Currently Watching: Fated to Love You, Joseon Gunman
Rewatching: Sungkyunkwan Scandal
As much as I realize that Headmaster Choi is mainly here for comic relief, I still get a vague feeling of satisfaction when he tries to give Sun Joon preferential treatment and Sun Joon totally shuts him down.
I’m not familiar enough with sageuk-speak to tell what speech level Sun Joon’s using with Headmaster Choi, but I wish I knew. Sun Joon’s so unabashed in what he says to his elders and to high-ranking officials, and I can’t quite figure out if he is actually ballsy enough to talk down to them or if he’s just awkwardly blunt.
Yoon Hee, props to you for being honest and admitting that you were going to take the government exam in someone else’s place, but if you really don’t want to get 100 lashes for cheating and/or get discovered that you’re actually a girl, you might not want to be quite so honest. Especially when you’re talking to, you know, the KING.
Like pretty much every other k-drama couple ever, Sun Joon and Yoon Hee get off to a rocky start. Sun Joon initially looks down on Yoon Hee for helping exam-takers cheat, and Yoon Hee practically abhores Sun Joon for being self-righteous.
For many of those k-drama couples who start out with not a meet-cute but a meet-hate, the two main characters are and remain polar opposites. They have little to no common ground, even after the show wants us to believe they are in love (looking at you Jan Di and Jun Pyo). To me, that makes their transition from extreme dislike to “love” feel rather forced and inorganic.
Sun Joon and Yoon Hee are different. The opening scene in the second episode is already planting seeds for their later romance in a realistic way. It highlights their similarities. They’re both incredibly idealistic. Sun Joon references Yoon Hee’s hatred towards power-hungry officials and her belief that politicians should be caring about the people. Yoon Hee in turn refers to Sun Joon’s belief that anyone from any faction, rich or poor, can become an official. They both want to make the world they live in a better place.
The opening scene also highlights the fact that Sun Joon and Yoon Hee challenge each others’ ways of thinking. Sun Joon urges Yoon Hee to believe in herself and take the exam to become an official, while Yoon Hee points out the social inequalities that lead her to believe that would be an impossibility.
All in all, Sun Joon and Yoon Hee are both passionate about improving their country, and they both force each other to consider other perspectives, ultimately helping each other to grow. And that—above all else—is why I fully buy their romance later down the road.
Gu Yong Ha is somewhat of an enigma, especially when we’re just starting to get to know him; I can never fully figure out his motivations. In this episode, he offers to help Sun Joon find Yoon Hee—but why? Sun Joon flat out asks him, and Yong Ha offers a few possibilities: “Out of charity, to help out a future Sungkyunkwan student? Out of loyalty, because I know we’ll become great friends? Out of the goodness of my heart, because I want you to find him?”
Of course, he denies all those reasons, and claims that he’s doing it purely for fun. He’s bored, and he wants to see how far Sun Joon will go. And yet, I don’t fully believe him.
He’s a tough nut to crack, that Gu Yong Ha.
It always initially takes me aback that Yoon Hee’s mother would rather her become Minister Ha’s concubine than have her continue to dress like a man and sell exam cheat-sheets. Expressing her worry that if caught, Yoon Hee would be severely punished, Mrs. Jo urges her to “live as the woman you are” before delivering the final blow: “to you, being able to read…is like a poison.”
Her words clearly crush Yoon Hee, and at first, I want to resent Mrs. Jo. However, from the look on her face, her words hurt her even more than they do Yoon Hee. Mrs. Jo is worried for Yoon Hee’s safety, but it’s evident that she wishes just as much as Yoon Hee does that social norms didn’t prevent Yoon Hee from freely being able to read and write.
In the end, I can’t help but feel for Mrs. Jo. She’s truly caught between a rock and a hard place—her conflicting desire to preserve her daughter’s safety and her wish for Yoon Hee to be able to exercise her academic skills.
Sungkyunkwan Scandal was the first Korean drama that I ever watched (DBSK’s Banjun dramas don’t exactly count) and at the time, every detail was new and exciting, something to be drunk in and dissected. That SKKS is a fusion sageuk made the experience even more dazzling for a k-drama newbie; not only was I trying to digest the format of k-dramas themselves, I was trying to determine what was and what was not historically accurate. The bookstore elevator in the very first scene is a prime example. Even though that elevator is essentially a glorified dumbwaiter, I was astounded at the thought that they might have had elevators in Joseon Korea.
Also, I’m pretty sure I made the same gasping sounds that Yoon Hee makes the first time I rode in the elevator at my college library. It had manual doors that you had to operate by hand—the kind with scissored inside gates. Being able to see the elevator moving up and down the floors through the gate was pretty freaky, and even though I rode in it countless times since then, I never felt fully comfortable.
I’ve never liveblogged dramas before, mainly because I assumed that I wouldn’t have enough insightful comments to make it worthwhile, and because I am notorious at starting things and never finishing. Lately, though, I’ve been itching to try something different on my blog, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and give liveblogging episodes a shot as I rewatch Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Most likely it will devolve into a series of posts spazzing about how much I love Moon Jae Shin and Gu Yong Ha, but who knows, it could be fun!