past, plus he instinctively wants to protect Deokman knowing that she is facing a big problem that is threatening the royal family’s safety. When a fake assassin fails to take him he says something like: if that throne is too heavy for you then I will be responsible for it on your behalf, or I along with those who threaten you will disappear from this earth, or that I will become the throne so that you will not be torn into different loyalties anymore. What’s tragic is that as Bidam was formulating all this, slumped against a tree and clutching his ring, Deokman was writing him a letter, that she will abdicate after she solves the current problem and so he just wait for her, find a temple where they will stay together, because, ugh, she is dying. I don’t want to cry right now so I need to finish this long post fast.

The fault lies in the Brownian motion. Chunchu acts. Yeomjong acts. The power-greedy act. The fearful act. Bidam was cut off from his line of communication with Deokman. Deokman cannot be as expressive as she was in her childhood. Bidam, who only very recently got healed from being damaged, but still hurting from the cruelty of his mother, crumbles in the onslaught. He returns the dragon ring to Deokman. Disaster. Everyone has a field day. I think about life. I mourn for the possibilities. I have to accept so that I could move on. Shikataganai. I breathe because Yushin is still standing. Like Dongyi’s orabeoni. Like Songyeon’s Daesu. He carries on the legacy of the woman that he loves.

Bidam Deokam beginning

Bidam-Deokman, embrace instead of condemnation

Bidam pats Deokman to sleep

Bidam pats Deokman to sleep

Bidam offset by Mishil's trick

Mishil pulls a trick on Bidam

Mishil in a regular meeting with her family

Mishil in a regular meeting with her family

Deokman embraces Deokman in her dream

Deokman embraces Deokman, in her dream

Deokman and Yushin best friends forever

Deokman, Yushin, best friends forever

Deokman and Yushin best friends forever (1)

Not persons, but ruler & subject

Deokman says goodbye

The ring on the limped hand

Deokman says goodbye (1)

goodbye world, hello Bidam

I am relieved that the suave Seolwon died with honor. He was a sincere beta to Mishil’s alpha, and his speaking voice commands respect. I am saddened that Deokman’s and Cheonmyeong’s father, the king, was such a weakling. Perhaps that was the result of being born to a household drenched with tension: one opts for the extremes. The way Mishil’s men face each other at their table meetings, concocting schemes, in terror of her, and maintaining superficial amicability, is sickening. I wouldn’t want children to watch this drama. Mishil herself, with the OST accompanying her, is a dose of unhealthy information about a reality that isn’t necessarily so.  I’m sure the Mahatma Gandhi would have thought so, too. Confronting an evil structure does not necessarily entail violence, and so the supposedly frightening monster is reduced to an object of perspective. For Deokman it took only a sincere dialogue with the mathematician monk. And confidence in Bidam’s ingenuity. And the guts to risk a bit bigger than she ever did before.

The likes of the character that is Bidam does not come along often. I am glad that I have come to know him. His image as a killing machine is something I would like to protest against. I don’t believe that anyone as simple as child like him has the heart of a cold killer. He does kill very efficiently, yes, but the standard at that time was to exactly excel in that art. That’s why Munno realized in the end that he was wrong about Bidam. Bidam is his pupil, is like him, and is not a monster. It’s just that Kim Nam Gil’s eyes can really shoot daggers 🙂 His theatricals are excusable considering that Bidam has to be portrayed as a character of extremes. However, I wish the violence in that last fight, one against many, was done away with. If it was only to feature Bidam’s Munno-like prowess then it wasn’t entertaining at all. It was very painful to watch. Why did the writers have to make Bidam decide to fight his way to her? It’s a pointless recalling of the theme of mass murder that happened to him a long time ago. Was it to emphasize who the real Bidam is and so justify the violence done against him? The writers should have made the queen shout for everyone to stop. Or to rope him. Or a net. It’s ridiculous that all those troops couldn’t stop a single un-armored man, as if to really put him across as a killing machine.  No wonder Deokman’s heart rioted. Also, I simply protest against the killing of Santak. It was pointless.

I can generalize the story’s theme this way: touching another person creates miracles. The Bidam-Deokman bond was defined when she embraced him, they embraced each other, figuratively and  bodily, instead of condemning him for a lie she found out about. From then on it was only him who could continue to address her casually and hold her hand. He pats her to sleep, a replica of how he touched her forehead when they were babies.

Bidam’s heart was touched at Mishil’s unexpected touch, extracting a stalk from behind his ear, a trick she may have conjured to trick him into filial piety despite everything she did to him. Earlier he was already startled when it was his arm that Mishil took instead of Chilsuk’s to support her on the rough terrain.

The tensions in the entire storyline are tied to the relationships of these three.  Mishil’s safety net is her people’s devotion to her. Deokman’s are Yushin and Alcheon. Bidam’s, well, lest I say Munno’s acceptance of him, then he has nothing. But for me Munno would suffice for him, and that’s why I have faith in his final decisions. He faced death just so to relay to Deokman that her love for him was not betrayed. That, I believe, was her foundation why she continued to wear her pair of their rings on the day she died, which was only three days after he did (so, Bidam’s answer to Mishil became true, that he’d die three days before the ruler of the kingdom does). I repeat: The queen may have abandoned the traitor but Deokman did not abandon Bidam. Deokman fulfilled Bidam the vow that he gave to her, to give up the world also in the event that the other dies first. But Deokman went all the way for both of them. She did not merely retire from power. She left everything.

Kim Yushin the incorruptible

Kim Yushin the incorruptible

There was also that embrace from somebody, in a dream when she first came to Gyerim, that she relates again to Yushin. She says she now knows who it was, and Yushin repeatedly asks her to tell him. We don’t hear her tell him. We are instead shown a scene of grayed Yushin and Alcheon (whom to my delight was put by the queen in the position that Bidam vacated, the Sangdaedung, the highest office in the court) unexpectedly meeting at the queen’s mound, each to report of the success that Silla had over Baekje (ah, poor Gye Baek and Eun Go). Next we are shown the teen-age Deokman’s dream: the unknown woman who embraced her was the Queen Seon Duk wearing mourning clothes. Was the queen mourning her own death? Did the queen signify the Deokman who will die once she comes to the palace? Does it say that Deokman has been embraced by ‘non-person’, a queen but not a person, the moment she came back to where she belongs? That one who embraced her also urged her to endure until the end.

Bidam, shikataganai

Bidam, virtual royal consort, put on a pedestal but used shamelessly. Shikataganai. The warrior is a child.

And how about Yushin, her first love? Yushin deserves all her gratitude and more. Yushin more than deserves to hear all those words from her. Yushin became a man side by side with her, had been hers and her twin’s strength. But she and Yushin were not ‘people’ to each other. They were subject and ruler. It was only with Bidam that she is a ‘person’. Naturally she collapses when he died. Three days she was unconscious, on regaining consciousness she goes out to see the sky and the land — much the same scene at Eun Go’s final moments — she goes out and be with Yushin for a few hours, expressing her love for him. She asks him to run away with her now like the way they planned to a long time ago. But Yushin becomes flustered, and seems to say he possibly couldn’t because she, after all, has just left to him all the tasks for the sake of land still left undone . In Bidam’s insecurity he believed that it was Yushin who achieved everything, who had ‘all’. He didn’t see how Yushin would have liked to be in his shoes since a long time ago. Yushin knows how Deokman loved Bidam despite of her being unsure herself of that love. Love for many cannot really be formulated into words. But when Deokman told Yushin earlier that she wanted to spend her final days with Bidam then what more can be said about how she truly felt? So Deokman closes her eyes, tears fall (of regrets? of happiness? of relief?), and then she goes to follow Bidam.

Getting To Know Bidam Better

Mr. Kim Nam Gil as the complex character Bidam

Mr. Kim Nam Gil as Bidam.

For perspectives, first, I’d say that I’m about to get specific about a persona in a drama (i.e., it specializes in arousing a gamut of emotions, predominantly those that cause crying and anger 🙂 It’s addicting, it’s a downer and an upper at the same. But stories have always embodied the soul of humanity, and so despite my upbringing that tended to ‘look down’ on dramas I’ve nevertheless come to the conclusion that they could be ‘respectable’. Blah blah blah. I guess I’d have to create another post on this topic, where I have to discuss my perennial dislike for the sword fights and the crashing horses. Otherwise I won’t be able to sleep soon, late as it is. It’s 2:50 am 🙂

Okay, as I was saying, first, for perspectives, this drama is a feminine power dynamo. The main protagonist and antagonist are very strong historical women, back when it was absolutely a man’s world in there. Much fiction has been interwoven into the plot (of course) but the limelight is never taken away from the two female leads, Mishil and Deokman, who each have an impressive entourage of devoted male power behind them. It should be among the most notable mass media produced stories in history.  It has its defects but they won’t matter much to the non-finicky. Even professionals in the stories-industry would appreciate its strengths. It is as good as a drama can get — the plottings and subplots present themselves as equally crucial that somewhere along the way I gave up on trying to follow them too closely. They’re draining on the logic and the extra emotions spent on them aren’t worth it 🙂 But in order to get down to my main aim I must reserve talking about the entire storyline for another time. This time, now, is Bidam’s.

Bidam is the character played by Mr. Kim Nam Gil in the South Korean sageuk drama Queen Seon Duk (2009). I don’t have a summary here so unless you’ve seen it or learned about it, much of what I’m about to say ahead would be, I guess, incomprehensible. I could guarantee, though, that Bidam is an interesting character. 🙂 This post, then, is my take on Bidam as of today. I have just finished Episode 52 and am 10 episodes away from the final one. I know that Bidam and the queen have a tragic love story. But since I like Bidam I’m trying my best to understand him. If ever I will, after all, find his character obnoxious in the end then I hope I will be able to say so. I hope I will have the courage to say so.

Munno _ep25

Munno

I like Bidam because he is the only disciple of Munno. Munno’s persona is the most ‘dependable’ one in the drama. Meaning that whenever he’s there then you’d expect for things to go well. (However, his connection with Yeomjong was lamentably his weakest spot. He gained much from Yeomjong but he also lost much, including his life. And now Bidam has strengthened that connection and I’m afraid that in one of the future episodes my fears won’t be unfounded.) I can say that Chilsuk’s is also as ‘dependable’ but unfortunately he’s with Mishil and so I can only empathize with him…

Munno himself acknowledged his deficiencies in raising up Bidam. In their final conversation they ended up touchingly reconciled with each other. Munno confessed to Bidam that finally he understood him, and thus wholeheartedly accepts him as his legitimate pupil regardless of what others might say about it. Bidam in turn was healed of his hurts with his master. Thus, this open communication forged an unbreakable bond between them. At the last moment of Munno’s life the ideal master-pupil harmony between them is cemented: there’s affection, acceptance, respect, trust, commitment.

Nevertheless, Bidam’s character as a fearless persona remains. Had Munno stayed alive he still wouldn’t have been able to suppress or eradicate this facet of Bidam. But manifested affection from him certainly would have tamed Bidam a bit, or should I say dulled the sharpness of his volatility. Indeed, Bidam is a sharp double-edged handle-less blade/sword. Bidam is reckless and he needs bounds to keep himself safe. Munno was barely able to provide this control, a fact he realized at that day of massacre at the cave to which Bidam was responsible. That incident indicates the extent to which Bidam can make manifest whatever conviction he has. He gives his all — this, I think, is what Munno finally saw in Bidam. That’s why his final word to Bidam was for him to support Yushin and Deokman. Unfortunately Mishil fed him with additional “insight” on how to apply this devotion, and so the plot gets more complex. Mishil on her last conversation with him defined love as this: taking everything without reserve — I hope to say about this somewhere below. As of now I am looking forward to finding out if indeed Deokman is Munno’s hoped-for wielder of the sword that is Bidam, and thus will effectively contain his potency.

Bidam does not fit within the order of things but at the same time he embodies radical truths. He is like a fairytale character introduced into history, a mythic figure come to life. He does not belong yet he is there, and his presence is strong. He was not invited in the councils during Deokman’s rise to power over Mishil. Yet the roles he played have been consistently crucial to Deokman’s success. The first serendipitous act he performed for Deokman’s benefit was saving her from the assassins sent by Yushin’s father. Unknowingly he fulfilled the mission that Munno was not able to do: find Deokman. However, Munno’s intention was actually to raise both children together along the path that would eventually make them rulers, as a married couple, of the unified kingdom that King Jinheung envisioned.

As of Episode 52 I could see that Bidam and Deokman are virtually acting as a unified couple, albeit Deokman as king and Bidam as queen [in the sense of being a support, a subordinate, yet nevertheless privy to the tension that Deokman feels regarding the security of the kingdom]. They are in concert over decisions that none other than the two of them alone orchestrate. Yushin, who has for long had Deokman’s affection, is now in danger of being implicated in the treasonous movement participated in by clans related to his, those from Gaya.

The Gayans, headed by Wolya, may have a legitimate reason in persisting with their ‘restoration’ movement but this is a deception of the understanding that Deokman + Yushin + Wolya put up at the start of Deokman’s rule: that this secret military movement be disbanded and all personnel be integrated into Silla. Deokman has treated all from Gaya well and therefore sees this still-alive ‘restoration’ movement as a betrayal. Will she be able to forego this betrayal the way she did with Bidam, when she discovered that he lied to her about finding King Jinheung’s message of order-to-kill-Mishil?

He is a king’s son, of authentic royal blood, and the son of the most powerful woman before Deokman. Had things been for him his right to rule would have been legitimate. But he is also an abandoned child. However, his father entrusted him to the most trustworthy subject of the kingdom. And his mother has reserved for him her final contingency lest all her efforts fail, which is a deserved right-to-power over Silla. Bidam, therefore, was removed from mainline reality and placed in the realm of abstracts. The most glaring proof of this is the fact that his master Munno wove around him the dream of the united kingdom that his grandfather King Jinheung first dreamt of. Bidam is the projection of both: an object callously discarded, and an extension-of-selves placed on a pedestal. He is the proprietor of extremes of a person’s possible point of reference for self-perception — because he is an orphan who at the blink of an eye lost his master’s affection, how then should he think about himself? — because he is an affection-hungry just-as-sharp-disciple of his very-strong teacher, how then should he conduct himself in society? How does he proceed to ‘give’ love after confusedly losing the only love he’s basked at since birth?

Bidam and Munno _ep25

Munno and Bidam, affectionless relationship

Bidam questioned for his sincerity _ep25

Munno, surprised by empathy

Bidam questioned for his sincerity (1) _ep25

Bidam, cringing pupil

Bidam questioned for his sincerity (2) _ep25

Bidam, hatching from his shell

Bidam is so naïve yet so smart, so vulnerable yet so impregnable. It is disturbing how he could, while just a child, murder for his conviction. I agree with Munno in that even at that young age Bidam should already have been able to discern that his planned retaliation was something horrendous. Instead, Bidam saw it as a measure of restoring balance. The men were violent to him, a defenseless child. They stole the thing that his master treasured, and that which his master declared was upon completion reserved for him. He believed he was protecting his master’s interest as well as guarding what is rightfully his. His full devotion to his master and his sense of self-worth drove him to perform an extreme act, which sadly was a very violent one: killing men, women, as well as children. I most certainly cringe at Bidam’s take at justice. It was in no way justifiable, just as in no way that a single life be seen as less in value as several’s. What fascinates me about him is his latent capability, which naively he has allowed to be manifested.

It was at the appearance of Deokman that Munno was little by little made to see that Bidam is not without compassion. Munno was surprised that Bidam was unconditionally willing to help the yet ‘unknown’ Deokman. It was this openness to Deokman that allowed Bidam entrance into the world of the twin princesses, allowed him legitimacy into the legacy of Cheonmyong. In fact Bidam cringed at the sight of Deokman’s first handedly meting capital punishment with the sword to two betrayers to an agreement with her. He knew that the act was painful for her. Out of pity Bidam implored Mishil to agree to Deokman’s invitation for an alliance. He had felt Mishil’s protracted struggle for the power which he sees she’ll never have, and so, despite his resentment for her, felt compassion for her. Bidam, like Mishil, could read people very well.

However, whereas Mishil is calculating and cold in her maintenance of her regality, Bidam is first shown on screen as a youngster of passion, though ‘base’ and irresponsible. He simply expresses himself without regard to decorum. He bullies peasants to gather the herbs for him. He surreptitiously feasts on meat — something which I just assume that Munno forbids as part of discipline. He picks his nose whenever he wants to. Though he isn’t shown to have started a fight, he doesn’t think twice about retaliation where he sees it warranted. He just acts as he pleases, except in front of Munno. With Munno he is just a child who does his best so as not to be reprimanded. That he rebelled against Munno was an indication of how far he could go.

Bidam and his mother Mishil, at opposing sides  _ep.50

Bidam & Mishil, mother & son at opposing sides

Bidam starting gets confused after seeing Mishil's reaction when he called her 'mother' _ep.50

Bidam, confused at Mishil’s reaction as he addressed her ‘mother’

Bidam, watchful for Princess Deokman _Ep.50

Bidam, always watchful for Princess Deokman

Bidam, smart, interpolating _ep.50

Bidam, smart, interpolating _Ep.50

As the woman of two former kings and the wife of two high officials, Mishil is never shown as being genuinely affectionate to anyone. The only time she is shown within one husband’s embrace she had a knowing smirk on her face. The acts of intimacy shown with another husband was of him either washing her feet or combing her hair. Either she manipulates or she is worshipped. Perhaps Bojong himself was surprised that he received an embrace from her, not a disapproval, at his defeat to Bidam at the martial arts tournament.

Whereas Munno reclaimed Bidam’s affection, Mishil repeatedly abandons Bidam. The only instance where she appears to be protecting Bidam from harm was when she orders Yeomjong to take Bidam away from the capital on the three days that she will stage the coup. It is this act that has Bidam confused, too. On second thoughts, if indeed Mishil has intended Bidam to continue her dream to rule then it makes sense that she removes her from the scene of the coup. She knows that Bidam will stake his like in protecting Deokman. Mishil will not risk Bidam’s life in case she herself perishes at the coup. Therefore, taking him away from the scene was not an act of affection but was part of her calculated plans. If she had affection for Bidam she had all the chances to show it to him at her death scene. She abandoned Bidam as a baby, abandoned him by not acknowledging him when he reappeared in the scene, abandoned him in making him a mere receiver-object of her unrequited dreams, and abandoned him at her last breath by not communicating to him even a hint of remorse at her treatment of him. She played her card of filial-piety against Bidam, and this was his downfall.

Bidam _ Deokman _ met as babies _ep25

Bidam and Deokman met as babies

baby Deokman _ep25

Munno remarked that Bidam already liked Deokman then

Bidam _ Deokman _ met as babies (1) _ep25

Bidam & Deokman: joined fates, accdg. to Munno

Will Bidam, like Mishil, grow callous with age? The Bidam that I see in Episode 52 is not the bubbly Bidam that was in the earlier episodes. The same way that the bubbly Deokman turned into the grave princess/king-queen, Bidam’s smiles are hardly seen now. His sudden switch to gravity is almost comical. Will the maintenance of power that sustained Mishil shape the adulthood of both Deokman and Bidam? Both Deokman and Bidam were youngsters who expressed their passions openly. Both were abandoned babies. It is this mutual understanding that forged their bond. Bidam, though till then unsure of Deokman’s regard for him, finally found rest at Deokman’s comprehension of why he did not tell her the full truth about Mishil. Instead of abandoning him for that betrayal, Deokman felt with him and embraced him. Thus, the Bidam-Deokman couple is born. Both are fed with the will to establish that unified kingdom. Both are passionate about the welfare of the common folk. Both agree that corruption should be effectively eradicated. Will this ‘upright’ couple stand against the ravages of wielding power?

Similar to Bidam, Deokman is capable of going to extremes in her quest for ‘justice’ or ‘balance’. Bidam saw this when he himself was deluded by her in her plan at defeating Mishil with the eclipse. Instead of abandoning her for this ‘betrayal’, he gave his allegiance to her. He saw this capability of taking the extreme again when she wielded the sword against the two peasants. Just as she understood Bidam, Bidam understood her abhorrence for violence. Like Sohwa, Bidam reads Deokman’s shaking hands with compassion.

However, whereas Deokman was pained by what she had to do, Bidam laughed those many years ago after he retrieved the books from the people he killed. Was that Bidam still the same Bidam that has come to Deokman now, or has that Bidam changed? Should Bidam be condemned by that manifestation of an irreconcilable code of justice? Is Bidam’s moral code twisted, after all, and would that be the end note to this persona? Is Bidam simply incapable of being bound by norms, the quintessential misfit? Or, has he changed under the influence of Munno’s and Deokman’s unconditional acceptance of him but then was disfigured anew by his mother’s words? Hence, is Bidam after all unstable, groundless, just a pathetic fool camouflaging strength, and hence Deokman made a big mistake in trusting him?

Okay, I remember that there was a line among the dialogues on: the ruler should neither trust nor mistrust. This may simply mean trusting but also giving an allowance for any untoward eventuality. If taken negatively we may look at this as being suspicious of others’ motives all the time, which is such a tiring act to maintain — but happens to many of us, many times unconsciously. It’s sad, and lonely, but that’s how it is. Or perhaps taken positively, the awareness of this phenomenon makes life simpler because of complementary theme of being able to forgive seventy-times-seven times, or in other words, forgiveness can always be handed out where it is needed. It’s nicer put that way. And that’s life. I hope this is how it is with my power couple here until the end… 🙂

Finally, on my take on what he meant when he silently promised to Deokman that he will take everything away from her without reservation, on her coronation day. I listened to his voice cadence as he was saying this in his head. It was not menacing. It was solemnly sincere and all-out giving. Like Deokman, I, too, would like to stake my trust on him, and so I think this is what he meant: that, since he has already given his self to Deokman as the manifestation of his love for her, he in turn intends to have everything from Deokman as the manifestation of her love for him. It’s not an intention to destroy Deokman. Rather, it’s an intention to openly receive Deokman’s love for him, which is the mirror image of how he himself gives his love to Deokman. Whereas Yushin blocked off this movement between him and Deokman the day she vowed for the throne–shortly after Cheonmyong’s death at the cave, Bidam intends to stake his all for the sake of his and Deokman’s bond. I think that by this time at Queen-King Seon Duk’s coronation Bidam already knows that Deokman, in whatever way he understood it to be, loves him. He knows, by that uncanny intuition of his, that he already has an established place in her heart.

Yushin Rang _Uhm Tae Woong in action ep46

Yushin Rang (Uhm Tae Woong) in blurried action

Alcheon Rang _suicide mission get-up _ep25

Alcheon Rang in sucide mission get-up _Ep25

I have a soft spot for Uhm Tae Woong (along with all the nine guys with him at the 1N2D Episodes 367–369), and his Kim Yushin character here is really admirable, but he’s just as ‘straight’ as Lee Seo Jin’s Gye Baek.  …hmm…meseems that ‘upright’ generals of that era are devoid of artistic creativity and spontaneous passion 🙂 🙂 🙂 even Song Il Guk’s Jumong the general, and king, is a bit like that. In this regard Ji Jin Hee’s Lee Seung Gye is a different specimen: he rocks… 🙂 🙂 …come to think of it, Ji Jin Hee’s King Sukjong is also of a different class: he waves a casual greeting to his lady attendants 🙂 🙂 Uhm Tae Woong’s ‘straight’ Kim Yushin pales (slightly 🙂 )beside the complexity of Bidam… tsk tsk … Alcheon Rang is also consistently adorable, but just like Yushin he can’t steal the thunder… ah, they recall to me Hong Lim’s elite troop of guards (A Frozen Flower) … Nevertheless, Deokman and her manly entourage including Wolya and Chunchu during the early episodes seem just like children playing house compared to Mishil’s seasoned gang, and all her family to boot — actually I’m still stuck with processing the fact that Mishil holds council with her two husbands and their respective sons, like a queen bee or a queen ant … chincha … simply amazing … it’s the first time I’ve encountered a visual representation of polyandry and I find it fascinating…  🙂 I’m thankful, though, that Chilsuk fell in love with Sohwa because Chilsuk being in love with Mishil, too, would have been too much for me to take 🙂

As of Episode 52 only Bidam and Deokman are infected with the icy-demeanor virus — methinks it’s the projection of suspicion directed at almost everyone around — just until when will both be able to maintain this synchronized vibe between them, I wonder. Hence, I must watch closely. I know that the eventualities will affect me as much as Damo did. I’m going to take the coming episodes slowly — simply because heartbreaks aren’t entertaining at all 🙂 🙂 🙂 no way José 🙂 🙂 🙂 [read as: no way hoe say] … comments on the net say that the writers adapted to Bidam’s popularity as this drama was running … that’s the business side of all this, but a story is still a story … to make my life simpler I’ll just stick to the final storyline and take everything from there … to all intents and purposes my packets of tissue paper are already stationed nearby 🙂

P. S. Will everyone eventually find out that Munno had actually died a long time ago already, or would Bidam stay faithful to his silent/unspoken covenant with his master? Would I be able to see clear proof that Deokman and Bidam are really THE couple here, which is something that I had to dig for in the case of Eun Go and Gye Baek? Would there be a sort of a redemption for the tragic ending here, like there was for Hwangbo Yoon, Chae Ohk, and Jang Sung Baek? Kim Chunchu was Eun Go’s nemesis. Hence, will I see an evil Kim Chunchu here? I did not particularly see Gye Baek’s Kim Yushin as evil, and so it wasn’t such a long jump to encountering a nice Yushin here 🙂   . . .

… seeing how the plot consistently twists I may be revising many of my earlier impressions by the time I finish the story… !kaja to Episode 53 on!

Why I prefer Ye Soya and Buyoung over Soseono, Eun Go over Choyeong, and Yihwa over Jiwoo

Hello! Good morning, afternoon, evening! Today is July 7, 2021. I am updating this post a bit, and I am planning to make 2 posts out of this, instead of just this one here. Have a great day yet!

sliver 3

(The author of this essay is very grateful to all sites that have made available in the net all the illustrations shown here.)

Maybe it’s just me. There could be others like me out there who sometimes don’t go along with the crowd. I am seriously meditating on how to talk about the similarity between Kiha and Eun Go, both bad girls, but also wronged by circumstances. Both are characters of serious depth that the producers/writers have to ruin because of necessity. Kiha is simply superb though rationally I go with Sujini. Equally irrationally I go with Eun Go, all the way. I guess it’s not the fundamentalist-morals that I’m looking at here. That’s why I choose Yihwa, too. There’s got to be some X-factor, and I want to try hard to get my hands on it. If I can. I’ll try my best to be coherent.

The dramas mentioned here are primarily these three: Jumong, Gye Baek (in case you’re interested, I write about Gye Baek HERE and HERE), and Freeze. Though there are illustrations I hope they’re not spoilers—I don’t have summaries here. Then, in passing there’s, some more, some minimal: Dongyi, Yisan, Return of the Condor Heroes 2006, Damo, Kingdom of the Winds, Jang Geum, Crime Squad (Detectives in Trouble), The Legend (Taewang Sasingi), Mandate of Heaven (The Fugitive of Joseon), one very precious movie of 1997, Gattaca, and a couple of unforgettable series, The Thorn Birds and Highlander.

I must confess, though, that I have not seen that much Korean dramas. I watched what I already have only because of the actors/actresses appearing in them, and I don’t have a lot on my list. As a rule I find dramas emotionally exhausting to engage in. It so happens that there are characters that can cause me to engage more with life, even with the weighing of values, and these characters I do treasure. I believe that the soul of collective humanity can be discerned in the mass media, like a sort of a gauge. This essay isn’t that serious, though. This is just an indulgence.

A favorite character Chae Ohk I can’t include in the billing here because she doesn’t have a rival in her story. Same with Miss Long, the famous gugu who doesn’t age—the many girls surrounding Guo’er can’t really compete with her. As to Yeon, well, I like the character Hye Ap better. Much much better. And who would seriously want to rival with Jo Minjoo? She doesn’t care about such things. She doesn’t even know much about falling in love (as Sae Hyuk points out to her). She simply suspects she’s sick of some mysterious ailment. (I talk a bit of these characters and these dramas, and some of the actresses/actors, HERE).

cherry blossom divder 1

Pictures zoom in when clicked on. A million thanks to the makers of these dramas. Here we go.

The King of Goguryeo, Jumong, and the queen, Soseono
The King of Goguryeo, Jumong, and the queen, Soseono

Soseono is Jumong’s number 1 supporter. She was never aggressive towards either Buyoung or Soya. She’s filial, pretty, smart, pro-active, generous, loyal to, and loves, Jumong, very much. The sacrifices she made for Jumong cannot be quantified. But somehow I find myself happier for Jumong when he had Buyoung with him, and then Soya later. For me Soseono has a flavor of just another Jumong but in female form, a character who manages to accomplish magnificent feats by will, someone who must be projected as larger than life on screen.

"Best friends" Eun Go and Queen Sa Taek chatting.
“Best friends” Eun Go and Queen Sa Taek chatting.

Eun Go, similar to Soseono, is filial, pretty, smart, pro-active, generous, loyal to, and loves, Gye Baek, very much. The sacrifices she made for Gye Baek cannot be quantified. Eun Go and Soseono are both rich merchants in their own right, with families influential to the crown. On the other hand, Choyeong is similar to Buyoung. They are both without riches, power and influence. They’re both commoners, servant/slave in fact. But since I side with Buyoung rather than Soseono, and with Eun Go rather than Choyeong, then it’s not the social standing that I’m looking at.

Jumong catches up with Buyoung after missing her for a year.
Jumong catches up with Buyoung after missing her for almost a year, he says.

However, Jumong really pursued Buyoung. Whereas, Gye Baek gave personal attention to Choyeong only at the remaining 6 episodes of the series. It seems like Choyeong had to be kept in the series so that Gye Baek will have a respectable wife at the end of the story. Just like Wootae had to be there so that there’d be an acceptable husband for Soseono. This shows that Eun Go did not really need a female bodyguard, just like Soseono didn’t. If history hadn’t called for a wife for Gye Baek then Choyeong’s role is dispensable. The same with Wootae, as history calls for Soseono to marry someone before Jumong and she must have two sons by him. The difference between Choyeong and Wootae, however, is that early on in the story Wootae was already a bulwark to Soseono, a silent devotee. Like Seongyon’s Daesu, Da-in’s Domun, and Dongyi’s Orabeoni. Choyeong, on the other hand, just seemed to be there to provide a contrast to Eun Go’s regal demeanor.

Jumong happy to get Buyoung
Jumong and Buyoung. It could have been them.

If Soseono was pressured into leaving Jumong’s side, so was Eun Go. Both needed to survive. Granting that Soseono did not know that Jumong did not die and that marrying Wootae a.s.a.p. was the only solution. Granting that Eun Go had to choose, between staying alive — or die but remaining as Gye Baek’s. Soseono was initially sarcastic to Jumong. So was Eun Go to Gye Baek. When Jumong met her he was in the role of a good-for-nothing jerk. When Gye Baek met her he was the son of a drunkard. My preference, therefore, does not lie in these factors.

jumong presents buyoung to the three

I think it’s the factor of emotions coming from Jumong and Gye Baek whenever they direct them to Buyoung, Ye Soya, and Eun Go that caused me to prefer them over Soseono and Choyeong. It’s comparable to how Dam Duk treats Sujini. The viewer somehow knows that Dam Duk wants Sujini there, with him, in that scene. Like, it’s always clear to the viewer that regardless of Hwangbo Yoon’s mood at the moment his main concern is Chae Ohk’s welfare. Even Officer Park Sae Hyuk’s treatment of Jo Minjoo is (more) exciting despite that he is almost always care-less of her, and with a dynamite of an ex-wife-still-in-love-with-him to boot. I have the impresson that Jumong’s bland treatment of Soseono after their marriage is comparable to Gye Baek’s of Choyeong. Jumong values her but there’s a space surrounding him that she’s not allowed to enter. He keeps hoping that Ye Soya is still alive. Gye Baek values her because she’s there for him after Eun Go, has given him precious children, but she’s more like a friend than an inspiration.

Jumong makes everyone happy
The brother-friends happy to see that the couple is safe

Gye Baek has invested so much of his self with Eun Go. His investment in her is almost the same as Yoon’s in Ohk—it’s a lifetime’s investment and this kind doesn’t simply get blown off by the wind. It has roots. Although, Jumong’s in Soseono’s seems to be greater than in Soya’s, but a mere sense-of-duty shouldn’t have been able to sustain 18 years of painful hoping. Soya, after all, is Yuri’s mother. Though not as great as being a co-founder of Goguryeo as Soseono is, Ye Soya had no preparation whatsoever for the life she had to lead after leaving her village plus after marrying Jumong plus after escaping from the palace. She did not have the safety nets Soseono had but still she had to bring up the king’s firstborn, Yeohwa’s and the great Haemosu’s only grandchild.

Of course it was all bliss between Jumong and Soseono before Soya came into his life. They were an ideal couple. But did Jumong suddenly just up and killed his feelings for Soseono when she married Wootae? However, they eventually got married, too. That was opportunity enough for reviving the feelings. But these feelings that should have been revived between ex-lovers that got married anyway were referred to only at Soseono’s departure-meeting with Jumong, when she told him of her decision to uproot her clan and settle somewhere else away from his kingdom. That’s the only affectionate scene between them in their 15 years of marriage. There were no affectionate expressions anymore involving Jumong and Soseono in between the events of his mother’s death plus loss-of-Soya-Yuri up to the coming back of these two in his life. It’s as if Soseono is just there because she’s the deserving queen of the new kingdom, and that a heartfelt scene from Jumong had to be presented at her departure to justify that Soseono is billed as the main romantic interest of the hero in this drama series.

There was more animated engagement on Jumong’s part at that time Buyoung was still with him, even at the period overlapping with Soseono’s presence. He was a funny dork in his pursuit of Buyoung at the time when she was a temple acolyte. Buyoung, though having severely suffered because of him, still treated his fatal wound. Buyoung was his intermediary between his hide-out and the world-out-there during the time he was with Haemosu. Even though he was stripped of his princely status, thus left helpless in the dangerous world outside the palace, he still exerted his best for Buyoung’s redemption from slavery. That meant being patient, daily risking Buyoung’s safety, and saving up a huge sum through his own sweat. When he was kicked out of his comfortable world, seemingly abandoned even by his mother, it was Buyoung who constantly reminded him that he is a prince of Buyeo, someone with worth. So she prods him to take care of himself. She had nothing but she did not grasp at the chance to have an easier life with Ohyi. There was only Jumong for her. In fairness, when Buyoung was in danger Jumong went ballistic and thankfully succeeded in rescuing her, finally redeeming himself in everyone’s eyes over the matter with Buyoung, whom the series had to discard in preparation for the places Soseono and Soya had to take in the storyline.

Jumong Buyoung under the open sky_ep_11
Jumong hugs Buyoung under the open sky.

Buyoung’s value lies in that she is the fulcrum on which the brotherhood Jumong-Mari-Ohyi-Hyeopbo solidified. These three became witnesses to Jumong’s personal journey from Buyoung to Soseono to Yesoya to Yuri. Also, the problem involving Buyoung was Jumong’s baptism into how to fight for survival in the political arena involving the two other princes. Prince Youngpo, who knows about her connection to Jumong, got her kidnapped a second time, to use her against Jumong in the race for the crown. The character Buyoung was taken out from the series at the 23rd episode. In preparation for that, Jumong frees her then from the burden of guilt by confiding in her that he’s really at the crossroads, what with his recent discovery of his true parentage and the responsibility he does not feel equal to, and so she’s not to be blamed at all. Buyoung resolves everything by leaving, refusing Ohyi’s offer, and providing a perspective as to why Ohyi remained unmarried till the end.

Jumong  embraces  Buyoung_ep_11
Jumong and Buyoung. Ep-11.

For me three of among the most touching scenes in Jumong were when he hugged Buyoung under the open sky, when the ‘brothers’ knelt together in a covenant after Buyoung’s first rescue, and in her last scene where she turned around on the mountain path to silently say goodbye to Jumong for ever. She is among my favorite characters and this little discussion on her is a tribute.

Jumong embraces Buyoung_ep_11
Jumong kisses Buyoung’s forehead.

Of course Soseono got Haemosu’s ring, the one Yeohwa gave to Jumong. That’s very symbolic, like Seongyon inheriting Dongyi’s ring through Geum before he died. Of course Soseono got to save Jumong’s life, fishing him out of the quicksand with the help of Wootae. That establishes a very strong connection between him and her. Soseono stakes her reputation and her business in her support of the fledgeling Jumong. She hands out her wealth to make a grand palace for him. Soseono goes to battle side by side with him. She supplies Jumong’s battle needs. She decimates assassins for him. She even banishes her relatives for him. She welcomes and protects Yuri and Ye Soya on their return to Jumong. She is never the capricious queen. She metes out justice and does not permit those closest to her to play out on power. She protects her sons from going over to the dark side. She can govern in place of Jumong. She is almost perfect.

Last glimpse of Buyoung_ep_23
Buyoung wishes Jumong farewell as she and her siblings walk away, along the mountain path

Jumong’s and Ye Soya’s meeting was also “magical”, to borrow King Sukjong’s description of his first meeting with Dongyi and then with Geum — in the sense that it was similar to his parents’ meeting. Jumong and Haemosu were severely wounded unknowns and were treated back to life by pretty clan-chief daughters who live beside the river. But although this treating-back-to-life theme is romantic it didn’t  endear Yeon at all to me for Muhyul. Instead, I felt that it’s Deojin and Yeon who should have been together — that scene where Yeon was sitting weak and still in prison and Deojin could only bottle up his anguish at the sight, while Park Wan-kyu’s For As Long As I Live starts to play softly, was really as touching as could be and made me embrace Deojin the way I embraced Kiha.

That Jumong and Soya were “fated” to be together as seen in how their meeting mirrored that of Haemosu and Yeohwa is again seen when images of escaping Yeohwa-with-baby-Jumong were flashed during escaping Soya-with-baby-Yuri. Although Jumong was definitely “going home” to Soseono, after being wounded in battle and abandoned to be swept away by the river, but now his buddies having searched for and saved him, and Soya as well, there was no instance where he neglects Soya. It’s heartwarming how he repeatedly rescues her against that very aggressive traitor orabeoni. It’s heartwarming how he introduces her to his mother. It’s heartwarming how Yeohwa welcomes Soya with understanding and enthusiasm—and she does not compare her with Soseono at all. It’s heartwarming how the king appreciates her and thinks fondly of her father. It’s like making it clear for all to see right from the start that Soya and Jumong are together. All interactions between them, from the first to the last, are harmonious, peaceful.

Jumong is visibly at rest and at home with Ye Soya—he made her a part of him and refused to sever their tie from the first day they met until he found her again. This is absolutely not the case with Choyeong and Gye Baek. He was indifferent to her until the time that the series had to marry them off. Choyeong was extremely rude to him and was disproportionately envious of his and Eun Go’s bond—hardly a respecting-the-person-Gye-Baek foundation material. Even the muddled Jo Minjoo gave this respecting-the-person to the more muddled Sae Hyuk the first time they crossed paths, when he crossed the road at the wrong time.

When Gye Baek had to be exiled off with Choyeong and the rest of the gang the series informed us of Eun Go’s “permission”. She accidentally overhears Choyeong’s confession of love to Gye Baek and so she “has to let him go”, towards a life without her. That’s why it was a relief for me when it wasn’t only Choyeong’s face present at Gye Baek’s last breath—more importantly his children were there. Children are representatives of “new life” and I had to give that to Gye Baek after he “died” when he lost Eun Go. The poor puppy of a victimized clean-hearted general has to be made to smile at his final scene. It is a must.

Although the buddies empathized with Soseono at Jumong’s marriage to Soya, they had nothing against the marriage itself. Daeso and Seolran were malicious in suggesting it, to hurt both Soseono and Jumong, but it served to “settle” the ex-couple, that eventually became a ‘couple’ again. Soseono becomes a good wife to Wootae the valiant, a good mother to their two sons, and a strong clan leader. Jumong devotes himself to Goguryeo, to his parents’ dream, and to reclaiming his family. With these being settled Jumong and Soseono became partners for the mutual benefit of their constituents. Their partnership was now on the business side and it showed thoughout the series. On the positve side of it, none can say that Soseono was unfaithful to Wootae nor that Jumong was unfaithful to Soya, even until the three boys have finally grown up. When Soseono was gently breaking the news to her two boys over Yuri’s sudden appearance, the three’s affection for Wootae was clearly put across in the dialogue. Soseono reminds them that their father gave them their names, Biryu and Onjo, and so they must live up to their parents’ wish for them, to be generous and welcoming.

It’s as if Wootae was to Soseono as Choyeong was to Gye Baek—second choice spouses with children to cement the connection. But even seen from this angle Wootae’s character still has much more substance than Choyeong’s. Wootae was a pillar to Soseono and I cried with Soseono when he died. Gye Baek’s future wife, on the other hand, could might as well have been anyone he met during his exile, just so the series could provide a family for him to… well… we already know what to, at the ending…

When Jumong was parted from Soya the hope of having her by his side again did not leave him. His constant passionate partner in this hope is Ohyi, the brother-friend who was the most mad at him over Buyoung. In fact, Ohyi later got to slap Daeso’s wife for her treatment of Soya at the palace. The hope intensified at Soya’s pregnancy, and then at Yuri’s birth. Perhaps this hope has the foundation on Haemosu’s instruction for him to not fail to protect “the one by his side”—which for Haemosu was Yeohwa, and now for Jumong it means the three: mother, wife, and child. That scene where Soya reads Jumong’s letter for Yeohwa and her is among the sweetest expressions of love I have come across.

It is these scenes, minuscule as they are, that solidifies my stand that Soya was not only there to serve as a mother for Yuri. Jumong felt more than duty towards Ye Soya. She healed him of his broken heart. She, in turn, didn’t feel insecure over the partnership of Jumong and Soseono. She gives to him whatever it takes for her to support his dream—for his parents and for the people—and this is her strength, that she gives even though she has nothing herself, and does not ask for anything in return. Yeohwa successfully transferred her strong will to her, to survive, but unlike Yeohwa she had nothing and no one to lean on to. Her only purpose for living was to bide for the right time to bring Yuri to Jumong.

Hyeopbo said the pain of losing mother and son has never left Jumong for one day.  There were no more affectionate scenes between Soseono and Jumong after she got married to Wootae, that is, when Ye Soya appeared in the series. Sure, Jumong never abandoned his support for Soseono (and it’s heartwarming how he and Wootae appeared to be “friends”, never rivals), but it always had the flavor of “business”. Whereas with Soya and Yuri, even after his mother was gone, it was always deep-seated feelings, one that Soseono isn’t allowed to share. Jumong’s angst over his beloved three is shared only with his brother-friends: Mopalmo, Musong, Ohyi, Mari, Hyeopbo. There was that sweet scene among them drinking at a feast table, together with the later three Jaesa-Moogul-Mukguh, where Jumong was teased about being happy to see Soya again. Ah, that gave me a high. Then following that scene we are shown that Jumong sleeps at Soya’s chamber, like regular husband and wife and not monarchs who sleep separately, with Jumong mulling over a crucial decision over leaving Buyeo for ever while from time to time glancing at his peacefully sleeping pregnant puyin (wife).

Soseono may have loved Wootae the way Jumong loved Soya, but here’s the argument: Jumong did not transfer to Soseono the place he reserved for Soya in his heart even after he and Soseono got married, even after everyone else believed that his first wife and son are dead. He may have continued to love Soseono but she was not allowed to enter the home in his heart where Soya and Yuri are. Soseono was not able to take over that home in the same way that I suspect Choyeong wasn’t able to take over Eun Go — Gye Baek simply had to come to her prison cell and give her encouragement as he was about to go into battle. Despite everything that happened Gye Baek does not abandon Eun Go in the end. Eun Go did not deserve this faithfulness from him the way Chae Ohk deserved it from Hwangbo Yoon. As he himself said it to her, her sin is unforgiveable. Yet he stood by her side. Chae Ohk, on the other hand, got it relatively easier with Yoon.

It was horrific how Seolran, Daeso’s wife, treated the pregnant Soya. It was magnificent how both mother and child survived that treatment. It was magnificent how the pampered clan-chief’s-daughter Soya managed to rear a Yuri up worthy of a Jumong-son. It’s anti-climactic how Soya and Jumong across the crowd locked eyes for the briefest moment, during the contest-fight of Yuri and Biryu, and then she had to disappear fast — just because she does not want to give him problems. Still, he searched for her. It’s painful how he and Ohyi just didn’t give up on the search until Yuri was 18 years old. Sure Soseono gave so much to Jumong, but she was never alone in it. She had her clan, her family, her wealth, her self-confidence, her brains. Soya had only the innocent Yuri and nothing else. They did not have a safe place to stay, were always in hiding. Soya’s health just kept on worsening. They were ostracized because Yuri had no father to speak of to the world. The only treasures that Soya can give to Yuri were love, an upright upbringing, and literacy.

The most intense emotions coming out of Jumong’s face in the entire series were in these scenes: his first meeting with Yuri, finding Soya again, and witnessing the blacksmiths’ quarters burn while thinking that Yuri was inside. Seeing how Song Il Gook does not tend to over-react, these three scenes are not superfluous. These events deserve such emotions from Jumong. Soseono cried for Wootae but Jumong sobbed his heart out for Ye Soya and Yuri.

Granting, Jumong was really in pain over Soseono’s departure. That was intense, too. Still, it was because she chose to go. She could have stayed. King Sukjong had 3 wives all at once. Yisan had 3 also. Everyone in the kingdom wanted her to stay — and Soya has told her in their touching conversation that she will gladly depart from the palace once she gets strong enough. However, Soseono chose to be a mother first before being a queen. As I said, she’s almost perfect. It would break her heart to see her son Biryu wrestling over the crown with Yuri, whom Jumong clearly favors. However, Jumong has flatly stated to her that he wants Soya to stay with him for keeps. Meaning, keeping Soya with him was a priority. Soseono’s planned departure had no leverage on his giving up on how to treat Soya in the palace. He found her again and he intends to take care of her, as he should have always been doing, and as payback for the years she had to sacrifice herself, and Yuri’s childhood, for his and Soseono’s sakes.

Maybe it’s this constancy of intentions between Jumong and Ye Soya that makes them endearing to me. On the other hand, there was a time when Soseono was calculating her choices, between Daeso and Jumong. Sujini was money-greedy, yes, but her attachment to Dam Duk was without calculations even after he ridicules her and even after she discovers that he’s the prince, and then long after that until she decides to get as far away from him as possible. Chae Ohk and Hwangbo Yoon fought out their commitments to each other until the very end, amidst navigations along totally blind alleys. Yoon and Ohk momentarily let go of the reigns but they got right on back again — they simply couldn’t abandon each other. Whereas, Jumong and Soseono started out with calculating profits in mind and ended up with a political partnership, with just a bland friendship to show after the initial closeness.

Eun Go and Gye Baek, on the other hand, still managed to hug until the 29th episode — a military general doesn’t hug the queen unless he’s sure that it’s the right thing to do, which tells the viewers that in 29 out of the 36 episodes the bond between GyeBaek and Eun Go has remained. Until the very end there is only Gye Baek for Eun Go, a fact she made clear to him at their last conversation in the series, where she tells him that he’s the source of both her joy and her pain. Ui Ja did not come close to this — in fact she came to hate him. Gye Baek, too, has also told him that he will never forget how he separated, snatched away, Eun Go from from him, and that he refrained from revenge for the sake of Baekje.

If Eun Go had indeed “let go” of Gye Baek in the years they were turning into an adults then she could have married Ui Ja long before Gae Baek reappeared in their lives. Ui Ja’s in love with her and princes usually marry at a very young age (though, there’s the issue of the Crown Prince to look at, and I don’t know the mechanics on this, because when Geum was married off — before he was teen-aged at that — it was understood that he’s to live outside the palace as he’s not the crown prince). Eun Go stuck with Ui Ja for the sake of the joint revenge and of cleansing the country of corrupt nobles. When Gye Baek reappeared she’s all bent on protecting him. Ui Ja was with Eun Go in this, but it turned out later that Eun Go had to protect Gye Baek from Ui Ja even.

However, the story distorts: Eun Go exposed Gye Baek to danger when she gave out to Silla information on his battle plans. Whew. This part is very hard for me to accept. Chae Ohk’s and Jang Sung Baek’s saranghae to each other, in the cave, and Yoon’s engagement to Nan Hui, were easier for me to accept than this. In fairness, Eun Go could not forgive her own self for this. Fortunately she did an about-turn (there are so many U-turns in this drama and I haven’t fully pegged them out yet; it actually turns out that her trip to the “other side” was a self-appointed mission to avenge Baekje). She came back to Baekje, to pay out her sins, to give a very valuable information about the enemies’ plans, to give to Ui Ja the responsibility of meting out her death, to make it clear to Gye Baek that she does care more for the people than for her life.

Theirs is an ending sadder than Dam Duk and Kiha’s. Dam Duk got to walk towards Kiha’s direction at least. But still here’s the argument: Choyeong never got the passion that Gye Baek has always shown towards Eun Go. I’m still on my way to counting the number of hugs and handclasps Eun Go and Gye Baek made on the entire series — I think it exceeds those of Gou’er and his gugu-teacher-wife Miss Long’s (Return of the Condor Heroes 2006). Until Choyeong jumped on Ui Ja (and so deverved death) and spoke of her love for Gye Baek on her supposedly death bed, there has always been Eun Go for Gye Baek. It’s not that I’m against girls declaring of their love first — Jo Minjoo did this to Officer Park while dangling from a building (Crime Squad) — it’s just that it seems to turn out like, otoke, Gye Baek with Choyeong and the rest of the gang are exiled together and so it’s quite normal that they end up together. Although, I’m thinking of how come Min Jung Ho didn’t get married at all after his end-of-the-line separation from Jang Geum (maybe there are no girls there where he was exiled?).

As I reasoned out in another post Eun Go and Gae Baek had to be separated because he had to kill his wife (and kids) in the end, and this is not supposed to be Eun Go because she’s supposed to be a powerful political villain — all according to some historical account out there. Notwithstanding, the Gye Baek-Eun Go relationship is a main thread in the series and is intricately woven into Ui Ja’s life. It’s a major factor in this weak king’s decision making. It’s his downfall. He just had to separate Eun Go from Gae Baek, and he succeeded. I lament for my favorite pair. Theirs was not a perfectly magical bond even right at the start. Eun Go’s will is in fact stronger than Sa Taek Bi’s and so the gently-reared Gye Baek is no match for her during arguments. But Eun Go, just by her own volition, willingly lets her heart melt towards Gye Baek and not for the reason that at that time he was already adolescent-crazy over her. She just ups and decides to take care of his needs and supports him in her own way regardless of consequences to her. She simply decided to embrace him despite her adoptive clan’s objections. (I need to check again if General Mu Jin was the major factor in this).

It is endearing to consider that Gye Baek and Eun Go held on to each other despite years of separation (first while yet teen-agers and for ten years, and second for seven years after Eun Go’s survival-marriage to Ui Ja), and despite the distance of their social status. Eun Go is a very rich merchant and the best friend-turned-adopted sister of the queen. Gye Baek grew up with a one-armed drunkard of a father and waits on tables for a living. But Eun Go cooks twice for Gye Baek in the series. She rolls up her sleeves and helps him clean his old house. She launders for him at the stream. What’s big is that she spends her wedding night with him instead of with Ui Ja her husband. Then, even before she knows when she might meet Gye Baek again after years of separation, she makes winter clothing for him and carries it along with her for the chance of handing it over to him — and she was already Ui Ja’s concubine all this time.

At least three times in the series Gye Baek urges Eun Go to run away with him. But Eun Go is always held back by one thing or another. Foremost of this is the thought that once she gives in to Gye Baek he will never have the chance to fulfill his father’s dream, to rid the people of suffering, which is primarily due to the corruption of the powerful nobles. The two hyungnim-advisors, Seong Chung and Heung Su, were subsequently instrumental in showing to him this very point that Eun Go keeps on arguing with him about, that it’s his power as the General Gye Baek that makes things possible for him to accomplish. If Eun Go should be accused of being power hungry, I’d say that she’s not. I’d say that she was honest to Seong Chung when she told him, before she had him killed, that she will become a nun once Prince Hyo her son “ascends the throne”.

Ye Soya and Eun Go were similar in that they were both left to fend for themselves. They had none to depend on. It went on like this for Soya until Jumong found them again. It went on like this for Eun Go until Ui Ja decided to get out from his pretend-coma. But whereas Soya remained the angel, Eun Go went all out and really schemed, lying through her teeth and justifying her crime. Still, she went back to Gye Baek’s side like the way Chae Ohk went back to Hwangbo Yoon’s side. That’s the main point.

Many say that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Dam Duk became indifferent to Kiha (which makes me sympathize with her despite my happiness over the DamDuk-Sujini pair). Eun Go eventually hated Ui Ja, though I’m not happy about the way she shamelessly manipulates him, which incidentally is a strong expression of her indifference to whatever will be the effect on him.  Nevertheless, Ui Ja deserves contempt. But Gye Baek did not become indifferent to nor hated Eun Go. He was about to face an impossible battle but, and despite of Eun Go’s depression, he still goes out of his way and talks gently to her. I find it redemptive how both had the chance to wish the best for each other during that final meeting they had. If history did not insist that Gye Baek had a family it would have been Eun Go’s face he sees with his last breath at the battlefield. If history didn’t insist that Gye Baek has to have a wife, he and Eun Go were almost like Chae Ohk and Yoon — circumstances pry them apart but they keep gravitating back towards each other. Their bond is simply strong, and elastic.

Yihwa and Joongwon, 300 years ago.
Yihwa, Joongwon, 300 years ago.

Aha. This gives me now a concrete line of reasoning for preferring Yihwa over Jiwoo for Joongwon (Freeze). For 300 years Yihwa and he had been together. Why in the first place did he risk his life in rescuing her that first time they met? There must have been something in there between them. It was just Yihwa who knows of the monster in him. If he wanted to end everything so badly then he perfectly knew the very way to do it. It wasn’t a great unknown and could easily be done. Jerome Eugene Morrow did it the neatest way possible (self-immolation, in Gattaca). Yihwa would have already been there, at the other side of life and at rest, had he not interfered. But Joongwon had to brood it out all the while knowing that he has Yihwa to watch over his back. For 300 years this couple had together perfected sophistication that there was nothing left novel about life. Yihwa goes through it carelessly, breaking hearts along the way. Joongwon was dead bored with the material aspect of life that he has become a minimalist. With this same perennial boredom, his self-loathing could not be shaken off also. We had to be led to 300 years after their meeting so that we’d be able to witness two resolved vampires dying.

Jiwoo and her very lovable boyfriend.
Jiwoo and her sweet boyfriend

I wonder how many loves Connor MacLeod had over his 500+ years of life (The Highlander, with Christopher Lambert). He did love each one of them. With Joongwon we are informed of only Jiwoo, and her mother who was the most beloved mortal to him. Though this “little girl”, as Yihwa refers to her, was just a child when they first met, Meggie was also a child when she met Ralph de Bricassart (The Thorn Birds, 1983 TV series). But Meggie’s “What else have I ever done but pay for the great sin of loving Ralph de Bricassart?” could not possibly become Jiwoo’s line because she has another boyfriend, and he is so lovable and is of her generation. Besides, she has reconciled with her now very sober and loving father. The discovery that she and her mother had the same lovers should have been more shocking to her than losing Joongwon “in an accident”, or finding out that he’s a blood-imbibing living-dead.  After all she worked really hard at seducing him, all the while believing that their parents were lovers, which to her puts a right-ness into it. Besides, Jiwoo would have been just a redemption for her mother, in view that he really was happy with “that little girl” but that he had to “hide” from her then so as not to endanger her to that which happened to his sister. “Declaring” himself to Jiwoo is tantamount to healing his pain with “that little girl”. Facing up his monster-ness to a valued mortal is tantamount to healing his pain over his sister. It’s like owning up to responsibility, a matter of integrity and honor.

This scene in Episode 5 confirmed my intuitive preference for the Joongwon-Yihwa couple. Joongwon gently gathers Yihwa to him.

I have no concrete reason in the lines of my arguments above why I root for Park Sae Hyuk and Jo Minjoo, because they can, after all, survive without each other. However, although Sae Hyuk and Eun Young, his ex-wife who was misinformed and manipulated by her father just to separate the two, still cared for each other…he stopped himself from even touching her shoulder.

  • Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.
  • Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.a
  • Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.b
  • Sae Hyuk refrains from touching his ex-wife. Ep.11.c

She was mourning over their daughter Hye In but Sae Hyuk did not want to be misunderstood. He has decided to keep his distance from her and a simple touch would be a misstep. This non-act from Park Sae Hyuk’s banished my fear over his bond with Jo Minjoo, hazy as it may be till the end. The significance lies in this: that at that same time Jo Minjoo stayed where he left her earlier, and waiting for him to come back to the restaurant like he said he would.

But Joongwon gave it to Yihwa. He collects her close in a gesture that looks like they have always been at home with it. He relates more than just concern in this act. It’s similar to how Yoon or Sung Baek would touch Ohk’s face. Yihwa clears him of blame. He acts as her pillar now. They have always had this understanding between them. This is their most restful stance in their shared long lives. Granting that they were both starved at this time, still we were already shown that there is a way out of that starvation. This “coming together” has more than just physical hunger for a reason. And so I ask myself, what about Jiwoo and her mother? Where do their values lie for Joongwon? I’d say they were bursts of life in a long-dead existence, and so they are precious. Life is always precious. Love is always precious.

Joongwon has always cared for Yihwa. I can’t push that it’s the “infatuation” type, but “being there” all the time nonetheless, else he could have abandoned her long ago. The impression is that he doesn’t let her into it because we have to be shown the brooding side of him. He was just broody over the long years of constancy in their lives but he was not contemptuous of Yihwa. If any, he has taken her for granted. But he depends on her. The series is clear about this. She is literally his lifeblood. Joongwon can barely manage without her.

Although Sujini is not a “lifeblood” to Dam Duk (just nearly), Joongwon is just like Dam Duk who doesn’t explicitly inform Sujini of her value to him (until he finds her again), because maybe that’s how the “ideal” goes. Maybe it’s a “male” thing. I don’t know. And the reason why Yihwa has stayed alive?—because he is alive. Ah. So like Yoon and Ohk. Except Yoon and Ohk are articulate about this to each other — surprise!

Dam Duk does not die by Jumong's sword.
Sujini catches Dam Duk before he falls flat on the temple floor. She sees him open his eyes again after Kiha stabbed him with Jumong’s sword.

Joongwon is clear about how he blames Yihwa for his condition. What we have in the end is therefore a closure, a coming into full circle. He rescued her and she is happy she met him, and she tells him so. She stuck with him till the end, owning up the responsibility of reviving him into a life of struggle. Yihwa’s life, in essence, was already complete at his arrival into her life. She was just only waiting out until he is healed of the damage she caused him, until finally we have two multiple-lifetime companions meeting up with the heavens in smiling anticipation.

If my arguments have not been logical at all then I rest my case. Perception being relative cannot be over-emphasized. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Etc. 🙂

added 16.April.2014.

Good evening. How are you? Welcome again. At last I can put some of Lady Ye Soya’s captures here. Instead of including just her I decided to get some also from Episode 54. In here Jumong has been invited by King Geumwa back to Buyeo. Jumong arrives with the king’s personal bodyguard and the Damul’s six leaders under General Jumong: Mari, Hyeopbo, Ohyi, Jessa, Mugol, and Mukgo. This is the first time Jumong sets foot again inside the palace after that attempt to get out Yeohwa and Soya in Episode 50, that time when Yeohwa couldn’t go because she was so sick and already pregnant Soya met Jumong at the temple where he broke off half of the short sword for her to keep for their child as proof of his fatherhood.

Jumong ep 54 the Damul leaders visit Buyeo

Here is General Jumong of the Damul Army and his officers, plus the king’s bodyguard, ascending the stairs to the main royal hall, to greet his foster father the king who is waiting for him there.

After greeting the king the 6 companions are ushered into a room for refreshments, to be warmly welcomed as guests of the king’s adopted son. Jumong shortly goes to his mother’s house, where his pregnant wife waits with her for him.

The 7 men are already relaxed with their banter, food, and wine. The king’s bodyguard was originally at the head of the table but he gets called out by a messenger. In a little while General Jumong arrives. They continue with the merriment at this small banquet, one they never had together because of their life as founders of Damul. Then Jumong gets teased by Hyeopbo, who in turn gets teased by Mari and Ohyi, as the other three just laugh along.

When the royal bodyguard went out it was to meet a general of Buyeo. The secret talk was about eradicating Jumong for the sake of Buyeo, which is the Prime Minister’s action-response for King Geumwa’s wish for a peaceful Buyeo. Jumong and the king has talked about this surprising change of heart in Geumwa’s case. Discouraged, he talks to his mother about this in her chambers. Her consistent response to him is that his duty is to carry out his father Haemosu’s dream, which is to gather their displaced and suffering people and re-form their lost nation against the might of the Han.

Jumong has to decide once and for all, of whether to continue with his father’s dream and disappoint his foster father, or to please Geumwa and to abandon everything that his family and many loyal friends and supporters have worked so hard for. He retires to Soya’s chambers. He now wears his sleeping robes and pregnant Soya is already resting though without her blankets on. Thus in this scene there is only Jumong’s face to look at, at the change from deliberation to an arrival at a decision after taking into consideration everything, including the risks to their unborn child.

The following day Jumong and Soya head for their mother’s house, to speak of his decision to leave Buyeo. As they round a corner they are seen by Soseono and her father from a distance. The father and daughter wish to speak with the king today, and so they have entered the palace. Jumong and Soya seem to be in a conversation as they walk. As is proper, Soya shows deference to her husband while in public, by walking slightly behind him. This might be just for the camera angle here, or it may not be so in Korea, but in Japan this is certainly the norm, and thus this is how I take it here to be, too.

Yeohwa fully agrees with him, as expected. She suggests to Soya that she leaves with her husband. This, I think, is one of those unfortunate decisions made by this family — but otherwise the ensuing drama out of this decision wouldn’t have materialized, which is, the losing and the finding of Jumong’s family. Soya should have said “yes” to her mother-in-law’s suggestion but since they have no idea of the brewing evil plan against Jumong the ladies decided for the common sense that the baby’s birth can be more attended to while Soya is in the safety of the palace, in the company of the soon-to-be grandmother of the baby. Though they knew that King Geumwa will be disappointed by Jumong’s decision still they had the confidence that no mishap will ensure, especially that Jumong’s decision is what Geumwa had hoped to accomplish also since in his youth together with Jumong’s father.

Jumong, though primarily a narration about a hero’s life, has many subplots that are in themselves complete stories. There’s the life of Geumwa and his troubled family, of Soseono’s growth into a mother and a strong leader, of the tragedy that is Ye Soya since her tribe was betrayed by one of their own, of the happy-sad love triangle that is Haemosu-Yeohwa-Geumwa, of Wootae’s life as a servant’s son who became the master’s son-in-law as well as the leader’s husband, of Daeso’s triumphs and failures both in his public and personal lives, of Youngpo’s misadventures, of Yuri’s coming out into his own… Jumong isn’t called a drama for nothing, and it has stayed as one of the best.