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[Replay the Classic K-Drama] ‘Princess Hours’: The Lovey-Dovey Rom-Com that We Loved Back Then

Edited by Jeon Gyeong Ju
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Princess Hours
Credit: MBC

The mega-hit series Princess Hours (aka Goong), which represents the “cheesy internet novel” sensibility in the 2000s, is coming back. The news of Jaedam Media signing the remake contract with the production company Group Eight hit the wire last month. Jadam is a company that is in charge of comics Goong’s management.

Soon, many fans have expressed concerns and anticipations. In the meantime, a fan-made teaser video featuring Kim Yoo Jung, Lee Do Hyun, Song Kang, and Go Yoon Jung on YouTube gained favorable reviews. The basic structure of the story will remain the same. But as it’s been 15 years since the first TV adaptation, attention focuses on what the new Princess Hours will be like. 

Princess Hours
Credit: MBC

Princess Hours is an MBC mini-series based on comics of the same name by Park So Hee. This 24-episode series had aired from January to March in 2006. Set in an alternative 21-century Korea where monarchy and imperial family have retained, the plot centers around the romance of crown prince Lee Shin and an ordinary high schooler Shin Chae Kyung. In the series, they become an arranged marriage couple per their grandfathers’ old promise.

At the time, the original comics became a new trend with their fresh concept and beautiful drawings. Hence, even from the early stage of the production, many stayed skeptical about the entire TV adaptation. However, with the booming success of the series, Princess Hours was reproduced in various fields such as novels, musicals, games, and fan merchandise, receiving great love for a long time. Before the official remake announcement, the original comics made headlines once again published on Kakao Page as a full-color webtoon.

 

An Unconventional Cast Lineup that Became a Game-Changer

When Ju Ji Hoon, Yoon Eun Hye, Kim Jung Hoon, and Song Ji Hyo became lead roles, they barely had any acting experience. Right after the official announcement, the entire team faced keen attention and skepticism.

In particular, Yoon Eun Hye, who joined as a lively character, Shin Chae Kyung, had to endure the public throwing shades at her looks. Though she underwent a strict diet since her teen as the youngest member of Baby V.O.X, her looks didn’t match the “slender” Shin Chae Kyung. But with the unexpected hit, people’s opinions about the actress shifted. Following Princess Hours, Yoon Eun Hye made back-to-back hits with The Vineyard Man and Coffee Prince, proudly winning the title of “rom-com queen.” Even the original work fans send their support, saying that they can’t imagine anyone else acting as Shin Chae Kyung.

None of the four actors were free from criticism throughout the show due to their relatively immature acting skills. And yet, it’s evident that Princess Hours has allowed the first heyday in their filmographies. Ju Ji Hoon, who played the feisty Lee Shin, was merely a rookie actor fresh out of the modeling world. But after several films, he has grown into a “go-to” leading actor. It’s also intriguing to see him perform a good-hearted yet agonizing crown prince, which is complete apart from Princess Hours, in Netflix’s Kingdom series.

 

Art and Music Complete the Work

The real reason behind Princess Hours’ success may be the cinematic beauty, not the actors. The original comics alone had a significant impact on the popularization of everyday hanbok with its luxurious fashion (that freely goes back and forth between traditional and fusion hanbok) worn by Chae Kyung and the royal families. Moreover, the TV series also tried to capture the characters’ colorful lives unfolded against the palace, school, and ordinary homes. In order to best illustrate the entire realistic palace, the production team built a large filming set with the highest prices of the time at a factory site in Osan, Gyeonggi Province. 

The sweet yet delicate soundtrack also played a significant role in enhancing the quality of the series. Even after the end of it, various programs have used the crossover band Second Moon’s tracks and HowL & J’s “Perhaps Love.” And as the Korean music industry has grown brilliantly for the past 15 years with the leading K-pop, many of the best artists will likely participate in the Princess Hours remake’s soundtrack. Besides, considering how the contemporary fusion historical projects such as Mr. Queen and Joseon Exceroist came under fire for their blatant distortion of history, the staff will have to pay more attention to the clothing and props than they did 15 years ago.

 

A Man Who Acts Violent in the Name of Love? A Woman Who Cries All Day Long? Well…

As many say, the “cheesiness” is the big reason we watch Princess Hours. But even after considering the traditional romance elements, some scenes are hard to laugh at. The best example would be the abusive acts that Shin and Yul force on Chae Kyung in the name of love. Especially, Shin attacks Chae Kyung in everything to the point where viewers can’t excuse him for having a cold personality. For instance, he pulls on Chae Kyung’s wrists and even tries to kiss her forcefully. Suppose such outdated custom of treating women as possessions, not as equal, is tolerated under the name of “romance” in the remake. In that case, the production team will be ignoring viewers’ learning and empathy abilities.

Furthermore, Chae Kyung only gets hurt as she continues to be indecisive between two men. And what’s worse was that she idly stood by when her rival Hyo Rin seduces her husband to stand in the way of her romance. Even in 2006, many showed disappointment in Chae Kyung’s actions. For the Princess Hours remake to be successful enough not to damage the original comic and the first TV series, reconstruction of the characters and love affairs will have to follow the “current” common sense, unavoidably. 

I hope that Princess Hours will return to the small screen after 15 years, achieve good results, and satisfy both comics and drama fans.

 

Editor Jeon Gyeong Ju: A natural-born media geek who is physically Korean and mentally multinational. All dramatic stories are my favorite sweets for life. TVs and streaming platforms are not only the playgrounds but also the weapons.

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