I am a guilty victim of the “rewatch whole Kdramas whilst procrastinating” illness. And I did exactly that just two days ago when I should have concentrated on finishing off some homework due the following morning.
In one night too.
Yep, judge me. Go ahead, because I know 100% that what I did was wrong ><
The thing about this illness (and yes, I consider it an illness since I feel that it is severely contagious) is that it does pros and cons (yes, surprisingly there are pros in this!) The cons are quite obvious, but the inconspicuous pros are what I want to focus on slightly.
Pros about revisiting an old drama that you watched years ago (ignoring the whole “I just stayed up all night to finish this marathon” bit) is that you get to discover points and highlights in the drama that you probably never noticed the first time around. With my experience of reliving the world of “Hwang Jin Yi”, I’ve come to realise that there is a good reason why good Kdramas are just good. And so, here is my review that will entail you all of my 2nd experience with “Hwang Jin Yi”!
And yeah, this post possibly may not be spoiler-free; you have been warned!
By the way, I’m going to try something new with the whole layout of this review. Let me know if you dislike it or that some parts need changing. If this works out, maybe I will continue with this more structured layout. Thanks for checking this out!
Drama: Hwang Jin Yi
Broadcast date: 11th October 2006 – 28th December 2006
Total no. of episodes: 24
Note: Second time watching it; sped through the entire drama over the course of roughly ~10hrs
“Hwang Jin Yi” is a sageuk (Korean historical drama) which tells of the story regarding to a famous Gisaeng of the same name. For those who aren’t aware, Gisaengs are like the Korean version of a Japanese Geisha, but don’t regard them as the same type of people. This drama is an adaptation of how Hwang Jin Yi’s life might have been, who was famous for her music, dancing, poetry and most importantly, he very tragic love life. It stars Ha Ji Won (Empress Ki, Damo, Secret Garden) as the titular character who, and I must say out of pure objectivity, was just absolutely stunning in this drama, both in her acting and her appearance. Along with her stars numerous top-notch actors and actress, who I will continue mentioning throughout this review.
Opinions about the drama:
So, as I have mentioned before, this is my second time watching this drama. As with most things (when you repeat the same process a second time) whether it is watching a film or reading a book, based on your accumulated experiences and opinions, your own personal viewpoint will change how you comprehend about it. This, is what happened to me when I watched through it again. Reliving the emotions, the pain and the struggles of Hwang Jin Yi once again hit me so hard this second time around. So much so that at times, I had to pause the drama to recover and regain composure before continuing. Yes, I do believe that the main culprit of this reaction is due to the fact that I had watched it over 4 years ago, but never would I have imagined my values to change so much over the course of a couple of years.
The main idea that I grasped the first time I watched this drama was the fact that Hwang Jin Yi seemed to act like an opportunist. I do understand that many would judge and debate me about this, but that was my honest opinion initially. She always seemed to act upon herself, and seemed to only do things when it seemed most beneficial to herself at the time. Thus, the drama left me with a very subjective view upon her character. 4 years later, I rewatch the drama again, only to gain another side to her story – one filled with agony, sympathy and utmost respect. Let me explain:
1. I’ve realised that the drama was more than just about Jin Yi; it was more to justify these women as artists rather than just courtesans
When I had first experienced the drama, I was at a loss about Jin Yi’s character, as well as her rival Bu Yong (Wang Bit Na from Still You, Two Women’s Room, The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry). Initially, it seemed more like a contest as to who’s skills and talent excelled over the other (Honestly, what sort of mindset was I in when I first came around to watching it? I must have been mad!) However, I realised with this second viewing that this wasn’t exactly the case. In the end, the drama portrayed a very realistic perspective about the lives of Gisaengs. These women desired to be viewed as not just courtesans, but rather more as individuals who were burden with their duty as both artists and being a woman. Yes, it was true that these women had more freedom than most of their time however, never could they ever be free completely. It was just the reality of the patriarchal society in which these women lived in. Women were meant to be in charge of raising children and being compliant to their husbands yet, these Gisaengs are placed in a state of limbo – do they venture forth based on societal values, or their own hopes and dreams?
And so, with these thoughts in mind, I viewed the rivalry between Jin Yi and Bu Yong quite differently. It wasn’t a fight for who was more beautiful in their performances, but rather it was to challenge themselves based on their efforts and professionalism as artists, instead of who was more like a ‘woman’ than the other. And perhaps, this is why I seemed to see Bu Yong in a different light. Bu Yong was a character who was ambitious not because of rivalry against Jin Yi, but rather due to the fact that she was aware herself that she is not the best; she believes from the bottom of her heart that Jin Yi was the better of the two. With this nature, she is aware of the fact that she can do better, and will continue to do so. Her soliloquy in the final scene of the drama is perhaps one of the most memorable quotes of the entire drama (apart from the fact that it is at the end) due to this point, since she is aware that as long as Jin Yi still lives, she herself would never become the greatest Gisaeng of all time.
I can’t find a clip of just the final scene, however I will link the final episode below; please proceed with caution (and duh, spoilers!!!)
2. Jin Yi’s treatment towards Jung Han wasn’t exactly unforgivable
This second time around, I noticed plenty more details that I must have missed the first time watching the drama. During the first watch, I focused more on story and character development. This second time around, I paid more attention to the little gestures, dialogue and overall idea of how each character acted based on their circumstances, emotions and influence. I began to realise that Hwang Jin Yi was not exactly acting in that manner based on what seemed ‘helpful’ to her at the time, but rather what could ultimately ease her pain and emotions over the loss of her first love, while as making sure the same fate does not fall upon another. When she meets Jung Han (Kim Jae Won from Can You Hear My Heart, Great Inheritance, Beijing My Love) sure, he may seem like an almost-exact replica of how Eun Ho (Jang Geun Suk from You’re Beautiful, Love Rain, Beethoven Virus) might have been if he were alive but in the end, he is not her first love. I don’t believe that someone can love another the same as their first time, as the second time around one would tread more cautiously and act with thought. Therefore, she continued to reject Jung Han in fear that her affections may subsequently cause the same fate for her new love of her life.
Regardless though, I still sobbed buckets over their angsty romance. Honestly, it tore my heart out to see them two suffer when they were apart, or even when they were together. Both Jung Han and Jin Yi’s love for each other was solid, no matter how you see it. And so, the decisions they make are purely based on the fact that the other was always on their mind, and also part of their final decision. This second viewing of the drama hands-down hit me right through the heart and punctured a hole in it numerous times. I don’t even remember crying so much over their love the first time around…maybe I was having a pretty stressful day that day…*shrugs*
By the way fun fact, did anyone actually realise that this is the second time that Ha Ji Won and Kim Jae Won were acting together in the same production? They both were together in the film “100 Days with Mr Arrogant” back in 2003, and this drama reunited them two together 3 years later. Cool huh? No wonder their chemistry seemed to just click from the get-go!
3. I ended up re-evaluating certain characters differently
During the first time around, I absolutely despised Kye Soo (Ryu Tae Joon from Dream of 400 Years, The Great Seer, Green Coach) the most (even more than Jin Yi surprisingly), since I viewed him as a person who was sick in the mind, and just absolutely obsessed with Jin Yi (haha sorry oppa!). Overall, I just saw his character as a hindrance to the budding romance between Jung Han and Jin Yi, as a person who wanted nothing else but her. However, watching this drama the second time through made me realise that perhaps this wasn’t the case. I’ve come to accept the fact that perhaps, this was all he knew. As in, this was his way of expressing his love towards someone, and that he knows no other approach of expressing his feelings towards Jin Yi.
Likewise Jin Yi’s mentor Baek Moo (Kim Young Ae from The Moon That Embraces the Sun, Royal Family, Athena: Goddess of War) became a character who I eventually sympathised with. At first yes, Baek Moo seemed cold-hearted to force Jin Yi to make a decision between her love and her art however, I feel now that she made the correct actions. In the end, the main idea was to convey to Jin Yi that one can perhaps survive without their love, however a life without art would mean a life without purpose. Also, regardless of Eun Ho’s fate, she did not deserve the full impact of Jin Yi’s hate. Of course, Jin Yi needed someone to blame, someone to direct her pain towards and sadly, Baek Moo was the one to receive. Which is saddening because, as it became evident later on, it was clear that Baek Moo meant more to Jin Yi than she had let on (which was painful to rewatch second time around too)
Personally, I believe that “Hwang Jin Yi” is a drama worth checking out as it not only educates many, but it also allows you to challenge your inner values and make sure that one will view the past differently. If you are someone who is looking for a solid Sageuk to watch, and is not fussed as to whether or not it is recent, then I highly suggest checking out this drama. If perhaps you are searching for some visually stunning dramas, or dramas that have some solid and strong acting, then this drama also should be something that you should note on your “To check out” list! The entire drama is surprisingly available on YouTube (and I mean the ENTIRE drama), so it easily accessible for all (or at least I hope so anyway XP)
Hence, I am giving this drama:
So, I hope you guys enjoyed this review (though it ended up becoming more of an analysis and self-bashing than anything else) and let me know if you have actually watched this drama before! Yes, 24 episodes perhaps provides some hesitancy however, personally I believe that it was a worthy investment to make!
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope to talk to you guys very soon~
❤ Yami Hyunnie ^^~