Saturday, October 14, 2006

Drama Review: Emperor Of The Sea

Emperor Of The Sea (KBS 2004)
Number of Episodes: 51
Main Cast: Choi Soo Jung, Chae Si Rae, Song Il Kook, Soo Ae, Kim Heung Soo
Korean Wiz link:

The historical drama Emperor of the Sea is based the life of Jang Bogo (? – 846), who rises from slavery to dominate the sea and international trade during the Unified Shilla Dynasty (676-935). This fictionalized account of his life opens when he is still a young teen, known as Goong Bok. He was born into slavery and raised working as a ship builder. With his faithful companion Yon, he tries to escape to China by stowing away on a merchant ship, but he is quickly discovered, and the boys are sent back to the shipyards to face punishment for trying to escape. Spared because of their youth, the boys are sent back to work. One day, Goong Bok sees a young man named Yeon Moon performing martial arts in their town, and he begs the teen to train him. Yeon Moon agrees to train him if Goong Bok will show him around their town. However, unbeknownst to Goong Bok, Yeon Moon is a pirate and is working to set up their town for invasion. Goong Bok studies hard to learn martial arts, but his world collapses when their town is destroyed by the pirates, and he and Yon are sentenced to death for colluding with the pirates. They end up surviving, but are sent to live their lives as slaves on a horse farm, where the slightest mistake can mean torture or death. It is here that they grow into adulthood, and where Goong Bok, now played by Choi Soo Jung, meets his mentor, Choi Moo-Chang, a marital arts expert, who trains the talented Goong Bok. Yon and Goong Bok finally escape from the horse farm when Goong Bok gets hired to be part of the personal army of Madam Jami, a noble in Shilla and a lead merchant. Eventually, after refusing to follow Madam Jami’s corrupted ways, Goong Bok and Yon are sent to China as slaves. For sure, nothing is easy for these guys! In China, after many trials, Goong Bok begins his rise to power.

This drama has it all, from major production battle scenes filmed in the China desert to the K-drama staples of a love triangle and unrequited love. Every episode is packed with intense fighting and struggles to survive. Exciting for sure, but at times I found it a bit exhausting. Many episodes I watched literally on the edge of my seat. The drama is basically good vs. evil, and the characters are compelling on both sides of the battle. True to his legend, the very admirable Goong Bok, who later becomes Jang Bogo, never waivers from his strong convictions to fight corruption. I really enjoyed watching his friendship with his companion Yon, also an historical figure. The two survive everything together and are true brothers. As Jang Bogo’s enemy, Yeom Moon, played by Song Il Kook, is a powerful fighter, yet a very pitiful character. From the moment they meet, the two are destined to be enemies, but Yeom Moon can’t help but admire and like Bogo. Yeom Moon longs to be released from his fate of being raised by pirates, but life doesn’t ever seem to offer him a way out. He’s the bad guy, but you can’t help but pull for him.

Historical dramas are a great way to learn about the culture on which modern day Korea is based. However, the scenes can be bloody and violent, and this drama may not be for everyone. The ending of this drama in particular is difficult to watch. However, I thought it was well worth the ride to experience the life of the noble Jang Bogo.

This drama is airing on AZN TV starting on Wednesday, October 18th.

Check out the opening battle scene with this awesome youtube clip. The drama opens with this battle, then takes us back to when the main characters are teens. The actual battle takes place midway thru the drama.



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