Tag Archive | morality is a hard stuff to discuss

Dear Actor/Actress, I Respect You

tree with deep roots posterDear South Korean Actress/Actor,

A very warm hello from an admirer. Please stay a while and read what I have to say from my heart.

I have been watching your projects, dramas mostly, for quite a while now and you have never failed to solicit my admiration. Painter of the Wind posterI have always found you amazingly competent in your portrayals of the many faces of humanity. You have provided windows for me from where I could see glimpses of that part of living that I may have a blind spot on, or that I am barred from seeing by reason of points of perception.

Yes, I have not been drawn to your projects for the purpose of entertainment alone. You might say you don’t understand my point since, after all, entertainment is your business. But please understand that audiences do vary greatly. Not all of us are up for the sole purpose of being “entertained”.An official poster of the drama. From left to right: Bidam Sangdaedung, Mishil Seju, Deokman Paeha, Kim Yushin Chamgun, Princess Cheonmyong Besides, there are many other media for ‘entertainment’. Well, okay, your colorful clothes and your music accompaniments have entertained me, and many a time the funny portrayals, too, but they’re not really the meat of what I’m after. I’m really after the story of humanity.

Please take my present post with a bright perspective — chuno posterthe reason why I had the urgency to write this NOW is that I have just Googled “dark side of Korean film industry” and the first three entries that came up confirmed my suspicion. Of course these things do not happen in your country alone. I suspect that it’s worse with another actor/actress in another country. However, it’s you that appears on my screen most of the time nowadays that I feel compelled to do something about it.

dae jang geum posterYou see, for quite a while now I have marveled at the quantity and quality of dramas produced in your country. They are very good and there simply are so many of them. Then I noticed that you, dear actress/actor, appear in so many projects so that if your role was evil in a ‘previous’ project I had to re-program my perception of your face (not you as a person) as someone who is very likable in this ‘newer’ project that you are in.damo poster I am forced to adjust to your new persona fast, and it’s not really nice for my psyche. I have this feeling, therefore, that the projects you appear in are devalued as works of art —- instead of being rendered the proper respect as expressions of human creativity, like paintings and classical music/theater, your dramas/movies are being treated like mass-produced commodity, cheapened.

jumong poster  Actually it’s the historical stories that I’m more fond of. I do appreciate how difficult it is to make these. The costumes are heavy, or sometimes too thin for winter. In some there has to be rough horse action. In the fights you have to risk your bones and skin. Even the speech is not familiar to you. And even if you’re just a face in the background, without a speaking part, I really could see that you give a very convincing performance. crime squad posterAlthough I would forget your name I would still be able to remember you because I see you again and again as I watch another and yet another drama. And when I see you in a modern-day setting I will suddenly give a yelp of delight because your face will look different now that you don’t have a gat or a hanbok or a slave’s clothes on.

Honestly I value the stories that you appear in, that you act on, and I do spend time in digesting them. I analyze them. I think about the events. I reflect on them. dongyi posterI do so because they make me think about my life, about the life of my friends and acquaintances, about the lives of those who live similarly to the situations in the story that you appeared in, on screen. Your stories make me reflect on the human situation. As I said earlier, I do not value them for entertainment’s sake. I value them for what they can teach me about life.

Mandate of Heaven PosterSo, okay, what do I really want to say to you, dear actress/actor? I want to say to you that I really wish for you to take care of your well-being. I don’t want you to be pressured into ‘entertaining’ me so much so that you don’t get enough sleep anymore. It could happen that I would really start crying for you, as a person, even before your face is shown on screen on your next project because my suspicions were confirmed that you are being constrained by the business side of entertainment. Please, if it happens that you already have enough money to live a healthy lifestyle then don’t push yourself to overwork for my sake. Freeze posterI will not be happy if you do so. Just seeing that you are working hard to be a good performer is already inspiring for me. I would already appreciate it that you are someone who is serious about your job and your responsibilities. I respect you as you are, even if I saw you in one project only, and my respect and admiration for you will not lessen just because you did not have a good project this year, or because other fans did not like the way you looked in your last appearance.

Please understand that however your face is structured you are handsome/beautiful to me. phoenix posterYour original face is beautiful. I’m your fan, and I know that you are also a human being like me. I am your fan because I admire the way you could get into a character’s shoes after just reading about him/her merely days or hours before filming. I bet many of the roles you were able to excellently portray you did them without consulting encyclopedias or psychiatry journals or historical accounts.

kingdom of the winds posterPlease take care of yourself. Next time I see the eye bags heavy under your eyes I would know that it was not because you stayed out late drinking with friends, but it was because most likely you pushed yourself to work too hard, for me. Sometimes your paleness is obvious despite the make-up and lighting. I would really hate it if you got sick because you overworked for my sake. Instead of making me happy to see your face again, it would make me sad, even if your role is funny.

Thank you very much for all your hard work. taewangsasingi 4 guardiansYou have already given me so much. You have shown to me how beautiful Korea and its people is. Your drama stories have encouraged me. The goodness of heart that I could see in the characters you play have inspired me, in my living. I owe you so much, so I thought it’s my turn to extend my support for you. I wish for you to find real happiness in life. I wish for you to love yourself, too, much more than I love the characters that you bring to life on screen.

gye baek posterthe great seer posterIt’s gotten into a long message now, and it’s already midnight so I have to say goodnight. 🙂 Goodnight, dear beautiful person. Have a lovely new day tomorrow. May God bless you.

——————

added on 9March2014:

I felt that I needed to say more about this matter.

Running Man _coreThere are video clips readily available online about almost anything in the known universe. Among these I came across one that gave me a glimpse of a world that I did not suspect existed. It’s an in-house training establishment for entertainer wannabe’s. This particular one I found was of Eric Mun’s, which made me feel awed at the intensity of dedication he gives to these training periods. That’s the first time I became aware that behind Kpop’s glamour is also a world of sweat and tears.

Joong Ki + Ji Hyo + Kwang Soo _ep21

Joongki, Jihyo, Kwangsoo _ep21

Lately, which makes me quite late into the game, I discovered that aside from Song Ji Hyo there’s also Lee Kwang Soo (and Song Joong Ki in the past) in the South Korean variety show Running Man. I never bothered with variety shows because they always made me feel like I waste my enthusiasms in paying attention to them.  But since it’s these three, whom I belatedly discovered to be close friends, and who are favorites to me individually, that are in this show then I watched one episode. That was Episode 2. That was memorable because I had not been able to laugh that loud and long about anything for many years now. For a Filipino this phenomenon is unusual — not having laughed hard for a long time — since we always have opportunities to laugh our guts out with family and friends.

Running Man _by 2011In watching a bit more of that show I gradually found it irksome that the true personalities of the members are suppressed during the show. For instance I hate it that Lee Kwang Soo is being projected as inept and stupid, because he clearly isn’t. I hate it that Song Ji Hyo is being made the “female” to the “male” of whoever that will guarantee continuous high ratings to the show. I somehow feel that it’s a disrespect to Song Ji Hyo as a person because if she were not a female then she wouldn’t be paired off like this, just an object, to one guy or another. I am frustrated that she and the guys are not free to express themselves during the show. Somehow I feel cheated by the fact that though I’m anticipating to witness true camaraderie among personalities that, I’d like to believe, by now have become real friends in the real sense, (yet) what I see are faked interactions.

A show has to be scripted, obviously. But the question of to script or not to script, or how to script, is not what I’m touching on here.

Running Man ep3 (1)    I’ve become this affected (!hahaha) because I have come to like each of the members of Running Man. I do not see Kim Jong Kook as frightening. I can sense his finesse and gentleness. I do not see Haha as inept. He has a solid sense of responsibility and self confidence. Song Joong Ki comes across as an intellectual to me, a sort of an academician, someone who loves learning but just happens to have a beautiful face. Though Kang Gary is constantly teased of his looks he actually oozes of sexuality, and he is totally far from being ugly. Same with Lee Kwang Soo.

Ji Hyo + Kwang Soo _ep21

Jihyo & Kwangsoo

This guy is smart but he suppresses it. I saw him only once, in Dongyi, and I thought of how he amazingly could pull off that character. He’s just good at making silly faces but actually he’s handsome. (Whew… I am a bit disappointed with myself in having to use the handsome-ugly categorization here because I feel strongly against this mass media gauge that is used in the distortion of humanity’s sense of beauty, and hence all values that are related to this sense, like self-acceptance.)

Running Man ep3 (2)But the fact is that the entertainment industry is a reflection of humanity’s greed for sensual gratification. That is, involving the senses. The term is already mentioned: for entertainment. Since the market potential is huge then the greed for unprecedented profits is also boundless. That’s what humanity is like.

The reason why I felt the urgency to add to this post is because I found additional information relevant to the topic. If you’re interested at what is going on, at the real situation, the one that is hidden from those who are not willing to dig deep, then I would like to share these three links with you:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13760064

http://xypherfarrell.hubpages.com/hub/KPop-JPop-Why-are-People-Hating-it

http://xypherfarrell.hubpages.com/hub/REAL-Bad-Boys-of-Korean-Entertainment

Running Man ep3 (3)(I’ve bookmarked the bad-boys page because I’m now ready to get acquainted with them, to see for myself these ones who are admirable for their courage. Also, Kang Gary is there.)

I’m sorry that it’s only these that I can share with you for now. I know that it’s as bad in other countries (e.g., USA, India), but I don’t have time yet to look for the specifics. I don’t exactly know how it goes in the Philippines but it’s safe to assume that it’s also messy and bloody. It’s a lucrative livelihood, after all. Where greed is great, corruption in corresponding levels is also present. Myself being a Filipino, I could easily imagine how it is plus allowing that fact could be stranger than fiction here.

Running Man ep3 (4)Though I will remain enthusiastic for film productions I will not stay blind on the struggles of the small people who are involved in it. They are the ones whose faces are peddled on screen. They are the ones who touch my life, even bring me needed courage at times. I will not be like a pimp for them, raving about their work and selling it to the world by my praises, without being aware that I as a fan am also responsible for the pressure that constantly hounds them. Only a few of them are lucky enough to be born or be granted with the privilege of choice, like Kaneshiro Takeshi and Lee Seo Jin. Most of them are just struggling artists. Most of them are just bread winners who are stuck in a job that is actually a prison to them.

Running Man ep3 (5)I’ve decided to just choose first the Running Man episodes where only the core members are interacting amongst themselves. I now see them as close friends.  — The Filipino equivalent is the barkada. One’s barkada are the people that one hangs out with, each one being an important part of the others’ lives, to share laughs and other emotions with, a venue for self-expression, to grow up with, to explore reality with, a quasi-family. — Of course, I will watch all episodes that has Song Joong Ki in it and I will especially cherish those where he, Song Ji Hyo, and Lee Kwang Soo are on the same team.When I’m done with all those episodes I’d choose again from the episodes where artists that I admire have come as guests, like Jackie Chan, Cha In Pyo, Eric Mun, and Ji Jin Hee.

Running Man ep21 (1) Running Man ep21 (2) Running Man ep21 (3)Each time I watch them I will especially be alert for spontaneous interactions, the ones that bring out their unguarded emotions. In this way I’d feel like I’m having fun with them, too. Because this is how it is among barkada — just being with each other’s company is a guarantee for an opportunity to celebrate life, a partaking of well-being.

Thus, I will not watch Running Man merely for my entertainment and doses of laughter. I will watch it because I want to celebrate life through friendship, though vicariously for now.

♥♥

many thanks to the sites that made these pictures here available for everyone; all enlarge, some much, some a bit, when clicked on

♥♥

[added April 3, 2014] Kwangsoo enthusiastically greets Jihyo upon seeing her as she joins the gang late in the games in episode 189, tired as she is after more than 10 hours’ travel to Melbourne. Much younger Kim Woobin, Kwangsoo’s teammate, respectfully looks on and laughs at his elders as they end up squabbling.

Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (1) Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (2) Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (3) Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (4) Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (5) Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (6) Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (7) Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (8) Jihyo - Kwangsoo warm greeting _Running Man ep 189 _Melbourne (9)

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…”

 

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!

For the Love of Lee Seo Jin: A Look Into Gye Baek and Eun Go

This is a personal take on the sad love story between General Gye Baek and Royal Consort/Queen Eun Go. First, let me say that all statements here are based on my impressions on the 2011 sageuk (S. Korean historical drama) series Gye Baek, which has my favorites Lee Seo Jin and Song Ji Hyo. Because normally I avoid delving into love stories (where I would say the plots are more often than not “nonsensical” and “mushy”), I won’t focus on the “mushy” side of their relationship. Instead I would try my best to look at the dynamics of how Gye Baek and Eun Go separated. The factual historical information on this great general’s life is said to be very little. I will be paying attention to their story as portrayed by the actors, looking at their faces while in dialogue, while keeping in mind also what little information available to me. (“Gye Baek” can also be presented as “Gye-baek” or “Gyebaek”, and is likewise with the Romanization of Korean names.)

As of March 2013 Wikipedia has this information on Gye Baek:   “The Baekje Dynasty flourished for six centuries from 18 BCE until it was defeated by Silla in 660. Baekje was established in the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, close to the site of present-day Seoul by Onjo, the third son of King Dongmyeong, the first king of Goguryeo. It expanded southward and set up a trading relationship with China. …  In 660, Baekje was invaded by a force of 50,000 from Silla, supported by 144,000 Tang soldiers. Gyebaek, with only 5,000 troops under his command, met them in the battlefield of Hwangsanbeol. Before entering departing to the battlefield, Gyebaek reportedly killed his wife and children to boost the fallen morale and patriotism of his army, and to prevent the thought of them to influence his actions or to cause him to falter in battle.

His forces won four initial battles, causing severe casualties to Silla forces. However, in the end, exhausted and surrounded, Gyebaek’s army would be outnumbered and overwhelmed. Baekje’s forces would be all annihilated in battle, alongside with their leader Gyebaek.  … Baekje was destroyed after 678 years of rule, shortly after Gyebaek’s defeat and death at Hwangsanbeol.

As Neo-Confucian philosophy became more influential in the later Korean Dynasties, Gyebaek was recognized by historians and scholars are exemplifying the Confucian ideals of patriotism and devotion to his King and praised as such. Although not much else is known about Gyebaek’s life, his actions leading up to his last battle are well known to many Koreans.”

Yesterday I had a post on Gye Baek, looking a bit at how the happy days between Gye Baek and Eun Go were. This series is 36 episodes, which makes it 36 hours. I haven’t seen all the episodes but what I did was to hunt for those that will inform on my favorite characters’ story. So far I feel I have seen enough to make a statement on it—which basically is this: now I understand how they must separate, with Gye Baek having a wife, with Eun Go going the dark path.

The main point of the entire series is that Gye Baek has to be presented as a great and honorable hero. He must be protected from blemishes in the face that he is a man with lots of blood in his hands. Next, Eun Go must be portrayed as evil (I can’t retrieve now where I got this idea from, but somewhere in the net I read that history remembers her as someone evil. Chincha.) Finally, Gye Baek has to have a wife and children, because history says he killed them before going to his final battle. Also, since Gye Baek has to be “honorable”, it has to be portrayed so that he had valued his family despite what he did to them—and hence, jumping to the end episode here, it was portrayed that it was his wife who pressured him into such a grimy decision.

When I saw General Lee Seung Gye in “The Great Seer” I understood that a military man, very indispensable as he is to the monarchy, is nothing but a servant—meaning, he doesn’t own his life, his thoughts, his actions. He is not expected to be educated, is assumed to be rough-mannered, and is distanced from politics. Eun Go and Gye Baek had to be separated because she is the king’s wife, so the angle of them staying together is out—Gye Baek can’t be a criminal by way of taking for himself the king’s consort. King Ui Ja had always wanted her—when I saw “Dae Jang Geum” I understood that, as Min Jung Ho said, no-one can separate a king from the woman he wants (though Ui Ja was just the Crown Prince here). On the aside, Gye Baek did decide to take Eun Go away from the palace. Hand in hand they left Eun Go’s prison cell and it would have been possible for them to happily live ever after, hidden in the hills, had not Eun Go fainted and was found out to be with child assumed to be the future king’s.

❤ Here are some snapshots leading to this “separation”, after the bullet-ed quasi-descriptions to the events comprising them. This is in Episode 24, which at the start looks like the wedding night of Eun Go and Ui Ja. Eun Go had frozen in bed and Ui Ja had given up forcing her, otherwise it would have been rape.

  • Eun Go leaves the palace and seeks out Gye Baek. They share their anguish at Eun Go’s wedding. Eun Go asks him why he’s so heartbroken.
  • Gye Baek speaks to her of his heart.
  • She tries to give him a reason for keeping on. At this point both actually believed that Ui Ja was a savior. At the earlier episodes Eun Go had been caught in a situation involving her relatives and she’s expected to receive the death sentence. Ui Ja supposedly “saves” her by claiming that she’s carrying his child, and so becomes “immune” to punishment, so to speak.
  • The main point in their dialogue is that Baekje is more important than both their personal problems. Eun Go has no choice but to capitulate to Ui Ja’s plan if she has to stay alive. She hopes to stay alive until the day she can be with Gye Baek again.
  • He protests, saying he’s not strong enough…
  • It seems that Eun Go sleeps over because we see on Gye Baek’s waking up he is covered with Eun Go’s robe and Eun Go has left him with hot food. We see here Gye Baek still holding Eun Go’s white robe as he rushes to the door to look for her outside. We see also the breakfast Eun Go has lovingly prepared for him.
  • He’s disheartened that she’s left, she’s nowhere to be seen. Unknown to him she’s crying her heart out behind a tree.
  • She goes back to her husband, the ever jealous Ui Ja.

Picture galleries zoom in, and thumbnails enlarge, when clicked on. Thank you to the makers of Gye Baek.

 

Gye Baek Eun Go ep24_11  The king has Eun Go imprisoned at the Crown Princess’ instigation, that her pregnancy was just a made-up story (indeed). Gye Baek is enraged. He breaks her out of her cell, and she calmly lets him take her by the hand. Gye Baek Eun Go ep24_12But Ui Ja is there, alas.

I’m not sure if Eun Go here has decided to sacrifice herself so as not to jeopardize Gye Baek’s safety, and so proceeded to “faint” (Sa Taek Bi did this trick on everyone). Gye Baek Eun Go ep24_13She falls down while still holding Gye Baek’s hand. He’s surprised, throws off his sword, goes down and holds her. Or, that she did faint, because the next scene shows the doctor assuring both her “men” that she’s pregnant (the real thing now).

♦  ♦        ♦  ♦        ♦  ♦

The next captures show how the couple said goodbye to each other right before Gye Baek rides off. Immediately after that is a fading away of Eun Go’s face, followed by the scenes of their meeting again after the 7 years they were apart.

  • Both accept the separation while in full belief that Ui Ja has done his best in looking out for them.  Gye Baek leaves the castle. Eun Go appears and pays her respects to him as he was riding out. She solemnly bows. They communicate without speaking, giving each other tiny smiles of assurances. He goes out to the open world, among the mountains and fields, and the rough men of the ranks. She is left behind in the closed world of political machinations.
  • Eun Go’s face fades out and is slowly replaced by the next scene, which is a jump to 7 years later.
  • Gye Baek, who has grown in stature in front of the men’s eyes, projects an indifference to Eun Go when they meet again. Eun Go in turn has presumably grown more “calloused” amidst the power struggle in the palace. However, both still love each other as strongly as ever. This is Episode 25 now. Eun Go and Gye Baek meet by chance. By this time both still believe that Ui Ja has always been straight with them. As Eun Go hurries to leave the tent Gye Baek softly asks her if she’s happy.
  • She is sarcastic of her situation, and so musters an honest answer, that she’s still alive, at least.
  • He, however, laments her answer. He tells her that she should be happy, and that as for him he has forgotten “everything”…
  • It hurts her to hear him say that he has “forgotten everything”. But she rationalizes things, and tells him that he’s right…
  • However, he had only been fooling himself, because he has not forgotten everything. He staggers in pain as Eun Go leaves the tent.
  • He then sees the yellow parcel on the table, opens it, finds a letter, and reads of Eun Go’s feelings…
  • As he reads her letter we are shown how Eun Go herself made the clothes for him …
  • The letter finishes with “I hope that you’ll be safe in the war. This is my wish for you. (signed) Eun Go”…  The letter devastates him and releases much pent-up emotions. He clutches at his chest and cries…

Alas eventually Eun Go discovers that Ui Ja manipulated situations years ago to the effect that she will consequently be trapped into choosing to stay with him and leave Gye Baek —this for the sake of Gye Baek also, of course, since Ui Ja knows very well that Gye Baek is her weakness — Eun Go seems to be consistent in looking out for Gye Baek’s welfare till the end, and even her “betrayal” of him was not done in cold blood on her part but was a consequence of palace politics.

In contrast, Gye Baek had actually betrayed Eun Go in not telling her back then about the issue with her blood relatives, which resulted in the annihilation of her clan. She is enraged, nearly killing the witness to the whole thing, and starts to totally freeze her heart towards Ui Ja. (I have skipped the episodes that dwell on this issue and so I don’t have the details to them yet.) She musters her protective powers onto Gye Baek now, in her quest for justice for her relatives and the survival of her little son. The bottom line of the plot that we now find ourselves in is that Ui Ja wants to go to war with Silla, whereas Gye Baek does not. Eun Go has figured out that Gye Baek must go, then proceeds to tell this to him, finishing her rationale with: “and so that I can return to your side”…   …which totally offsets his composure… he believes that he and Eun Go would be betraying the king if they become a couple again for the reason that (aside from the obvious adultery) he thinks Ui Ja once saved Eun Go’s life…   …by this time Gye Baek has no idea at all of what Eun Go has discovered about Ui Ja’s betrayal of them…She carries the burden alone…

King Ui Ja has constantly been making a fool of himself in front of his military officers. The last one was by riding off alone and falling from his horse, hitting his head against a rock, and had to be sneaked back into the palace to prevent public alarm. Eun Go is going desperate with her powerlessness to protect her son, whom the queen wants kicked out of the palace in favor of hers. From “Dong Yi” I learned that this “fight” for the position of Crown Prince can have fatal consequences, and so I can understand Eun Go’s position a bit. She is bitter against Ui Ja, she is heartbroken over Gye Baek, and now the intensely jealous queen is not leaving her and her son alone. How does a woman survive amidst all these? Ahh, Gye Baek, she thinks of him. She encourages him to take the position of “Great General” and so be the commander-in-chief in behalf of the comatose king. However, she also needs to ask for help from him, for the sake of her son’s safety (Prince Hyo). When they meet secretly Eun Go lets out a hint why she is in the middle of all this mess…which makes him seriously go out and find things out for himself…

… Gye Baek finds out the ugly truth, that the reason he and Eun Go got separated was nothing but a big lie … but Ui Ja was still in a coma… Gye Baek could only look at him frustratingly in a silent confrontation…

He next confronts the two hyungnim-advisors (who had already known about the whole thing since forever !!!) and expresses his intense disappointment over their bonding with Ui Ja, which he now sees as a sham… once again he loses the reason for going on with life…     After mulling it over some drinks outside the palace, where he heard common people talking about him, he makes a decision and seeks out Eun Go. (He had already made it clear that he doesn’t want to mess with politics.) He tells her that she can’t leave the king. In effect he says that he can’t help her. He tells her that in order for him to survive he must give himself to the people, to Baekje, just like what Eun Go told him all those many years before, that Gye Baek didn’t lose her to Ui Ja but to Baekje, to the people. Gye Baek Eun Go ep28_03He returns the necklace. She accepts it. She now feels abandoned again. Her defenses rise, and like the fighter that she always has been since a child, she lets anger rise within her—she must help herself and survive or her son will suffer… Gye Baek Eun Go ep28_04From this point onwards Eun Go musters her tactical prowess in her lone struggle for survival, which also entangles her and buries her deep in intrigues. …but he has made his choice… and she’s trapped in the palace life… and they go separate ways…

Gye Baek Eun Go ep35_02

Gye Baek defends Eun Go

Jumping to the last episodes, 35 and 36, and seeing how their last meetings went…  By this time it has been found out that the queen (Eun Go) herself gave out military tactics to Silla in exchange for Tang’s acknowledgement of hers and her son’s positions. This has resulted into the death of 8,000 soldiers plus the assassination of one of the hyungnim-advisors. She has gone to Silla, on a reason and which is not to flee, but upon knowing of the planned attack against Baekje she hurries back home in order to deliver this crucial information. Only Gye Baek defends her credibility and pushes for the postponement of the queen’s punishment…

The king (Ui Ja) does visit her in prison (not shown here), to ask why she returned. She answers that she wants to die by his hands. She says she didn’t return to ask for pardon but to make it so that her death eases the anger of the people against the royal family, thereby uplifting the overall morale and enabling the people to defend the country against the coming attackers (of hundreds of thousands of troops combined). Ui Ja tells her that he can’t protect her… (whereas Gye Baek will try to!!!)…

The pictures here show Gye Baek visiting her before he goes off to war. This is his second visit after that first one when he came to tell her that her punishment has been postponed. They had a bit of an argument then, because he felt frustrated that she opposes his defense of her against the royal court (with the help of the other hyungnim-advisor), frustrated that she wants to die the soonest possible time, and she’s frustrated that she can’t do it… …Gye Baek actually wants to save her… he hopes that after the war when things have turned out fine (meaning, he hopes to be successful, which is a healthy state of mind all together) he’ll work out for her pardon… and he encourages her to persevere… For the last time Eun Go opens to him her heart… that she wishes that no-one else had to undergo the things she had, and that she has always loved him…

He responds very kindly, but I can’t be sure how much of his love for her is still there… for sure, he is sincerely touched by her words… (on the other hand, making Gye Baek appear kind towards Eun Go like this in spite of her terrible crime could just be a plot-devise to preserve the image of noble-ness of Gye Baek. For me, though, since this couple has been given importance in this story then this last scene of theirs together says that Eun Go has remained important to Gye Baek until the very end, whether he admits it to himself or not… the way he turned around to respond to her for the last time is so pregnant with meaning, and he looks sad, and he is very still like he’s had a shock, which makes me recall how he cried in the tent after reading Eun Go’s letter telling of the clothes she made for him … if it was only pity that he felt for her then that should have been emphasized, but it was not…)     She bows her head to him, just like she had done before their 7 years’ parting, and he slowly turns around, to head for battle…

Gye Baek Eun Go ep36_05    …this is a snapshot of the general in the battlefield, facing the enemy troops, and we’re now very near the end of the story…   …Gye Baek Eun Go ep36_06where we see Eun Go standing alone on a cliff somewhere far from the battlefield, preparing to face death on such a seemingly very fine day … perhaps the panoramic scene is symbolic of the hope she has of leading a suffer-free life in the/her next “lifetime” where no filial duties would trap her, no trusted friend would betray her, and perhaps meet Gye Baek again — and this time at last be with him, “by his side”, living in that idyllic village of the outcasts where they started to really open their hearts to each other… her face is sad but hopeful, not crumpled with bitterness or regret, but merely “accepting”, and she looks at the sky, which seems like she is looking forward to “freedom”…  …whereas, on another scene is a still of Ui Ja sitting on the throne stone shock in the face of his fallen kingdom (ahhh… he deserved that, I thought to myself…)

I find myself crying at the end of my narration here. To think of the deaths Eun Go has caused should disable me to do so. But to look at the face of the woman above, side by side with her smile to Gye Baek telling him how she dreams to live in that ideal village (Episode 14), makes me suspect myself as just being biased towards my favorite pair (Eun Go and Gye Baek). Lady Choi (of “Dae Jang Geum”) also had that “teary-eyed sorry and tired” face in the end but I didn’t feel ambivalent towards her as I do towards Eun Go.

If only Ui Ja didn’t betray the two they would have lived a happy life together. If only their prison-break was successful they could have lived like Jang Geum and Min Jung Ho, on the run but happy. If only history didn’t demand that Gye Baek kills his family then the story could have run just as well without having to marry him off. If he didn’t have a wife then there wouldn’t have been that last scene with his family, implying that he loves Eun Go less. If he didn’t have a wife then the last scene with Eun Go would suffice as a renewed declaration of their living bond (Sujini and Dam Duk of “The Legend” didn’t even talk properly before they parted, but their actions sufficed). If he didn’t have a wife, and he came back safe from the war, Eun Go could have had a chance at pardon, exile maybe, and he could have gone with her… If only Eun Go wasn’t smart to start with in the first place, then she also wouldn’t have dreamt big for Gye Baek…

Gye Baek and Eun Go did dream of living a simple life together. Several times there were chances for them to run away, but it always fails. In her own way Eun Go’s passion for the people of Baekje is just as strong as Gye Baek’s and that’s why she toughens herself up in order to handle politics — even the two hyungnim-advisors agree with her in this. In contrast, Gye Baek’s getting married and living away from the capital has a touch of escapism. He was too much of a general, a subordinate of the crown, that he couldn’t put his faith in Eun Go who consistently puts herself in line at his defense. The character “Eun Go” is a tough one, always caught between damned-if-she-does and damned-if-she-doesn’t.

Now that I have assured myself that there are acceptable justifications as to why/how my favorite pair here separated I can calmly proceed to enjoy the entire story at a later time, when my schedule allows. I have to watch the entire series within a short span of time to get a clearer view of the consequent issues in the story. But I would still find that end part, of him killing his own family, difficult to handle, with the added burden of not wanting him as happy with another woman as he was with Eun Go.

My favorite Jumuchi of “The Legend” is, alas, a villain here, just as he was in “Shadowless Sword”. Jumong’s mom looks too gentle-soft to be a hardcore villain. Song Ji Hyo, though (obviously) looking washed-out in some parts (like Episode 24) looks to all the thinking-angel out to protect, the hurt-villain out to defend her interests, and in the end also the repentant-human who wants rest. Both kings are decidedly pathetic (that’s why the kingdom fell in the first place) but the actors are very convincing. As a military-general-character LeeSeoJin-GyeBaek isn’t as rough-behaving as JiJinHee-LeeSungGye (in The Great Seer)but their characters before their joining the military scene in their respective stories are comparable —they were as convincingly “manly” as anyone can be. The series has successfully projected “General Gye Baek” the historical hero as a very admirable character, upright and true—though I suspect that this is a very tall idealization.

Alas, I don’t get many Lee Seo Jin smiles here, just like in Damo. It doesn’t matter—I still like him to the max.

Thanks a million to the translators.

last edited 1 May 2014

A Frozen Flower: a look at a story of how an honest love triangle turns into a struggle on personhood

1.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Han Baek gets caught

Han Baek, who was eloping with a palace maid, gets caught by his brother guards.

Hello everyone 🙂 Today is Mach 1, 2014 and I am set to put captures for this post. I don’t have spare time actually, meaning I’m stealing this opportunity hahaha, but I’ve noticed that many people drop by to look over this post. I therefore felt compelled to fix things up a bit here primarily for my peace of mind. I’ve never intended to leave this post bare of illustrations and so now that Ms. Song Ji Hyo is in a new drama, Emergency Couple, I thought it’s as good a time as any to put an effort here once and for all. This update also marks the time that I squealed of delight after finding out that these favorites of mine are connected by close friendship: Jo In Sung, Song Joong Ki, Lee Kwang Soo, and Song Ji Hyo. Also, Joo Jin Mo is currently doing Empress Ki (which I’ll have to tackle in a separate post another time, by the major reasons that it has the cast of Damo plus another favorite of mine, Ji Chang Wook 🙂 This post is just a little expression of support for professionals from whom I have benefited much by way of insight acquisition. The fonts in pink are links to my other two posts that have more to say on this.

2.  Frozen Flower 2008 _finding a way to save Han Baek

Hong Lim was very carefully trying to find a way to save Han Baek from being punished with death.

Many have commented a dislike over the sexual element in this film. I do not have any comment against them, and they are perfectly qualified to hold such opinions. For myself I would not want a minor younger than, say, 21 years old to view this film. That’s just a general gauge of how old an individual could be before s/he can handle well themes that s/he may have not experienced personally, such as homosexual relations and betrayal of close bonds. I believe that age is not a good marker for so-called maturity because there are youngsters who are able to process such “adult” issues with admirable capability, and there are adults who cannot see the forest because they’re focused on the individual trees.

My liking for this film does not reflect the entirety or the summary of my personal convictions, the major part of which I have not even put tabs on.

3.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim's view of the queen singing Gashiri

How the queen looks to Hong Lim as she sings Gashiri.

That is, because although I am not familiar with so-called lesbians, indeed I am very much familiar with the male counterpart, the so-called gays. But, well, these are just labels so just so there are terms that can be used for discussions and conversations. I’m sure the issues involved go way much much deeper and wider than what is promoted in popular media. What I know is that, as a Filipino who grew up in a rural setting, I have not been so much isolated by norms and religion as to condemn per se that homosexuals will go to hell. I have a handsome cousin who leans towards the feminine of traits and although I had a catastrophic fight with him decades ago over that issue I have become a big fan of his right now, even after decades of separation and even not having seen him even once since then. I also had high school classmates, dearly beloved, whom we all respect sincerely despite their deviation from the accepted norms of manliness.

3a.  Frozen Flower 2008 _royal guards behind the thrones

The king and queen of Goryo seated on their thrones, the chief guard behind the queen, the sub-chief guard behind the king.

Now, for the issue on physical sexual relations with the same genders, that is a field that I personally withhold abstract speculations from because I hold the conviction that God is not trapped within conventions and norms. My gay friends love God as much as I do, and my case rests there for now.

Finally, I wanted to pretty up this post as an expression of appreciation to the three actors who made the film a success: Song Ji Hyo, Joo Jin Mo, and Jo In Sung. This is not to add pressure to their already stressful lives. I just want to say that, if ever I were a friend of any of them, to take good care of their personal health especially the emotional aspect, and that this film established my respect for them as persons. They are beautiful people and I wish them the happiness that they can identify as their own, one which is not dependent on wealth, fame, or reputation. This wish also goes for everyone in the world. I wish happiness for all of us. Kampei! 🙂  Thanks a million for dropping by and for allowing me to share some of my thoughts with you. The screen captures enlarge when clicked on. Peace ❤

… below now was the original post

4.  Frozen Flower 2008 _a fever ignites the trio's frozen state

The queen acquires a fever after the procreation ceremony. The king tends to her.

This king in our story, in ancient Goryeo, is like a god. He can do what he wants. His servants are his property. He has a retinue of eunuchs at his beck and call, all of them at a bent position in his presence. They never stand straight in his company.

This king bows down to only one person, to the emperor of Yuan whom we don’t see in the story. We see only a princess of Yuan, she who had been sent to the palace to be the king’s bride about a decade ago.

Though this king does not have a complete autonomy, still his word is law in his kingdom. This is what we understand when a violator was spared of beheading as per the king’s order.

4a.  Frozen Flower 2008 _first inkling of betrayal & jealousy

The first time that Hong Lim hides something from the king.

The king in his youth gathered 36 children to himself and reared them in the palace next to him to be his trusted companions. Their body, mind, and will were trained for only one purpose: to protect him and to always be available only for him.

At one session the king asks the seated children who the best warrior in the kingdom is. Of all the answers given to him his eyes particularly shone at one boy’s answer, that it is one who willingly gives up his life for the king. Thus the love affair between this king and this bodyguard began. The king cares for all the children but his affection begins to be centered to only one, on Hong Lim.

Hong Lim becomes the respected chief of the 36 bodyguards (though one, the sub-chief, does not show proper respect by remaining seated while the others stand up and bow as Hong Lim enters their quarters).

5.  Frozen Flower 2008 _there is now the problem of how Hong Lim & the queen can reach each other

Hong Lim and the queen are starting to realize that they want the communication line between them kept open.

In their close ties he is also “hyungnim”, big brother. When one of them, Han Baek, falls in love and tries to run away with one of the queen’s maids Hong Lim takes advantage of his closeness with the king to beg for Han Baek’s life. The crime entails beheading. It is a desertion of the king, a betrayal, treason (i.e., the guards are forbidden private lives). However, the king relents. Han Baek is returned to his comrades, who are greatly relieved. They hug him. They thank their chief. There is genuine affection amongst them. They are merely the king’s objects but as persons they are family. When the sub-chief sneers at Hong Lim’s accomplishment Hong Lim gives this justification: that Han Baek is one of them and hence could not possibly be left in the lurch for just a one-time offense, though this is not to be a precedence for further violations. Hong Lim subjugates the resentful sub-chief, defending the king’s honor from such snide remarks. Hong Lim is loyal to his brothers as well as to his king.

6.  Frozen Flower 2008 _resignation on her face

The queen here could be trying to find her way through the helpless situation, as she slightly tilts her head back to where Hong Lim could be situated by now.

The first hint of disaster manifests when Hong Lim glances at the queen on the king’s comment on her perfume-locket, during that beautiful spring day as the royal couple was relaxing outside the palace grounds. Hong Lim’s existence is supposedly solely for the king, for the king’s wishes and wants, to protect, please, and lay one’s life to at any time. This had been his mindset ever since he first came to the palace. This is what he has been programmed to live according to. The king’s pleasure and contentment is supposedly his pleasure and contentment as well, and nothing else. Would there have been in him an element of jealousy at the king’s interest in the queen? Or perhaps just an interest at what the king is interested in?

The day before the picnic, after the Han Baek incident, we see Hong Lim gently combing the king’s hair. The king asks Hong Lim if he would do that, too, run away and leave the palace in case something similar happens to him. Hong Lim replies that he doesn’t think he could, because the king is in the palace. This, then, is the king’s fear: that Hong Lim will desert him.

7.  Frozen Flower 2008 _resignation on his face

Hong Lim deliberates on whether to persist on reaching out to her. Does he or does he not give her the locket?

During the picnic the king smilingly insists to the queen on “that song of Goryeo that you usually sing”, saying that he’d like to hear her sing to them. He even solicits Hong Lim’s support in this request. (Here is an incident where the three of them are in harmony.) The surprised and flattered queen shyly obliges. We see a king who is not icy towards his queen. We could say that they are good friends, that they are comfortable with each other.

8.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the second daring act _he gives her a gift

The gamble. He gives her his second gift. She receives it.

Hong Lim, whether because of the beautiful voice or of the lovely song, glances at the queen again. From his view behind the king he can see her left profile. He has now glanced at the queen long enough to be established in the plot that he is able to later recall what the potpourri-locket looks like. However, was he already drawn a long time ago to the queen’s beauty? He and his brothers would have been blind if they did not appreciate their queen’s looks at all. But the queen sings beautifully. Perhaps it is only this that he appreciates at that point. However, her song’s theme alludes to the incident with Han Baek’s attempt to run away. We see the king covering his emotions by a sip of drink. (He insisted on her singing and he got a reminder of his fear. What a day.)

9.  Frozen Flower 2008 _a small gift but a big decision

She wonders at the developments, of how she has come to look at him with favor, of what to do with the gift.

Naturally, the king being outside of the palace’s protection, assassins take an attempt on him. The issue involved has something to do with the political struggle between the king and his court with the influence of Yuan on one side and the absence of an heir on the other. Yuan describes this as a “political instability”. Several members of the court, including the queen’s visiting older brother, became implicated at the attempt of the few in this assassination. At the first whiz of arrows the king lunges to his right and covers the queen with his body. (Hong Lim quickly flips the table, for shield.) Next the king asks Hong Lim if he is okay, then orders that the queen be taken away to safety. To the queen’s fright he demands for his sword and stays with his bodyguards in the fight. We see a king who has a superior skill in fencing.

Now the emperor of Yuan makes a move in the face that the king so far has not produced a progeny. The emperor now intends to crown somebody as next in line. This place belongs to the king’s son.

10.  Frozen Flower 2008 _confined in an impossibility

There, he has done it finally. Whatever happens to him at his rashness he is ready to face it. He has given her something that he was not willing to share with the king. He may die because of it but he had deliberated long over it. He wanted to give it to the queen and that’s all that matters for now.

But despite having had the queen and the concubines in the palace for many years now no royal children have been produced to the kingdom. As the emperor’s representative reads this edict up on the dais we see all the courtiers bowed down beneath, on the floor, with the king at their head. The queen, on the other hand, is seated up on the dais, on her throne, next to Yuan’s representative, and next to the king’s temporarily vacated one.

The king next gathers his court. Seated now next to the queen up on their dais, bodyguards behind, members of the court express that it would be wise to conform to the emperor’s wish. The king looks and sounds resigned as he asks the court for more opinions. The queen, barely controlling her anger, decides to speak out. She lashes at the surprised court for accepting Yuan’s edict, implying that they are looking forward to the day that the present king has no power anymore over the country. The king’s nostrils slightly flares at his queen’s defense of his honor, at her publicly owning up of the fault of their being childless, saying that it is not the “still young” king who is incapacitated. Hong Lim, of course, empathizes with the queen and is moved by her show of fierce loyalty to the king. In this incident the three characters are once more in harmony with each other.

11.  Frozen Flower 2008 _court dance

A court celebration as a way of imploring for a royal progeny. Shown is a drum dance.

By now it is clear that the king is protective of the queen, as a husband should be. That evening alone with her he tells her to go back to her native country now that his humiliation is inevitable. He does not want her to be humiliated as well. They now talk openly of the problem: he can’t “do it” with a woman. Even if she sleeps in his chambers tonight and at any other time they would still not be able to produce an heir. She in turn chooses to cling to him, to refuse to leave him and her adoptive country. She declares that this where she belongs now. The king then, perhaps encouraged by her clear support, tells her of an alternative. To beget a son for him through Hong Lim.

12.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Goryeo king & queen

The king and queen in full regalia.

Indeed, as the king and Hong Lim make love we see the passion in the king’s eyes as he holds Hong Lim’s face and looks at him. It’s a sort of a helplessly fiery openly honest passion. We see that Hong Lim is at ease with this relationship he has with the king. He accepts his place as being the object of his king’s passion and willingly responds to the king’s satisfaction. We do not see any problem between them in there. Albeit, I cannot see fire in Hong Lim’s eyes as he looks at the king. This fierce passion between them will be re-enacted the morning after Hong Lim spends a night with the queen. The king had then demanded of Hong Lim’s “heart”, that it should be given to him. It will be enacted again at the last tableau, with their final swordfight. In there, however, it will be a passion to subjugate and to eliminate each other.

13.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim steals a look

Hong Lim directs a quick look at their majesties. Was he looking for something?

Disturbance is first seen in Hong Lim’s eyes when the king tells him what he wants to be done. Hong Lim bolts up in bed, passionately declaring to the king’s turned back that he can’t possibly do it. Perhaps to him it sounded like being commanded to desecrate the queen, or like being commanded to betray the king. The queen, alone in her chambers, has tearful eyes of emotions. She has long resented Hong Lim for taking away from her the rightful place as the king’s favored nurturing partner. She, a virgin, must consummate the marriage act with a person she sees as worse than a stranger. She who has wholeheartedly given her loyalty to her husband has been commanded by him to exert a very intimate effort at conceiving with a “servant”. She, a princess of the mighty Yuan, will be made equal to a mere “property” of a vassal country.

14.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the queen wears Hong Lim's gift

There, he sees it. She is wearing his gift to her.

To defy the king’s wish is to humiliate him, and she is not in the position nor does she have the will to do this. She is too good a country’s subject, wife, and woman. She is foremost the king’s property, the country’s subject next, and being her own self the least–if ever she indeed has that notion at all. Hong Lim, she knows, will surely not defy the king as well. She realizes that she is helpless.

The king, having totally believed that he can always get what he wants (except in the case of Yuan), did not anticipate that these “properties” that he manipulates could get out of his control. He does not see himself as deficient (except for being heirless). He can even beat the best of his bodyguards in a swordfight at any time of the day. What best for him to do other than have his most trustworthy confidant impregnate his very loyal wife? He must have felt he had the safety nets on all sides. At that point there was no reason to suspect that either of them is capable of betraying his trust.

15.  Frozen Flower 2008 _sword dance

The royal guards perform a sword dance.

On the first consummation night the king gently lays his agitated queen in bed and silently reassures her with a very tender kiss on her lips. He lets Hong Lim in after encouraging him with a brotherly pat on the shoulder. The queen quakes as Hong Lim approaches. He sees her anguished eyes full of tears. He gives up.

The morning after, the king, taking the failure in hand with an almost imperceptible smile, encourages him again. The next night the queen has mustered more courage–she volunteers to disrobe herself. Now, as the rhythm of Hong Lim’s breathing increases, he looks at the king’s shadow against the thin dividing wall as if asking for permission to leave the king and venture into a world without the latter.

The queen eventually accepts Hong Lim. A new knowledge can be read from her face. Hong Lim, finally, rests his head beside the queen’s. They have stepped onto a threshold of no return. Ahh, so, Hong Lim can, in fact, do it. The king at the next room, hearing of that exact moment, freezes and blots his ink painting. The king has started to lose his control over the matter.

17.  Frozen Flower 2008 _an embroidery gift

At the library, the queen hands over a gift to Hong Lim. It’s a head band that she herself had embroidered.

Hong Lim felt it. He excuses himself from the palace to distance himself from this overwhelming new force in his narrowly restricted existence. The queen felt it. She persistently prostrates herself in prayer to calm her confusion. Hong Lim cannot stop the force. He thinks of her in his sleeping time. He gets a new necklace to replace her lost one (during the assassins’ attempt at the picnic). He sneaks a peak at her at the palace, while she repeatedly bows in front of the altar, unbeknownst to all. He muses about her while his brothers play at the river. He hides the truth from the king whenever the latter asks of anything that might divulge a clue to his increasing attachment to the queen . She becomes sick and gets a fever.

At these times the king starts to re-establish his control over the two–he shows open affection to Hong Lim just like before, and he shows sincere concern for the queen just like before. Hong Lim will start to distance himself from the king. The king reaches out and tightens his hold against Hong Lim. These acts of insistence on control worsen, escalate, until even the sub-chief becomes horrified at the king’s madness—the first instance of which is the tragedy in the library during the night of the thunderstorm. In there the king had become like a hysterical woman scorned by her lover.

16.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the king sings magnificently

The king in his magnificent voice sings Ssanghwajeom. It means “A Frozen Flower”, itself the title of the doomed situation he will shortly find himself in together with the two persons closest to him.

We see in the queen’s eyes the switch of affections. Whereas before to the king she gives warmth and to Hong Lim she is uncaring, now she turns her face away from the king, perhaps shielding her true emotions from his gaze. Little by little she looks at Hong Lim with warmth (there is that deleted scene, of another secret meeting in the library, the queen wearing a palace maid’s attire and Hong Lim wearing the head band that she embroidered for him, where she in a playful mood surprises him with a hug from behind, erasing his anxious look, and then they talk briefly, and he tearfully cradles her head in a tight embrace–a mark that they eventually see each other as equals, and are now “self-less” in their regard for each other). As to Hong Lim, whenever he is not looking at the queen, his eyes are sad, touched with a resigned and helpless look. Though he is sure of his love for the queen, and eventually of the queen’s love for him, yet these are absolutely forbidden in their context.

18.  Frozen Flower 2008 _king's guards like his song

The clueless guards go on loving their king, enjoying his song. Can you see Song Joong-Ki in front? ❤ ❤ ❤

So Hong Lim continues to hide truths from the king. The sub-chief consistently works out his way into snatching for himself the affection that the king has for Hong Lim. The queen responds to Hong Lim’s signals. In the very constrained situation that they are in, where the king always finds ways to know about truths they hide from him, Hong Lim and the queen nurture their newly found world. They communicate through little gifts, and glances, and meetings whenever they can snatch them.

But Hong Lim calculates their chances of survival before the queen does. He realizes that he has no power to protect the queen from the king. He tries to put a stop to the danger when he sees that only disaster awaits him, and the queen especially, should they continue with their attachment, where they are persons of mutual high worth plus without a demand to sacrifice their personhood.

19.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim starts to distance

The morning after. Hong Lim begins to withdraw from the king’s advances.

The king has been persistently hounding him, enough to assure him that surrender is his only safety net. The king has had all traitors killed, all the high officials and even the queen’s brother. He knows of the king’s capabilities. He cuts his happiness short by surrendering to the king. His eyes now look almost lifeless.

The queen, on the other hand, did not have the understanding by this time enough for her to agree with Hong Lim. She begs him to run away with her anywhere, to “take her away”, even to the hills. He tells her of his powerlessness. She is saved from a suicide attempt. She discovers she is with child. She accepts Hong Lim’s departure (him being assigned by the king to the border stations for the purpose of “forgetting”) but has to tell him of her fear, that their child might not be safe with the king.

20.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the flower unfreezes & blooms

When she thought he had left her he came looking for her. When he thought she might leave him he came looking for her.

Alas, their love for each other cannot be constrained. The king, with the help of the sub-chief, finds them despite the thunderstorm. Both, with hands tied and kneeling before the king, alternately defend each other at the cost of their lives. When Hong Lim declares twice that he loves the queen the king snaps. He makes a shocked sub-chief castrate a superior brother. The queen faints. The royal physician congratulates the king on the queen’s conception. The madness in the king’s eyes that started when Hong Lim lied about sending honeysuckle tea to the queen now grows into crazy proportions–he commands the sub-chief that all subjects private to the fatherhood of the queen’s pregnancy be killed. Except Hong Lim. The king goes to him in prison and bargains at the back turned to him, to return to how they were before, and that all would be forgotten. (Whoa! You cruelly deprive a man of an essential part of his personhood and you bargain your kingdom with him! Too late, king! Hong Lim has finally discovered that a person can live outside of your gilded cage.)

21.  A Frozen Flower 2008 _self-made rice cakes declare love

She makes him rice cakes according to her home country’s customs. She tells him she loves him.

The queen, in danger to her own safety, sends brothers loyal to Hong Lim to take him away from the palace. The baby, she says, cannot have two fathers. (I guess she has projected how their lives would be in the future when the child grows up and Hong Lim is forced to live in the pain of not even be allowed to have his child call him “father”. The secret of the true fatherhood is bound to eventually leak out. Perhaps she has a good idea that Hong Lim will not be willing to be reconciled to the king anymore. Perhaps she did not anticipate that the king has gone crazy enough to ask Hong Lim for a reconciliation–she did not anticipate the king’s level of obsession with Hong Lim. She miscalculated that the king would put Hong Lim first before self-honor. Ahh, but this is a drama movie–the more angst the better.)

22.  Frozen Flower 2008 _she asks if he likes the rice cake

Tearfully she asks how the rice cake tastes to him.

The king guesses right that it was the queen who has sent Hong Lim away. She denies his accusations without turning her head to answer him. When she finally does so she gives him a venomous glare.Her child is threatened yet still she insists on Hong Lim’s safety. Hong Lim, successfully spirited out of the palace, turns back against his brothers wishes in order to get the queen, and his child, out of the king’s clutches. His brothers say he has nothing to give the queen anymore. He rides fast alone. The queen’s song plays. He stops. He is resigned. He goes back to a ransacked temple-hideout, his comrades missing.

23.  Frozen Flower 2008 _he admits that the rice cake is exquisite

He solemnly answers her that the taste is exquisite.

But then, how would I say anything about a king who has known the virtue of being in control all his life? Can his acts be justified in view of his insecurity and humiliation at not being capable of producing an heir? That, him being in this state, Hong Lim shouldn’t have spurned him? Did he really love Hong Lim? How many legitimate dimensions of love can one possibly talk about? He has lavished Hong Lim with gifts and attention—is this a proof of love? Whereas, Hong Lim, who has not had the privilege of choices at all, and who has been indoctrinated since childhood that his life belongs to the king, has only his integrity to give to the king—and this he did until the king initiated the triangle. Were the king’s consistent intents at forgiving Hong Lim’s betrayals proofs of love? Crazy.

24.  Frozen Flower 2008 _deleted library scene _the queen in servant's dress

A deleted scene, at the library. Hong Lim is wearing the queen’s embroidered head band. She sneaks out to meet him wearing her maid’s clothing. He is worried for her and she tries to comfort him.

Crazy to torture and kill the four brothers that protected Hong Lim, thereby supporting him and the queen in their quest for freedom from the king. Crazy to bait Hong Lim back by putting up the queen’s head along with the brothers’ on stakes at the palace wall. As Hong Lim declares at their swordfight, the king has “cut him to his roots”. The king is a bad loser. It happens to people. From where I am coming I hesitate at blaming the king here. I only know the story based on the characters’ faces and voices and on the dialogues translated into English (hehehe). I can only understand the story based on where I’m “coming from”, which is not of the ancient Goryeo worldview. Besides, the king can sing beautifully, too (it’s the actor’s own singing voice) 🙂 His song is as haunting and poignant as the queen’s.

If Hong Lim’s sword had not become broken at that precise instance then he and the king would have thrust at each other simultaneously. As the king impales Hong Lim he asks if he was, even for one instance in the past, an object of Hong Lim’s “love”. The latter answers “no” and “never”, and drives himself forward through the length of the king’s sword in order to thrust his own halved sword into the demoralized king’s torso. Thus, the king dies open-eyed, gazing at Hong Lim’s back.

The queen did the only way she could to ensure Hong Lim’s protection, and also perhaps avenge the deaths of so many people including her brother and her personal maid (whose head on the stake with the queen’s necklace Hong Lim mistook as hers): instigate the sub-chief at killing the maddened king, to “put him out of his pains” she tells him.

Fortunately for the sub-chief, Hong Lim is already on the process of doing the deed for him. The king is having a late night snack in his bedroom as Hong Lim enters and bows his final respects, which basically is a request for the king to get hold of his sword. (Hong Lim then unsheathes his sword—from some Japanese story I read I learned that this act is an indication of an intent to strike. Swords are valued and are not supposed to be drawn out unless they are intended for use.) He’s on his last mission at freeing himself from the king’s shackles. He’s about to perform the exact opposite of what he was programmed to do all his life: take the king’s life. His anger at the king is magnificent but subtly expressed.

24a.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the king says she'll have another man instead of Hong Lim

The queen is horrified at the king’s decision that another partner will be found for her. Rightly so. But by this time the king is now desperate to put a stop at whatever connection Hong Lim and the queen have.

He declares to the arrogant king (who shouts “castrated fool!” at him) that he has no fears anymore. Still, years of programming emerges as he feels a loss at having finally struck down the king. There is also that element of horror at having struck at a helpless man (this is against a warrior’s honor code), because the king, after hearing from the impaled Hong Lim that he had never been loved for even once by him, seemed to have let go of life itself simultaneous to his slightly slackened hold on the jade sword handle.

The sub-chief, aside from personal grudges, had to kill Hong Lim. His brothers behind him witnessed the treason: a trusted guard wanted for high treason has killed the king.

25.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim protects her by denying her plea

This, then, is the queen’s solution: that she and Hong Lim simply run away.

If during that meeting with the bodyguards moments ago the chief was not yet a “traitor” to them, now he clearly is. Moreover, they are not willing to put their lives in “unjustified” danger, though their faces looked unanimously aghast at the summary execution of Hong Lim by the sub-chief. (In fairness to them, the ones outside the building urged Hong Lim to leave the palace before anyone sees him. That is, they were still protecting him in his state of being wanted for high treason.) Would Hong Lim have lived even without that torso thrust?

26.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim is now the queen's all

Hong Lim, unlike the queen, knows that the king is capable of tracking them down. Moreover, something holds Hong Lim back from totally breaking out. Guilt, maybe, or the sense of honor, or responsibility. He is the trusted chief guard, after all, the most trusted by the person who is considered as equivalent to the kingdom, to the people. Many things hang on his neck and so he chooses to forsake his personal happiness.

The king had slashed at him several times before that final strike to the left breast, impaling him. That final hit was intended by the king to be a death blow, after all. Would his brothers have put aside the law and embraced him nevertheless at that hour of crisis? As Hong Lim staggered towards them his eyes seemed to say that he wanted to explain to them his side of the story, the reason why he did all this. It seemed he was asking the sub-chief to listen to him. When he was finally hit and was already falling his eyes seemed to say that he forgives the sub-chief, that he understands him and is without grudges against him, and that he accepts his fate.

The queen barges into the death tableau. She spots the king first and calls out “chonha”, perhaps not realizing yet that he’s already dead. Hong Lim’s resigned eyes light up at the sound of her voice. Her gaze shifts to him, already lying on his stomach and shaking in his last breaths.

27.  Frozen Flower 2008 _that thunderstorm night

This is the result of desperation. She nearly died. They were saying goodbye. The thunderstorm begins to rage. His feelings for her are too strong for him.

She screams his name repeatedly and struggles to go to him against the guards who are restraining her. As she is being forced away Hong Lim looks at her direction, silently saying that he would have very much liked to spring up and rush to her. The sub-chief commands that she be ushered out. Her voice fades as she disappears from Hong Lim’s view. His eyes briefly show elements of regret that, perhaps, they will be parted permanently now, and that, perhaps, a sadness that he cannot stay with her and their child anymore. Perhaps also an apology that he was not able to protect her, and won’t have the chance to do so anymore. When her screams are not heard anymore Hong Lim forcibly turns his head to the direction of the king, whose eyes already had that same dead look even before he died.

28.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the crucial library scene, thunderstorm raging

When reality catches up there are only two things possible, either to run away from it or to face it. They, each, decide to face it.

Did that turning of the head say that he loved the king after all? I don’t think so. He was already prepared to die before he discovered that the queen is still alive. He was already on the act of dying with his face turned towards the brothers that he grew up with, his family. When he sees that the queen is alive, what could have gone through his mind? Ultimate relief perhaps, for a treasure thought lost but is found again, and not only for this beloved woman but also for their child she carries.

But what about the last scenes of him and the king in the bliss of the olden days? As youngsters they had virtually pledged to each other that they would be together all through their lives. Ahh, but young children are highly impressionable and may be bound to change their preferences as they grow up. What about that dream of the king’s where Hong Lim as well was getting ready to shoot with the bow, in the manner that he requested for the king to re-depict in his painting? Well, the king was shocked when Hong Lim had slashed that painting. Whereas, Hong Lim wasn’t thinking about it at all, him being intent at just their sword fight.

29.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the queen & Hong Lim try to save the other

She does her utmost to save him.

The king, in between strikes, demands from him if love was really that important to him. Aha. The king has come to see that there is something that he wanted from Hong Lim but was not given to him.

30.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim declares it clearly

He does his utmost to save her.

 Hong Lim heatedly replies that he is thankful enough for the king in leading him to feel that same love. (Okay, so, in this context as he speaks, would this love have been for the king or for the queen? I was confused about the whole issue of who loved whom and so I tried to understand the story again. Based on this dialogue it’s clear that both meant that love which Hong Lim declared for the queen—this is based on his confession in the library, the one that made the king snap. Hong Lim had slightly straightened from his kneeling position and had fiercely reiterated, explicitly into the king’s eyes, that he loves the queen.)

31.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the king's madness starts

The king felt he was dying, and he chose survival. He embraces rage.

Hong Lim experiences something worse than death (he was shouting that he’d rather be killed). Though castrated and betrayed by the one he devoted his life to, Hong Lim was freed in his sexuality and in his personhood, even in just a short period of time for him to enjoy it all. Thus it is not only the king that controls a bow, as what the king at first depicted in the painting. He, too, has now a chance to shoot with his own bow, a freedom of choice and of decision making all by himself.

32.  Frozen Flower 2008 _Hong Lim begs for death instead

Not even once does Hong Lim beg for his life.

  Indeed, that happy scene with the king will forever remain as a dream because in reality the king will never consent to him a freedom of equal level. The king kept on trying to keep Hong Lim by his side until right before the time he impales him.

33.  Frozen Flower 2008 _the queen begs to punish her instead

The queen shares Hong Lim’s agony and is about to lose consciousness.

Hong Lim in his death is at peace with the thought that he will soon have a child who will carry life on for him. I think his last glance and tears for the king was a goodbye as well as an expression of gratitude for all that the king has given him–for the care, friendship, attention, generosity–, for having led him to find a kind self-affirming love with the queen and hence a sort of freedom, and most of all for not killing her and his child. It might also have been an apology for a misplaced rage that is supposedly the last straw for his decision at revenge, and a sadness at killing a person that he had for so long looked up to.

A deleted scene. Hong Lim forges a sword for his encounter with the king.

Perhaps there is also sadness at the pain that came to the three of them and at the senseless waste of many lives, of his brothers and the servants privy to the secret. It also seemed to say, “Ah, you’re also just a man, a powerless one, and what a pity that it all ends like this… I did wish you happiness but not the one that you kept forcing me into… at least now I’m free…”–I thought on this after noticing that his eyes had vitality until the queen was dragged away but after he turns to the right his eyes had dullness, peace, and resignation. I think he had started to cry as the sub-chief hit him. He would have died in his fallen position and not turned to the right had the queen not appeared. It seems like this last tableau brought harmony to the three of them for the last time.

35.  Frozen Flower 2008 _betrayals

As passionate their love for each other was so deadly their final clash was also.

Alas, the queen sees her beloved dying, and thankfully he sees her, only by forcing herself against the controlling power at that final moment: that event was only within the bond between the king and his 36 bodyguards. That’s why the sub-chief had to wrap up everything fast with everyone: it must be told that it was an assassin, and that they have eliminated him. The queen is not included in this bond. However, she is smart and is aware of all palace machinations. As an untouchable princess of Yuan and the queen of Goryeo, all alone now with her maid-companion also gone, she has at least the joy of having her own child. This child was born of a love that freed her and Hong Lim from fear. The king who had threatened the child’s well-being is now gone. Among her memories she will be recalling that time, on their last meeting, when Hong Lim told her to stay strong and take care of herself.

36.  Frozen Flower 2008 _freedom at a high price

This didn’t even happen in the king’s dream. Hong Lim was not aiming with an arrow then.

Ahhh… the king was really convincingly frightening here… He projects an aura of velvet-covered strength… I wouldn’t have wished him to be a real person… 🙂 This movie is not for the faint of heart with regards to issues of sexuality and the tragic consequences of controlling and uncontrolled “love“. The costumes, setting, and music are of top quality—i.e., a treat for the senses and are unforgettable for those who are not familiar with lavish settings of east Asia. I will certainly watch this movie again. I am drawn to the eyes of the three main characters. The king’s make me want to go for cover. The queen’s make me want to empathize with her in the depths of her introspection. Hong Lim’s make me want to first reach out and hug him and then go out free myself and live out life. Kaja! (still hoping to post some illustrations here…)

to dig is to see the surface

dogwood cutI wanted to get back to my roots because I thought that’s the only way to paint the correct picture. There’s so much to learn. It’s overwhelming. There are so many perspectives. There are so many desires and hopes and dreams. So many wishes. And plans. In the past. In the now. To do something. To prevent something. To participate. Be a branch. A hand. A leaf, even.

I have already started to dig. What I have dug. At each stage. I was struck by the passion, the convictions, the visions, the integrity of purpose I uncovered, between the lines.

Many sincere souls have already come and gone, and yet, the forces that they opposed still proliferate. Greed. Callousness. Hedonism. Pride and Self-righteousness. Exclusivism. Views that polarize. Mahatma Gandhi — we need what you had. We need the brilliance of your honesty. To self. To people. To life. You were like that Jesus who lived in Nazareth, the one who spoke what was needed to be spoken. The one who wanted people to listen to him, on what should be. But, Mahatma, Jesus, great souls, people still would choose to be deaf even when truth is already crying out loud.

I have already started to dig. But, my God, there is too much already buried underneath. How do I sift through all the rubble that are getting in the way? How do I piece together all the pictures, from below, from here, from beyond, from the not yet?

Pictures keep shifting, like shadows, like water, like light between trees’ leaves. The perspectives are kaleidoscopic. To mortals who aim for the absolute, it is hopeless.

I remembered the Garden of Eden, when God warned against eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Violators will die — be expelled — be separated from where the Tree of Life is. I tried to get hold of this part of the kaleidoscope for me. And I understood. My God, I understood.

daisyIt is this. That. Man is crazy to want to really get hold of THE KNOWLEDGE. OF. GOOD. and evil. This can’t be done. This is what we want, but this can’t be done. This will kill us. It will overwhelm our systems. It will crash the system.

If THIS absolute gets into our hands, it will OSSIFY the system. What will happen to the electrons? How will they spin? What will happen to the fractals? Can you imagine a world without fractals?

Clouds will not condense. We will have no rain. Water will not rise up to the tips of the leaves. What will the butterflies eat? There will be no more wind to shift.

I have started to dig. The base is deep and broad. As I dug, so I saw more — and this is the irony — that I had to uncover before I was able to start to see what already was waiting to be seen.

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