Drama Recaps
Jang Ok-jung, Live By Love: Episode 1
by | April 19, 2013 | 201 Comments

Jang Ok-Jung, Live By Love is well into its second week (and approaching its third), but nonetheless we’re taking a late peek into SBS’ newest history-rewriting sageuk, which promises to give a fresh take on the old story of one of history’s favorite scheming concubines and turn it into a rollicking tale of fashion and love. Maybe. Even if I’m not sure of the endgame, this first episode does prove intriguing, *if* you can swallow the alternaversion of history the show is presenting.

More than anything, I’m not really sure which side of the show I want to see more of and which side we’ll actually get more of, because when the pendulum swings from a runway walk-off to a harrowing suicide, my guess is that anything goes and everything’s game. Which could be really fun OR really terrible, depending on how you look at it.

This is just a one-time recap, and though premiere week has come and gone it’s worth noting that Jang Ok-jung was neck and neck with fellow competitor Gu Family Book for its first episode. It dropped in the second, and Episodes 3 and 4 have since dropped into single digits.


While the story of the infamous Lady Jang is somewhat well-known (since it’s been dramatized over and over and over again), it’s worth having a little background on a period in history this drama is attempting to subvert. And when I say little, I mean itty bitty and very bare bones. Here goes:

Our leads in this story are King Sukjong, who took to the throne at age fourteen in 1674, his second wife Queen In-hyun (his first wife died a year before, having married Sukjong when he was still Crown Prince at the ripe age of ), and Lady Jang, Sukjong’s royal concubine. She’s known in history for being sly and ambitious, so much so that history points the finger at her for the reason why King Sukjong deposed and exiled Queen In-hyun, only to have everything come full circle when Sukjong realized his wrongs and reinstated his queen at the cost of demoting Lady Jang.

The plot thickened when In-hyun suddenly fell ill and died, with the blame going to Lady Jang in a (still unproven) poisoning plot. In retaliation, Sukjong had Lady Jang executed by consuming – wait for it – poison. And they all didn’t live happily ever after.


In a room filled with all different types of hanbok (ceremonial, wedding garments, everyday outfits), our heroine flits from item to item, straightening out a norigae here or a binyeo (ornamental women’s hairpins, you’ve seen them in every sageuk ever) there. It’s like a boutique, only Joseon style.

As history will know her, she’s the future Lady Jang (or Jang Heebin, the latter used to denote her high status as a concubine), but we’ll go with what the title says and call her by her name: JANG OK-JUNG (Kim Tae-hee).

She receives a visit from the future QUEEN IN-HYUN (Hong Soo-hyun), though she’s not queen yet. We meet her before the official selection process for crown princesses, which happens to be why she’s looking for a show-stopping outfit – she’s got a king to impress.

Then we get a rather jarring quick-cut to the future, when Ok-jung and In-hyun meet face to face in the palace – though by now, In-hyun is queen and Ok-jung has been bestowed the title of heebin.

It’s back to the Hanbok Boutique, as In-hyun clucks her tongue at the rather risqué selections. The thought of not being selected as queen hasn’t even crossed her mind, so she’d rather stay safe and go more traditional. She leaves without buying anything.

Meanwhile, In-hyun’s maidservant/slave knocks over a mannequin and tries to escape with a stolen norigae, but Ok-jung catches her in the act, displaying benevolence when she decides to gift her the stolen item instead. The maidservant is happy to not have been punished, and declares that she wants to be just like Ok-jung one day.

And we see that “one day” in another flash to the future, where that maidservant is introduced as CHOI SUKBIN (Han Seung-yeon), the sukbin being another title denoting her status as a royal concubine. For ease of use, we’ll call her Lady Choi.

Our hero has his fortune misread by an old blind man, who claims that he’s a beggar. With a scoff, our hero informs him that he couldn’t be more wrong – he’s actually YI SUN (Yoo Ah-in) Crown Prince of Joseon and future king.

Ok-jung fastidiously prepares for what looks to be a Joseon fashion show, which is invitation-only to try and deter knock-offs of her designs.

Her mother, Lady Yun, beams with pride when she finds one of the invitations. The lord of the house and younger brother of the Queen Dowager, is kind to her despite her status as a slave, arousing the ire of his jealous wife, who doesn’t hesitate to slap Lady Yun once they’re out of his sight.

She reminds Lady Yun that her daughter Ok-jung is as much a slave as she is, despite receiving favor from her husband. After threatening to make Ok-jung perform traditional slave labor (rather than designing hanbok), she snatches the invitation and leaves.

Backstage at the fashion show, Ok-jung prepares her gisaeng models to walk the runway. I do have to give the show props, since this really does seem like a realistic Joseon adaptation of a modern runway, down to the makeup and hair details, plus the hustle and bustle of a live show.

Ok-jung knows her stuff, and changes this or that before sending models out on the runway, instructing them to accentuate a certain accessory or feature. The final show-stopping number is an ornate wedding gown (hwarot), which has all the young maidens squealing: “I want that for my wedding!”

Reports of the fashion show’s success reach JANG HYUN (Sung Dong-il), a cousin of Ok-jung’s father. Is that his happy face or his mad face?

Ok-jung walks out after the show like we see fashion designers do today, only the big difference comes when her mother’s snarly mistress dumps a pail of water on her in front of the attendees.

Needless to say, she’s pissed that her husband displayed favor for Ok-jung’s mother and has decided to take it out on Ok-jung, outing her as nothing more than a slave to the crowd (where previously Ok-jung could claim that she was a respectable niece of her rich uncle, Jang Hyun).

When that’s not enough, she has men chase away the spectators in order to wreck the show.

Meanwhile, King Hyeonjong (Yi Sun’s father) frets over how to please the Qing emissaries in attendance of a festival he’s thrown for them, though they only want to see the most famous geomungo (the traditional Korean black zither) player perform.

To that end, Hyeonjong has entrusted Yi Sun with the task of recruiting him, putting Yi Sun’s visit to the old fortune teller from the start of the episode in perspective, since he’d outed the old man as the famous artist.

One of the palace eunuchs tracks down PRINCE DONGPYUNG (Lee Sang-yeob), Yi Sun’s once-removed cousin, and begs him to play the geomungo for the Qing emissaries to help buy time while Yi Sun brings back the old master.

Dongpyung huffs and puffs at playing on such a cheap instrument, though he relents in the end. The emissaries take this as an insult since they didn’t sign up to see Dongpyung play, though Dongpyung ends up impressing them by speaking in their native tongue.

Meanwhile, Yi Sun urges the reluctant elder to play even if he can’t play like he used to because so much is riding on his performance – if it all goes well, Joseon can settle her border disputes with Qing.

There’s a malicious minister in attendance (isn’t there always?) who realizes how important the elder is to good relations with Qing, even though he seems to have a contingency plan in case Yi Sun were to convince him to play…

And lo and behold, Yi Sun and his caravan (carrying the elder in a palanquin) are attacked while en route to the festival by masked men. Yi Sun is fast on his feet and impales one of the attackers with his sword just in time to save the elder from a bloody demise, and soon it’s an all-out battle. (And no, I’m not really sure why we keep cutting to black and white.)

Yi Sun cuts his way through a line of attackers skillfully, but he’s not the target, and he finds himself too far to save the elder.

One of Prince Dongpyung’s geomungo strings snaps in foreboding as the elder is stabbed in the palanquin. The attackers fade into the forest, leaving a devastated Yi Sun as the last man standing.

Dongpyung recovers smoothly, while the scheming minister receives the secret word he wanted to hear – probably that the elder has died.

Ah, but it looks like Yi Sun out-schemed the minister when he shows up to the festival in his Crown Prince regalia… with the elder, alive and in tact, there to celebrate the alliance between Qing and Joseon. He seems to know which minister was behind the scheme and offers him a victorious smirk.

We see exactly how Yi Sun saved the elder in flashback, but it isn’t a pretty sight – two guards had packed themselves into the palanquin with the elder to act as human shields, so they were the ones who got stabbed and killed. All for a good cause though, right?

Yi Sun has a less-than-amicable meeting with the scheming minister, whom we find out is MIN YU-JUNG, In-hyun’s father. He chides Yi Sun on being too young to understand politics.

Yi Sun holds his own, but backs down a little when Minister Min alludes to a painful past event with the warning that Yi Sun should have already learned how dangerous authority without humility can be. He ends their conversation with an aside on how Yi Sun’s mother, Queen Myeongseong, keeps asking for his input in regards to royal family affairs.

We find Myeongseong with Minister Min as she discusses her son’s future marriage, and she makes it clear that she wants a bride from her Western (seo-in) political faction. To that end, Minister Min suggests his own daughter (future Queen In-hyun) since he’s groomed her to become queen all her life.

Yi Sun’s mother worries about the match because her son is no fan of Minister Min, so the sly politician suggests that they hide In-hyun’s identity as his daughter until she’s safely married to Yi Sun.

Meanwhile, Yi Sun and Dongpyung practice sword fighting, with the ever-chipper Dongpyung announcing that he’ll soon be wed to his favorite type of girl – a rich heiress. Hah.

Two court maidens come bearing letters for the two princes with regard to their matches, but they get mixed up along the way, so that Yi Sun gets Dongpyung’s letter and vice versa. (Translation: Shenanigans!)

Ok-jung tries to pick up the pieces from her ruined event, and in her quest to push sales through before everyone starts to cancel on her, she ends up signing on to deliver a message for one of her spoiled clients who slyly notes to her friends that Ok-jung is a slave, and therefore doesn’t count as a human being.

We find In-hyun being carried in a palanquin through the mountains as part of a plan organized by Queen Myeongseong to have In-hyun and Yi Sun “coincidentally” meet so he’ll think it’s fate. Unbeknownst to them, because the letters were switched, Prince Dongpyung is the one waiting for her instead of Yi Sun.

Her caravan is attacked by thieves (not sure whether this was also part of the plan), but Dongpyung sweeps to the rescue by using a cherry blossom branch to beat the attackers into submission. Service with a smile. D’aww, he’s adorable.

In-hyun and her maid don’t seem too shocked, which makes me think the attack was part of the plan. Dongpyung happily introduces himself to the fair maiden and mistakes her shock for her associating his name with his womanizing reputation, unaware that she thought she was meeting Yi Sun.

Yi Sun heads off to the date Dongpyung was set to have, though he meets Ok-jung instead. She wasn’t the intended date for Dongpyung, but was instead sent by her spoiled client to measure him for clothing, so all the misunderstandings add up to Yi Sun thinking that she’s his intended.

Ok-jung interrupts him before he can introduce himself, and his hard expression melts slightly as he asks, “Have we met before? You look very familiar…” He doesn’t mean it as a pick-up line, but it sure sounds like one.

She’s very direct, and instructs him to assume the position for measuring. Yi Sun thinks his mother ordered her to make clothing for him to see how well her future daughter-in-law could sew and acquiesces, leading to a moment that reminds me of the intimate clothes-measuring scene in Arang and the Magistrate.

Ok-jung’s client finally arrives to break the mood, and Yi Sun watches as Ok-jung acts subservient to her mistress before she’s off to make clothing.

Queen Myeongseong throws a fit when she realizes that Yi Sun went to the wrong place, but In-hyun is much more collected as she just shrugs it off. What’s meant to be will be.

Yi Sun and Dongpyung joke over the mixed messages that landed them in the wrong places, but Yi Sun is troubled Ok-jung – he knows he’s seen her before, but he can’t remember the details.

Ok-jung takes a chest of money to her mistress, providing the agreed-upon amount to buy her mother’s freedom from slavery. She’s taken aback when the mistress refuses it with a sneer, pointing to Ok-jung’s uncle, Jang Hyun, as the reason why her mother is still a slave.

So she goes straight to her uncle to demand an answer. She already guessed that he was responsible for ruining her fashion show, but she didn’t know he was paying her mistress off in order to keep her mother enslaved. So the big question is: Why?

Turns out dear old uncle Jang Hyun has been subverting Ok-jung’s attempts to buy her mother’s freedom in order to keep her from escaping to Qing with her mother, because he wants to keep her close in order to fulfill his own ambitions.

“Would you like to take over Joseon with me?” he asks, a gleam in his eye. She’s the only one capable of replacing his dead daughter, and he figures that her girlish wiles and his silver tongue will open any and every obstacle they’ll come across.

Ok-jung knows how her uncle works, especially since he made his late daughter into a palace maid, and firmly denounces him. She won’t become another pawn for him and makes that stance clear, though something tells me Jang Hyun doesn’t take “no” for an answer very often.

The sight of flowers outside her uncle’s house sends Ok-jung into a flashback, where his daughter, Hong-joo, told a young Ok-jung about the flower’s legend: A lovesick court lady, neglected by the king she dearly loved, died of neglect. The flowers grew in her place on the wall, where she would always wait to catch a glimpse of the one she loved.

Hong-joo tells the story with longing, sighing that such is the fate of a palace maid – if the king doesn’t like you, you die alone. Ok-jung asks if this is her fate as a court lady, only for Hong-joo to whisper a secret: She’s in love with a man, but not the king – and for court ladies, that was forbidden. Even if the king didn’t like you, you had to like the king. Forever.

Before she goes to meet her lover, Hong-joo gifts Ok-jung with a handmade norigae. Unfortunately, Hong-joo is later caught in her illicit affair with a palace prince, and it’s Queen Myeongseong who orders her to be made an example of.

And who should be the officer in charge of her interrogation but Minister Min, who even looks bored as Hong-joo is tortured. While her royal lover is free, she protects him by claiming that she was the one who did the seducing. And aww, her prince truly did love her, but any attempt to try and shoulder his fair share of the blame is rebuked by an all-too-eager Minister Min.

Jang Hyun scrambles to get enough money to bribe Minister Min for his daughter’s life, though his efforts are interrupted when his cousin (Ok-jung’s father) comes begging for Jang Hyun to free his wife from slavery now that they’ve got slave hunters on their tail. Jang Hyun is unmoved, since he blames his cousin for marrying a slave when everyone knows that any children he’d have would also be considered slaves.

A young Ok-jung looks Jang Hyun straight in the eye, and maybe he sees something there as he shows not-quite-kindness by letting them escape out the back door. It doesn’t get them far, but when Ok-jung and her family are cornered, her older brother chooses to sacrifice for the family in order to lead their pursuers away.

Jang Hyun visits his daughter in prison, and chides her for being caught – he sent her to the palace to get into the king’s bed. Despite his anger he promises that he’ll set her free, and brings his hefty bribe to Minister Min, who literally throws it back at him.

Not only is he angry with Jang Hyun for funding the Southern (nam-in) faction, he’s angry that Jang Hyun parades about like a noble when he isn’t one. Jang Hyun endures the degradation because his daughter’s life is on the line, but Minister Min is unyielding in his belief that class status comes before personhood. And Hong-joo isn’t a human being.

In jail, Hong-joo hangs herself. Her dad finds her while her body is still swaying, and holds her feet close through the bars. His grief ranges from near-hysterical laughter to agonizing screams.

Ok-jung’s father leads his family to the doorstep of his last remaining friend, only for his wife, Madam Kang, to answer the door since her husband is deceased. She sees their sorry state and invites them in as the slave hunters close in. Her son, HYUN CHI-SOO (future Jae Hee) helps.

The slave hunters break in anyway, and her father pulls out a last-ditch effort to stop them from dragging Ok-jung away – he used every penny he had to buy his own daughter and produces the bill of sale, which means that she’s not eligible to be taken since she’s already someone’s property.

This is a sobering moment for Mom, and we see it in her face. Her husband technically bought her daughter’s freedom but not hers, so in the end it’s she who’s dragged away while her husband and Ok-jung stay behind.

Ok-jung’s father is coughing up blood from being beaten, and Ok-jung stays dutifully at his side as he convulses, before he ekes out that she must find her mother and brother. He dies.

Jang Hyun plots revenge for his daughter with her lover, Prince Boksun, who’ll be next in line for the throne if Yi Sun disappears – which, of course, means treason.

He claims he’ll need seven years to raise an army, and asks for only one thing in return – Boksun’s promise that Jang Hyun’s last remaining kin will produce an heir to the throne. Now that his daughter’s dead, he’s got one eligible family member in Ok-jung.

Ok-jung stays up all night to sew her father’s funeral garb out of scraps of fabric she found in the room. Madam Kang marvels over her sewing skill in the morning, and while I get that this is setting up Ok-jung for her life in fashion, all I can think is that this kind of discussion is really inappropriately timed. Her dead father is lying right there, and you want to admire the girl’s needlework? Priorities, lady!

Her father’s funeral is the next day, but Ok-jung finds dearest uncle Jang Hyun waiting outside the threshold.

“Are you Jang Ok-jung?” he asks.


When the promotional materials for this show came out, claiming that they’d turn a figure commonly known in history as a villain into a heroine, I was half intrigued, half ambivalent. Artistic license is the lifeblood of the fusion sageuk (and I love me some fusion sageuk), but by taking such an (in)famous historical character and giving her a job in the Joseon fashion industry, this show is asking us to reconsider a lot. To that end, I can’t help but wonder… Why?

That sounds more existential than intended, but really it boils down to me not really understanding the aim of this re-imagining, since I found myself thinking that this sort of story would have found a better foothold if it had gone the completely fabricated historical route of a show like The Moon That Embraces The Sun rather than this middle ground that seems to have one foot in Sungkyunkwan Scandal‘s level of fun historical irreverence and the other in The Princess’ Man, which told a fictional story fully embedded in the backdrop of real history.

Namely, we seem to be going down a route where In-hyun is the true villain, all while making Ok-jung an innocent and maligned victim, though time will tell whether the show’s aim is to make a point that history did Ok-jung wrong, or whether this is all just fiction for the sake of fiction. Which is fine in its own right, but then why use such well-known historical characters to weave such a bizarrely different tale? (I suppose the opposing argument could be: Why not?)

Granted, this first outing makes for a difficult barometer when the plot really didn’t move forward, instead putting us in the present, fast-forwarding to the future, rewinding back to the present, then rewinding to the not-so-distant past before we chose to settle there. While this episode was a technical achievement that surpasses its time slot competitors (which is almost a given when the network overlord is SBS), in the scope of setting up an entire series, it wasn’t a structurally ideal first outing. At no point did it seem like this show was unsure of the story it wanted to tell, but it almost felt like there was some overconfidence going on behind the scenes – either the man behind the curtain was very sure that his audience would stick around while we trudged through narrative backstories for characters we haven’t yet been given a reason to really root for, or they just had a lot of backstory that needed telling and they didn’t know of any better way to do it than to just put it all out there.

It’s an unusual dilemma because drawn-out childhood backstories are ridiculously common in dramaland (and childhood backstories comprise my top vote for drama tropes I wish would disappear), and many dramas build their audiences solely on child actor labor before revealing the headlining stars. Here we were even shown the stars before delving into the backstory, as if the show wanted to reassure us that beautiful faces would be waiting for us at the end of it all. The problem is, as is a problem with many dramas that have childhood phases, the story was more compelling in the past than it was in the present, coupled with telling a very different tale tonally than its present counterpart.

The change in tone between the time shifts was handled well, but they still had a jarring effect, which is kind of how I find myself reacting to the first half of the episode. I can maybe buy Jang Heebin being reworked as a heroine. I can maybe buy King Sukjong as a swashbuckling, ass-kicking youth. I can maybe buy that a character like Prince Dongpyung even exists. But if fashion is such an important part of Ok-jung’s life that a little reminder had to be inserted even at the scene of her father’s death (“Your dad is dead, but boy, can you sew!”), I find myself feeling a little lost as to what this show wants to tell me about her. Right now I’m a stuck between two extremes: Is she a girl with strong moral fiber, or is she just really good at using fibers to make pretty outfits?


201 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Shaista Melora

    Thanks for recapping 🙂

    • 1.1 Shaista Melora

      I have watched till episode 4 and this is just my new crack. I see this more as romance story putting different perspective on historical figure Jang heebin. The chemistry between OTP just get me every time. Didn’t expect Yoo Ah In and Kim Tae Hee have such a good chemistry. Yoo Ah In as Crowned Prince Lee Soon just perfectly fits. I can’t wait for the next episode.

      • 1.1.1 mizzxtiffany

        I completely agree. This is my new crack! I’m really liking the OTP. I hope the preview for episode 5 comes out soon!

        • DTR

          I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I am enjoying this drama. And, No I am not a fan of any of the leads, actually after seeing the trailers I was sure I would hate this drama, a freaking Joseon fashion show. But then I actually watched the drama and thought it wasn’t that bad. That is not to say the drama doesn’t have faults. It does.

          Pros- surprising chemistry between KTH and YAI. Who would have thunk it. I was expecting another stale pairing ala KSH and Han Ga In from TMETS. But KTH and YAI actually look good together.

          Cons – the sageuk look is not a good look for most of the female cast in this drama. Maybe it’s the head shape. And also why the harsh lens, watching in HD exposes so many imperfections in the cast faces and why are they making KTH look so old in close ups. She is not that old.

          Regarding the ratings. I think Koreans are just not open to the re-imagining of a well known history villain as a misjudged hero. Plus, the drama did a poor job of explaining what the story is about in their teasers (this is where a vague teaser can be hurtful rather than helpful (Gu Family Book)). Also, a weak first 2 episodes, and the rest is history, most people abandoned the drama.

          Like I said the drama isn’t terrible. KTH is okay, YAI is nailing it and sad to see him in another possible flop. The rest of the cast is pretty forgettable at the moment.

      • 1.1.2 kay

        yup, of the 3 competing ones, this is the only one i’m watching. which was totally unexpected, since it was the one i was least interested in. this and nine are my current crack

      • 1.1.3 CadisDiRaizel

        I agree with you. This is also my new kdrama crack. Never felt this way since Lie To Me. hahaha. I love the OTP.

        • KookieCookie

          I really really think that DramaBeans should take the time to continue to recap this drama! I’ve read transcaps of this but dramabeans just has a special way of narrating as well as giving history or just an extra flare. If you have trouble with her being a designer, it’s really just used as something to advance the plot. The addicting parts of this drama start when Queen Inhyun is crowned. That’s when Jang ok Jung gets a wake up call. ;3

  2. joys

    i’m not quite sure about this drama. I love Yoo Ah-in in SKKS but in this drama i don’t love him, i don’t even know why

    • 2.1 carr

      I have the same dilemma~ I think it’s the facial hair!!! He just isn’t as sexy without it..

    • 2.2 Chizzy girl

      SKKS was a terrible drama..i never got around to understanding why people enjoyed it so much

  3. javabeans

    I liked this drama as a fantasy romance. I HATED it as a sageuk. My two sides are currently at war. I foresee that this will continue, which is why I understand the low ratings.

    • 3.1 momosa

      The fact that we know the real endgame makes it difficult to watch the love they might have had.

      Then again, history is written by victors. Love the possibilities portrayed here. Also like that Crown Prince is portrayed as strong & just person that fights back.

      • 3.1.1 Midori

        Maybe because I’m not familiar enough with Korean history I have no strong feelings or expectations of the historical people. It works for me as a fantasy saeguk & I’m way more eager to watch JOJ than GF.

        • Shaista Melora

          Same here. I didn’t watch Dong Yi and I’m glad I didn’t. I truly enjoy JOJ more than GF.

          • Bess

            Not for me. I don’t find JOJ enjoyable at all.

          • eny

            me too i love JOJ so far, i watch this drama because of the story n many beautifull thing in this drama, i’m not interested with Gu Family Book

          • Ginger

            I watch JOJ because of KTH, she ‘s so pretty but then I lost interest after first episode. Not gonna watch anymore, maybe when Jae Hee appears.

        • So3

          Same here – since I’m not familiar with Korean history I can simply watch this drama as a romance drama set in a past time. For a romance drama it’s doing decently I’d say. I guess this is also why at the end they picked the title JOJ, live by LOVE and not just JOJ.

    • 3.2 shepo

      i think this drama can be ‘swallowed’ better for foreign viewers because we don’t have an ‘attachmennt’,,

      but i think it’s harder for korean/korean descendant,,,

      • 3.2.1 ...

        agreed. i guess it would almost be like saying anne boleyn was pure and misunderstood and didn’t scheme to be queen. it’ll be a lot easier to go with the story if you don’t already know the ‘real’ history

      • 3.2.2 amel

        I must agree that JOJ will receive higher rating if they make this as fantasy sageuk. Just like Rooftop Prince. Some said that Prince Yi Gak is actually Prince Gyeongjeong (son of Sukjong and Jang Hee Bin) who died young. Or TMTETS.

      • 3.2.3 sur

        agreed for the people who grew up with the history its tough to swallow its like saying hitler was a very nice fellow who actually didn’t kill all those people it was just that the other countries conspiring against germany were doing it and conspired to put the blame on him
        i’m from india so here if we make a drama saying gandhi ji was actually bad i can guess how much ratings it will get and how fast its banned

    • 3.3 HJ


      Is it the alternate character interpretation that bugs you so or are the liberties it takes with history to blame?

      Would love to hear your thoughts about this drama in the future. 😉

    • 3.4 Annie

      Totally agree – I wish they took the TMETS route and dissociated this from history but then it would lose some of the pathos. Pretty conflicted rn.

    • 3.5 TS

      It’s Regency Romance transferred to Joseon. If you roll with it, then the politics are about to get really interesting. At least, I hope so.

    • 3.6 lenny

      I felt so bad also about the ratings, what really went wrong, here are some of my own personal opinions: 1-well basically in SK most of the viewers are ajummas and their numbers are very high that they controlled the ratings, so don’t ever trigger something in them that they loved so dearly…whom is Dong Yi-(it was already proven ..through ratings of course…that she is a very powerful character in the mind set of the viewers) so to deliver a scene wherein totally displaying her as a thief is a big no…..no…..no…(the writers should have to rethink again on how to portray JOJ as a heroine without damaging the image of Dong Yi (we can blame all the people in the court right, most of us hate them…) 2- honestly Yoo Ah In totally nailed it, however the writers are just wasting a very good raw talent by showing the scene again and again again ( for Pete’s sake we understood already that King Sukjong wants to have a son with JOJ, don’t try to make us all viewers feel that we are suffering from dementia to show every episode..gahhhhhh). That first scene was already very powerful and very strong but to repeat it again again, the first impression is slowly becoming very tiring to watch….
      3- again I will tell it based on my opinion, Kim Tae Hee portrays the character well and she totally nailed it also, but then again I don’t know but I feel that she has so much more to give but the scenarios are ruining all the momentum….

      Honestly, I am very scared about the upcoming episodes …I read that today for the upcoming episode 15 – Choi Suk Bin will be finally seen….and it terrifies me to the bones that it wil be the final straw of the show…her appearance will finally reveal if the witers learned their mistakes or they will just throw themselves on Han River…

      Very very sad….I’m keeping my fingers crossed…..

  4. jomo

    Ooooh! I do like some kick-ass youth King Sukjong because it is fun, and not typical.
    Mostly I like the way he looks at her, and I actually like the way she reacts to him in the tiny bit of time together.

    For those reasons alone, I am watching this show, but I haven’t gotten far enough to know if I like it.
    We shall see…

  5. ht

    I’m gonna watch this for the pretty. Thank you!

  6. missjb

    I really loveeee Jang Oh Jung compare to it’s competitor.
    The character has more depth…. And actually has substance

    I love it this time they make a suppose villain in histotic makws her a heroine this time. She an ambitious woman
    . She a refreshing heroine. Her chemistry with lee son is good and makes me root for them.

  7. Elfie

    I’m honestly just watching for HSH. I hope they don’t make her the villain, but from what I’ve watched so far it’s heading that way…. 🙁

    • 7.1 Shaista Melora

      I have a feeling that HSH will be a pity character. She marries the king for family honor, and the king doesn’t even love her. I foresee Inhyun will be hard on JOJ not because Inhyun is a villain but because JOJ takes her place.

  8. snow_white

    I have not started it yet…..any suggestions????

    Thanks for the recap..

    • 8.1 Shaista Melora

      Just go watch yourself. People have different taste so you’d better decide alone whether or not this one is for you 🙂

      • 8.1.1 minnie86

        I couldn’t agree more. Better to try.

        So far I enjoy watching this drama. Just finished ep.4. The drama is getting better and better in each episode. Fresh story and nice production. Love the chemistry between YAI and KTH. So cute.

        • snow_white

          that’s right…..I should give a try I guess….

    • 8.2 sur

      do you like history and its accuracy then don’t but most people don’t even like history so i would say watch you may like or not

  9. ilikemangos

    I’ve caught up to recent episode (4) and i can safely say that despite its flaws this OTP owns my heart the most as of now.
    Thanks for the first episode recap Heads!

    • 9.1 Conan

      How about the storyline? It needs to have a story first before aiming for viewers’ hearts.
      I watched it up to ep 4 and I can tell the producer did NOT pay attention to details which led to obvious flaws.
      It might get some viewers who like over-the-top touchy OTP or awkwardly doved-eye JOJ.
      How the hell could she laying on the rock neatly?
      What the point of calling the army base a secret camp when it’s so easy to get in?
      High-heels…speechless there.
      I will still keep an eye on it because I want to know how they can change lovable Dong Yi to a thief. I’d probably hysterically laugh-out-loud if they say that’s her born behavior.

      • 9.1.1 ilikemangos

        A well-written story is a well-written story.
        Sparkling chemistry with your co-star is not something that every show can create.
        You can still love watching the OTP to any show but admit that it’s not the greatest show out there.
        The political aspect of this show isn’t as intriguing or well written as with Tree with Deep roots or Conspiracy of the court, but it has heart with its characters and their relationships.
        There are some things that I find very likable, such as our king holding hands with crown prince, or queen in hyun not actually portrayed as outright evil. I can see how down the road she can actually turn evil due to her misdeeds SPOILER ALERT ie. her mom being poisoned or dad pushing her into a marriage she doesnt want to get into, or crown prince neglecting her. I can see how we’d predict dong yi and her to be the villains in this show but as of now (if you’ve watched until 4) the big villain in this show is daddio of in hyun.
        I think you’ve got to give more credit to this show in it’s portrayal of its characters. They’re not as flat as you’d think.

      • 9.1.2 ilikemangos

        Also, I’d like to add that in this episode dong yi mentioned that she also wanted to be just like Ok Jang when she grows up. Keep an open mind for a possible twist.. like Dong Yi not actually being loyal to In Hyun but switching sides to Ok Jang? Who knows.. I’m just keeping an open mind.

      • 9.1.3 Betsy Hp

        I will still keep an eye on it because I want to know how they can change lovable Dong Yi to a thief.

        And I want to know if Dong Yi’s understood personality is historically based fact or a commonly held myth. Because I do wonder about the accuracy of a history about women that doesn’t even recall their names. And myths are made to be turned upside down and inside out.

        That said, I can also understand not liking seeing a beloved character (myth or otherwise) turned bad or morally ambiguous.

        • HJ

          You can’t really trust those historical records with personalities. It is mostly a guess work at best and just plain fabrication for politics sake at worst.

          You can read between the lines and there are also different interpretations that historians make, but the only thing you can really trust are big facts. There have been many reinterpretations of history done by postmodern historians in the last few decades that question a lot of things in the historical records about Yeonsan, Sado, Lady Jo, Gwanghae, Jang Ok Jeong, Jang Nok Soo etc.

          You also have to keep in mind that Dong Yi was the mother of Yeongjo and because of that highly regarded. The whole “lovable” thing is just an expression many people got from the drama.

          • Betsy Hp

            I’m relieved to hear that! 🙂 Because I kind of assumed there was no real way to know what the personalities of these folks were like, but it was an assumption. (For all I knew there was a slew of diaries left behind for historians to pour through.)

            I had a big historical-view shakeup when I read “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel — and enjoyed the experience. (An understood villain was turned into a hero.) I figured this drama was doing something similar but wasn’t sure if they were working with similarly malleable ground. But it sounds like they are.

            I’ll also admit that my inner-feminist is always a bit on alert when a female figure is painted as a witch and a whore. Was she really? Or was there a reason for the men around her to attack her in the usual way? So I was curious about this take on a historical femme fatale. (Though of course, I’m coming at this with a really blank-slate — so I do see that I’m in a different viewing state than those with more of a background.)

          • Kiara

            The Joseon Annals was written in details, from the king’s daily activities to politics, state affairs, religions etc etc. The king was not even allowed to read it so he wont change the contents to his favor. If one of the historiographers was caught disclosing any informations from it the punishment was execution by beheading.

            I wouldn’t say that Joseon’s history was written by the winners or random historians. They were selected few and they took their task seriously or off goes their heads.

  10. 10 katy

    i like this drama , KTH is beauty without cosmetic touch ,
    very pretty , acting well enough with YA , great chemistry !

    this drama wil turn out ok , all the young girls are nice , honest girls …. but politic will turn them to the bad one , fighting to each other , more realistic than one too villain
    and another one too nice , just like Dong Yi .

  11. 11 Conan

    How about the storyline? It needs to have a story first before aiming for viewers’ hearts.
    I watched it up to ep 4 and I can tell the producer did NOT pay attention to details which led to obvious flaws.
    It might get some viewers who like over-the-top touchy OTP or awkwardly doved-eye JOJ.
    How the hell could she laying on the rock neatly?
    What the point of calling the army base a secret camp when it’s so easy to get in?
    High-heels…speechless there.
    I will still keep an eye on it because I want to know how they can change lovable Dong Yi to a thief. I’d probably hysterically laugh-out-loud if they say that’s her born behavior.

    • 11.1 Shaista Melora

      I think the scene is jumping (which is a flaw) and I presume she was laying there because of exhausted swimming to the riverside. And the place where she is stranded must be faraway from civilization thus secret camp is around. I didn’t notice she wore high-heels, which is too bad. Don’t expect that Dong Yi will be loveable because from the get go she’s already pictured as a sly thief.

      • 11.1.1 ilikemangos

        lol im guessing it’s just a shooting mistake on their part capturing KTH’s feet while she was running since we could tell she was wearing high heels. The production people said to keep in mind JOJ is a fushion saeguk.
        Some viewers were also complaining that they used mannequins even though it was clearly stated that this is going to be a saeguk with some modern flair.

  12. 12 Noemi

    After watching the first four episodes, I think my reaction is more along the lines of “Why not?”. I think I am actually more invested in the plot because it is such a heavily revisionist work rather than an entirely fabricated historical story. In my head I know how the story is supposed to end, so I am even more anxious to see what direction this retelling will take.

    • 12.1 Betsy Hp

      Ditto! 🙂 It’s like they’re taking this established, bare-bones framework and reworking the story within that structure. Because we know the structure (or can easily find it with a Wikipedia search) tension is already built in.

      So like the prince giving up on saving his pet bird after realizing the throne doesn’t have as much power as he’d thought… that scene had a frisson it wouldn’t have had if we didn’t have the endgame of this story hanging over our heads.

  13. 13 minnie86

    Thanks for the recap. This drama is much much better than my expectation, I could say. The story is doing better and better in each episode. I enjoy watching it.

  14. 14 jandoe

    Thanks Heads for this intro-recap to the show! I’m currently LOVING it, so cracktastic.

    Just a heads-up to everyone else – don’t write this one off just yet (unless you’re staunch about your sageuk being historically/etc correct), episodes 3 and 4 really up the interest and intrigue levels!

  15. 15 Francesca

    The clothes-measuring scene in JOJ is better than AATM, imo

    • 15.1 Kiara

      I disagree, Lee Jun-ki and Shin Min Ah had more natural chemistry than these two.

      • 15.1.1 Annie


        Yoo Ah In and Kim Tae Hee just look really awkward together for me.

        • Shaista

          Of course it’s awkward because that’s their first meeting. I wasn’t talking about chemistry, but the intensity which this scene gives more than AATM did. In particular note, YAI is showing a marvelous job in acting department~ being embarrassed and awkward and curious at the same time.

          • Annie

            Erm, I’m talking about chemistry as well.

            I don’t think they look good together but that’s just my opinion.

          • ran

            IA. i love that he’s so different when he’s with her lol

          • mickymoo

            Agreed with you. Just finished ep.4. I love the chemistry between YAI and KTH. So cute!!! YAI is showing his superb acting. Also, KTH is doing her best in this drama.

    • 15.2 Shaista

      Dang my long comment just disappeared thanks to my ancient celly! I just wanna say that I completely agree with you. I can feel the heat especially coming from the prince. He’s embarrassed and yet fascinated by this strange girl.

  16. 16 Rovi

    Just some info:

    Prince Boksun tried to organize a coup with the help of the privately-funded army under Jang Hyeon, but they were later outed. Both of them were later executed, Prince Boksun given poison and Jang Hyeon decapitated.
    And I know all this because these events were in the first 3 episodes of KBS’s 2003 version of “Jang Heebin“, where Kim Hye-soo was the titular role (Lee Bo-hee was Lady Yoon; they had to escape their relative’s house when royal guards came to find Jang Hyeon, and it was with Jang Hee-jae’s help they escaped to a safe refuge) and Jeon Gwang-ryeol is too old to play a supposedly 20-year old King.
    I’m a bit miffed and interested in that Jang Hyeon’s wife (Lady Kang?) is still the annoying bitch she is for mistreating both Ok-jeong and Lady Yoon when they were still under her auspices.

    Prince Dongpyeong is the one responsible for getting Jang Ok-jeong inside the palace and made a servant under Queen Jangryeol (Sukjong’s grandmother).

    It is interesting that this drama is putting the Min’s under a negative light, especially Min Yoo-jung who was Queen Inhyeon’s father. Though this recap made no mention that Jang Hee-jae is currently in Qing at the moment…

    • 16.1 Arawn

      Wait… You know all this because of another drama you watched? You do realize that drama was fiction just as much as this drama is? I tried to find information about prince Boksun, but couldn’t find anybody with that name at least in any English site. So WAS there ever such a rebellion? There are no mentions about it in king Hyeonjong’s biography (Sukjong’s dad so he would have been the king at the time of rebellion). Of course it possible that information on English sites is too scarce so if anybody has better knowledge of Korean history, I’d be interested to hear.

      However, I wouldn’t consider a drama to be a trustful source of information about real historical events. Jang Heebin was probably almost as fictional as this drama airing at the moment if not for any other reason than simply because we just know so LITTLE about the lives of these people that if you want to make a drama about it, you have to invent a lot just by yourself.

      • 16.1.1 Rovi

        Well, yer. Usually historical dramas, even if not accurately true, will insert events that really happened.

        Well, you can’t find information about him at all at English sites. All I can find is that Prince Bokseon is the son of Grand Prince Inpyeong, who is Hyojong’s younger brother (their father is Injo, King during the two Manchu invasions of Korea).

        In 1680 (Sukjong’s 6th year), Prince Bokseon, along with his brother Prince Bokchang, Nam-in leader Heo Gyeon (and in 2003 “Jang Heebin, Jang Hyeon), plotted treason, and with the private army mentioned in this episodde, planned an unsuccessful attempt to dethrone Sukjong.

        This resulted in a purge, in which 2 leaders of the Nam-in (Southerners) were accused by the Seo-in (Westerners; led by Kim Seok-ju). The aftermath was that the Princes were executed by poison (sasa), and in the 2003 version, Ok-jeong witnessed how his uncle was executed by decapitation.

      • 16.1.2 Jacqueline Patrick

        Even though, I personally enjoyed Dong Yi though I knew not everything was true. The plot enhanced it the more the dramatization was just perfect.

        Starting from Dong yi to Yi San to Secret Door and now Jang Ok Jung. Well altogether this was a pleasant joy ride.

        Talking about Sukjong he was a man, atleast i think so.

        Thanks for the recaps!!!

        The events add up somehow and the characters are lively at that. Altogether it one of the dramas you can enjoy watching. The first queen really fit in her part well. Seriously I liked Ok Jung in Dong Yi better.

    • 16.2 Betsy Hp

      I’m a bit miffed and interested in that Jang Hyeon’s wife (Lady Kang?) is still the annoying bitch she is for mistreating both Ok-jeong and Lady Yoon when they were still under her auspices.

      The woman who owns Ok-jung’s mom is not Jang Hyeon’s wife. (As far as I can tell he’s a widower — since his wife didn’t even appear at the imprisonment of their daughter.) She’s being paid by Ok-jung’s uncle to ruin Ok-jung’s attempts to raise money and to keep her mom a slave.

      • 16.2.1 Rovi

        It’s not the same person?

        I was searching, and damn, right, Lady Kang isn’t Jang Hyeon’s wife; it’s Lady Lee. XP

  17. 17 soyoung

    I watched the first few episodes and despite the beautiful cinematography, the story itself fell short. I was hoping that for once this wasn’t a “childhood first love” story and then it became one. For pretty much no reason at all. I think the childhood scenes could have played out without the random first encounter between Jang and the King. I think Jang could have become independent of a man without being betrayed.

    I’ll be honest though. The most glaring flaw to this drama (aside from the plot holes and ridiculous re-imaginings) is Kim Tae Hee. I’m a bit biased since I’ve disliked her as an actor since the early days when she was in Stairway to Heaven. This drama however solidified the flaws in her acting. She constantly has this grimaced mouth-slightly-open lost look any time someone is talking to her or she is troubled. I can’t stop seeing it nor can I stop overlooking it. I hope I’m not the only one who sees this any time she’s on the screen.

    In any case I’m dropping this drama until it finishes its run. Hopefully it ends better than it began.

    • 17.1 Elfie

      I agree, KTH is really ruining it for me too. I was so excited for YAI and HSH, and I was anticipating KTH since I had never really seen her act before and I am really disappointed to see that her acting really is lackluster, she really makes the drama drag. I really hope I can finish this drama but then again there’s always Gu family book!

  18. 18 KStyle

    I’m in love with Jang Ok Jung and it gets deeper with each episode. I’m like Gu family book who?

    I have found my Kdrama crack and my dealer betta come correct!

    • 18.1 Bess

      For me, it is the complete opposite. JOJ what ??

    • 18.2 freds

      Agree. GFB nugu??

    • 18.3 Geez

      JOJ nugu ???

  19. 19 KimYoonmi

    … Jang Hee Bin died and then In-Hyeon’s watermaid (Choi), (portrayed as Dong Yi, though I couldn’t find the listed name) attracted the King with her crying over her dead mistress, so he slept with her and then she bore the King. But wait, Hee Bin had a son, who died early on. And the King in RL got bored with Dong Yi and went on to take two more women as concubines. He also took another wife after In-Hyeon died as Queen who adopted the Water Maid’s son.

    The Watermaid’s son (Yeongjo) was eventually throned and gave birth to a crazy son who was locked up in a chest to die, which was twisted by Yi San, who should be grateful, because the Lady Hyegyong they made all evil in that, just turned out to be the one that gave the primary source material for the whole affair. (Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong, which you can buy and read. She liked Concubine Choi…)

    =P I went Korean history hunting.

    Who won? Sukjong. He got his heir and was able to get 5 more consorts after Choi. Also got to marry 3 times. Plus he didn’t stick around long enough to see that his grandson turned out to be a nutball.

    • 19.1 ilikemangos

      Sounds like even history had its fair share of k-drama makjang scopes.

    • 19.2 avonmarissa

      I have read the translated Memoirs by Jahyun Kim Haboush. Very interesting stuff and certainly pointed out the ‘errors’ in the drama, Yi San, although I did enjoy the drama.

    • 19.3 Arawn

      I don’t where you read about history but at least according to wikipedia, Jang Heebin’s son did not die young but inherited the throne from Sukjong. He died at the age of 36 having ruled 4 years and was followed by Dong Yi’s son.

      Dong Yi’s mistress was queen Inhyeon, NOT Jang Heebin. Also, Dong Yo became royal concubine a way before Inhyun and Hang Heebin met their fates because her son, future king Yeongjo, was born in 1694 and both Inhyeon and Jang died in 1701.

      About the second chapter, I pretty much didn’t understand what you were trying to say. Sorry. 😛 King did have a “crazy” son, prince Sado, who was put into a box to die and Yi San became the next king. However, Yi San was son of the said crazy prince so I don’t quite see why he would’ve wanted to twist anything – it doesn’t sound plausible that a son would want to blame his father of being crazy because it might cast doubt on the son’s mental capabilities, too.

      Lady Hyegyong you mention was prince Sado’s wife who did wrote memoirs. However, you have to remember that her memoirs, although a superbly interesting historical document, cannot be taken as a reliable source of actual events. It’s HER opinion of what happened and who were these people, but as with all memoirs, she has probably whitewashed some things, left others from her book completely, misunderstood a lot of things and may have even plainly lied about things. So even though her memoirs are a valuable source of the life in Joseon court, it cannot be taken as a face value.

      • 19.3.1 KimYoonmi

        Might be me, but isn’t 36 really young? O.o;; I feel old. You teenagers are middle aged then. Even in Korean years that’s young, since people used to celebrate the 75th birthday as a big deal.

        I also quote: “In-Hyeon’s watermaid (Choi)” There is no evidence for her “real” name that I’ve seen either. Just portrayed as “Dong Yi” in a drama. Posthumous name, yes, though.

        Why would a son want to vindicate his father for not being crazy? Maybe because he’s about to become King, and having his father *not* be crazy is a stake for being able to take the throne smoothly. Also because he was directly politically against his mother, historically. Since his mother allowed the death of his father, politically, he needed to turn over the idea that his father was crazy and she was the epitome of everything that symbolized that as true. So he took out her relatives, in an effort to blame her and say she made it up because she was a lowly woman. He also was said to take out witnesses as well… so That’s an iffy argument you have going. She’s pleading for her father’s and relative’s lives, and he’s trying to erase evidence… (And she didn’t write this in the memoir. It was in the notes about the context)

        Why does his son favor his grandmother instead of his father? (which is historically true?) Probably because she’s out of the political sphere and all of her relatives are gone.

        The memoirs, if you actually read them, were written to her son and to her grandson respectively as long, long letters. She was arguing to each that her relatives should not die and to forgive her husband and her father in law because the things he did could not be helped.

        She listed quite a few OCD symptoms plus some psychopathic tendencies (such as sleeping with women and then killing them). I would think that the historical records from that time are well-known. It wasn’t *just* for the uprising against his father, but other transgressions as well that he was killed.

        Korean here. I can deal with one of the Princes being crazy. It’s far more convenient for Yi San if he isn’t.

        • KimYoonmi

          You can argue sociopathic tendencies from the lack of impulse control too and how strict Sado’s father was with him. (I think Sado seriously needed his father’s hug and love.)

          But then, he may have been born that way, which would make him a psychopath.

    • 19.4 TS

      Aargh, I hate how how Sado was executed. So cruel.

      • 19.4.1 KimYoonmi

        Poison was considered below the standard for royalty. And execution by sword was out of the question since spilling royal blood was a crime against Heaven.

        Starvation in a chest was the only option left… which is cruel, but given that the rules of neoconfucianism was breathing down their necks and it got a lot more strict in Sukjong’s time as King, (you can blame him for this). That was the only option left for execution…

        In another words, you can kinda blame Sukjong for how his grandson died. (inadvertent as it was)

  20. 20 Shiku

    There are some scenes that are eyeroll worthy because of the lengths they are going to make Jang Ok Jung, the sympathetic heroine. I mean she is bloody perfect, she doesn’t get mad at the mistress ruining her show (causing her to experience a lot of losses) or her uncle for keeping her mum a slave. She just takes it and moves on to her next job. The kids fighting sword dance was so cheesy and the ending scene of ep 4 was laughable so she was feeling pain in her heart because he had to choose a crown princess? It wasn’t even the ceremony yet and she still barely knew him (even though they met as kids for a few days, and spent a few days together as adults.
    The good thing about the show is how they write the villains as real people with a good side and a bad side. I also like YAI as the crown prince. I like his voice and his charisma on screen so I will probably watch till the end.

    @Headsno2 Have you watched Cruel Palace? It doesn’t have the annoying children background intro.

    • 20.1 ilikemangos

      *spoiler alert
      I think you misunderstood the last scene of ep 4. The scene of her clutching her heart wasn’t because of crown prince lee soon but because of her inability to free her mother from slavery despite her constant efforts. I can see how it’d get confusing but it’s just a matter of paying attention to the details. Ok jang doesn’t know the guy she’s smitten with is crown prince. Therefore, she doesn’t even know he’s currently choosing his crown princess. Also, she already got slapped back to reality earlier on in the episode while overhearing him talk with the general guy where crown prince says he prefers a woman with higher class.
      Anywho, i like how right now, ok jang’s main priority is freeing her mother and moving to Qing, with no desire to fall in love and get married. She’s a strong woman with passion, which i def. admire her for.

      • 20.1.1 ilikemangos

        “She just takes it and moves onto her next job”

        I always believed Ok Jang cared more than anything to provide good service, and with that, gain money. Money could get her and her mother places. When you’ve got higher priorities you learn to just suck it up and keep moving. Life keeps going. It’s not like in k-dramas where the heroine is your typical candy, hardworking, sort of helpless, weak. Ok Jang has proved herself countless times through her interactions with other people other than her customers that she isnt a force to be reckoned with.
        Ok Jang understands that opening her mouth for the sake of justice isn’t going to get her places. This is the joseon era. Just simply talking rudely to the noble can result in you getting beaten 60 times, tortured, or even hanged. In that case, you’ve got to weigh your options.

        • Shiku

          She doesn’t have to open her mouth and say something. She can go in her room throw things around, or show her getting angry by herself. She could then get her emotions under control and do what she needs to do. I fail to believe that she can calmly speak to her uncle after finding out he has thwarted her many attempts to get her mum free. She should show flaws because right now they are writing her like a Mary Sue.

          • ilikemangos

            I don’t understand.
            You want her to show even more anger; it’s not enough?
            Where were you when the joseon loan sharks came into her studio and ransacked her entire place?
            She clearly threw the deed onto the floor and told them to get the hell out. Often times when she’s talking to her uncle she doesn’t look to pleased.
            She’s in no way a mary sue if you actually pay attention to her character. Perhaps it’s because KTH is not the greatest actress out there, or perhaps it’s only been episode 4. But i believe it’s too son to paint her a mary sue.I’ve seen even nicer, weaker, hardworking candies. I think you’re being too picky right now.

          • Betsy Hp

            So you want Jang Ok-jung to be a more emotional character — and that’s fine. Personal tastes and what not. Personally though — I like that she focuses on her goals and pushes towards them. She’s smart and driven and not at all childish and I love that about her.

            Her goal wasn’t a successful fashion launch — it was raising the needed funds to free her mom and get the hell out of Dodge. So when her low status gets outed and her customers pearl-clutch and flee, she wastes no time scavenging what she can. (Because she has no time to waste getting hysterical in the corner. She has to make what sales she can before her popularity totally sinks.)

            And I don’t need to see her gnash her teeth and curse her Uncle’s name. I want to see her confront her Uncle like a self-controlled, intelligent adult. Because she’s had to have fought her way up already to have held her show in the first place. I would have rolled my eyes a bit if she couldn’t handle setbacks. Especially a setback that exposes more of the game to her. (It’s harder to beat against shadows and she’d obviously suspected something was going on to make the leap to her Uncle bribing the lady of the house.)

            But I adore chess-players. Those are my kind of characters. And I’m thrilled that we’ve got a female character playing the game. So for me she’s by no means a Mary Sue — she’s just an awesome character. I hope they keep writing her as strong and capable as they have been. Because she’s heading for some deep games indeed. (And I loves it!)

    • 20.2 Shaista Melora

      You got it wrong. The scene where she’s clutching her heart is after she meets her mother. She is devastating after loosing in the military uniform bid. Because that means she has to fulfill the bargains she made with his uncle, that is to becoming Prince Boksun’s woman. Besides, she didn’t even know yet that he’s a prince.

    • 20.3 shiku

      Well they should have edited those 2 scenes properly because the way they juxtaposed those 2 scenes together seemed to make the two related.

      • 20.3.1 Shaista Melora

        Maybe the PD thought that the logic that she doesn’t even know he’s a prince, it’s working.

      • 20.3.2 ilikemangos

        You should know by now k-dramas never have clear-cut cliffhangers or endings after every episode. Some shows love juxtaposing and even confusing us a la Nice Guy
        Us viewers have to fill in the blanks. Usually it is followed by an explanation or back-tracking in the beginning of the next episode.

        • Shiku

          Well first of all I don’t I appreciate your tone in the first paragraph ( it comes across like you are too dumb to put 2 n 2 together maybe it wasn’t your implication but that was how it came across to me anyway). Secondly, this is a different show from Nice Guy with different editors, directors, etc, so you can’t apply the was they used to end episodes to this show. Thirdly, the intent of the director/editor in this scene was to show that JOJ’s heart could sense betrayal as Sookjong was marrying someone else! Which is a stretch imho.

          • ilikemangos

            I apologize if my comment offended you or sounded off-putting but it seemed like you were docking this show some points in areas i thought i could give my 2 cents on or argue against. I like to be thorough with my explanations, which is where you probably thought i was saying you were dumb. It wasn’t my intention.
            Anywho, i used Nice Guy as an example, not at all as a comparison purpose. They have completely different directors, writers, production team, even genre-wise. What i was trying to say was that two seemingly different scenes could have an effect on the audience in different ways or juxtapose. There are alot of shows that have weird editing even in cliff hangers. It might not be your cup of tea(just get to the point already, stop confusing us), but that last scene i thought was more ambiguous not really a flaw. Either way I found that the cliffhanger is the least of this show’s flaws. That’s just my opinion.
            What i like about dramabeans is that people can come here and voice their thoughts/feelings/opinions without having to worry too much about people bashing them with incoherent thoughts, cause we’re all here just to share our k-drama addictions.

      • 20.3.3 missjb

        Nah… I’m too feel at the end of episode 4 it’s weirdly edited… For me her crying scene is abit out of place also. Because I felt based on her reaction in previous scene with her mother, she seems so strong and can handle her emotion for facing it. Maybe we can got more clue at epi 5.

      • 20.3.4 Betsy Hp

        @shiku: “Well they should have edited those 2 scenes properly because the way they juxtaposed those 2 scenes together seemed to make the two related.”

        They are related. Our two leads are following the same emotional through line — struggling to free themselves from the controlling grip of the powerful man trying to keep them as puppets.

        The prince made his desperate — not a winning, but at least not a losing — move by choosing the best of bad options as his bride. Ok-jung is making her desperate move to just grab her mom and make a run for it. They’re both treading water here.

        But again, it’s an emotional connection (what they’ve had from the get-go) not a plot or even goal connection. As of right now, while they’re both trying to achieve a similar feeling thing (freedom), their actual practical goals are not related.

        • ran

          IAWTC. that’s why i’m so into this show.

    • 20.4 HeadsNo2

      Just recently started Cruel Palace (War of the Flowers), and am really enjoying it so far. Hell of a way to start a series, so props for that.

      • 20.4.1 Kiara

        Very few people here will appreciate War Of The Flowers. Thats what a sageuk ought to be, from writing, directing, music, with a production team that knows what the hell they are doing. Everything about that era is well done because the writer did his homework and it feels like a sageuk.
        JoJ is a laughable wanna be sageuk. I agree with JB, it should have been just a fantasy romance and thats it’s main draw.

        • Lilly

          Yes and Gu family is a disaster

          • Kiara

            Well it depends on what you are looking for. I enjoyed Arang so I do have a soft spot for GFB. I loved the first episode, not so much for 2nd eps but eventually I’ll go back and watch the rest. It is what I expected it to be so it isn’t a disaster to me. I didnt expect it to be on the grand level of CP.WOTF beccause its not a conventional sageuk based on real history.

            As for JOJ, I hoping KTH would own this but sadly, I foresee YAI carrying this show to the end.

          • Shiku

            I personally think YAI is already carrying the show. They might as well rename the show after him since he us like the center of everything on the show.

      • 20.4.2 ilikemangos

        Just watched pilot episode of Cruel Palace yesterday and was really impressed with everything. Was disturbed(not in a bad way) and it was only the first episode. The show, like kiara mentioned, is well-done in everything it has to offer.
        Sure, JOJ isn’t even comparable to a show with such standards, but it’s got that cracktastic feel that draws people in. I will be tuning into both, along with GFB for the laughs.

        • Jacqueline Patrick

          Well I think cruel palace is good yes, but then at one point I think it dragged a bit.

          I think it is because i was expecting more in the latter episodes.

          Anyways it was fun to watch.

      • 20.4.3 DTR

        Now that is a well done sageuk. I commented somewhere else that Cruel Palace reminds me of old sageuks, not this current trend of fusion sageuks that no one knows where the sageuk begins and the fusion ends.

        The opening scene of that drama alone and the subsequent bow scene were so well done. The attention to detail… the scale of the whole thing reminded me more of Chinese Historical than the Korean ones (who seem to have an aversion to extras).

        regarding JOJ, I too wish they had just gone with full fiction, then the story might not be handicapped by some of it’s current issues.

        • Lizzie

          exactly what i thought, the scenes remind me of the old Chinese dramas

      • 20.4.4 KDaddict

        I love Cruel Palace. Also End of the World. And Childless Comfort before them. My 3 favorite shows so far this year. All on jTBC. So jTBC really gets my attention now.

      • 20.4.5 Shiku

        It started with a bang- totally unexpected! This show is seriously good!

  21. 21 Francesca

    Forgot to add: I love how this drama picturing the relationship between King and his son. Their compassion toward each other can beat the OTP.

    • 21.1 ilikemangos

      The hand holding scene was toooooo adorbs. I replayed it.

      • 21.1.1 Francesca

        Hi five! Father-son relationship here gets my heart bleeding.
        Hey I think I saw you in Koala’s Playground 🙂 IMO it’s nice that DB provided a one time recap for JOJ because they have different sentiment. So it’s useless to recap something they don’t enjoy. For thoroughly analysis I’ll just stick to Koala’s Playground.

      • 21.1.2 lenny

        holding hands scene in the tailor’s chamber – yes correct that was so amazing, the chemistry between kim tae hee and yoo ah in was overflowing aside from the fact that they are doing that secretly in a room full of court maids.

  22. 22 KDaddict

    I’ve watched up to ep 4.
    I found the 1st 2 eps rather uninteresting. I was ready to give up, but fell upon ep 3 by mistake, thinking it was GuFB. YooAI’s performance in ep 3 hooked me, n I went back for more. I find his acting greatly improved since SKKS. I skipped FK, thank goodness.
    To me, the 1st 2 eps are uninteresting becos they try to do so much, FF into the future, go back to the past, go fwd again. The multiple time shifts don’t give a viewer time to react to the chars in ANY of the time periods. Then there is the presentation of JOJ as this ‘genius’ fashion designer, which just seems to me odd n discordant w the tragic and serious setting. My complaint is that they fail to set a tone in 2 eps.
    As for the storyline, the struggle between the seo-in and nam-in has been mentioned multiple times, but it is somehow un-engaging. The Queen and evil minister are actively plotting to build advantage for seo-in. Prince 2nd-in-line and JOJ’s Uncle r in the opposing camp. Why should I care which side gets the upper hand? There is no justice, no cause involved, other than their own selfish ambition n greed. I love sageuks for their historical backgd. When I care abt the political struggle in that period, and the ppl involved in the struggle, as in The Princess Man, I can root for them and love the show whole heartedly. With a court power struggle that fails to get me interested, n the ‘contestants’ on both sides equally repugnant, there is only the OTP to care abt, n the show becomes so much less in my estimation.
    I’m watching for YooAI. Up till ep 4, I frequently get bored n get up when he is not onscreen. I’m waiting for it to improve in coming eps.

    • 22.1 Francesca

      I loooove Princess Man. But there’s a flaw that I can’t stand: the plan to kill the king that keeps failing just because the same simple mistake. I pulled my hair for that because they keep repeating the mistake like they didn’t learn anything. And as for YAI, I couldn’t agree more with you. I can just watch him for hours, and many times I feel this story is about him (Prince Lee Soon) and not about JOJ. It’s like pushing KTH to the back and pulling YAI to the front.

      • 22.1.1 KDaddict

        I agree re the repeatedly failing plan to kill the king in TPM. I guess in my love for that drama, n w intervening time, my mind has pushed it to the periphery of my consciousness.

        • sur

          haha same here that is my favorite saeguk and nothing absolutely can beat that and in TPM’s defence they couldn’t kill the king because he didn’t die in the real history so they didn’t change the history. according to me that is what TPM did best how they built the story around the history without changing any facts. in real history su yang’s daughter actually ran away from home after learning what he did with her uncle’s family and the timeline in the story was a little changed because su yang’s daughter was actually kim jong seo’s grandson’s age

  23. 23 Kelinci Biru

    If there’s anything I learn from watching Game of Thrones is this : history is in hand of the person telling them or the one with the power to tell them. Arya Stark will be told as the one who attacked Joffrey, he won’t be known as the coward who let a girl take his sword.

    Naturally, now, I don’t really believe in history. So I welcome a story like this, telling story from a different point of view. I just hope it won’t be too hard for me to differentiate the real history and the fake one.

    • 23.1 Arawn

      Exactly. We do not know if the Jang Heebin was the villain and if the queen Inhyeon was this sweet poor victim as they seemingly are often portrayed. We really don’t know much about their personal lives at all.

      I wouldn’t say I don’t “believe” in history – it’s not like it’s religion, after all – but I do try to take things with grain of salt. There are things that are more certain (like birth dates, for example) and then there are things that we don’t know about (like what kind of a person Jang Heebin was).

      • 23.1.1 Midori

        I agree with you. Most people are not all good or all bad. The circumstances and how we react to them can be interpreted in many ways. Maybe Jang Heebin was all about her ambition but she probably thought she was doing the best she could for herself and her family.

  24. 24 sally_b

    Alrighty then…. just marathoned the first 4 episodes and frankly…the film editing has me scratching my head.

    It seems so herky jerky — from scene to scene without proper segues. I feel constantly reminded that it’s a FUSION drama because of the absurd amount of *suspension of disbelief* required. Just when I’m sort of lulled into the Joseon theme – WHAPPAKK! there are characters giving each other high-fives. (scratches head some more)

    However — it’s not unappealing, which is an odd reaction, because I’m not even very impressed by the senior actor’s performances.

    Can’t quite put my finger on why I don’t ‘dislike’ it. Perhaps it’s because it’s … different. (?) Whatever it’s cloaked-charm is — I’m likely to keep watching ~

    THANKS HEADSNo2 ! (you gonna recap the whole thing?)

  25. 25 ran

    “Here we were even shown the stars before delving into the backstory, as if the show wanted to reassure us that beautiful faces would be waiting for us at the end of it all. The problem is, as is a problem with many dramas that have childhood phases, the story was more compelling in the past than it was in the present, coupled with telling a very different tale tonally than its present counterpart.”

    huh? I hope you can at least watch to ep2. Because the childhood portion here is short but poignant in its way. You have the innocent parts, then you can see those kids face with their first life challenge. They didn’t delve on a first love, they move on. In fact they chose to forget it in the end. and that’s what made it to me. LS realized his responsibilities through the cruel reality of the king’s power. JOJ knows she has to count on herself to save her mother and find his brother. She doesn’t fancy on romance or some guy to come save her. And i like that they didn’t start with the childhood part first, it’s refreshing. in no way i think it’s because they want to reassure us with the pretty faces coming. i’m taken aback u mention it O_o

    I don’t watch many sageuk so i can’t really compare. what i like about JOJ is how the politic is simple but not simplistic that insult my intelligence. the villains are well developed with layers and their intentions are all different and make sense. From the beginning, JOJ LIL is no fluff, it doesn’t even try to go that way, i feel they know what they want to portray because so far i have a very solid base of every single character. They all have their stories, worries and ambitions that together they create an universe that intrigues me and feels alive to me. Not to forget the romance, though so far it’s not the thing that dictates our leads mind or decisions. Their attractions/feeling for each other are there but they don’t forget about their own problems, which i appreciate. we have a (future)king who thinks about his nation and actually does sthing for it. and a heroine who doesn’t give up hope that someday her family reunite, and she will achieve her dream to be the best dressmaker. Isn’t it great to have an otp who have goals in their life beside love? it’s a yes for me.
    I can’t wait to see its development in future eps.

    • 25.1 Mira

      Yup, your words are brilliant~

  26. 26 KDaddict

    HeadsNo2, Dramabeans,
    Thank you for one-episode recaps of various dramas, incl this one. For those KDs that I don’t feel an immediate attraction to in their promotional phase, I often look for clues or word-of-mouth on whether they r worth starting. Such recaps r really helpful in that regard. The one for When a Man Loves, e.g. really saves me time and headache. 😉
    These threads also give us a place to talk abt such dramas. I love them esp. bcos no one is really committed so ranting doesn’t carry the risk it does for dramas w regular recaps. It’s great!

  27. 27 Lilian

    I pretty much love this show. It reconfirms my belief that Kim Tae Hee does much better in rom coms like this and My Princess. She should never do melo…like Stairway to Heaven! I like the pace of this show and I love it that Ok Jung has a “career”. haha….

  28. 28 dmn

    Kim Tae Hee failed me in giving an aura of Jang Hee Bin/Ok Jung to me. I understand that she might appear as an innocent main character here compared to the villainy reputation in the other versions but I always view Ok jung as someone who has some kind of pride, elegance and wit. In this drama, all I see is someone who is a fashion designer, pretty and kinda defenseless..idk..

  29. 29 kyl

    Still contemplating whether to watch this or not, and I’ve heard good reviews about it, but it’s a pretty hard story to swallow since there are tons of remakes portraying Jang heebin as the villian and I feel like the show is trying to feed the viewers with Jang heebin the angel fashion designer, and everyone else is evil. I dunno. For me I would have been more compelled to watch if JOJ turns out to be shrewd after all but there’s a B side of the story we didn’t know about. In that version I don’t care if they make In Hyun or Dong Yi evil, cause them going up against each other with their respective tactics is intriguing in itself. Make her shrewd but sympathetic at the same time, enough to question if history did JOJ justice. Transforming a total villian in history books into a seemingly total angel is not quite acceptable among Korean viewers I guess.

  30. 30 bd

    None of the main characters have really grabbed my attention or affection and worse of all, the “villains” – as in the heads/significant players of the 2 factions are a but underwhelming.

    But what really broke the “camel’s back” was Yi Sun not being just a good warrior, but some superhero type of warrior who almost single-handedly wiped out a cadre of assassins.

  31. 31 PPasun

    Historically, King Sookjong inherited the throne at the age of 14. YAI most certainly is not 14 in this drama and he is not even the king yet.

    What makes me feel uncomfortable with this drama is not only the liberties it’s taking with this kind of historical facts but with the customs of the times as well.

    A wild party of the upperclass youth of marriageable age hosted by none other than a member of the royal family and which the crown prince is urged to attend by the queen herself to personally check out the crown princess candidates? Really? And Sookjong gets to choose his own crown princess? Well, the yangban kids of opposite gender were not even allowed to be in the same room at the same time once they reached the age of 7. And crown princes COULD NOT choose their own brides.

    • 31.1 Kiara

      I dont mind the historical inaccuracies because its based more on the novel than the actual history but the absolute disrespect for the custom and tradition of that era is what really bugs me.

    • 31.2 Betsy Hp

      I give historical fictions passes on raising ages. It’d give modern-day viewers the heebie-jeebies to see a 14 year old sexing up his bride — even off camera.

      “What makes me feel uncomfortable with this drama is not only the liberties it’s taking with this kind of historical facts but with the customs of the times as well.”

      It’s definitely playing the fusion angle with that, yes. I doubt young ladies high-fived each other, either. But I liked SKKS, even with its family day at the college for all the girls to meet the boys and such. Sometimes a little loosey-goosey works. As long as it’s not trying to pretend it’s playing accurate.

      • 31.2.1 ilikemangos

        Agreed. I don’t think JOJ is pretending to play accurate. They’re taking a completely different route with the characters. It’s got a bit of the SKKS vibe, which is why I find this show has potential to be cracktastic.

  32. 32 beggar1015

    The first episode was just too slow for me. None of the characters captured my attention. As others have mentioned, Ok Jeong was just too, too good, making my blood sugar level rise just by watching her. I gave the show a try but I’m not going to stick with it.

  33. 33 colleen

    Thanks HeadsNo2 for this review! I enjoyed reading your recap style and after viewing the 4 episodes so far, I’m in agreement with your assessment of this drama. Drama-land writers seem to be relying far too much on interchangeable re-tread plot devices in lieu of stretching their creative skills. I like Yoo Ah-In and hope he will showcase his talent with quality roles in the future. Kim Tae-Hee as Ok-Jung comes across as MEH, but damn, that girl can sew.

  34. 34 Pig pig

    I like this show. Glad it had a chance to be recapped on drama beans.
    This drama is one of the better ones I have watched so far in 2013.

  35. 35 lily

    i hope you recap the whole series! thanks.

  36. 36 rjyuggy

    I am glad you will be recapping Jang Ok Jung. This drama is 1000 miles better than Gu Family Book.

  37. 37 Alexio

    I have no idea why theycut black and white so some scenes. It’s unintentionally funny to me, like a strike-of-doom or something. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s confused. *le sign*

  38. 38 browncoat_78

    I’m really sad that this show’s ratings are so poor. While I am watching Gu Family Book too, it’s writing and acting are really poor by comparison. Ok Jung is not just good. It’s brilliant so far. If it keeps going with it’s current quality it will probably be one of my highest rated dramas ever. I can’t say enough good things about the writing, directing, cinematography, costume design, and acting. Yes, even Kim Tae-hee’s acting isn’t sucking. This show is so good it hurts and Jae Hee hasn’t even made his debut yet. Can’t wait for next week.

    • 38.1 Chizzy girl

      its ratings are poor??? damn! but i am enjoying this drama so much that I am barely able to hold still while waiting for new episodes to come out. i cannot wait for the king and ok jung’s love to blossom…it is gonna me mega epic for sure

    • 38.2 choco late

      i do not agree with u comment browncoat_78.. i watch both dramas JOJ n GFB n i most prefer GFB bcoz JOJ cannot get any attention to me.. KTH not good in acting compared to LSG in GFB n if u were watching chinies dramas the JOJ is just similar to Cdramas in historical drama..GFB is about humanity, family, relationship n everything that we need in our life..compared to JOJ i think GFB is perfect..

  39. 39 Sue

    Unfortunately I just can’t turn off my knowledge of history. Turning her from a villain to a nice person, and then knowing what’s going to happen in the end makes it just plain cruel to me. Unless they are planning on changing the ending too. I think that is why Korean audiences are turning away from it, they just can’t ignore what they already learned as the truth. Gu Family Book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at least there is no mistake that it is a complete fantasy. So the ending for that one is still a mystery. So I’ve decided to stick to the Gumiho for now, since Incarnation of Money is ending tomorrow. Sniff!

    • 39.1 fantine

      Who says that she is a villain? Historical records?

      Please… people have been doubting those for a very long time.

      • 39.1.1 Sue

        True, but it still doesn’t change the ending. Some people may not care, but I do.

    • 39.2 ilikemangos

      I think people are just attached to the history they know. You can’t always believe history’s portrayals of its nobles are always accurate.
      JOJ’s weak point is probably the saeguk side (as Heads and JB noted). However, I like seeing what maybe could have been, or a different side to the story. Which is why i gobbed up Wicked
      I like GFB and JOJ intermittently, although i think as of now GFB has alot more praise and fanbase, so i think it’s rather JOJ might not be someone’s cup of tea. What’s turning people off is either the revisionist part of the show or the modern-esque feel to the traditional era. I think maybe JOJ might have benefited if they did base this show off of a fictional world, like TMETS.

    • 39.3 Emmy

      “History is written by the victors”

      I think history as we know it today is deeply interconnected with the concept of nationalism.

      Personally, I am fine with this re-imagining. I see it as a complete work of fiction and I enjoy the storytelling.

      I can however, understand why it may be received poorly by Korean viewers. History stories such as these often have “moral lessons” attached to them. Jang Ok-Jung has for many generations been portrayed as a villainous, greedy, scheming woman and deserved her tragic death. In the meanwhile, In-Hyun and Dong Yi have been portrayed as virtuous, therefore deserving the love of the king. People are naturally attached to these stories and the lessons that they have been taught through them.

      Nevertheless, I did read that it was based on a novel, so I would imagine that novel would have to be pretty popular among the Korean public in order for it to be made into a drama?

      In any case, I am looking forward to the rest of the drama. I love the world that it has set up. I do find myself wishing that Kim Tae Hee was a better actress because I’m loving Yoo Ah In in his role and I wish Kim Tae Hee was able to match his intensity and talent.

      • 39.3.1 Betsy Hp

        Oh! I didn’t know the history was more a morality tale. All the better to play revisionist with! 😀

        In my view anyway — but you do make a good point. If it’s a morality lesson you’ve grown up with and enjoyed, having it shaken wouldn’t necessarily be fun or attractive. But how cool the drama creators are willing to go there! (Hopefully the ratings won’t scare them off course.)

      • 39.3.2 Shaista

        Yes the novel is a bestseller and I presume it’s just popular among Korean young generation. AFAIK, Korea is a country of senior citizens, and the ones holding the tv remote control are ahjummas. Young people prefer watch shows online. The top trend naver and daum always show JOJ (and the casts) as top 10 trending topic every time show is airing (even for the reruns on Sat). So JOJ might be acceptable/appealed only for a certain age category.

        • ilikemangos

          Takes me back to the days of the battle between Rooftop Prince and K2H among others. I remember K2H being the first in terms of highest downloads, and yet ratings were never lowest. I was convinced then that korean ahjummas control the remote and never let ratings dictate my enjoyment of a show.

          • ilikemangos

            were the lowest**

          • Betsy Hp

            “I was convinced then that korean ahjummas control the remote and never let ratings dictate my enjoyment of a show.”

            I don’t need a show I enjoy to be mega-popular, either. My only worry is if the low rating either cause the creators to start monkeying with the script or cause the network to cut back episodes.

            Do networks look at the download numbers? Because if those are high for JOJ and the network knows it and is happy about it and (most importantly) lets JOJ tell its story… then ratings, schmatings. 😉

  40. 40 Betsy Hp

    First, thanks for putting up this one-off (if I understand correctly?) recap. It’s nice to see the show get an official mention on Dramabeans. 🙂

    “Namely, we seem to be going down a route where In-hyun is the true villain, all while making Ok-jung an innocent and maligned victim…”

    Actually, and I’ve been really, really pleased with this, In-hyun isn’t coming across as a villain at all. Her daddy’s no good, but In-hyun is really well principled and sweet. (I was pleased because I didn’t want one woman raised at the cost of another.)

    “Granted, this first outing makes for a difficult barometer when the plot really didn’t move forward, instead putting us in the present, fast-forwarding to the future, rewinding back to the present, then rewinding to the not-so-distant past before we chose to settle there.”

    The narrative structure worked for me — surprisingly well. (I got sucked into a show I expected to not like that much.) I took the beginning as a sort of… scene-setter. Introducing us to the players as they are historically known and how they are in the show. (I loved, loved, loved that it’s the women that got set up first. The guys come along later.) So I didn’t see it as being within the narrative, if that makes sense.

    And I liked that we saw where our two leads were situated at story start (Ok-jung stuck under her Uncle Jang’s thumb, the prince stuck under Lord Min’s) and only then popped back to see how they got stuck there in the first place. It got me invested in their struggle from the get-go. So I was already interested to see what happened when we moved to the past.

    So yeah. It was the narrative structure that pulled me in almost more than the characters. 🙂 Though, of course, I did get invested in their struggle. (How do you not support a prince who’s trying to prevent a war and a woman trying to free her mom?)

  41. 41 jennie

    First of all, thank you dramabeans for recapping this drama, I was waiting for it and so happy that it’s finally here, however sadly it’s only a one time recap:(
    nevertheless, this drama has got me HOOKED.

    I love the idea of rewriting history with JOJ as an protagonist for once, and I can say that IH won’t be entirely an antagonist, but rather someone who seeks for affection from her future King and her father. So I don’t know why others won’t see pass that and automatically diss it because they don’t agree.
    I just love the fact that I know what will happen, I know their faith and the drama has alot of foreshadowing right now which keeps me on my seat because I want to know what will happen at the end and how they choose to end it.
    With that said, KTH is doing a wonderful job, I love her character Ok Jung because, she isn’t driven by love, not right now at least and I don’t think she will be later on, at least that’s not on her priorities. I love that she is a headstrong, confident and self-assuring woman who has a strong passion for her goals and her dreams. I also love that YAI’s portrayal of King Suk jong is also concentrated on him achieving his dreams and hopes of being a good King. I’m glad this drama and this OTP isn’t like “The Moon Embracing the Sun” (which I love) where the main leads’ decisions are based on love and attraction. JOJ and King Suk Jong are strong individuals who fight for themselves and when they are together there is this spark they have. However it doesn’t consume them into insanity.
    I also love the child actor’s part, usually I skip child actors, but this one is so good, the child actress playing young JOJ is very talented and I love how her character from a young age still carries through to her older self.
    YAI is super charismatic, I want to watch his and KTH’s scenes over and over again♥
    I enjoy Lee Sang Yeob’s and Hong Soo Hyun as In Hyun is alright, she just seems like a genuinely peaceful, caring daughter who has a father filled with greed.
    This is the only drama that I am proud and happily watching in 2013, this is the only one that’s grabbed my attention and I can’t wait to see more and frankly I don’t want it to end (and it’s only 4 episodes in!)
    show JOJ some love♥

    • 41.1 Francesca

      You just took my words from my mouth! 😀 Oh don’t forget Jae Hee! He’s gonna show up in episode 5 ~ finally! That’s what I have been waiting for. Jae Hee and Yoo Ah In, alpha males and acting skills showdown!

  42. 42 Missy

    I totally agree with the person who a said international audiences will prob enjoy it more becuz we don’t have a connection to the back story. I am enjoying it. Not hating on KTH but they could’ve casted a more vibrant/attractive lead, she drags a bit.

  43. 43 Francesca

    This drama isn’t for everyone. IMHO, once we set free from the historical facts and “rules”, we could accept and enjoy the show. JOJ has no any real historical relevance. The supposed to be weakling King becomes a badass hero, the supposed to be badass villain JOJ becomes a nice heroine, and the supposed to be goddess Dong Yi becomes a sly antagonist. Just like “Masquerade” (referring to King Gwanghae 1574–1641), it’s useless to even bother asking the facts. It’s just a melodrama donning in hanbok, afterall.

    I also heard that modern Koreans accepted JOJ as a political victim just recently.

    • 43.1 Betsy Hp

      Wait… Weak king? Per my Wikipedia search the crown prince becomes a super-strong king who broke two or three power cabals within the ministry, switching power from various factions to better achieve his own goals. (Which involved improving status or stability for the middle class and maintaining borders with… I think the Qing dynesty?)

      So where did this “weakling king” idea come from?

      Granted — this is Wikipedia-based findings but… I’m starting to think it’s less history people are basing their complaints on and more popular myth. Could be wrong, though.

      • 43.1.1 Francesca

        Sorry, I referred the weakling king to “Dongyi” version that people are talking about. I guess it’s more like he was portrayed as easily swayed in taking decision for political purpose. But thanks to wikipedia now I can see him differently XD

  44. 44 minmin86

    Politics is always the 0% sum game. That is why history is written by the victors. Personally, I believe that no one in the history is purely white or black. So I really appreciate the writer. Her work is so refreshing and attractive. So far I enjoy watching this drama. Hope all casts and production crew keep on their best. JOJ, fighting!!!

  45. 45 Babo

    Damn, I love you, HeadsNo2, you always seem to recap “less” popular dramas, and I always enjoy the dramas you recap, except for probably Dr.Jin lol. XD

    Nice to see you doing Jang Ok-jung! You’re the best 🙂

    • 45.1 Chizzy girl

      DR JIN…excuse me while I throw up

    • 45.2 Emmy

      I’d even venture to say, the best part of Dr. Jin was Heads recaps!

  46. 46 TS

    Okay, I’ve been asking this question in various forma on other blogs because I’m super confused: what the heck is Ok Jung status this show? Commoner or slave? And what rights does ger jncke, as her family elder have over her? (If she gets into the royal family, would he really be a father-in-law to the king?)

    Btw, for Hoo Baby Wuvvers (Appa Oediga) the real Jang Heebin was Papyung Yoon on her mother’s sid, which is Hoo’s extended paternal family. (See ep 10.)

    • 46.1 Kiara

      Confusing ha?. She is free from slavery so I would say she is currently a commoner but not entirely because mommy is still a slave.

      Who is ger jncke?.

      • 46.1.1 TS

        Her uncle :-).

        Typing on a phone…

        • Kiara

          Oh hehe. Then he cant be Father in law unless he adopts her as his daughter. I dont think he has any rights over her, thats why he is keep her mom a slave so he can control her. He is basically a total ass taking advantage of her misfortunes.
          I think its obvious that this show isn’t paying much attention to the proper customs and traditions of this era so I wouldn’t be surprise if uncle becomes father in law without any formal adoption lol.

          • TS

            Perhaps as her only male relative (that we know of) he’d count as father-in-law. And he’d probably have to adopt her even to get her accepted as a royal concubine, which I’m basing on Cruel Palace’s discussion of requirements.

            But then that last point doesn’t explain rise of Dong Yi…

            Urgh, I’m confused again. Sung Dong il’s character will probably adopt her. Lets assume that.

          • Kiara

            He will have to adopt her in order to be her father. Jang Hyun is wearing a gatkeun so he is a nobleman and that can elevate Ok Jung’s status from commoner to nobility BUT she will not be considered a full-fletched noblelady because her mother is a slave.
            Good observation on Cruel Palace :).

          • Kiara

            err full-fledged

    • 46.2 Francesca

      On episode 2, Jang Ok Jung’s father has explained JOJ status. He bought JOJ freedom, thus she’s not a slave anymore but a commoner. But he also asked JOJ’s uncle to adopt her~ I don’t know if that means her uncle became her step-father then~ but I think it’s more like he wanted JOJ to live properly under her uncle’s wing.

  47. 47 xianzhongfan

    Thank you @Heads for the recap! I am totally in love with this show. I’ve watched ep.3 & 4 several times and still like it. The story line, the characters, the cinematography, the directing. It tugs at your heart. Maybe becos i dont hv the historical baggage so i get to enjoy it as a show based on its own merits. As i posted elsewhere, there is a HK TVBS show recently called the Chief Eunuch which depicts Empress Cixi n her infamous eunuch Li Lianying in a totally different take from what the history books say. It was very interesting and refreshing. I think it takes a lot for writers to make a twist of the so-called history books, much like it takes a lotmore work to convert an old house (while maintaining certain structures) vs rebuilding a house from scratch. I m sticking with this for sure.

  48. 48 sur

    the oyp is good i have to agree great chemistry even but i don’t like the story the politics is boring the villians are awful the narration is weird but i’m still watching this for some reason and i think i’ll watch this for now. the thing is being a history major and a huge history literature guzzling monster i just can’t get into the story twisting the history to give a different perspective on a tale yes even we do that in our class but but for the sake of giving a different perspective change the whole history that is something i can’t get behind. yes i agree some historical figures may have been wrongly interpreted but upto which extent and exactly how many of them, its not possible that that time of the history got that many figures wrong. if we were actually shown some flaws in jang ok jung’s personality little power hungry or vixen quality then it would have been believable that yes that is why she was misinterpreted where actually she was nice. so to set this story on that famous part of history was a wrong decision this could have been a ratings hit had it been just a fantasy romance.

  49. 49 ilikemangos

    I think it’s too early to say that these characters are painted in a certain way and won’t change. With every show you’ve got your static characters and your dynamic characters. Queen In Hyun is looking virtuous as of now. But i can see how she’d turn into a baddie. Girl didn’t even want it in the first place and she had to sacrifice so much.
    Just like Shunji in Gaksital who was so so nice and then turned into the best 3-dimensional villain ever.
    Ok Jang might be lookin’ nice now but the show makes up for it in her passion and determination/drive in fashion as well as freeing her mother. I don’t think i’d enjoy it as much if this show turned dark because i think a show like JOJ shouldn’t take itself too seriously because it’s already established its stronger points is in the romance/fantasy aspect.

    • 49.1 Francesca

      I just watched episode 5 trailer and I can’t calm myself down! Royal wedding finally!! aaaaahhhhhhhhh!!! Must watch it tonight!

      • 49.1.1 ilikemangos

        you’ve just got me so excited!
        after school i’m gonna come straight home and watch the 5th episode!

  50. 50 danaXOX

    it’s settled. kim tae hee is a terrible actress. Even given all the context of her character, I can’t help but think she is one dimensional.

    must be her limited range of reactions/facial expressions.

    she is very pretty though.

    • 50.1 plumeria9

      Don’t make such biased comment without having watching the drama. KTH’s done very well in portraying JOJ, esp in episode 6. This “bad actress” label has seem to be stuck to her like glue and people are quick to brush her off and make unfounded prejudiced comments without evaluating for themselves.

    • 50.2 Viewer

      May I recommend you look to Gong Li, the superb actress.

    • 50.3 L

      Watched the entire thing. Regrets it at the end. I watched it coz I was hoping it’ll turn out better, but damn. This drama really threw my -already low- expectations to the ground and stomped on it.

      The plot is cringe worthy. The ending is too fantasy like. Ugh.

      My copy is sitting on my dvd case and remains untouched after I bought and watched it once, a year and a half ago.

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