Thursday, November 5, 2015

Kat's K-Dramas: Goong Review

I debated with myself about whether I would write reviews about older dramas (and by older I mean wasn't made in the last few years). But I decided that there are some great classics out there (and by classics I mean from like 2006, haha). Anyway, this is my review of Goong (or Princess Hours) one of the most beloved Cinderella retellings in K-drama (and that's saying something, there are a lot of Cinderella retellings in K-drama).

Goong 궁 (宮)
AKA Princess Hours
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Episodes: 24
Aired: 2006-Jan-11 to 2006-Mar-30
Network: MBC
Watch it on: Dramafever, Viki
Goong is a story about young love in face of tradition, politics, and intrigue. In this imaginary world, modern-day Korea is a constitutional monarchy and the Royal Family lives in a grand Palace, the Goong. The sudden death of the reigning the King throws the Royal Family in the public eye. Faced with the decreasing popularity among the public for the Royalty, a grand wedding for the Crown Prince, Lee Shin, is decided to be the best publicity move and at the same time prepare Shin for immediate succession. The intended bride? The headstrong, awkward, and sweet spirited Shin Chae Kyung that just happens to go to the same exclusive art school. Chae Kyung was betrothed to become the next Crown Princess by her grandfather and Shin's grandfather.
After 14 years of living in England with his mom, Shin's cousin, Lee Yul, appears back in Korea. Yul was the original Crown Prince before his father died when he was a child. Chae Kyung's optimistic spirit wins the heart of internally lonely, Yul. And as the Crown Prince Shin and simple-minded Chae Kyung appear to start developing deeper feelings, a series of scandals are exposed to the public right after the pair are officially announced married. Will love conquer all in a world of political pressures and marital hardships? Or will being in the spotlight of the public be too much for the young newlyweds to endure?
Main Character: Shin Chae Kyung (Yoon Eun Hye)- Sassy and adorable, she is a bit clumsy and not stylish or graceful at all. So, she is the anti-princess. However, she was promised to Lee Shin as his princess so she is forced into that life. I love that she does not want to be a princess at all. Most girls would have killed for that chance, but not Chae Kyung. It makes her a great heroine in my mind. She does have a lot of faults, like she makes a lot of problems for the royal family when she could just slow down and think about what she's saying or doing first. However, all of her flaws are harmless and mostly adorable. So I can forgive those.

Love Interest: Crown Prince Lee Shin (Joo Ji Hoon) - He is attractive, loved (by the country and girls), and cocky. So he's like the quintessential arrogant chaebol prince. It is pretty obvious that he's like this because he's young and there's a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He wasn't originally supposed to be the crowned prince. It should have been Yul and Shin was thrust into the limelight after Yul's father died. So it's not Shin's fault that he wasn't always prepared to be the future king. However, in the beginning Shin is a bit of an a** in ways where it's hard to forgive him (obviously I did, but he goes over the top a bit in how mean he is to Chae Kyung).

Secondary Love Interest: There is a secondary love interest for both main characters. Lee Yul (Kim Jung Hoon) is the secondary love interest for Shin Chae Kyung and Min Hyo Rin (Song Ji Hyo) is the secondary love interest for Lee Shin.

Yul starts out sweet and kind. He knows that his mother is a bit scheming, but really he's just happy to be back with his family and his cousin. Then he falls in love with Chae Kyung and s*** hits the fan. Since she is supposed to marry the prince, and he used to be the prince, but now Shin is the prince. So Yul thinks to himself, "Wait a minute, she should be my princess. AND I love her and Shin obvi doesn't! So this is super not fair!"

Hyo Rin is less relatable as a character. She's just a perfect rich girl who thought she could have it her way with Shin. But when she makes the mistake of not wanting to get engaged at the age of like 17 (which is understandable) she loses him. She thinks "WTF, I just wanted to live my dream of being a ballerina AND becoming the future queen, but on my own time." Wah wah, rich girl problems #AmIRight?

It's kind of a tradition in most romantic comedies and melodramas in K-Dramas to have a secondary love interest. And while I am kind of sick of love triangles in YA books, I kind of love them in my K-Dramas. Maybe because the second male lead is usually so sweet to the main girl. Or maybe because they super duper love the girl character so much that they even encourage her to be with the main male lead because they just want her to be happy (that's what love really is!). BTW, this is not what happens in the this show (sorry 'bout it!). Yul is not a fan of Shin. I mean, he loves him kind of like a brother, but he gets jealous right quick and most of it is because he loves Chae Kyung and Chae Kyung love Shin. Oy vey, so much angst.

Anyway, on the flip side, the secondary female lead is usually a jealous and manipulative character. And I kind of hate that. There are some exceptions, but usually when the love triangle in K-Dramas involve two girls and a guy it comes out to sneaky manipulation and lots of drama! (Don't like this, but it does add to the drama part of K-dramas). This is definitely how it plays out in Goong. I personally love Song Ji Hyo, so the fact that her character stinks really upset me. But I won't hold it against anyone because with royalty comes drama and with teen romance comes drama, so really she never had a chance in this story.

Allies and Enemies:

Kim Hye Ja as the Queen Mother Park
Yoon Yoo Sun as Queen Min
Park Chan Hwan as Emperor Lee Hyun
Lee Yoon Ji as Princess Hye Myung (Shin's sister)
Shim Hye Jin as [Hye Jung Goong] Lady Seo Hwa Young (Yul's mother)
Lee Ho Jae as the Head butler Gong
Jun Soo Yeon as Escort Choi
Won Mi Won as Attendant Suh (Lee Yul's former nanny)

Chae Kyung's family
Im Ye Jin as Chae Kyung's mother
Kang Nam Gil as Chae Kyung's father
Kim Suk as Shin Chae Joon (Chae Kyung's younger brother)

Setting: An alternate reality Korea where the emperor still exists and runs as a constitutional monarchy (they liken it to England a lot)

Random Thoughts: I like alternate reality shows, I like that there are still recognizable elements of the world we live in, but it's just slightly different. Like when you ask the question "what would it be like if there was still an emperor in Korea?" I love shows that answer those random questions. It was based on a Manwha (similar to a Japanese Manga) of the same name so it has a lot of those comic elements. 

This show was adorable. It was a bit slow in the middle, and it did that thing that dramas (and animes) do where it repeats the same kind of conflict over and over again from episode to episode. However, there were some nice reveals and the character development of the two mains was great. They really grew as people and it happened in a good and organic way for me.

I like the Chae Kyung was in no way perfect in the beginning. Sometimes there are dramas where there is the bratty and conceited chaebol heir/prince and he is shown how to really feel/love by a sweet and sassy girl (cough Heirs cough). But the girl doesn't grow as vastly as the boy does. This isn't actually the case in Goong. Chae Kyung is fumbling, clumsy, and has no aspirations or etiquette. She grows up a lot in the course of the show. So by the end she is a more complete person. 

I didn't love the "bad guys" in the show. Lady Seo Hwa Young is a little too manipulative and conniving. I mean, she lived a perfectly happy, comfortable life with her son in Europe. And if she hadn't been so selfish in wanting the throne then Yul would have kept being perfectly happy too. I think that Yul deserved to be back in Korea with his family, but the way it happened obviously wasn't for his happiness. And even though Lady Seo Hwa Young presented it like she was doing it all for him, she totally was doing it for herself. (This is often a recurring theme in K-Dramas when parents push their kids to live out their "dreams" for them). 

In the end the show was a fun teen romance with some royal intrigue and alternate reality yumminess. There was family, friendship, love and coming of age all in a great drama. There were also some wonderful cultural references that spoke about traditions that have been in Korea since the Joseon period, which I loved.

Side note: This drama is apparently how G-Dragon and Seungri truly became friends, and I love anything Big Bang. So that's a glowing endorsement for Goong. Hahaha

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