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Mr. Sunshine: Episode 1

It’s here, and it’s more epic than I had imagined! The highly anticipated Mr. Sunshine, with its reliable production team, excellent casting, and compelling historical story seems to have the trifecta in place to deliver one hell of a drama. All these elements are strong in our first installment, which introduces us to our major players and their developing motivations. As we dig into the backstories of our characters, we also get a taste of the poignant history, which is sure to carry the show throughout its run. The thread of history — political and personal — connects these characters together, and I can’t wait to see how they all interweave into each other’s lives.

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

A man dressed in a military uniform walks down a dark alleyway and stops in front of a music shop, its outer walls plastered with scraps of American newspapers. Through the glass, he watches a music box play the song “What Child Is This?” with an unreadable expression, and we notice a scar across his right cheek.

In daylight now, the uniformed man, Captain EUGENE CHOI (Lee Byung-heon) salutes to his fellow naval comrades on his way to a meeting with his superior Major KYLE MOORE (David McInnis). Kyle seems to be recovering from an injury, having just survived a nearly fatal incident, and he asks Eugene how he got him out of the ditch. Eugene responds that he was hoping to get a promotion out of his noble deed, and Kyle informs him that his wishes have come true — they’re promoted and off to Washington to meet with the president.

Eugene and Kyle stand stiffly in front of President Theodore Roosevelt, who tells them that he wishes to explore new frontiers in the Pacific region around China. He commands, “Speak softly, carry a big stick, and set off to Joseon.”

The two men walk back from their prestigious meeting, and we see Kyle’s full injuries with his limp and right hand in a cast. Kyle presumes that Eugene going back to his homeland as a United States affiliate will be good for him and the Joseon people, but Eugene clarifies that the U.S. is his homeland. “Joseon has never taken me in,” he says.

We go back to 1871 as American ships sail towards Joseon, now in its 8th year under the reign of King Gojong. The king’s court gathers to report that five American ships are sailing towards Joseon, and the head of the court, DAEWONGUN, explains the history of America breaking off from Britain. He calls them barbarians and looks impatient as Gojong hesitates to formulate a command.

Daewongun steps in and asserts that they cannot allow barbarians here. He orders cannons and soldiers to be sent to the peninsula as King Gojong looks dispirited by his lack of initiative.

Two nobles discuss Daewongun’s decision to set up a meager defense against the incoming Americans. One noble finds the decision curious, but the friend knows that Daewongun is more worried about internal rebellion than intruding foreigners. The noble applauds his friend’s political insight and asks him to continue his good work beside Daewongun. But the friend is fixated on the servant who’s setting up their table.

The nobleman notices this and offers to send him another girl, as the servant that the friend wants already has a husband. But the friend slams down his cup and demands a simple solution — if she has a husband, then they can get rid of him. Around the corner, a male servant listens to this exchange with a wary look.

In the woods, a young boy carries a pile of sticks on his back and stops to stare at the sky. Another servant accompanying an older noble asks the boy what he’s doing, and the young boy responds that he’s pondering how a blackbird can ruin his view of the sky.

The older noble advises the boy: “Live while looking at the ground. The sky is far. For a servant, the higher you look, the shorter your life.” The expressionless boy responds that he knows this, which seems to surprise the nobleman. With that, the boy continues on his way.

When the young boy returns home, he finds that his mother and father are being punished by their owner, who happens to be the noble who promised to give his friend the lady servant. The young boy’s mother is that lady servant, and his father (the male servant who overhead the conversation last night) is ordered to be beaten to death for attempting to run away.

The boy runs to his crying mother, who begs to the ignoble owner to save her husband’s life. But Ignobleman finds this situation too perfect and watches the beating smugly. The boy runs to Ignobleman’s son and his son’s pregnant wife, begging them to do something, but the cowardly son pushes the boy away, fearing the consequences of intervening.

Seeing this disobedience, Ignobleman orders for the boy to also be beaten to death. Although it’s a shame to lose such a young life, Ignobleman finds this public beating to be a great lesson for his other servants. The boy runs toward Ignobleman with a stick, but he’s pushed to the ground by guards and consequently beaten.

The mother screams for her boy, “Yoo-jin!” (Aha, this is a flashback for Eugene’s background story.) Then, her eyes sharpen in defiance.

Mom pulls herself away from the men holding her back and runs toward Ignobleman’s pregnant daughter-in-law. She pulls the hairpin out of her hair and holds the daughter-in-law hostage with the pin pointed at her neck. She warns Ignobleman’s men not to move and pierces the daughter-in-law’s neck, a fairly deep cut that causes blood to rush out. Mom vows to protect her family, and challenges Ignobleman to protect his own.

Mom yanks an expensive ornament off of the daughter-in-law and throws it at the boy, and tells Yoo-jin to pick it up. He slowly gets up and picks up the ornament, and Mom tells him the minimum amount he should sell the ornament for. She orders him to run away with that and never come back.

Ignobleman tries to get his men to intervene again, but Mom threatens to go for the daughter-in-law’s pregnant belly next. Scared for her life, the daughter-in-law screams at the men to let Yoo-jin go. Yoo-jin cries as he calls out to his mother, and Mom tearfully pleads for him to go. “You need to survive so that our sacrifice is for something. Go very far, Yoo-jin…”

Yoo-jin clenches the ornament and runs away in tears. Ignobleman tries to stop Yoo-jin by shooting arrows at the boy, but he misses as Yoo-jin gets away. Mom’s grip loosens as she watches her son vanish out of sight, and she drops to the ground. She looks straight at Ignobleman and tells him, “Kill me.”

Ignobleman aims his arrow at her, but he can’t shoot because his political career depends on her. So he redirects the arrow towards her husband and shoots him dead. Blood pools on the ground, and Mom looks at her dead husband in disbelief. Meanwhile, the daughter-in-law has gone into labor.

Before the men can capture her, Mom makes a run for it. A group of men are sent to capture Yoo-jin, and as they pass by the well, we see a piece of linen caught on the well contraption. In the well, one straw shoe floats on the surface. Yoo-jin stops to catch his breath in the woods and hears his mother’s voice echo in his head. The shoe in the well slowly sinks, indicating Mom’s death, and Yoo-jin can only mourn for a moment before he continues his escape.

Ignobleman hires captors to chase Yoo-jin, and his son describes Yoo-jin’s features for a sketch, which ends up being a string of compliments on how good-looking the kid is. Ignobleman tries to shut up his son, who argues that it’s pointless to hire captors, since Yoo-jin will probably die along his journey anyway. But Ignobleman isn’t willing to let his property just run away from him.

The chase ensues, with Yoo-jin traversing fields and creeks, day and night, with the captors one step behind him. Yoo-jin steals food from farms and homes, and one day, as he’s stuffing his face at a humble home, he’s caught by the homeowner. But this man is kind, telling the boy to slow down and pointing him toward the water.

Yoo-jin approaches the man as he’s tending to the fire and offers his ornament as payment for the food. The man (who we’ll come know as HWANG EUN-SAN played by Kim Gab-soo) asks Yoo-jin how he got the ornament and suspects that he stole it, given his bedraggled state. Yoo-jin clarifies that he didn’t steal it — it’s the price of his mother’s life.

That makes Eun-san pause for a moment, but he still rejects the ornament. Yoo-jin begs him to let him stay one night, as he’s exhausted from his journey, but Eun-san doesn’t want to take him in. They’re interrupted by a foreigner, an American man in a suit and top hat, who speaks to the man in broken Korean in attempts to buy some ceramic pieces before he boards the ship back to America that day.

Annoyed by these two unwelcome guests, Eun-san shoos them both away. Yoo-jin catches onto the tail of the American man’s suit and asks where America is. Then suddenly, they’re distracted by an echoing boom that sends birds flying in surprise.

On the coast, the Joseon forces exchange cannon bombs in a battle against the oncoming American ships, but it quickly becomes obvious that the Americans outnumber and overpower the Joseon army. Casualties emerge with each new cannon that hits the Joseon fort, and an adolescent boy barely escapes death in a bomb that sets a tent behind him aflame.

The adolescent boy’s ears ring from the impact of the bomb, and he stares in shock at the men incinerated before him. Another soldier shakes him back to the moment, and they continue fighting. In a voiceover, an American man narrates:

“The enemies are still desperately fighting back, even in the face of crushing defeat. Despite being on the verge of losing, there has not been a single deserter. Even with the overwhelming motor power of our forces, the enemies keep getting back up, time and time again, under the battle flag of their general. Those with broken spears and swords are putting up a fight by throwing stones and soil. I’ve never witnessed such a raging and fierce battle.”

The American forces take over the fort, and a Joseon man is in their midst. His identity is not yet revealed, but we’ll later know him as LEE WAN-IK (Kim Eui-sung).

As the battle reaches its end, King Gojong enjoys a luxurious meal with Daewongun, a striking contrast to the bloody defeat of his people. The adolescent boy runs to his father and desperately tries to persuade him to run away, but his father stays committed to defending their border. As his father stands to aim his gun, he’s immediately shot as the Joseon flag also falls. The boy freezes in shock as his father crumbles to the ground. He holds his father’s face with his trembling hands, and his father dies in his arms.

The boy screams for his dead father, and his mourning transforms into rage, as he grabs the gun and points it towards the approaching American soldiers. He yells for their leader and blindly shoots the gun. The bullet hits the Joseon man, Lee Wan-ik, in the leg, and the American soldiers immediately surround the boy with their guns all pointed at him. When the boy spots the fallen Joseon man, his expression turns blank, and he nervously grabs for the soil, ready to fight.

The American flag waves in victory over the dead Joseon soldiers, and this news is delivered to King Gojong. The young king asks what this defeat means for Joseon, and Daewongun frames the battle to mean that the Americans failed at their attempt to create diplomatic ties with Joseon, so it’s an empty win for Americans and a full defeat for Joseon.

The king struggles to accept this confusing interpretation, and one of his loyal ministers SONG YOUNG (Jin Seung-hwan) argues that they must save the war prisoners taken from the battle. Daewongun strongly disagrees and claims that the survivors are cowards because they did not die fulfilling their duty. He also asserts that amity between the two nations would be betrayal.

The Joseon man with the Americans, Lee Wan-ik, speaks in English as he updates the general in a meeting with a representative from the Joseon royal court. They have yet to establish diplomatic ties with Joseon, and the general regrets his method of force — which worked with Japan — in trying to establish diplomatic relations with Joseon.

The minister from the Joseon court asks Wan-ik to translate, and the irreverent Wan-ik purposely mistranslates the tone of the general’s statement as a more offensive one about Joseon stupidly resisting enlightenment and prosperity. The minister is greatly offended, and his outburst causes the American solider to reach for his weapon, to which the minister calmly sits back down.

A Joseon prisoner urgently asks Wan-ik about their fate, and he tells them that Joseon has abandoned them. The prisoner refuses to believe that a nation would abandon its people, and Wan-ik scoffs at their naïve allegiance. Wan-ik pokes at the boy who shot his leg and promises to personally kill him. The prisoners are aghast at this Joseon traitor, but Wan-ik proudly declares his hatred for Joseon.

An American soldier approaches Wan-ik and informs him that the righteous United States forces have decided to release all the prisoners, out of respect for the Joseon people’s loyalty. In Korean, Wan-ik derides the Americans for claiming righteousness after slaughtering all the Joseon people. With this plan failing, he wonders if he must resort to the Japanese now.

Now released, the adolescent boy buries his father and relives his last moments with him. He’s crying in mourning, when Hwang Eun-san (the man who refused Yoo-jin’s ornament) finds him. We finally learn the boy’s name — Seung-gu — and as we zoom out, we see a field of mourners burying their loved ones.

Eun-san tends to Seung-gu’s wounds, and he says that they can visit a healer the next day. But Seung-gu plans on heading home to take on his father’s work as a gunman and tells Eun-san not to worry. Eun-san tries to console Seung-gu that his father’s death was intentional, that his father died so that his children can live on this land.

Seung-gu tears up and vows to never die like his father. He admits that he’s taking on his father’s trade to get revenge on a nation that abandoned its people. He plans to become a rebel of the state. Eun-san nods in understanding, and Seung-gu continues to cry in sorrow.

The next morning, Eun-san is met by the captors looking for Yoo-jin. He dismisses them, and when one of the captors begins to pull out his sword, Eun-san swiftly knocks the captor to the ground with a mere stick. The captors run off in fear, agreeing to Eun-san’s terms.

Eun-san finds Yoo-jin hiding in a box, trembling in fear. He knocks over the box and tells Yoo-jin to get lost. But Yoo-jin has nowhere to go in Joseon — if he gets caught, he’ll get beaten to death and if he doesn’t, he’ll starve to death. Yoo-jin asks for his help to be sent to America or somewhere far, and Eun-san’s eyes soften.

The suited American man visits again, and Eun-san asks him if this “God” being he talks about really exists. The American confirms this, and Eun-san tells him to pray to this God that the price of the slaughtered Joseon people can be met by taking in this orphaned boy. The American isn’t pleased with this exchange, but this seems to be the deal for him to get his hands on the ceramic.

Yoo-jin thanks Eun-san and promises to never forget his kindness. He tries to offer the ornament again, but Eun-san rejects it one last time and gruffly tells the boy to make it to America alive. Yoo-jin stuffs the ornament in his shirt and awaits his new journey.

The American man smuggles Yoo-jin onto the ship in a box, and Yoo-jin spends his days looking through the cracks of the wooden box. He waits for visitors to the carriage to clear out, and then he sneaks out to bite into some chestnuts. Occasionally, the American man visits to deliver water, and the cycle repeats until Yoo-jin finally arrives in the United States.

Yoo-jin wanders the foreign streets in confusion, covering his eyes at the loud noise of the elevated train passing by. The passersby point to the young foreign boy as he follows the American man through the streets. The American man tries to get rid of Yoo-jin, but Yoo-jin begs him to help, promising to do everything the man asks and work hard. He knows nobody and doesn’t have a place to sleep. Yoo-jin asks if God exists in this land as well, and the man seems slightly charmed by this clever boy.

The man agrees to take him in and asks the boy his name—Choi Yoo-jin. The man says that such a name exists in America as well—Eugene—meaning “noble and great being.” And for the first time, we see Eugene smile.

Eugene runs around the train station offering to carry luggage for a dollar, and he happily receives his reward after his hard work. But a group of boys approach him from behind and jump him. Defeated and busted up, Eugene walks down an alleyway and stops at a music shop. He looks through the glass and begins to cry audibly, feeling alienated and desperate.

Eugene continues to be bullied as he grows up, with the bullies insulting him and beating him up. One time, he sees the bullies stop to run towards a group of soldiers, and his eyes lock on an African-American solider. When one of the bullies returns to take back his belongings, Eugene tells him that he’s got something else. The bully starts to pat down Eugene for an item, but he’s found something intangible: the way to become an American.

Eugene goes to the shore and cuts off his long braided hair with a knife. He drops the braid in the ocean with a new revelation and conviction.

It’s 1875, and in Tokyo, a man describes his upbringing. He was the fifth child of a poor tenant farmer and had nothing growing up. But he discovered that he actually owned something very lucrative: Joseon. The man looks up, and we find that it’s Lee Wan-ik, the Joseon traitor who previously sided with the Americans. He’s speaking to Ito Hirobumi, the prime minister at the time.

Wan-ik offers to sell Joseon for dirt cheap, since the nation has very little value right now. He pushes for unyoho (also known as the Ganghwa Island incident) to force the opening of the Joseon ports. Wak-ik claims that Japan has nothing to lose — either they open the ports or kill the poor Joseon people.

As Wan-ik limps through the Tokyo streets, he’s followed by a man, Sang-wan (omg cameo by Jin Gu), who pulls out a gun as he turns the corner. But Sang-wan is also being followed. A gunshot rings, but we don’t know who’s hit.

Joseon-minister-turned-resistance-member Song Young rushes into a room, where young mother Hee-jin (omg omg cameo by Kim Ji-won) carries her sleeping baby. She asks about Sang-wan, and Song Young reports that they have a traitor among them.

Quickly assessing the situation, Hee-jin hands her baby to Song Young and breaks her picture frame that held her and Sang-wan’s wedding photo. She gently tucks it into the baby’s blanket and tells Song Young to go without her. It’s only been one day since she’s given birth, and she’ll slow them down.

Hee-jin ushers them to escape through the secret passage under her bed, and she asks Song Young to keep her and Sang-wan’s child alive. She bids farewell to her comrades and to her one-day-old child before grabbing the gun and closing the secret door.

The enemies arrive, and Hee-jin fearlessly shoots at the shadows that appear in front of her door. Wan-ik orders more soldiers to replace those shot by Hee-jin’s bullets, and they fire relentlessly through the door. Looking through the holes, they see Hee-jin’s bloody body limp on the ground. But when they enter, she grabs her gun and starts shooting again until she’s fatally shot to the ground.

Wan-ik slowly walks toward her and drops a brick of gold on the ground, telling the traitor to step up and grab his earnings. In a quick flashback to the betrayal, we see Sang-wan pointing his gun at his comrade and Wan-ik’s forces. Sang-wan refuses to put down his gun and asks, “How much does it cost to become a shameful father, a shameful son without honor, without a homeland…?” Before he can finish, he’s shot in the head by Wan-ik.

Sang-wan sinks to the ground as blood drips down his face. With his last breath, he tells Wan-ik that he asks this in the name of Joseon. With that, his eyes glaze over, and Wan-ik mockingly says that it’s a shame that Sang-wan will never be able to hear his answer, thanks to a traitor that they mistook as a comrade.

Hee-jin hears this story, and she’s relieved to know that Sang-wan didn’t betray them. Wan-ik rhetorically asks if they thought that getting rid of him would change the fate of Joseon. He says that traitors are all around them, profiting off the land of Joseon. Wincing in pain, Hee-jin returns the rhetorical question: Did he think that getting rid of one resistance group would change the fate of his life?

Wan-ik ignores the question and asks where the other members are. She responds that they left to kill him. She promises that even if it takes a very long time, they will kill him. Then, Hee-jin’s eyes close and her body goes limp. Wan-ik tells dead Hee-jin that he’ll be waiting for them as he rips Joseon apart.

Song Young and his comrade return to Sang-wan’s home with the ashes of their fallen friends and the baby. Sang-wan’s father (the old noble who told Eugene to keep his eyes on the ground) and his servants mourn the passing of Sang-wan and Hee-jin as the rain falls. Song Young introduces the nobleman to his granddaughter, and one of the servants cries as she holds the baby in her arms.

The baby girl, who we’ll know as GO AE-SHIN, narrates: “That’s how I first met by grandfather, with my mother and father in ashes. And that autumn, the Joseon that they died to protect fell to the armed forces of Japan. The Joseon army was a mere fourteen people.” We see the Joseon people being murdered and utterly defeated by the Japanese.

Then it’s 1894, and a new reform has been implemented. The news is posted in the village center, and slave captors IL-SHIK (Kim Byung-chul) and CHOON-SHIK (Bae Jung-nam) are shocked to find out that slavery has been abolished. Behind them, scholars also collapse in devastation because the civil service has also been abolished. But Il-shik is taking the news well and seems optimistic to find an opportunity in this crisis.

Il-shik and Choon-shik decide to set up a shop to bridge the gap between the newly freed servants and powerless aristocrats, which is basically a pawnshop and private detective agency rolled into one — a multi-purpose shop to buy, sell, or ask for anything. Their first customer arrives, and Choon-shik recognizes him as a servant they once captured for a noble. The former servant requests that they track down the noble who ordered his capture, and the duo is shocked at how much the world has changed.

A tenant farmer begs to our familiar Ignobleman to return his land, which was his whole livelihood. Ignobleman refuses to feel a drop of sympathy and complains that he wouldn’t be able to buy his precious grandson a fancy watch if he didn’t sell the land. His grandson, KIM HEE-SUNG (Byun Yo-han), sits facing away from the scene and listens to this exchange uncomfortably.

Eventually, the farmer is dragged away, and Ignobleman returns to his conversation with his precious grandson. He asks if Hee-sung likes his gift, and Hee-sung forces a smile as comments on how valuable the watch is. Ignobleman tells Hee-sung to spend a year abroad in Tokyo broadening his mind, then return to get married and enter Joseon politics.

Even though Hee-sung is not interested in politics, his grandfather urges him to carry on his legacy — to never be satisfied with what you have and never limit yourself from what you could have. He holds up the watch and uses infinite time as an example of what he could have. Hee-sung looks conflicted about his grandfather’s grand plan.

A grown-up Ae-shin (Kim Tae-ri) reads a book while a peddler asks what she thinks about the hair ornaments and trinkets she lays out. She’s clearly uninterested as she comments on how beautiful they all are without even a glance. Then, the peddler sneaks out a stack of folded papers and hands them to an expectant Ae-shin, who hands her a pouch of coins in exchange.

The peddler finds it odd that Ae-shin is more interested in the newspaper than the pretty ornaments, and Ae-shin responds by asking for more newspapers next time. She opens up the paper (while keeping it hidden behind her book) and reads as she narrates in voiceover: “It was a turbulent time, when yesterday was far, today was unfamiliar, and tomorrow was feared. We all, in our own ways, were experiencing a turbulent Joseon.”

 
COMMENTS

What a beautiful introduction to the show. There were so many distinct moments in this first episode that somehow stood out independently and also blended into the overarching story. I was afraid that these storylines would get jumbled and disconnected, but I truly think that every moment was intentional and mindfully placed. The emotion, the details, the visuals are so strong to the point that I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to recap this show. What’s captured visually is hard to describe in words, and I find myself scouring through dictionaries to find words that may possibly represent the intensity of what’s onscreen. I’d consider this a good dilemma to have because it’s exciting to have a show that has so much to digest and discuss.

First off, I am blown away by the young talent in this first episode. Who are these kids and how do they express so much emotion? Young Yoo-jin is so adorable, and I hope that we can get a little more out of these kids before we get into the heartbreak that will surely ensue in adulthood. And by heartbreak, I mostly mean the emotional pain that these characters will experience in their exploration of identity and allegiance. The beauty and agony of setting a drama in this period is that these characters will inevitably pour their hearts into the movement that they believe in — whether it’s out of loyalty or revenge. It’s hard to be apathetic in this time, and that guarantee of passion and emotional investment makes me eager to watch more of this show.

And wow, this show and its badass mamas! There are some moments in dramas when I just want to drop all the formalities and recap a scene using profanity and colloquialisms. The scene with Yoo-jin’s mom going rogue and the one with Hee-jin taking bullets for the resistance both really got to me. My jaw dropped and my heart pounded, seeing how badass these women were. Those moms are an inspiration to fight for your family, fight for your beliefs, and to fight for yourself.

Speaking of Hee-jin, the cameos by Kim Ji-won and Jin Gu were amazing. This is exactly what I wanted for them in their past life. The fact that they were married in this cameo is a nice little homage to the writer’s previous work, and it was great fan service to those who loved this couple (me). In my head, their noble deeds in this show were good karma for them in their next lives in Descendants of the Sun, where they got to live their best lives together. Someone go write a full fan fiction novel about this please, thank you.

Something I think this show is really good at is utilizing history at pivotal moments to evoke a strong emotion. Obviously, the history of the Japanese occupation evokes a strong sense of loyalty and pride for the Korean people. But also, that short scene with the black soldier and Eugene’s realization of how to belong really stuck out to me because the show was branching out into U.S. history. Whether it meant to or not, I felt an emotional response to that scene. It’s crazy how real that moment got, especially if you’re aware of the history of the United States, and I think it was a great way to show how Yoo-jin becomes American, how he really becomes Eugene. It’s moments like these that I think this show is able to reach a wider audience, and I hope the show continues to stretch its limits in exploring the deep pathos of history.

 
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Epic opening episode! Great Cinematography, strong cast and even better cameos XD

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Omg omg it's here! Thank you for the recap by @dramallama! Like you I loved the cameo by Jin Goo and Kim Ji-won. They were certainly the best thing for me in DOTS and I am thrilled that they got a happy ending there in retribution for the sacrifices they made here.

On the history - I understand how you might feel overwhelmed recapping. The historical context is much wider than your usual kdrama. This is not just a Joseon story. It is global: USA-Korea-Japan-Europe. I feel we will have to join our history beanie brains together to understand this show. Many thanks already to @tacourtn for explaining historical ac curacies (and inaccuracies) on his fanwall! I am going to have to go and read up on 19th century Korea, because I am totally ignorant.

On characters - There are so many characters! I don't think I can learn everyone's names, and I am not sure yet if I need to care for them all.

On slavery - The treatment of slaves by ignoble masters made my blood boil and reminded me a lot of REBEL: THIEF WHO STOLE THE PEOPLE. "Ignobleman" suits that despicable character. It's incredible to see that 19th century Joseon was still a lot like 17th century Joseon.

However, I was hoping to get a bit more insight into these modernizing reforms. Slavery was suddenly abolished? How? Why? It is such a big thing! King Gojong seems supremely unable to govern so I wonder who is actually proposing those reforms.

Overall I'm surprised that KES went for full-blown epic historical drama style, complete with tragic backstories. I'm so excited!! I have been waiting for this drama a long time and am thrilled to finally embark on the discussion adventure here! Here's to a great 24 episodes! 😊

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@wishfultoki here is some reading on the Gabo Reform that answers some of your questions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabo_Reform

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It's called Gabo Reform(1894-1896)

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Each scene was basically dripping in money 💰 Good start. Let’s see where it takes us!

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"dripping in money"...well said!

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The entire first episode, half my mind was so occupied with considering how much money it would have cost them to make each scene. When the ships showed up, I don't know if it was some CGI but I was blown away. If they continue with this quality every episode, this drama can't possibly be bad.

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Okie comment take 2! ^-^;

OMG so so soooooo many things to say! I've watched the first two episodes and man, every episode so far was like watching a movie, except it's a drama, which is a total bonus!! And like dramalama said, man I have no idea who the little Eugene Choi is, but he's like a mini genius!!

And Kim Tae Ri is always a welcome face to see on screen; like listening to her talk alone is like heavenly ASMR to me. Which is a huge thing, coming from a girl who doesn't like ASMR. XDDD

I admit the huge age gap between Lee Byeong Hun and Kim Tae Ri was only slightly distracting while watching this, but their superb acting kinda helped to soothe that. And man, is it satisfying to hear LBH talk in perfect English or what? In most Korean dramas, the Korean accent can get really cringey, so I'm really happy that LBH can speak perfectly fine.

Gosh, there's just so much to say, but I won't spoil the fun for y'all. So long story short, if any of you reading this are hesitating to watch, man up, and just watch it. I promise you will not regret it. In fact, you will get really pissed if you get interrupted in the middle of the show. (sorry mom!! ><;)

Cheers! ;)

P.S Okie I mean I know there's only been two episodes so far, but still!! Totally worth watching :D

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@dramallama you really nailed this recap. Bravo!

It's kind of scary because I feel like you got into my thoughts somehow. For instance, "But also, that short scene with the black soldier and Eugene’s realization of how to belong really stuck out to me because the show was branching out into U.S. history. Whether it meant to or not, I felt an emotional response to that scene. I also felt a deep response to that scene (as an American and a human being who had watched that poor little guy suffer so badly). What will be interesting to see is how deep this realization has molded Eugene as a man.

And the cameos were just...awesome - for lack of a better word. I'm still maintaining hope we will see a few more scenes with Jin Goo and Kim Ji-won via flashbacks. I'd love to see the scene when that family photo was taken!

All facets of this production seem to be top-notch, and I don't expect that to change in later episodes. I have a nerdy interest in history, so I've done some background research on the costumes, props, and historical events we've seen so far. In my opinion it is a combination of hit-and-miss (so far). However, overall I still give good marks for historical accuracy, and hope this is maintained. (Any beanie who wants to take a deeper dive into my findings can check out posts on my fan wall.)

Thank you for a great recap!

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And thank you for that! I am a history enthusiast too and I have been religiously checking your posts on your fan wall! Keep ‘em coming!!

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@wishfultoki reminded me of the importance of the Gabo Reform, which was somewhat glossed over in the episode, so I will try to do a fan wall post about it.

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Could you write it here? It would be easier to find than on your fanwall. No pressure though, I intend to do some research myself.

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Well it's really lengthy so I was just planning on adding an image from the episode along with the link to the Wikipedia webpage I shared in the other post.

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Read through your posts about the show on your fan wall! Thanks for the information! It was very informative and it was fun to understand some of the small details that have gone into the show that otherwise I wouldn't have noticed.

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The period that KES chose is a difficult one between each country's interest (America, Japan, China, France, etc.) But I'm happy because it's not one we can often see in drama.

The cinematography was beautiful and for the story it was a good introduction.

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Russia had a fairly big influence on Joseon during this period, but so far they have been ignored. The history-nerd in me hopes that changes.

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Yes, true. There was a Russian in the drama but in the second episode.

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This drama is so beautiful to look at! I mean every frame, the background, the effects looks so real and mesmerising. I must say hats off to the production crew. I don't know about the story but I am sticking to Mr. Sunshine for all the pretty!!!

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"What’s captured visually is hard to describe in words"
I can totally relate to this when i tried explaining to my k-drama whatsapp group... I couldn't find the words to explain how amazing the two episodes were.
Thank you so much @dramallama for the recap, i was able to understand a few scenes i found confusing. I rarely comment here but this drama need to be talked about. i am so excited and i can't wait for this week's episodes.

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Kim Eun Sook's trademark is witty banter, but there is no such comedy in Mr. Sunshine. Goblin was hilarious; Descendants of the Sun, hilarious. But war is just not funny. Joseon being invaded, not funny. Betraying your country; avenging your parents, not funny. So I feel like something is missing. The chuno are supposed to be comic relief, but also not funny.

Still, Mr. Sunshine is epic and watches like a movie. A mix between The Admiral and Assassination. I am amazed they have such a big budget, but I'm sure Kim Eun Sook will return it tenfold. I had forgotten about the English in DOTS since Goblin was in-between, but the Goryeo era was the best thing about Goblin, so I'm expecting Joseon to match.

Now that we've met everyone in the cast, we can deduce Seung Gu is Yoo Yeon Seok, which makes him older than Lee Byung Hun? Kim Kang Hoon (Young Yoo Jin) and Jeon Jin Seo (Young Eugene) are so talented. Why didn't Mom kill herself with the hairpin? Did his father pass out from the beating? He didn't attempt to protect his family, scream or anything. Kim Ji Won was badass in her cameo.

Thanks a million for picking up Mr. Sunshine recaps, @dramallama!

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Seumg Gu is someone else, we can see him as an adult in the second episode.

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@kurama is correct. Different character.

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No comedy, you're right. It surprised me too, but in a good way, because the story does not really call for witty banter at this point. I think we might get some comedy with the adult characters (Byun Yo-han looks like he might make me laugh and cry), but in smaller doses than seen in her previous dramas.

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With 24 episodes, we are bound to get some fun comedy sooner or later. But it is clear that humor will not play a big part of this series.

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I think the father was mute. He didn't speak even once and he that kind of dazed expression that drama's use to signal disability.

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Thank you, Dramallama, for the epic recaps! I am very satisfied with the beginning episodes of Mr. Sunshine, and everything surrounding the project is excellent.

Really, though, it comes down to human connnection, so I will be glued to the screen because of the incredible performance of Kim Tae-ri

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EPIC!
One nitpick on the research though - Yu jin (Eugene) is motivated to join the U. S. military when he sees a black soldier walking with the troops as an equal - it works well for the story, but U. S. troops were not integrated until 1948 (still a lot sooner than the rest of the nation AND that included Asians at that time who were also segregated although there were lone exceptions of Koreans as translators to all white units. Also, it is plausible that Eugene could've served as he did (along side white soldiers) because historically in America sometimes a lone individual is allowed to participate and it only becomes a fear to whites when it seems as though they will have to make room for many "others").

I can put that inaccuracy aside because it works so well for the story for Eujin to see the military as his shelter from the harshness of the loneness of being Asian in America with no family or community of his own to harbor him.

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Great catch @ramonathepest ! I was going to do a fan wall post about the segregation of races in the US Military until 1948, but you took care of that. :)

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But please do though. There is so much info on Asian accomplishments in the U. S. military that they seemed to be less limited in what they were allowed to participate in at that time, and that's why I added that Eugene just might have been able to rise to the rank that we see in the show. I only wrote what I already know but was it possible that he attended a military academy (was it West Pointe?) or is that also an error? I'm not even sure that Asians could hold an officer's title beyond being sergeant (was it similar to African Americans?) So see there's definitely room for you to expound on the actual historical facts. I would enjoy being lazy and just reading after you do all the heavy lifting. 😉

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Let me see what I can dig up on that, you peaked my interest too.

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@ramonathepest I did find this wikipedia link, which makes me think it was plausible for Eugene to serve as a US Soldier, and even an officer, although it would have been quite rare. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_Asian_Americans

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From what I read (at the link you provided), Yoo jin would not have been allowed to attend any military academy at that point in time (unless he entered as a non - U. S. citizen which I highly doubt as it sounds like the foreigners that were allowed to attend were probably backed by dignitaries of their countries since they took the training they received (and I'm guessing paid for or granted for diplomatic purposes) and went back to their own countries ' militaries to serve).

But, please , no one get the impression that I'm not down with this story! I'll just take it as Quentin Tarantino revisionist history purely for entertainment enjoyment.

Part of me thinks it's kind of cool that we give that impression to other nations that we encompass the complementary melting pot (although it does concern another part of me). But today I'm just here to enjoy a good story. Yes, I would demand better accuracy from an American (or western) author but I can only imagine how we get it wrong when we try to write history about Asian countries so... (heck! Our writers don't get it right about African Americans and Native American First Peoples and we're right here for them to ask!) So I'll just go along with Kim Eun sook and enjoy what looks like it's going to be an epic ride.

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Interesting! Thanks for pointing that out.

Speaking of which, did that American guy just abandon "Eugene" on the streets of New York?

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Good question, and I hope we get some more flashbacks that explain how Eugene survived those early years in NYC.

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Well, if he stayed true to his word, he provided shelter for three years. From his willingness to let Yoo jin, a small child, go on his way alone after getting off the ship, I would imagine he did not provide much by way of parenting or guidance so Yoo jin was probably pretty much on his own with just a place to sleep. Maybe, hopefully, they'll develop more of a relationship but people didn't namby pamby kids back then. Orphans, even U. S. born orphans had a really hard time for basic survival back then. Not that it's a cakewalk being an orphan now, but at least they probably have lodging and meals.

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I was confused about that too. That's what it looks like. But it doesn't make sense that he would smuggle the boy to America and then abandon him, even if he provided shelter. The boy doesn't look like he was provided with anything.

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I have noticed that she does have inaccuracies when it comes to things and if she wanted to place this film in a film festival, I would be combing this show with a fine toothed comb. The accents especially. However, the story and acting when they get back to Korea makes up for it. Also, I think the only time I have seen any Asian soldiers was after WWII. Since they had Japanese Americans sign those loyalty papers after they were wrongly interned. This show is making me want to dip back into the history books on every little detail, I love it!

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Please join us in the dipping!

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I will! I am currently reading the text: A concise history of Korea to get more answers.

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Awesome, enjoy!

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Ahhh. But will that answer what was going on with Koreans in America at this time in history?

For example : I've read what American history has to say about that battle depicted at the beginning of this show and I'd love to know what Korean history officially says about it from their point of view.

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@ramonathepest I would have to check out the history books from Korea. The one I have is from the US, so it would be bias of course. But I agree that it would be awesome to get their actual perspective.

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I'd like to check out Korean history books too but I can't read Korean!

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my father (he was 18 years old) was in the very first group to be corralled for internment, as he was living on Bainbridge Island, Washington when the war broke out. this small japanese community was targeted as the "guinea pigs" to see just how the process would be played out.

on March 30, 1942, they were sent first via ferry to the Seattle waterfront and then put on a train with the windows covered to (undisclosed to them) the first internment camp in central california - Manzanar.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/how-bainbridge-island-japanese-were-registered-forced-from-their-homes-during-world-war-ii-in-1942/

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Thanks for the link. I'll definitely read.

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but there was a whole battalion of black soldiers fighting for the Union Army in the Civil War -- so seeing that soldier did not seem out of place to me.

https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war

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ohhh, you're saying there were blacks, but they were not "integrated" with the white troops, therefore, that black soldier would not be (merely walking) with white soldiers?

i'm sorry, that seems really nitpicky to me... the point of that scene was to illustrate that Yu-Jin/Eugene realized one did not have to be white to enlist in the military in America....

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Does it seem really nitpicky? It really bothered me and I said out loud, "yeah, THAT never happened" when he saw the one black soldier marching in the otherwise white unit.
It took so long and was so hard to get our armed forces integrated and is still not without its problems. I just saw an opera, of all things, about this very subject based on the true story of a Chinese-American soldier who was driven to suicide by racial bullying. It's a chilling story.

A Soldier Died After Racist Hazing. Now His Story Is an Opera. https://nyti.ms/2xwZrb9?smid=nytcore-ios-share

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Danny_Chen

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@spazmo, I kinda agree about the nitpicky-ness. I mean it's a drama, not a documentary. It's not telling a historically accurate story. Some things will be glossed over or inaccurate. Honestly, I'm just happy that there's a black person in a k-drama that's NOT a bad guy.

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It's like any other subject, when you know the facts behind them, you simply point them out. I did not call for a boycott of Kim Eun sook's dramas (I love her stories) or anything radical like that. I made a factual observation on something I know a lot about, similar to @tacourtn calling attention to them using artillery that had not been invented yet.

AND... the soldier was a real cutie. 😉

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Some things you have to be realistic about and some things require suspension of belief. Like the artillery. Maybe they couldn't get their hands on the exact weapon of the era so they came as close as they could. I was agreeing that it is a bit nit-picky only because it is not meant to be historically accurate nor a documentary.

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Some people are interested and some not about historical facts. When I watch saeguk, I LEARN and ask about what is accurate and not. Just like you can accept the inaccuracies (as can I, but I will comment on them), I ask that you kindly bypass the comments that reveal facts that you're not comfortable with.
Here at Dramabeans, comments are made on every single little mundane thought that passes anyone's mind (sometimes having nothing to do with the show being discussed). I saw something in the show and commented on it.

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I appreciate your response AND appreciate the personal info and facts regarding the Japanese experience. if you'd seen all my responses to others on the subject, you'd see I defend the bad (but not "as bad" as usual American accents) and I also touched on being glad to see a positive betrayal of blacks in Kdrama. (Kim Eun sook handled this well in Heirs also. While she did have a black guy and a white guy, together, harassing LMH, she also correctly showed the local gang harassing PHS as mostly white. There are gangs of ALL races where poverty exists and just based on sheer population numbers that means there are far more white kids in gangs than any other race, despite what the entertained media and news media depicts). I truly didn't mean for the conversation to go into this when I made the observation about the scene in Mr. Sunshine.

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@spazmo As I stated, I enjoyed the way that moment works for the story, but it's important that the world knows when something is not historically accurate otherwise when people rise up and fight their oppressors they're either labeled freedom fighters or rioters. The U. S. military was not integrated until 1948, during my father's time of service. The entire U. S. was not integrated until the late 1960's and there are still some parts of the south that practice illegal segregation. I would like to do my part to inform DB members from other parts of the world so if they see certain news (like kneeling instead of a saluting the U. S. flag, they may possibly understand and not only base their opinions on sometimes flawed or uninformed news media that it's unjustified "rage" or rebellion. So, I don't think it's "very nitpicky" to mention it at all and you wouldn't either if it affected your peoples' human rights or others ' world view of you.

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i totally hear you! i'm just saying i am at least impressed that a Kdrama showed the black soldier at the turn of the century following the civil war -- it's actually quite BIG for a korean production to portray that, and YES, they are not necessarily accurate.

for american audiences, such failures are HUGE, but in the context of the Kdrama world/sensibilities... i think this misrepresentation/lack of historical accuracy regarding integration is in the same category of when they hire white people to portray americans - yet we hear australian, russian or other accents and we (US netizens) notice that they look entirely european or otherwise...

i am not trying to dismiss the inaccuracy, honestly! to me, it is in line with other inaccuracies (white accents incongruent with the roles)... and i'm just trying to focus on the point of that scene.

i am not trying to belittle the historical facts. if it seemed so, i am sorry.

i am japanese american, so when i watch the Kdrama portrayals of japanese nationals... i get uncomfortable on a number of levels.

my father was a japanese american who enlisted in the army during WWII, yet my mother was a japanese national whom my father met during the occupation after the war in japan.

i grew up having to hear about my mother's prejudices toward the koreans from a japanese national point of view. but in watching these Kdramas that address the japanese occupation of korea... i had no idea, of course...

it all has been eye-opening to me. and a learning experience, and i do not intend to belittle anyone's experiences/perceptions. there will be inaccuracies in these dramas, yes.

we can correct them to the DB netizens, yes... i apologize if i offended you, i sincerely did not mean to do that.

as a japanese american (sansei, third generation), i did not stand during the national anthem since my high school years during the civil rights movement to this present day. before the NFL players were kneeling, i was sitting on my behind since the early 70s. i get it, trust me.

my people have been affected also. it continues, and the JA community now stands alongside the muslim community's oppressions and the Muslim Ban especially.

fear not, i am not the enemy by any means... i appreciate your passion and fervor to educate!

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I believe the scene would have been more historically realistic, and just as good--or better, if Eugene had witnessed an all black battalion of soldiers marching by. He could have made the same realization. (But yeah, I'm being nit picky too. When I hear the actors who are supposed to be U.S. born speaking with foreign accents I just say to myself, "how many Hollywood movies have I watched with actors speaking a foreign language that I didn't think about at the time, but may have been really BAD pronunciation in the language they were speaking.)

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Thank you for this recap! The first episode was simply amazing! It went above and beyond all of my expectations! The cinematography was beautiful and I'm so excited to dive into the history and emotions of this time period. Did anyone else feel a tad bit overwhelmed by this episode? For myself, I felt that the pacing was a little to quick and it was a little difficult for me to understand all of the developing backstories. Reading this recap made me realize that I actually missed quite a few details. I know it's the first episode and that they're only trying to set up the stage for the story, but I hope things will be a little more clear from here on out. Other than that, I loved the start!

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For now, I'm only staying for the cinematography which is fabulous 👍

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Interesting - you didn't elaborate and I'm curious. So far all the comments have nothing but the highest praise and I'm a bit skeptical. I haven't seen it yet as my tv is going out.

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Its here! Its HERE!

I just have to say I LOVED every minute of this opening episode from acting to dialogue but most of all that epic cinematography!

We only got 5 mins of KTR this episode but the next one completely makes up for it. There's nothing to decipher from her very short appearance in this episode so I'll wait till the next recap to share my thoughts on her character. We didn't see much of Eugene Choi either but LBH owned very scene with his charisma. I can tell why he's such a major movie star.

Enjoyed the extremely short but not forgettable cameos of KJW & JG. I was sad to see them go so maybe there can be more flashbacks to them in the later episodes? I's love to see more of their story as well.

This is one dramaverse that's populated with a bright array of interesting characters that I'm excited to learn more about!

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I was waiting for this recap! The first episode made me confused a bit with who was who.
So Ae-shin was born on 1875. The age gap is not that big on the show. They could be like 13/14 years apart if young Eugine was 9 years old?
Kim Hee-Sung was the kid on the belly of the Ignobleman pregnant daughter-in-law.
For Seung-gu I could realize who he was from the second episode.

The ost is AMAZING. I can't stop listening to "That Day" from Park Hyo Shin.

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well i dont think i'll continue watching this. child actors were really great (that scene with eugene and soldier impacted me lots too) but im just not sold on LBH and his future loveline (with a girl that looks like his daughter.. damn)

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Young Yoo-jin was so good! I was glued to the screen when he was on. I hope to see more flashbacks of him.

I have seen Kim Tae other films and I think she chooses great roles, such as a strong female leads. I can already tell that she will be great in this drama.

And the cinematography is beautiful!

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It took me 20 minutes to realize who's child actor playing the Young Yoojin, it's the same boy who played Lee Sun-kyun's son in "My Wife is Having an Affair this Week." He's super talented and cute.... :)

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He was so good in My Wife is Having an Affair this Week.

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My impression of the first five minutes: Like too many American made shows, the focus is on the scenery, not the characters. Yes, the cinematography is wonderful, but focus on the characters (I'm sure that's coming up.)
Okay, we get it. Time and place was made very clear, in your face so to speak.
If you're going to be in the U.S. use American actors who have the proper accent. These actors obviously speak English as a second language.
I fear I'm going to be too critical of this drama, judging by my opinion of the first five minutes.

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My thoughts were the same about the accents. I'm trying to keep an open mind about it, but this is 24 episodes of having an open mind and that's hard.

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2nd 5 minutes: Overly dramatic music of the ships coming into Chosun and we didn't need a whole minutes watching the ships, though it was beautiful.
I love Lee Byung Heon: he alone will keep me watching.
I love the time period, the fact that the big powers are all after possessing Chosun (did English speakers already call it Korea? I thought that was later.
As one comment stated, where is Russia? That might be too many players to include, but I hope they do.

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The next 10 minutes (the whole slave scene when the boy runs away and his parents die): Usually l'm totally emotional with this kind of scene in a kdrama but I felt nothing. Why? I've no clue. Was it the writing, the directing? It just felt sterile.

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That boy is a spunky survivor. And it's obvious the baby will grow up to be the young girl.
The battle scene is nice and I'm liking the drama more (in spite of my critical eye).

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The end of the battle and the boy's father dying. Didn't do a thing for me emotionally. Most of the music is driving me nuts, too overly dramatic and not in a good way.

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Started ff at about 44 minutes...
So one thing is slightly confusing, I'll have to go back and read that part of the recap.

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I agree with everyone that the production and cinematography are top-notch, also all main actors have been excellent in their role so far... but I feel emotionally disconnected with the characters...

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I am waiting to feel something from the main leads. However, I do feel that this go around I will be more invested in the 2nd leads. In her previous shows, I was always with the first leads. This time, I don't have that much investments. To be honest their story seems predictable to me. I feel I have seen their story done in the west. I'm interested to see how they will grow and connect though.

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I think it's because they didn't first establish by showing us this happy family unit. But they probably don't have time so I'll just imagine it. ;) I was with Mom all the way when she went into action.

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Yes, I noticed the bad "American" accents as well, but compared to most Kdrama American accents, these were great! If you watched Descendants of the Sun, for instance, those were terrible with Russian or Czech (or something) accented English and that was a huge production. I cut S. K. shows a huge break because I'm sure they can't tell one English accent from another (Brits, Aussies, Southern U. S. from New York). I can't tell when Korean actors are speaking with a Seoul or Busan or countryside accent (unless Dramabeans tells me they are). So can you imagine what Hollywood films have been doing to other languages all this time? I heard Korean audiences say that the old "Korean" woman in Black Panther was speaking gibberish; her accent was so bad they couldn't understand a word she said. So Hollywood probably put out a casting call for "Asians that can speak Korean" and she applied. When asked can she speak Korean, she, probably in need of a paycheck, said "yes", and there you have it. How many American movies probably have people speaking gibberish that we think sounds like Russian (or whatever we need it to be) to us?

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In the real world: my mom is not only from the South (US) but has a very country accent. She complained to me last week she can't understand people on tv anymore because their accents are too "foreign".

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I am Norwegian, and I try to keep in mind that if I wanted accurate Norwegian in movies I should watch Norwegian movies, but I have definetely noticed that Hollywood and America are very meh when it comes to other countries and accuracy. Just some small things for fun.
1) Classics: The Norwegian in The Thing, who was an American and spoke so bad not even Norwegians noticed the "Bilingual Bonus". When the prequel/remake had actual Norwegian actors, we still laughed at how they were lead by a Dane, immediately contacted help from Americans, and how they explained that the dude from the first movie "can't speak English", which just felt unrealistic because many meant he would have been able to speak at least a little basic English. Also X-Files had an episode where two "Norwegians" spoke the language, and that episode, down to its very title, became a meme in Norway when it aired because it was so bad (also one guy's name was a city, it would be like if a Brit's surname was London or an American's surname was Chicago.

2) Agents of SHIELD had an episode about supremacists in Norway causing chaos in the city (which... was badly timed considering we had been attacked by a supremacist not too long before), and they hired Norwegian actors to play Norwegians... speaking English alone in an Norwegian forest.

3) An episode with Swedes in Brooklyn 99 not only had the weirdest and most unfamiliar stereotype of Scandinavians for me, but the way the actors used the accents and pronounced English names in a "Scandinavian" way was just distracting (also rude AF because unless they were deliberately rude I can't imagine them ever saying "Yeik" when Jake clearly said his name.

4) Also, because I like the game Overwatch: It works hard now to make sure the voice actors suit more the roles they play, ethnicity and culture-wise, but at launch it was very random which hero got an actor with the right accent; The Swiss hero Mercy got first an American actor who used "zis type of accent und zat waz un little annoying", before they recast her with a German actor who uses High-German instead of the Swiss German. They also gave the Swedish hero Torbjörn an American voice actor who at first spoke with some sort of Tolkien-dwarf Irish accent, though his daughter got an actual Swedish actor when she was released, and I personally think the actor later tried to imitate a more Swedish accent.

4) Also the whole deal with Marvel's Thor. Hmmm, we're going to have a movie based around Norse Mythology... Let us hire Australian and American actors with British-like accents to play the gods, and place some coloured gods in there for diversity! (Not that I can really compare, though; I can't remember an American-made movie about African gods where they use *African* actors (which I personally feel is different from using African-American actors), but I do know that the movies about Egyptian gods can be... cringy with its actors, so it might be a general...

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Loved your comment! My daughter's always complaining about European dramas that only use British actors. For instance Wallander takes place in Sweden, they even use Swedish (I assume) on the computer, it's filmed in Sweden but it's British actors (well, it was Tom Hiddleston so we can overlook that). She complained about Thor as well.

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Ohohoh, I remember Wallander! I think they (either England or USA) did the same with "Let the Right One In", where it all took place in Sweden but were played by non-Swedes. I am so torn because

I didn't have space to include this, but there was this really good Norwegian mockumentary named Trolljegeren/The Troll Hunter, but it is very rooted in Norwegian culture, inside jokes, cameos and fairy tails. America loved the movie so much they wanted to make a remake to "show the movie to the world" or something like that, and from what I remember, it would take place in America, which... would not make much sense at all and would remove the very "national" identity of the movie. It would feel like Americans making a saegeuk, I think; they might have the money and resources to make something good-looking, but the national identity would just be gone.

And Thor, hahah. My friend when it was released REFUSED to see the movie with me. Personally I was disappointed not to hear everyone in Asgard speak with a heavy Scandinavian accent, but instead with a British one to indicate royalty. And it's like... I get it, royalty/nobility often speak differently so they need to get that through, but... I wanted the accents. :(

If you want an example, look up "Norsemen" or "Vikingane"! It is a comedy about vikings that speak and act modern to clash with the grim setting and photography, and anticipating international release they did the scenes in Norwegian and English; a lot of the inside jokes and puns didn't work anymore, BUT you got the funny accents which still ruin the mood, as intended. :D

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@pakalanapikake: You might enjoy reading Pensola's post.

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@linda-palapala,

Thanks for the heads-up! I busted a gut while reading it. ;-)

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@pensola this is great, thanks for the humor! And perspective 😉

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Thanks @pensola! This was hilarious and very eye-opening. I'm afraid my only exposure to Scandinavian stories (apart from the Australian Thor) is HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, which LOL, cast Gerard Butler. The Scottish accent helped make the Viking characters memorable for me, but now I wonder if the Danes were rolling their eyes.

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This drama is lit! (Pun intended)

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I know some of you are uncomfortable with the age difference between Eugene and Ae-Shin. Maybe I'm being Captain Obvious again, but are we 100% sure they will become romantically involved? That Mr. Sunshine character relationship chart that I found and posted on my fan wall (look back to June 22nd) only indicates them as
comrades or enemies, not romantically involved. I'm sure there will be some hormonal tension between them, but maybe that chart is correct? Perhaps they won't become lovers...

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Thanks - I felt some were jumping to conclusions too. Although look at the age difference in Goblin! Age difference doesn't usually bother me but it surely did in Goblin (not the thousand year difference but the apparent physical age difference). And the immaturity disconnect, and the height difference...

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on height difference, you should watch a love so beautiful :)

height difference will become a "thing"

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Yes, it seems most younger Korean actors are now at least 6 feet and over and the female actors only between 5 feet and a few inches. Actually, I'm only 5 feet and my husband was 6 feet so height difference shouldn't bother me - and it usually doesn't but for some reason it did in Goblin.
One of the first things I look for in a kdrama is how high and spiky the women's shoes are.

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That height difference in A love so beautiful was comical to me. His back must be hurting at some point. I do agree about the height thing. It's becoming a trope of sort. I liked it when they were at least close, so the shorter actor doesn't have to be on a stool like in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon.

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Immaturity disconnect is so uncomfortable to watch!

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I have seen the Episode 0 and it looks like a full on pentagon. Like in my honest opinion, my hope was that the romance would take a back burner due to the fact that their country is about to enter into one of their worst points in their history.

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It's a KES's drama, it would be weird that the main characters don't have a love story. In the chart, they show who love them but not who they love.

For this erea, it wasn't rare that a man marries a younger woman in first or second noce.

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"Hormonal tension", love it 👍🏼
Can't imagine KES without "hormonal tension" coming out the 👂🏼s.

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watched both episodes, i don't know if it's me but the opening scene and thereafter, i didn't feel the same sense of grandeur as goblin. Goblin's 1st episode was blow your mind awesome cinematography wise..despite grandeur being there..

It is nice but it wasn't breathtakingly awesome..

Then the story, never watched either in anything.. (watched Kim tae ri in handmaiden but that movie is over hyped.. it was nice acting.. nothing out of the ordinary)..they are good actors..that's the good part.. individually both were good in their scenes.. but together, i don't feel any chemistry.. whatsoever...

Lastly, the so called emotional points.. again there is nothing wrong with them , everything is perfect but it did nothing ... the jokes were not funny, although i recognize that the banter or internal monologue is meant to be funny in a sarcastic way or is a satire.. crying scenes don't have an impact either..

In summary, this is weird but everything about this drama is nice but but not emotionally moving.. and there is nothing i can point and say... if they improved this or that.. super weird experience

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I appreciate your brief commentary on The Handmaiden, because I've been wondering if it was over-hyped.

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how do you italicize or bold on this forum ? :)

huh, i watched the movie.. i wasn't impressed. Story isn't exactly moving, you can predict the outcomes. Its mostly about sex - lesbian sex. And acting wise, the movie script doesn't offer spectacular tones to character that an actor can use to showcase his/her prowess. Ofcourse, the detective from signal - he is good in his role as the evil demented old man, brings in his own quirks to the character.

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Exactly. So far, it doesn't have Heart.

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I remember when the recapper said that although Chuno was epic, beautiful cinematography, it just didn't have "heart".

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Chuno!? No heart?! Ha!

NOTE: That whenever Chuno! is mentioned there will always be an exclamation point.

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I watched it so many times I can't watch it anymore. And I can still sing the music in my head. Especially in ep 5 when she's playing the Korean instrument and it shows what everyone is doing. I'm getting chills remembering it. And my favorite characters were actually the slaves. Great, now I'm thinking of adding it again to my watchlist since it's been so long.
It was almost the first drama I watched and I couldn't buy into Jang hyuk's character - I thought he was totally pathetic for pining after some girl for 10 years! Of course now with more kdrama experience I realize that's a normal thing.

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I disagree with the recappers on that one. CHUNO was bursting with heart. I cared for every single character, including the villain swordsman (exception: I hated the evil minister). If Mr. Sunshine can pull off anything like that I will be thrilled to bits. It will be tricky with such a large cast...

CHUNO by the way was also my introduction to the erhu (what's the Korean name? I need @pakalanapikake!)

By the way, anyone who loves that kind of music should check out REBEL: THIEF WHO STOLE THE PEOPLE. Honey Lee's dancing and singing was magnificent.

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I kind of think they were planning a 2nd season but the ratings weren't high enough. Because of the way it ended, it left room for Song Tae Ha and the swordsman, Chil Hoon, to work together. Chuno was the first I realized sageuk is based on real past events and I went and read about that era in Korean history.

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@linda-palapala Me too! The story of the parents of the little prince in CHUNO (Crown Prince Sohyeon and his wife) is told in THE THREE MUSKETEERS, with some creative license. :D

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@wishfultoki
A gayageum.

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@wishfultoki But why can't Koreans do the same thing? In case this comment gets lost (since I couldn't hit "reply") I'm talking about creating fictional kingdoms as you mentored Chinese dtamas sometimes do. Like with Shine or Go Crazy, why not use the same story basis of a prince sent away from his family, use the personality that would create and while every one would know what it's based on, the freedom would be there to do whatever they want with the characters just by giving them different names.

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@ramonathepest I haven't watched very historical drama out there, but I know that recently they have started to veer away from history by giving characters fictional names and endings. Examples: Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, Grand Prince.

I like historical fiction based on true events, to be honest. Some dramas go into fantasy and it is more hit-and-miss for me, like Arang and the Magistrate or Gu Family Book.

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That scene you describe of the camp and the instrument and singing was the very first time I wasn't repelled by that type of ancient Asian music. In fact, when i hear it, it draws me in. Even though it's not pansoori style (I don't think), it's made me interested and fascinated by pansoori. I think before that scene, I'd only heard ancient Chinese and Japanese stringed instruments and vocals and this felt totally different.

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Is that what "saeguk" means? I just thought it meant it was set in that ancient time period and could be any story with fictional characters, but are you saying that in order to really be a saeguk it must have as its basis some historical event or actual people from history?

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Yes, "sageuk" is used for historical dramas. Nowadays "fusion sageuk" seems to be more popular, and they are more loosely based on historical events and characters, often introducing fictional characters and changing the ending.

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@wishfultoki - So if I'm understanding you correctly then this answers a question that I've had for a while - "Why don't they just set up saeguks with fictional characters and kingdoms, because using real life historical persons boxes in how far and what they can do with the story?" For example "Shine or Go Crazy" - if they had used fictional characters then the ending would not have had to be so unpopular with viewers.

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@ramonathepest Yep, "Shine or Go Crazy" had a lot of fictional elements but it still followed the historical ending. "Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart" is another drama that used the same events and characters, even more fictionalised (fusion sageuk), but they still decided to follow the historical ending.

In general I think sageuks based in Joseon times are more bound by historical records. Since we know less about Goryeo and even less about Three Kingdoms times writers are not so restricted by history and can play around with legends and myths (like one of my favourite dramas, "Jumong").

Chinese wuxia are good at setting their stories in ancient times, giving them enough freedom to invent fictional characters, kingdoms and events at leisure.

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The people who say The Handmaiden is not breathtaking or emotional moving are definitely those who don't understand it at all Lol. The movie is hard to watch, just like many Park Chan Wook's movies. But the movie is among the best Korean movies ever made

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The movie is a straight rip off of many adaptations made..
and ultimately the "hard" part comes because of lead character- and her deranged sponsor's relationship (the old man bit).. Kim tae ri's character has nothing special to offer.. its a movie for the older lady

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What a premiere! The direction is beautiful and the story is...well, it's a typical set up episode tbh. But it's a compelling one with lots of action and we get to see our protagonists' tragic roots.

Honestly, when Lee Byung Hun was cast I didn't really care but seeing him compared to thee rest of the main cast is like seeing the awkward teen who got stuck at the kids table.

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I thought the best parts were the moms of our hero and heroine (I also squealed when I realised Kim Ji Won was playing the mother of our heroine! And married to Jin Gu too! Ae-shin basically has heroes for parents!).

So much fire and spirit, and great acting - especially Yoo-jin's mother, going straight for the pregnant daughter-in-law of Ignobleman and being ready to kill her just to buy her child some safety. It reminded me a lot of Amogae in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, which is a great drama btw. The actress was also amazing.

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oh i just realized.. she is the girl from man to man..

wow.. so much better here.. in that drama she was unbearable

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ohhh, sad! i LOVED her in MxM -- she was PERFECT as the dweeby dorky gawky gooney girl who ended up (actually) being the very unlikely romantic interest of the stiff serious secret agent....
: D

i absolutely HA

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what happened... got cut off.

i absolutely HATED her character in The Thorn Birds for many years... yup, that old drama-grudge thing... but her comedic role in Man X Man cured me of all of that!

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More than her, i think i didn't like MXM overall..
i couldn't stand the drama even for PHJ..

people kept harping about bromance and it wanted to be the next goblin but darn... that "bromance" wasn't even close to anything mediocre in feels.. which is super weird because none of the actors were bad

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Man to Man is the very reason I don't care for her. She made Man to Man unwatchable for me. The character worked my nerves. I love Park Hae Jin so I will occasionally watch bits and pieces of it. Nothing with her in it though.

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This may be (will be) my first historical drama!! How exciting! 😀😁😀
Although I am sure they will kill most of good characters after we get to love them, and the evil ones maybe only at the end 🙄
How about our OTP? If they are realistic, maybe they will even kill one of them.
Don't know, but I am pretty sure I will cry again... 😐

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I hope you enjoy your first historical drama. :) I am not convinced who the OTP will be yet. But I am convinced that at some point in this series, I will cry.

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I do believe somewhere here on DB we were told Lee Byung Hun and KTR (sorry, I'm not familiar with the actress' name) would be the OTP and that the actor who was the baby in the noblewoman's womb during the dust up (can't remember his name but he was the master swordsman in Six Flying Dragons) would be the third wheel romantic lead. So unless that was announced only to throw us off...

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I'm wondering how Eugene was able to come to America with no identification and still be able to join the military. I mean, for those who are white it would be a easier, but he's Asian.

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Great point. I'm really hoping there is more to his backstory that has not been revealed to us yet. If not, we will have to use our imagination.

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As someone who did a bit of genealogical digging into the family tree (and got stuck around this time period) I discovered that it wasn't obligatory to carry passports to and from USA back then. Since they didn't have driver's licenses and births were recorded in family bibles, I wonder if "identification documents" was even a thing.

So I don't think it's a question of papers, but rather (as someone mentioned above) if he had patronage from someone with influence. As an Asian person he would not have been allowed to join the military at the time.

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That would make sense, but wasn't he left to the streets?

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Yeah, I'm not clear on that either. If he was adopted by an American family that would make it easier (especially if they were politically influential), but we don't know enough about what happened during that those years.

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That's true. I will be disappointed if they don't answer that question.

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what happened to orphans back then?
GIven the relationship between the boys.. my understanding was that he was in an orphanage or in some locality... grew up with same people... education must have been mandatory, no? even for the lost boys?

Wasn't it as simple as study, take exam, become a soldier

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Things were so very different back then. Heck! just 30 years ago you could muck up your credit, move to a new state and just start over because computers weren't as efficient as they are now. Doctors could totally eff up and pick a new state and start over. It was better for honest people who made minor mistakes but horrible that criminals could get away with so much. And that was just 30 years ago so a hundred...

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I find it so difficult to get through backstories for to the sheer impatience to see the main actors in all their glory, but once I actually bit the bullet and watched this I was quite engrossed. Kim Ji-won is the superior Mamma Bear. 👌

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I read this was going to be on Netflix, but I can't find it on Netflix. Does it have a different title? (Or maybe it's not on Netflix in my country?)

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I'm watching it on Netflix. Same title (I know they're notorious for giving shows new names that make no sense and make it difficult to find.) Sorry if you don't have it. 😞

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So Netflix has it airing in the US concurrently with when each ep comes out in Korea. I’m in Mexico right now, and here it won’t air until July 19th.

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Simulcasting just fine here in England?

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This was amazing! Thank you @dramallama! But I would have edited some of the battle scenes shorter, thereby allowing all the main characters to appear in this first episode. If I were someone just picking this show up without knowing any of the characters beforehand, I may not have found it compelling enough to watch the second episode where another strong woman would be introduced, as well as our third male lead. I’m appreciating the history lesson I’m getting here and the set design is impeccable in New York and Washington. I also love hearing three languages on my screen. The humor is very subtle which comes out a bit more in episode 2, I think. But these are bleak times in Joseon, so I’m expecting the worst, which means lots of death, unfortunately, and I’ll be happily surprised if all our main characters make it out alive.

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I would bet on:
1. YYS definitely dying
2. the owner of hotel dying (80% prob)

that elevated train.. he he it hought it was chicago. elevated train = chicago :P .. but yes completely missed the point that he went to new york

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Tee hee the Brooklyn Bridge was supposed to give it away. They did indeed have elevated trains but I think they were outside of Manhattan only, so I assumed Eugene was on the Brooklyn side.

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oh yes.. forgot about that.. i looked at it.. and was wondering if the bridge existed at that time.. but then the moment train came up onscreen.. i forgot about the bridge :P

Anyway, movie starts with New York, i should have been more observant

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naaaah. We Chicago girls can be forgiven for thinking we have the only El. Wouldn't it have been a different story if Eugene grew up in the City of Big Shoulders, stockyards and Chicago-style corruption?

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The slaves in korea were treated better than in the u.s.

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It is a sad fact that many cultures used slaves--the practice of owning and treating humans as less than human. It is a sad fact that it happens even today.

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not a competition

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I happened to chance this site while trying to find out what tune the music box was playing (i don't think the title in the recap is correct). I know its an old, known tune but I just can't figure it out.
Anyways, I wanted to add something about the scene with Yoo Jin cutting his hair. During that time (really, up to about around the forced one sided signing of the Eulsa treaty), it was almost a forbidden act to commit. Korea had (and to a certain extent still does have) Confucianism heavily steeped in its culture. Following the principles of filial piety, a man was to never cut what was given to him by his parents (body wise, not something like clothes although it may also be) since it was not from himself but from his parents. To shame a man, his hair would be cut (sort of like branding him with a scarlet letter). He would be considered the lowest of low, one who dishonored his parents.
Going back to the time around the Eulsa treaty, Japan basically forced all the men to cut their hair. I don't know if this was to shame them psychologically (sort of like saying they weren't even men) or trying to westernize them. Then again , it was a dark and barbaric part of an otherwise rich history of Japan.
Going to Yoo Jin, I am not sure if the writer wanted to convey just how strong this scene was. If they knew this show would be watched by a part of an audience who is unfamiliar with Chinese, Korean..really most of Asian culture and history, it would be easy to miss without an explanation. Maybe she was just trying to show how determined Yoo Jin was to become accepted by assimilating? OR both? that he would sacrifice a part of the body his mother gave him, especially after her death, to become accepted. Anyways, it was just a powerful scene for me and I wanted to share it with people who may have not know.

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"Greensleeves" and "What Child is This?" are the two possibilities. Both songs have (almost) the same melody but the lyrics are vastly different. HOWEVER, it is not obvious which song the music box is playing because there are no lyrics in a music box.

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You know, I was wrong. I did a search of "What Child is This" and the first gazillion hits that came up was Josh Groban, which made me think "what the...Josh Gro..ban..what the heck?" But i went back and listened to it and it does sound like the tune. And both Greensleeves and What Child is This sounds almost identical. Thanks! It was bothering me since yesterday. I was humming to my phone for a while trying to get soundhound to figure it out for me.

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Geek corner: "Greensleeves" is a Renaissance tune, said to have been composed by King Henry VIII of England (of infamous memory for marrying 6 wives), to try and win over his lover Anne Boleyn, who became wife #2.

Here is a rendition on the lute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCpF2cwm_04

I really don't know what significance, if any, this tune has for Eugene. Other dramas have used music box tunes for no reason at all (recently, Rich Man), merely to convey a sad and melancholy childhood.

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I thought it was "Greensleeves" as well but when dramallama said "What Child Is This", I looked it up. It was written in 1871 so that would make the music box almost a pop tune item 😁

Thanks very much for adding to the background on the hair-cutting. As you can see, we are hungry for knowledge and details.

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Heh, I was wrong. The first time I google What Child Is This it was all Josh Groban so I thought it couldn't be right. Went back and it is indeed the song and tune he is singing.
And it was my pleasure! It's a pre-modern Korean belief that's just become trivial knowledge in modern times and not all that useful except for maybe a handful of times like in this scene, which doesn't explain what was so important about the act while making it look important.

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That gives me the giggles to think of you starting with your head in an antique music box and Korean sageuk but ending with Josh Groban 😂 Because you really, really never know where kdrama is going to lead you . . .

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The tune is the same, but it makes sense more sense that the drama is referring to "What Child is This" than "Greensleeves", which (as I explained above) was a lover's song!