Edited by Jeon Gyeong Ju
Translated by Cho EK
Kingdom: Ashin of the North, the special episode of the Netflix series that has captivated the world with K-zombies, was recently released. The episode is a story about Ashin, a character who appeared briefly but had a big impact on the audience at the end of Kingdom Season 2. This time, the prequel dealt with the beginning of the great tragedy that engulfed Joseon. Jun Ji Hyun, who made a surprise appearance as Ashin and added another dimension to the series, showed off her serious side as an anti-hero. Here’s one fun fact. Before she created ‘the non-human’ living deads in Kingdom, Jun Ji Hyun had transformed herself into an otherworldly being in her previous work. Here we are talking about SBS’ The Legend of the Blue Sea (2016-2017) which she starred as the most beautiful and mysterious mermaid of all the East and West.
The fantasy romance drama, The Legend of the Blue Sea, was inspired by the story of fisherman Kim Dam Ryeong and a mermaid in Korea’s first collection of miscellaneous tales, Eou Yadam. Jun Ji Hyun played Sim Cheong, a mermaid on the verge of extinction who happened to live on land. Lee Min Ho transformed into a con artist with both looks and brains, Heo Jun Jae, who is tied to Shim Cheong from his previous life. Although the ratings were somewhat lower than that of SBS My Love from the Star (2013~2014), which she co-starred with Kim Soo Hyun, it was a meaningful and novel work because the drama brought the legend of the Korean mermaid to the forefront, which had hardly been noticed by the media.
A love that transcends races? Jun Ji Hyun and Lee Min Ho made it possible!
In My Love from the Star, Cheon Song Yi met the alien, Do Min Jun. And in The Legend of the Blue Sea, Heo Jun Jae meets a mermaid, Shim Cheong. Although they’ve switched sides, the two dramas have one thing in common: having an interspecies couple. Jun Ji Hyun expresses the unique innocence of Shim Cheong, who learns the principles of life and true happiness by getting along with humans. And previously, she had transformed completely into the prideful yet clumsy character Cheon Song Yi. Lee Min Ho finally broke free of the cynical second-generation chaebol role in Boys Over Flowers (2009) and The Heirs (2013) and took another leap as an actor, just as Jun Jae overcame inner pain and grew up through love with Cheong.
A Decent Reincarnation Narrative that Achieves both Fun and Tension
The Legend of the Blue Sea seems like a time-slip drama at first glance, but it is a work about reincarnation in which the relationship of characters is clearly divided into past and present lives.
Most of the lead and supporting characters are born with personalities similar to those of their previous lives. However, when similar situations unfold in their current lives, they made unexpected choices and surprised the viewers. For example, Jo Nam Doo (Lee Hee Jun), a typical mid-level villain, broke everyone’s expectations and helped Jun Jae overpower the ultimate evil Kang Seo Hee (Hwang Shin Hye). Furthermore, Heo, who had lost his memory every time he kissed Cheong due to her mysterious power, gave a pleasant twist in the final episode when he regained his memory and met Cheong. Unlike their tragic past lives, Jun and Cheong found happiness in their present lives. But up until this conclusion, viewers have gone back and forth between heaven and hell.
The drama also brought us a hearty laugh in several scenes. For instance, Cha Shi Ah (Shin Hye Sun), who Jun Jae rejected both in her past and present life, made us laugh when she started to go out with Tae Oh (Shin Won Ho) and ended up marrying him. Plus, when Ahn Jin Joo (Moon So Ri), a wealthy woman with academic insecurity, struggles to deal with her housekeeper, Yu Ran (Na Young Hee), who was her boss in her previous life, gave us the biggest laugh.
The superb supporting actors and cameos that add flavor to the story
Characters around Cheong and Jun Jae, their family, colleagues, or rivals who tried to help or harm the couple in their past and present lives also received the spotlight. Actors like Hwang Shin Hye, Na Young Hee, Seong Dong Il, Lee Hee Jun, Moon So Ri, Shin Hye Sun, Shin Rin Ah, and Lee Ji Hoon added much vitality to the drama regardless of how big their role was. In particular, Hwang Shin Hye and Seong Dong Il played such despicable roles that we wouldn’t feel pity for them despite their heartbreaking background as orphans. Their roles added more plausibility to the narrative when the main characters sorted out the troubles for their love and embodied justice.
If it was not for Moon So Ri, an irresistible snob, and Shin Rin Ah, Cheong’s first human friend who appeared at the beginning and end of the story, the drama might have been slow and tedious. Plus, the unexpected cameos such as Cha Tae Hyun, Hong Jin Kyung, Jo Jung Seok, and Jung Yu Mi also contributed to the extensive humor of the drama.
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.
Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.