5 Historical (Saeguk) K-Drama Classics To Watch: Hwarang, Mr Queen
The K-Wave has taken the world by storm, with audiences from all around the globe hooked on Korean dramas and K-pop music. Through these media, they proudly showcase their colourful culture and are even able to give a glimpse into their rich history through highly-acclaimed period pieces. Although loosely-based on historical events, these shows depict a bygone era with storylines that are worthy of a binge.
1/5 Moon Embracing The Sun
Years after Crown Princess Yeon-woo’s death, King Lee Hwon broods over his first love and claims to be ill in order to avoid showing affection for his now-wife, Queen Bo Kyung. A shaman named Wol is tasked to stay by the king’s side as an attempt to cure him, but her striking resemblance to the Crown Princess strikes him. The series successfully conveys the ways those in power conspire to remain so, and Kim Soo-hyun’s emotional portrayal of King Lee Hwon won him Best Actor in the 2012 Baeksang Awards. The show also won Best Drama in both Baeksang and MBC Drama Awards in the same year.
In the kingdom of Silla, nobles are growing impatient for Queen Ji So to cede her reign as regent as she keeps her son away from the kingdom for fear of assassins going after him. To strengthen her power, the Queen forms Hwarang, a group of male warriors from the kingdom’s elite families, who are being trained to protect the kingdom—and throne—from any threats. This drama has become a crowd favourite for its star-studded cast which include Park Seo-joon, Choi Min-ho of SHINee, and Park Hyung-sik, and marked the acting debut of Kim Tae-hyung (V) from BTS.
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Unlike many historical dramas that highlight romance, Kingdom sets itself apart with its take on a zombie outbreak in the Joseon era. Queen Consort Cho hides the King’s death while waiting to give birth to a male heir. Measures are taken to buy them more time result in an endemic that turns the dead into monsters when night falls. As South Korea’s first Netflix original series, Kingdom garnered rave reviews and its second season was highly-anticipated in 2020. A special episode titled "Kingdom: Ashin of the North" is set for release this year.
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4/5 Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
During a solar eclipse, a woman from the 21st century named Go Ha-jin drowns in an attempt to save a child and is transported to the Goryeo era. She wakes up in the body of Hae Soo, a noblewoman, and finds herself becoming close to the many Crown Princes of the royal family. Despite its strong cast led by IU and Lee Joon-gi, it recorded an average rating within South Korea. On the other hand, the series had a strong performance internationally, garnering over a billion views and leaving fans riveted by its heartbreaking ending.
5/5 Mr. Queen
If Scarlet Heart Ryeo broke hearts, Mr Queen kept its audience breaking into fits of laughter. In this recently-concluded comedy drama, a modern-day man named Bong-hwan wakes up in the body of the Queen, Kim So-yong, during the Joseon period. As he finds ways to bring himself back to his original time and body, he manoeuvres life within the palace and learns that there is more to being the queen than it seems. Shin Hye-sun shines in her portrayal of a man stuck in a woman’s body, and one of nobility at that. Together with Kim Jung-hyun, they bring life and humour to this fantasy period piece.
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