[K-Drama Review] ‘Moonshine’: 3 Things that Convey the Beauty of Fusion Historical Drama

korean drama Moonshine review

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

korean drama Moonshine review
Credit: KBS

A fusion historical drama refers to a period drama based on historical facts but with the imagination of fiction. Since it depicts a fictional past, it’s relatively free from controversies about historical distortion and has the capacity of attracting a wide range of audiences because it contains the sensibility of the present era. Maybe that’s why. Fusion historical dramas such as The King’s Affection and Lovers of the Red Sky have gained popularity. Now, Moonshine, starring Yoo Seung Ho and Hyeri, is also getting good responses. What made people fall in love with the drama? We’ll take a look at Moonshine‘s three charms.


korean drama Moonshine review
Credit: KBS

A Unique Topic Unfolded Outside the Palace: Prohibition

Historical dramas are usually about the palace and the royal family. The conflict for absolute power is absorbing, but we’ve seen it so many times, to be honest. In that way, Moonshine‘s topic is unique and fresh. The drama, set in an era when prohibition ruled, paints out the relationship between moonshiner Kang Ro Seo (Hyeri) and inspector Nam Young (Yoo Seung Ho). The subject of prohibition, which we saw in mafia movies, is brought to the Joseon Dynasty, creating a different atmosphere from other historical dramas.

The double meaning of alcohol – used as poison and medicine – also draws attention. Nam Young tells Ro Seo off for breaking the law as a moonshiner. However, he realizes how narrow-minded he was after hearing her say that a glass of wine brings a little comfort to people suffering from various difficulties. The prohibition in the play is the cause of the conflict, but at the same time, it works as the symbolic meaning of how each character understands each other’s thoughts, strengthening the romance between the two.

Comedy and Bromance Within the Love Triangle

Yes, there is a common love triangle in Moonshine. However, how it’s unfolded is not common. The love triangle begins as Nam Young and Ro Seo become the “strange bedfellows.” Nam Young moves into Ro Seo’s house due to an unavoidable situation after taking the state exam. The two start an awkward relationship as an inspector and a moonshiner, but love blossoms as they sail through various crises together. The process of them growing on each other as they grumble and try to act churlish in order to hide their feelings gives unexpected laughter.

The relationship between Nam Young and crown prince Lee Pyo (Byeon Woo Seok), the two men surrounding Ro Seo, also adds to the fun. Lee Pyo is a free-spirited man that escapes from the suffocating palace life and enjoys and appreciates arts. After meeting moonshiner Ro Seo, the friendship he had for her grows into love. Nam Young notices the unusual atmosphere between the two and puts the brakes on their relationship going any further, spicing up the love triangle. In particular, how Nam Young and Lee Pyo express jealousy towards each other while never crossing the line of being a subject and a crown prince delight us with their bromance. When the two join forces to save Ro Seo from danger, Lee Pyo exudes unexpected charisma, unlike his previous carefree attitude, captivating the female viewers.

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Joseon Dynasty Version of Caper Drama

As the story is set in an extended period of prohibition, the process of moonshine unfolds in detail. And during that process, Ro Seo meets several characters working in the business. Moonshine brings them together as a team, making it seem like a caper movie from the Joseon Dynasty.

With Ro Seo, who is in charge of the business, in the center, experts from different fields, such as female physician Cheon Geum; Mak San, who gathers ingredients in making alcohol; and Un Sim, who distributes the alcohol to the market, gather to fight against the prohibition and the moonshine business of Merchant Sim, their biggest rival. Sim Heon’s threat against Ro Seo is getting stronger, but the drama delivers unexpected twists, providing an exhilarating thrill of the genre. As much as the love story of youths in Joseon, the question of will Ro Seo overcome numerous difficulties and achieve great success with the moonshine business is the key feature of the drama.


Although the benefits of a fusion historical drama are well structured within the unique material, Moonshine has its own letdowns. And it’s the somewhat cheesy directing like cherry blossoms flying in the background when the two characters are having a heart-fluttering moment. Also, how the problems are resolved through a series of coincidences reduces immersion. Nevertheless, the various episodes that bring out laughter and tension continue with Yoo Seung Ho and Hyeri’s solid performances.

Now, Moonshine has six episodes remaining. But in episode 10, the drama gave a big shock by showing Nam Young’s death. I’m sure another big twist will turn things around, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the remaining stories will be unraveled.


Verdict: The exhilaration of a caper movie pervaded the romance in Joseon (7/10)


Editor Hwang Hong Sun: A Korean movie buff who wishes that the warm messages in good works will warm up this world at least by one degree Fahrenheit.

Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.


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