궁 Palace/Princess Hours (Korean Drama)

The main characters L-R: Song Ji-Hyo (Other Woman Hyo-Rin), Joo Ji Hoon (Crown Prince Lee Shin), Yoon Eun-Hye (New Princess Chae-Kyeong), and Kim Jung-Hoon (as Ex-Crown Prince Lee Yul)

The main characters L-R: Song Ji-Hyo (Other Woman Hyo-Rin), Joo Ji Hoon (Crown Prince Lee Shin), Yoon Eun-Hye (New Princess Chae-Kyeong), and Kim Jung-Hoon (as Ex-Crown Prince Lee Yul)

Overview:

Set in an alternate 21st century reality where Korea posesses a royal family, since 1945 to present (So, reinstated after the Japanese invasion and WW2), this show revolves around the lives of the Crown Prince Lee Shin, and his new bride, Chae-Kyeong. The series starts off with the news that the King, Shin’s father, is very ill. With the grim outlook on the King’s health, the royal family scrambles to find a wife for Shin, so as to allow him to take over the royal throne if the situation requires.

Despite being in love with another girl, the ambition and talented ballerina Hyo-Rin whom Shin initially proposed to (she rejects him to pursue her ballet dreams), Shin eventually marries a commoner to whom he was indirectly betroled by his late grandfather in an old agreement with the girls grandfather.

Shin marries the headstrong yet loveable Chae-Kyeong after Hyo-Rin’s rejection. Despite initially feeling nothing for Chae-Kyeong, love eventually blossoms between the couple as time passes.

In the meantime, however, matters are further complicated with the return of Prince Lee Yul and his mother Lady Hwa-Young, who was once the Crown Princess before the death of her husband, the late Crown Prince, elder brother to the current King. Yul and his mother were chased out of the palace somet ime after the death of his father, and it is later revealed that this was due to the King’s discovery of an affair between Yul’s mother and the current King, who was his father’s younger brother.

Yul’s mother had returned with a sinister motive in mind: to restore her son back to the throne, which would have been his eventually, if his father had not died. A series of events befall the palace with the schemes Yul’s mother carries out, and is further intensified by the various scandals involving the royal family, which are inclusive of Shin’s continuing relationship with his old flame Hyo-Rin, and the budding love Yul develops for Chae-Kyeong, his cousins new-found bride.”

–Amazon.Com

Plot: 5/5

There is a recurring relationship between Chae-Keyong and Alfred, a teddy bear who acts as Lee Shin's only friend, given to him when he reached an age where his parents deemed him old enough to be treated as a royal prince and restricted his parents contact with them.

There is a recurring relationship between Chae-Keyong and Alfred, a teddy bear who acts as Lee Shin’s only friend, given to him when he reached an age where his parents deemed him old enough to be treated as a royal prince and restricted his parents contact with them.

That’s a surprisingly in-depth description from amazon! But don’t go there, the show costs over $100 and I’m fairly positive when I bought it from YesAsia (who now only sells the Region 2 box set) it was only $30.

One key feature of the plot that it does not mention revolves around that line from the description “indirectly betrothed”. The actual agreement between Chae-Kyeong’s grandfather (a bestie of the King) and Shin’s grandfather was that Chae-Kyeong would marry the son of the Crown Prince. The wording was VERY particular.

What this means (and what is an undertone of Yul’s whole relationship with Shin and Chae-Kyeong as a couple, is that she was technically engaged to Yul, who was the son of the crown prince at the time of the agreement, but his father died not too long after.

I really like this drama, because it presents a monarchy trying to stay afloat in a world that has kind of moved away from monarchies. It’s presented nearly identical to the British royal family, with Shin being compared often to Prince William (who in the show he is best friends with, though you only see “Prince William” maybe once).

Chae-Kyeong isn’t in any way, shape, or form open to the idea of an arranged marriage. She only agrees to it after intense protest when her poor family is set upon by loan sharks they are in debt to. She only agrees to marry Shin when it is pointed out that, to preserve the dignity of the royal family, Chae-Kyeong’s family debt will be paid off by the royal family and her little brother can go to a nice school. She strongly dislikes Shin and vents her frustration out on a pillow she makes in the shape of a human to which she attaches a picture of Shin.

Lee Shin meets with the Dowager Empress, his grandmother.

Lee Shin meets with the Dowager Empress, his grandmother.

Chae-Kyeong and Shin both go to an arts-based high school, I believe he is in either the music or movie-making department, and she is in the fashion department. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the show, I’m about to re-watch it, so I’m not 100% on the fashion major.

The big champion for Chae-Kyeong within the palace is Dowager-Empress Hye-Ja, wife of the King who made the deal with Chae-Kyeong’s grandfather. She takes a shine to the girl and is slow to issue negative judgment in the case of scandals, she tries to figure out why Chae-Kyeong responded to situations as she did and help her understand how to avoid such situations in the future. Eventually even Queen Yoo-Seon, Shin’s mother, begins to champion her daughter-in-law, though she’s extremely slow to do so since she hates that her son was forced into an arranged marriage (really though both kids had to agree, they just regret their decisions later).

Along the lines of fashion: This movie is worth watching if only for the traditional Korean outfits they wear. The costume design is stunning, as is the architecture!

Acting: 5/5

Even as Shin and Chae-Kyeong begin to fall for one another, the constant scheming of Yul's mother and the pressures of royal life send Chae-Kyeong into a spiraling depression.

Even as Shin and Chae-Kyeong begin to fall for one another, the constant scheming of Yul’s mother and the pressures of royal life send Chae-Kyeong into a spiraling depression.

You’ll find with Korean dramas that they don’t screw around. The acting is always 100%. Leading the cast is Yoon Eun Hye as Chae-Kyeong. Eun Hye has starred in multiple ratings-topping Korean dramas over the years, this one in particular came out around the same time as “Coffee Prince”, arguably her most well known. She’s perfect as Eun Hye, with no awkward spots or over-the-top performances.

Throughout the story, Chae-Kyeong grows more and more depressed as she learns more about the aspects of her life and friendships she will have to give up. It isn’t a dramatic transformation, which is why it’s noteworthy as a brilliant performance by Eun Hye. Slowly, over several episodes, Chae-Kyeong stops smiling, stops laughing, and stops being as care free and fun loving as before. Shin must then step-up to try and help his bride.

Kim Jeong Hook, Prince Yul, is also A+. He speaks some English in the show, and he does an amazing job, though he hasn’t appeared in many of the major ones to come out of Korea since Palace (he has done some movies though).

The only actor not A+, really, is Ju Ji Hoon, Crown Prince Lee Shin. He’s good, but not great. His character is mostly just moody most of the time, it gets kind of tedious. He does end up falling for Chae-Kyeong and “fights for her”, but it doesn’t really feel natural.

Age Rating: 10+

It’s a bit of a romantic comedy, so younger kids won’t be interested most likely, but if they are, it’s safe to watch. There is a lot of intreague and scandal brought about by Chae-Kyeong adjusting to her new life as a Crown Princess, but nothing bad. Her and Lee Shin are indeed married, but it is decided unanimously by the adults that their marriage does not need to be consummated to be official, since they are both still in high school (I think they’re 16/17, it’s not exactly said).

No sex, very little language or violence, it is safe to watch.

Fun Trivia:

Goong (another name for “Palace/Princess Hours”) is based on a Korean graphic novel of the same name by Park So Hee.

The company wished to make a sequel almost immediately, but there were numerous conflicts on the part of the managing company and the cast withdrew, loosing faith in the production.

Goong was, instead of a second season, given a spin-off, which features a new storyline and characters that are supposed to be un-related to the Goong storyline, but a show of the same type– royalty and commoners adjusting to life in a palace or on the street. I haven’t seen Goong-S, the one more commonly referred to as “Princess Hours”, but when I was living in Korea someone tried to describe the plot and said either one of the characters or the parental unit of one of the characters is supposed to be (SPOILER ALERT: Shin and Chae-Kyeong’s offspring).

That’s all the trivia I know for “Palace”, the only other thing I know of, even regarding the cast, is that the actor playing Lee Shin (Ji-Hoon) was arrested for drug use/sale of Ecstasy and Ketamine- though it was noted by the judge he had been clean for over a year at the time of his arrest. He did 6 months in jail and, not long after being released, he went in to the Korean military for his mandatory 2 years. He has since re-emerged scandal free in the Korean drama scene with both comedies and more serious shows, he also debuted in the Chinese drama scene.

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