Edited by Seo Hae Lan
Translated by Cho EK
There was a time when cross-dressing emerged as an extremely important trope in making a successful K-drama. Every moment – including the heroine disguising herself as a man and participating in an event, the confused male protagonist feeling oddly drawn to the so-called guy, and him falling in love with the guy despite his fears -of those dramas has made the viewers’ hearts flutter like no other. This year, a production took up the worn-out trope and created a compelling and creative TV series with it. In the historical romance The King’s Affection, where it’s run by a female character disguised as a man, it is noticeable that the drama has put her in danger in the first place, making her the crown prince who is the first in line to the throne of Joseon.
The protagonist of The King’s Affection is the twin daughter of the royal family who now has to live her brother’s life as a crown prince. Abandoned for being a girl, she becomes a royal maid named Dam at the age of 10 and meets Prince Hwi and her first love, Jung Ji Woon. When her brother Hwi dies, her mother disguises her as a man and lets her live as Hwi. Dam becomes the crown prince with a dreadful secret and spends her restless days in a power struggle among her father, the King, and her maternal grandfather, Han Gi Jae. She lives by telling herself that she should not open her heart to anyone to protect everyone she loves. One day, Ji Woon becomes the crown prince’s tutor, and the two reunite in the palace. As she finds it impossible to control her growing feelings for him, Ji Woon also feels confused when he sees Dam in the prince.
The King’s Affection caught my eyes for presenting a story of a girl dressed as a man becoming a monarch. Although there are many cases in which women seize power in Korean historical dramas, they have never tried to gain thrones or become the kings themselves before. Here, she deceives everyone by pretending to be a guy like the other heroines of this kind of drama. However, the drama turns a new page by showing a female character jumping into politics and getting lessons to become a king. As the female protagonist stepped into the forbidden realm, my heart began to beat like a drum while imagining what will happen to her in the future. In addition, the fact that Park Eun Bin played the character brought the excitement for the show. Having been a child actress, she’s been showing impressive acting since when she was young. Plus, she recently proved herself as a talented actress who could lead a show by herself. I wondered how she would express the dangerous double life and the fluttering on-screen romance with her co-star, Rowoon.
After the drama was released, some reviews pointed out that the actress’s physical appearance didn’t quite fit the role. They said that her height, frame, and overall appearance could not fully convey the dignity of the crown prince and her made-up deep voice made them cringe. In the scene where the main characters appear together, there were many responses that differences in their frame and class seemed a little strange. But maybe it’s the fun of The King’s Affection. Hwi escapes suspicions of being a girl thanks to his authority and power as the crown prince. Without the Crown Prince’s robe and hat, she would have looked like a beautiful woman. Even though her frame is small and her voice is soft, Hwi fully shows the charisma and dignity of the successor of Joseon. Also, Ji Woon almost took the Crown Prince for the royal maid he ran into at the royal hunting grounds, but he corrected himself, saying, “This is the Crown Prince.” Simply put, there is no exact frame or appearance suitable for the role of the Crown Prince. There is just a charming character and an actress who portrays it well.
The script and directing are a bit disappointing. The process of Hwi and Ji Woon fighting and getting to know each other is similar to other romance dramas. However, the story of the two is drawn much lighter than the subplots of the drama like the conflict among Hwi, Hyejong, and Han Ki Jae, the power game within the court, and Hwi’s inner struggle to keep secrets. I think they made this choice to lighten up the mood, but the bubbly romance doesn’t go well with other serious sub-stories. The way Ji Woon is depicted is also disappointing. He has lived a dynamic life and treats people equally regardless of their rank. Therefore, he has to show various aspects of the character, from comedic slapstick to serious conflicts with his father. However, Rowooon’s acting seems a little flat and monotonous. It feels even more disappointing because he showed that he is an actor who can do his part in his previous works.
The King’s Affection still has a long way to go. When Hwi and Ji Woon fall in love and the conflict between the main characters begins in earnest, the story will be more interesting, and the mood will change. Perhaps Hwi will give up his throne and choose his happiness and love. Because I’m curious to see how convincingly Hwi will draw the process leading up to such a choice, I think I’ll watch the drama to the end.
Verdict: Creative imagination, but the story is not thrilling yet. (6/10)
Editor Seo Hae Lan: I’m not picky and like all genres. I am in constant search of a balance between criticism and a fan’s heart.
Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.