Tapping the hopeless romantic me, I felt so many emotions watching this sweet, melancholic love series.
Love can only be realized if you love someone back. A romance that blossomed from fate accidental meetings, this cliché but nonetheless piercingly sweet rich-boy-poor-girl-you-and-me-against-the-world love tale can attract any person who has loved, was not loved and is waiting to be loved.
When they promised a different approach to the story of Joseon’s femme fatale, I was curious to what they were trying to arrive at. You see it’s hard to sway someone’s preconception of an existing character that has been hailed as a she-Sauron on TV and film adaptations, but it managed to satisfy my curiosity plus it gave me days of happiness staring at my now favorite flower boy Yoo Ah In.
Most of its episode I really enjoyed though at some point there were lapses leading to its culmination. The production team struggled as confused bakers who were momentarily baffled on how to put the icing on the cake. Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love was strongest on its love arc especially on those moments when the romance was on its way to be realized. Although the eventual ugly side of love shattered slightly the endearing moments of the couple, I stayed loyal because of the King’s unfailing love to his concubine.
Presenting an antiquated famous Joseon romantic tale by garnishing hints of modern vibe without sacrificing the elegance of the grandeur of the era it was derived, my hopeless romantic self added a list on my bucket to experience dating – Joseon-era style. *wink
Our modern era has simplified pressing heart-fluttering scenes in dramas and movies. Kisses, declaration of i-love-yous and some more kisses always do the trick. Thus the challenge on a period romance melodrama would always be how they can create scenes in a historical premise that would make the audience lovingly sigh, swoon and squeal… and that was satisfyingly achieved by the concubine and her King.
The moon gazing, the walking side by side together beneath the stars, the never-let-go-of-my-hand-promises and the see-how-much-i-love-you scenes were some of the most superbly captured moments in this series. This drama is a memory trigger that will surely hit someone with nostalgic memories. Viewer will be reminded of that point in his life, when because of love he accepted pain and let go of someone’s hand, yet still keeping a special spot in his heart.
Born from a mother with a slave status, Jang Ok Jung has experienced a difficult life with her family. Her father born from a merchant family was disowned after his marriage to a slave and eventually died protecting his family.
Jang Ok Jung’s uncle, a prominent merchant has been waiting for the right moment to get revenge to the royal family who caused his daughter’s death and saw an opportunity to strike back after seeing Ok Jung, but the poor girl who got separated from her brother and mother decided to stay in the teacher’s home to learn the craft of dressmaking from her. Ok Jung showed untapped potentials in dressmaking and it bloomed alongside her radiant self. When she was learning how to design clothing, she accidentally bumped with a young man (crown prince) who also wanted to peek at an intimate book.
Finding it weird that a young woman was into that kind of book, the young prince incognito later learned that she loved sewing clothes. The young Crown Prince found his first love and promised her that he will wash away her social status worries and asked her to meet him in a place, but palace problem occurred and the prince wasn’t able to meet Ok Jung. Uncle Jang who can’t wait anymore to get Ok Jung in his hand ordered someone to burn the house where Ok Jung was staying which caused the death of her teacher.
She was left no choice but to live with her cunning uncle. Fast forward to the future and we see Ok Jung busy preparing for her fashion show. She was a sought-after hanbok and accessories designer and has gained clients from women of nobility but the madam of the household where her mother was serving caused a scene in the fashion show and exposed her mother’s identity. Ok Jung who has been saving up money so she can pay for her mother’s freedom was humiliated and lost most of the customers. With the recent mishap in her business, an opportunity came when Ok Jung was commissioned to create a hanbok for a woman’s matchmaking date who turned out to be the King.
Through a series of fated meetings, a love that was unimaginable to happen between the King of the country and a low-born maiden was made possible by the strong attraction that built up to an unrequited adoration. Defying his mother and the government people who are against his relationship to a lady not from a noble family, King Sukjong who has married a woman to appease a stubborn political wing, dauntlessly took the hand of the woman he loved and appointed her as his Royal Concubine.
Jang Ok Jung’s life as a concubine was a painful experience and if not for the strength she was getting from the comfort of her King, she would have lost hope. The Queen Mother portrayed a perfect example of a she-devil-mother-in-law who can only rationalize and do more evil. Whenever the Queens and the concubines engaged in icy conversations which they will start and end with a bow of respect *giggles, what I am always checking was who will collapse first because I swear I really can see their veins moving because of their self-inflicted woes, rage and annoyance.
But the mighty political faction always complained about the King’s favor to his concubine, actually the ministers can’t seem to run out of things to whine, little did they know that their persecutions would toughen the woman they kept on stepping on, and when she got pregnant, knowing she has the upper hand, she ended the unreasonable clamors of the Western faction. Every time the King has a caucus with the officials I swear I felt like I want to do an apparition to cheer my King and pout at those hard-headed yangbans.
Jang Ok Jung who suffered misfortunes has had enough of it. From attempted poisoning to losing her unborn baby to kidnapping, she fought back the best way she can as long as she would not lose the most important person in her life.
Queen In Hyun was deposed and Ok Jung was raised to Queen Consort. An event that provided opportunity for Ok Jung to turn the tides on with In-hyun’ father who was behind all those dangerous plots to harm her.
Then the writer of the drama discovered her boyfriend has another woman so she inserted Choi Suk Won whose face annoyed me and Chi Soo who wasted Jae Hee oppa’s talent. Their unnecessary screen time confused the characters and almost made me drifted away from the drama. But then, Hallelujah!!! The writer’s boyfriend made a good alibi so the writer remembered focusing on Jang Ok Jung and her love story.
The final blow of the conflict was unexpected, very painful but a fair closing for me. When Jang Ok Jung’s brother tried to poison the Royal Concubine Choi Suk Won, the majority party didn’t waste time to taunt the King on the right thing to do, so again for Ok Jung to protect the King, she decided to step down from the Queen position.
Queen In-hyun was restored as the Queen of the country but suffered from a serious medical condition. At that time the Crown Prince fell ill of chicken pox and Ok Jung left no options to save her son resorted to agreeing with her mother to call a priestess and do an offering which was at that time prohibited in the Confucian society.
Now Royal Concubine Choi Suk Won and the ruling party seized that opportunity to defame Jang Ok Jung by accusing her of doing the shamanic offering out of jealousy and to harm Queen In Hyun. The villains were successful in leaving the King no choice, but to order Ok Jung to commit suicide. But of course, King Sukjong had a back-up plan and he sought another man’s help to carry out Ok-jung’s escape. Chi-soo again took Ok Jung to save her from her imminent death.
When Ok Jung realized what was happening though and how King Suk-jong will be put on a grueling situation with the politicians because of her, she went back to the palace to face her fate once and for all, and to fend her unrequited love to King Sukjong. In the arms of the King she fell in love with, she also took the last breath of her life.
Swaying the pages of history books to package Jang Hee Bin in a different light, was a feat that was accomplished because they delve on the pain and sufferings she battled out because she was a woman in love. By showing Ok Jung as a sacrificial lamb, I bet it has shook the built impressions about her, because it did to me. There she was, pretty and loved unconditionally not just by the King but two other men, but then again she still died protecting her son and the man she loved.
When she went back to the palace to face the suicide order, I would have normally annoyed by its stupidity but her actions were understandable and have sealed the kismet yet tragic outcome of their love story.
All you are willing to give up because of love has been the poignant theme of this drama and it concluded in a heartbreaking moment that made me cry like a baby for this star-crossed lovers who surrendered on destiny.
I have a love-you hate you relationship with the makers of this production, but I really liked how they use the details of history but giving it a different motivation and reason to weave and strengthen the love conflict of the story. They were following what we knew what happened, but they made it look favorable to the lead heroine thus making them accomplish the different Hee Bin they pledged to give.
King Sukjong hindered by his position and the unlimited arguments thrown by the political parties he presided was always sensing the intangibles surrounding the wicked plot thrown at him and Ok Jung. Perceptive, just and not easily swayed, most of the time he was one step ahead of the vile ministers that were always positioned to strike on him. In most of the sageuk dramas I’ve seen, the Kings indecisiveness really annoyed me, but this time and not because Yoo Ah In is fated to love me, it was really a splendid performance especially on the finale episodes when his position as a King was not enough to protect the woman he loved so much.
I was almost drifting away but an eonni called me back to stay faithful, and I am glad I followed her instinct as the closure was befitting to the gladdening moments and even to the anguished closing scene of the ardent romance story that was filled with so much love and yet losing to fate inevitably.
Jang Ok Jung, Live In Love was a two-faced romantic story loaded with tears and rose petals. Painfully stirring, I will take it as one of my drama favorites this 2013. -jediprincess