Sageuk Awards

Was it six years ago? A man and a woman at night, she bleeding from a wound on her shoulder, he tending so gently to the wound. Their voices are as soft as the breeze is light. As they walk home afterwards, cherry blossoms flutter around them, like a million pink and white lights aglow in the dark.

Even now, six years later, I can’t speak of my first sageuk (Korean historical or period drama) without a lump suddenly forming in my throat. Damo changed my life, literally flinging me over the edge into the depths of kdrama addiction. It marked the beginning of a love affair that has continued to grow; both my top movie and drama are period ones and I don’t see any other genre coming along to topple them, in the foreseeable future or otherwise.

Damo stayed at the top of my favorites list for a long time, but the day finally came when I had to sadly acknowledge that another drama would take its place. So it has been, this game of musical chairs, this rotation of faves and favored. I’m not alone. One of the contributors to this post sent me this note along with her picks: “I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY MIND.” (See how passionate we sageuk fans are? Haha.)

So here we are, a special post on my favorite genre. Six dear friends, all familiar names in the Kdrama community, responded enthusiastically to my invitation to participate in this poll of sorts. Nine categories in all (because it’s obvious thundie can’t count; she thought she listed ten), with picks that I’m sure will delight or dismay you. Wrapping up the post is a hilarious and insightful look at how sageuk and wuxia stack up against each other.

Many thanks (and cups of coffee) to ockoala (who wrote the sageuk/wuxia piece), dahee, dramaok, hjkomo, javabeans and His Grumpiness misterX. All of you inspire me every day to be a more discerning viewer.

TOP 10 SAGEUK

dahee fanel

1. Shin Don
2. Conspiracy in the Court
3. Damo
4. Chuno
5. Sangdo
6. Heo Joon
7. The King and I
8. Jamyunggo
9. Painter of the Wind
10. Hwang Jini

dramaok

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Legend
3. Damo
4. Jumong
5. Dae Jang Geum
6. Emperor of the Sea
7. Hwang Jini
8. Eight Days
9. Era of Concubine/Ladies of the Palace
10. Immortal Yi Soon Shin

hjkomo

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Return of Iljimae
3. Shin Don
4. Eight Days
5. Damo
6. Hong Gil Dong
7. Tamra
8. Legend of Hyang Dan
9. Hwang Jini
10. Strongest Chil Woo

javabeans

1. Return of Iljimae
2. Conspiracy in the Court

(javabeans explains: “I’m sure you’re aware that sageuk really isn’t my area of expertise! So there is that caveat. And I feel weird rating the fusion stuff alongside the meatier stuff.)

misterX

1. Shin Don
2. Conspiracy in the Court
3. Tears of the Dragon
4. Im Kkeok Jeong
5. Sangdo
6. The Imjin War
7. The King & The Queen
8. Roll of Thunder
9. The Age of Warriors
10. Eight Days

thundie

1. Shin Don
2. Conspiracy in the Court
3. Damo
4. Jejoongwon
5. Return of Iljimae
6. Eight Days
7. Immortal Yi Soon Shin
8. Chuno
9. Dae Jang Geum
10. Painter of the Wind

TOP 3 ACTORS

dahee fanel

1. Son Chang-min (Shin Don)
2. Lee Chun-hee (Conspiracy in the Court)
3. Kim Myung-soo (The King and I)

dramaok

1. Ahn Nae-sang (Conspiracy in the Court)
2. Hur Jun-ho (Jumong)
3. Song Il-gook (Jumong)

hjkomo

1. Jang Hyuk (Chuno)
2. Son Chang-min (Shin Don)
3. Kim Young-chul (Emperor Wang Geon/The Reputable Family)

javabeans

1. Choi Su-jong (Emperor of the Sea)
2. Kim Myung-min (The Immortal Yi Soon Shin)
3. Song Il-gook (Jumong); Jang Hyuk (Chuno)

misterX

1. Ahn Nae-sang (Conspiracy in the Court)
2. Jung Bo-seok (Shin Don)
3. Kim Mu-saeng (Tears of the Dragon)

thundie

1. Son Chang-min (Shin Don)
2. Park Yong-woo (Jejoongwon)
3. Lee Chun-hee (Conspiracy in the Court)

TOP 3 ACTRESSES

dahee fanel

1. Kim Young-ae (Hwang Jini)
2. Kim Ha-eun (Conspiracy in the Court)
3. Moon Geun-young (Painter of the Wind)

dramaok

1. Jung Ae-ri (Conspiracy in the Court)
2. Han Hye-jin (Jumong)
3. Moon So-ri (Legend)

hjkomo

1. Moon Geun-young (Painter of the Wind)
2. Kim Ha-eun (Conspiracy in the Court)
3. Jung Ae-ri (Eight Days)

javabeans

1. Go Hyun-jung (Queen Seondeok)
2. Lee Young-ae (Dae Jang Geum)

misterX
1. Kim Hye-ri (Shin Don)
2. Park Ji-young (Jang Noksu)
3. Jung Ae-ri (Conspiracy in the Court)

thundie

1. Kim Ha-eun (Conspiracy in the Court)
2. Ha Ji-won (Damo)
3. Jung Ae-ri (Conspiracy in the Court)

TOP 3 VILLAINS

dahee fanel

1. Jeon Hye-bin (The King and I)
2. Shin Gu (The King and I)
3. Kim Young-ae (Hwang Jini)

dramaok

1. Jung Ae-ri (Conspiracy in the Court)
2. Chae Shi-ra (Emperor of the Sea)
3. Kim Seung-soo (Jumong)

hjkomo

1. Lee Deok-hwa (Dae Jo Young)
2. Go Hyun-jung (Queen Seondeok)
3. Lee Jong-hyuk (Chuno)

javabeans

1. Go Hyun-jung (Queen Seondeok)

misterX
1. Kim Eung-soo (Conspiracy in the Court)
2. Kim Hye-ri (Shin Don)
3. Seong Dong-il (Chuno)

thundie

1. Park Geun-hyung (Return of Iljimae)
2. Lee Dae-yeon (Shin Don)
3. Go Hyun-jung (Queen Seondeok)

TOP 3 CHILD ACTORS

dahee fanel

1. Shim Eun-kyung (Hwang Jini)
2. Yoo Seung-ho (The King and I)
3. Joo Min-soo (The King and I)

dramaok

1. Jo Jeong-rin (Dae Jang Geum)
2. Shim Eun-kyung (Hwang Jini)
3. Park Ji-bin (Yi San)

hjkomo

1. Shim Eun-kyung (Hwang Jini; Merchant Kim Man Deok)
2. Jung Tae-woo (Dae Jo Young)

javabeans

1. Shim Eun-kyung (Hwang Jini; Legend)
2. Nam Ji-hyun (Queen Seondeok)
3. Yoo Seung-ho (Legend)

misterX
1. Shim Eun-kyung (Hwang Jini)
2. Park Bo-young (The King and I)
3. Lee Il (The Last Empress)

thundie

1. Shim Eun-kyung (Hwang Jini)
2. Jo Jung-eun (Dae Jang Geum)
3. Yoo Seung-ho (Legend; The Immortal Yi Soon Shin)

BEST DIRECTION

dahee fanel

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Chuno
3. Shin Don

dramaok

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Legend
3. Hwang Jini

hjkomo

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Chuno
3. The Return of Iljimae

javabeans

1. Return of Iljimae
2. Chuno
3. Painter of the Wind

misterX

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Shin Don
3. Im Kkeok Jeong

thundie

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Shin Don
3. Return of Iljimae

BEST WRITING

danel fanel

1. Shin Don
2. Conspiracy in the Court
3. Damo

dramaok

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Eight Days
3. Legend

hjkomo

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Eight Days
3. Return of Iljimae

javabeans

1. Conspiracy in the Court

misterX

1. Shin Don
2. Im Kkeok Jeong
3. Conspiracy in the Court

thundie

1. Shin Don
2. Conspiracy in the Court
3. Jejoongwon

BEST MUSIC SCORE

dramaok

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Legend
3. Hwang Jini

hjkomo

1. Conspiracy in the Court
2. Return of Iljimae
3. Chuno; Tamra the Island (tie for 3rd place)

javabeans

1. Return of Iljimae
2. Queen Seondeok

misterX

1. Shin Don
2. Chuno
3. Royal Emissary Park Moon Soo

thundie

1. Jejoongwon
2. Shin Don
3. Conspiracy in the Court

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

dahee fanel

1. Hwang Jini
2. Painter of the Wind
3. Era of Concubine/Ladies of the Palace

dramaok

1. Chuno
2. Kingdom of the Wind
3. Yi San

hjkomo

1. Queen Seondeok
2. The Reputable Family
3. Kingdom of the Wind

javabeans

1. Chuno
2. Legend

misterX

1. Legend
2. Dae Jo-Young
3. Painter of the Wind

thundie

1. Chuno
2. Queen Seondeok
3. Kingdom of the Wind

SAGEUK and WUXIA (by ockoala)

Wow. Let me take a minute to catch my breath. My head’s been spinning since I was asked to contribute my pick to a selection of top sageuk. A selection which includes choices gleaned from Thundie, Mr. X, Dahee Fanel, and hjkomo, among other illustrious K-drama aficionados.

My bread and butter (or rice and vegetables) growing up was martial arts historical dramas, also known as wuxia (wu for martial arts, xia for chivalry). I also happened to run headfirst into the world of K-dramas through a sageuk (how fitting, come to think of it).

So my list of the top ten sageuk has been expanded to include wuxia dramas, because wuxia is the Chinese drama equivalent of the K-drama sageuk. Of course, any direct comparison is apples to oranges. But since both are delicious juicy fruit, I can still make a fruit basket, right? [When I was a kid, I never dreamed of being a princess. I dreamed of being a wuxia expert who gallivanted around wulin (the martial arts world) beating the crap out of dastards, making sworn blood vows with reclusive heroes, wearing dreamy period costumes, and drinking lots of wine].

Wuxia dramas have been around for close to fifty years, originating in Hong Kong in the late 60s, maturing in the 70s, and reaching the height of quality and popularity in the 80s. There was one dominant producer of wuxia dramas in HK, and that was TVB. Wuxia dramas in the 80s from TVB were primarily adapted from the novels written by Louis Cha (Jin Yong) and Gu Long. With the story rooted in complex novels that required no additional scripting, TVB was free to spend all its time on acting, directing and presentation. And the results were amazingly choreographed and paced dramas that were grand in scale yet intimate in emotion.

Taiwan got in on the wuxia craze in the 80s as well, but its attempts at wuxia dramas were embarrassingly inept, not to mention woefully chintzy and cheesy. However, Taiwan’s sheer ballsy spirit kept producing more crap until it found a niche in the 90s with a series of wuxia dramas that didn’t try to ape TVB productions but rather created a new formula.

Well-known Taiwanese producer Yang Pei Pei produced a series of wuxia dramas (some adapted from Louis Cha novels, other wholly new stories) that were not half-bad. But Taiwan’s real contribution to wuxia was in the form of wuxia procedurals, dramas set in historical times with martial arts mixed with historical legends and lore. Think Song dynasty Robin Hood mixed with Sherlock Holmes types wuxia constructs.

These dramas were a hit in Taiwan and all over Chinese-speaking parts of Asia. But these wuxia dramas petered out with the proliferation of cheap knockoffs of this tried and true formula (um, CSI New York, anyone?). By the umpteenth Justice Bao derivative, the magic was gone and the industry was teetering. With the opening of direct communications between Taiwan and China, all the wuxia and historical dramas left Taiwan for good by 2001 and migrated completely to China.

The first full decade of wuxia dramas in China have been dominated by one producer, Zhang Ji Zhong. He decided to adapt all the major Louis Cha works armed with money, gorgeous sweeping China scenery, and loads of acting talent at his disposal. Each one of his wuxia dramas have been pretty to look at, but hard to watch. I’ll leave it at that. But talented new producers are emerging in China, where the future of wuxia dramas appears to permanently reside.

I have found that sageuk is also evolving rapidly, and upping its pace to be more like its wuxia first cousin, while still maintaining its quintessential flavor. My dream would be a cross-border mega epic, with the scale and choreography of a wuxia blended with the emotional urgency and heart of a sageuk. And with that, hopefully I’ve provided a bit of context for my choices. Though I do need to tell you that I don’t know what the heck I just wrote, so take it with a grain of salt.

ockoala’s Top 10

1. Duke of Mount Deer (HK drama, 1984)
He is lazy, profane and illiterate. Not to mention a liar, cheater, lecher, two-timer and coward. How is it that he ends up making everything right, by doing it all wrong? And you will laugh with him and cry for him, and love him even more for it.

2. Conspiracy in the Court (K-drama, 2007)
So good, good is not worthy enough a word to describe it. Still don’t think I absorbed the enormity of what I watched. I am surely not worthy enough to put it on my list. But I’ll do it anyway, because I’m ballsy like that.

3. Legend of the Condor Heroes (HK drama, 1982)
Stupid but honorable boy meets brilliant yet manipulative girl. It’s love at first sight. Now go learn some master wuxia skills and try to save a dynasty from collapse. But first you must revenge your father’s death and deal with an unwanted engagement. All in a day’s work it feels like. Too bad you two sweet kids couldn’t stay young forever rather than grow up and become shitty parents. But that’s another story.

4. Damo (K-drama, 2003)
I love you, Naeuri. And I love you, too, Rebel Leader. And I can’t love either of you. So let us three try this again in another lifetime, where each of our roles will be hopefully be set correctly.

5. Smiling Proud Wanderer (HK drama, 1985)
Everyone is openly or secretly fighting for world supremacy, while he just wants to drink and be carefree. The Tao of the wuxia world dictates that he’ll get everything everyone else wants. But he can’t ever get the only thing he longs for.

6. Tamra the Island (K-drama, 2009)
Whimsy, meet Chosun history circa a closed-off island. A great nobleman will look down rather than up, and discover his life’s worth is measured not by stature, but by having a heart as wide as the sea.

7. Justice Bao (TW drama, 1995)
Law and Order set in the Song Dynasty, with about 378 episodes worth of Confucian-ethics kicking some nefarious behind. Main character rocks the black face (please don’t alert the NAACP), and get ready to fall madly in love with a dude whose nickname is The Royal Cat.

8. Princess Huai Yu (TW drama, 2000)
Cross-dressing Princess runs away, becomes sworn blood-brothers with the disguised Emperor and Prince Regent, and both fall in love with her. C’mon, guys, this is not going to end well. But it does, and so this is the only wuxia romance to ever do the mischievous princess plus star-crossed lovers story right.

9. Chronicles of Emperor Qianglong (TW 1991)
A seamless blend of the historical facts about the most famous Qing dynasty Emperor with swashbuckling tales of his adventures outside of the Forbidden Palace. Your uptight parents will love the accurate historical presentation, you will love the charming joie de vivre of the story.

10. Legend of the Condor Heroes (China 2008)
This version is all about couple #2. Entitled and clever boy meets poor but gentle and steely girl. It’s love-hate at first sight. Now go learn some wuxia skills and figure out what country you belong to. But first you must avenge your father’s death and deal with feelings of insecurity and bitterness. All in a lifetime’s work it feels like. Too bad you two doomed lovers couldn’t see how your son grows up to be the world’s most steadfast in love Romeo. But that’s another story.

Top 3 Actors

1. Tony Leung (Duke of Mount Deer)

2. Jang Hyuk (Chuno)

3. Patrick Tse (in everything he’s ever done)

Top 3 Actresses

1. Barbara Yung (Legend of the Condor Heroes 1982)

2. Ha Ji-won (Damo)

3. Kim Ha-eun (Conspiracy in the Court)

Top 3 Villains

1. Go Hyun-jung (Queen Seondeok – her eyebrows scare me, like, a lot)

2. Chen Sha Li (Princess Huai Yu – she was born to do the haughty bitch; if I explain that she is the female, Chinese equivalent of Kim Gab Soo, does that clarify why she’s scary?)

3. Kenneth Tsang (Smiling Proud Wanderer – evil wrapped in a honorable façade of a father figure. *shivers*)

Top 3 Child Actors

1. Wang Cheng Yang (Royal Tramp 2008 – Boy blew me away, best child actor debut I have seen in 20 plus years of drama watching. Stole the show, and punk’d all the adult actors who had the misfortune of following in his exuberant footsteps)

2. Kim Yoo Jung (Dong Yi; Tamra the Island – I love you, little Dong Yi and little Beo Sul, I’m grooming my little baby girl to be your doppelganger)

3. Jin Ming (Xue Ke, classic Qiong Yao melodrama – the original flavor child acting wonder, spawned an entire decade of child roles written just for her)

Best Direction

1. Conspiracy in the Court (like poetry in motion)

2. Damo (so beautiful it hurts to look at it)

3. Jumong (Zhang Ji Zhong, THIS is how you direct when you have piles and piles of dough at your disposal)

Best Writing

1. Duke of Mount Deer (Oh, only the best novel from the best wuxia writer in the universe. All the PD has to do is not screw up the adaptation.)

2. Conspiracy in the Court (Like looking at the Sistine Chapel, you know it’s so magnificent it takes your breath away. Only you don’t have the capacity to put it into words.)

3. Smiling Proud Wanderer (How I love thee, story, let me count the ways.)

Best Music Score

1. Legend of the Condor Heroes 1982 (Best soundtrack ever created, multiple songs for multiple segments, with even a Yue Fei epic poem transformed into a song used perfectly)

2. Damo (Wah, I tear up just humming the music)

3. Seodongyo (It may have been a child’s play of a sageuk, but the music was soulful and moving)

Biggest Disappointments

[What can I say, you don’t suck, but each of you could have, should have, been much better, and you weren’t. You had truck loads of money, each of your leads look just right for the part, and modern technology was at your disposal. Two of you (including all the babies birthed by the same dude) were directed worth shit, and one of you needed your scriptwriter to take a long time out in a cold shower. So I’m bitch-slapping you for failing to reach your potential. As my Daddy would say “I don’t care that you tried your best, trying my best didn’t put food on the table for you.” Touché, Daddy.]

1. All of the Zhang Ji Zhong adaptations of Louis Cha’s seminal works (Legend of the Condor Heroes 2002, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils 2004, Return of the Condor Heroes 2006, Royal Tramp 2008 and Dragon Sabre and Heavenly Sword 2009)

2. Chuno (It was like you had a split personality. And I don’t like my dramas bipolar, even if half of you was so good you ripped my guts out and then drop-kicked it back into my stomach cavity. The other half of you was startlingly brain dead.)

3. Fox Volant of Snowy Mountain 2006 (Even knowing you were a Wong Jing — maestro of crap — adaptation, you had moments of brilliance. Too bad the moments didn’t extend into stretches.)

Wow, thanks for that amazing write-up, ockoala! His Most Droolsome Majesty heartily approves but wishes to have a private word with you on your Top 10 picks (why Painter of the Wind is excluded, why there’s more wuxia than sageuk, and whether you plan to give Dong Yi your full attention on account of who is playing second fiddle).

Okay, everyone, now’s your turn to dish out your own awards. Don’t hold back!

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28 thoughts on “Sageuk Awards

  1. Ahh… Unanimous Shim Eun-Kyung pimping (uhh… that sounds weird. But a grown ass man doesn’t write love unless he really means it). Already miss her, and she hasn’t even left yet. Going through the same career patterns as Kim Min-Jung, and likely to become just as good.

  2. woohoo!! what a wonderful post!!! LOVED IT!! i think i might bookmark this for future reference. thank u to everyone who contributed to this!!!
    as a drama lover, and having watched almost all the sageuk/wuxia listed, it’s interesting how we can see the difference in opinions from the poll. lol.
    and thanks ockoala for your portion on wuxia!! (i love sageuk but wuxia has been deep-rooted in my heart since childhood so i have a particularly soft spot for it! like u, i think i started drama watching with wuxia)
    it’s really cool u included the less recent wuxia in ur list, it made me nostalgic since it had been so long i watched them. but boy do some of those wuxia be LONG… such as justice bao..
    anyways, thanks thundie again for this awesome idea and thanks everybody else for sharing ur thoughts/opinion!

  3. *Deeps bow of reverence and gratitude* Your Most Droolsome Majesty’s emissary (aka Thundie), you honor me by giving me the closing spot, and actually posting my extended ramblings. I shall endeavor to answer your Sire’s most profound questions first:

    1. Why is there more wuxia than sageuk? – because I have seen more wuxia to saguek, like a ratio of 10:1. So, the number of sageuk’s on my list is actually disproportionately high. But I actually believe the number of sageuks should be higher. There is a reason why it isn’t, which leads to your second question….

    2. Why is PotW not on my list? – because I haven’t watched it yet! ‘Tis shamefully true. I also haven’t watched: Shin Don, Eight Days, Jejoonwon, and Return of Iljimae. Instead of PotW, I watched the wrong Wind drama (KoTW) – stupid ockoala, lured in by SIK in windy battle gear. And instead of ROI, I watched Iljimae. So, tying this back to question 1 above, the reason why I think the number of sageuks on my list is only likely to increase is that (based on what I have read about those dramas above), after watching them, it’s likely going to drop-kick one of the TW or C-dramas off the list. [Sorry, my top 5 is immutable, unchangeable, don’t even touch it with a 10 foot pole! Back away, other dramas, or else it’s going get ugly around here].

    3. Dong Yi, watch, ya? – Sigh, I watched the kids section (Love!), but once the adults showed up, I was reminded of why I thought HHJ was not her best in a sageuk. And I also found the directing pedestrian and the story un-engaging. All told, me loves me some Jun Se-oppa (especially a hot warrior version of Jun Se-oppa), but I don’t think I’m going to continue with Dong Yi. Unless I get word from y’all that it’s like the second coming of Damo. In the meantime, it won’t stop me from Googling (yes, “Googling”, as a verb, Google! I like to dilute your trademark, nyah nyah nyah) “pictures” of BSB as what’s-his-name-hot-broody-protector-of-Dong-Yi.

    Thank you so much, Thundie, for collecting this amazing list of sageuks. And thanks to all the writers who shared their sageuk selections, I have so many heretofore unknown or yet un-watched sagueks to watch. I find myself really leaning towards starting Shin Don as my next full-length sageuk. And for those of you who think I favor wuxia, ‘tis not so. Did you not see sageuks swept the Best Directing category in my list? I give credit where credit is due. 😀

    And I also don’t think any forthcoming wuxia is going to enter the top 10 anytime soon (maybe when pigs fly, or Zhang Ji Zhong retires, or the C-drama industry hires the entire retired cadre of TVB choreographers, cinematographers, and costume designers from the 80s).

  4. Wow, what meaty post. Great idea, thundie! Thanks to all who contributed your top choices!

    @ ockoala
    “[When I was a kid, I never dreamed of being a princess. I dreamed of being a wuxia expert who gallivanted around wulin (the martial arts world) beating the crap out of dastards, making sworn blood vows with reclusive heroes, wearing dreamy period costumes, and drinking lots of wine].”
    I grew up watching TVB and their wuxia series so I was nodding in agreement as I read your review, especially the above quoted section. I remember when I was watching those “sworn blood vows” scene, you know, where they bit their finger and voila! it bled, I tried to mimic but alas, could never succeed and then realize, “wait. why did I want to do this in the first place?!”

    Re: Legend of Condor Heroes, 2008. Was that the one with Ariel Lin?
    Re: Duke of Mount Deer. Tony Leung and Andy Lau… those were the good ol’ days.
    Have you seen the other remakes, namely the one with Jordan Chan (TVB) and Dicky Cheung (China)?

    Re: Fox…Mountain. I wanted to like this but just couldn’t take it anymore after watching the first few episodes.

    @ thundie
    I take it that you like Jejoongwon, eh? I saw the first two episodes but even though I liked what I saw, I wasn’t planning on following it through mainly due too many new dramas to watch and not enough time. After reading your praises for it, though, I’m more motivated to pick it up again. Will you be writing up a little sumpting for it?

  5. Thundie, do you remember me? I’m the one who set her 100th drama as Shindon, the Turkish fan of you hehe..(Currently watching Shindon, at ep. 45, not to mention that I’m loving the drama as much as you recommend~)
    I had asked you about X ajussi’s Top 10 sageuks at ROI download links thread, glad that you finally replied with this beautiful post!

    I’ve seen your tweets about Jejungwon and kept wondering when you’ll write about it. (Still waiting hehe..) Jejungwon is the drama of the year for me. I am still having withdrawals and something still seem to be missing out of life since JJW ended. *sigh* Gonna miss PYW in a drama for a long while, however he picked a movie called Children quickly.

    Top 10 sageuks:
    1. Shin Don
    2. Conspiracy in the Court
    3. Emperor Of The Sea
    4. Jejungwon
    5. Damo
    6. Hwang Jini
    7. Eight Days
    8. Ja Myung Go
    9. Painter Of The Wind
    10. Chuno

    Top 3 Actors:
    1. *Jung Bo Suk, Son Chang Min(Shindon)
    2. Park Yong Woo (Jejungwon)
    3. Song Il Guk (Emperor Of The Sea)

    Top 3 Actresses:
    1. Ha Ji Won (Damo, *Hwang Jini)
    2. Kim Ha Eun (Conspiracy In The Court)
    3. Moon Geun Young (Painter Of The Wind)

    Top 3 Villains:
    1. Chae Shi Ra (Emperor of the Sea)
    2. Lee Jong Hyuk (Chuno)
    3. Kim Hye Ri (Shin Don)

    Top 3 Child Actors:
    1. Shim Eun Kyung (Hwang Jini)
    2. Baek Sung Hyun (Emperor Of The Sea, *Damo)
    3. Nam Ji Hyun (Queen Seon Duk)

    Best Direction:
    1. Conspiracy In The Court
    2. Shindon
    3. Chuno

    Best Writing:
    1. Shindon
    2. Conspiracy In The Court
    3. Jejungwon

    Best Ost:
    1. Emperor Of The Sea
    2. Shindon
    3. Chuno

    Disappointment:
    1. Chuno
    2. Tamra The Island
    3. Queen Seon Duk

  6. Thanks for the comments! I apologize if some of the unanimous picks look suspiciously like pimping, lol, but I assure you we had no idea which way the wind was blowing for each of us. 😆

    X, thanks for inspiring this post, although I now realize, belatedly, that it is lovekorea who deserves props for making it all happen in the first place. I was scratching my head yesterday and wondering why I asked you for your top 10 sageuk; it seemed so out of the blue. My bad, lovekorea, for remembering your request but forgetting to reply! 😳 Anyways, after I got X’s list (the guy claims to be grumpy and all, but he’s a sweetheart when it comes to replying mail pronto), I thought it would be fun to draw up a list of categories and have a few people list their favorites. So that’s how this post came about.

    My dear guest blogger aka ockoala the awesome, His Baejesty wants me to convey to you his mixed pleasure at your reply. He’s pleased that you think BSB is hot and even googled him, but mortified that you forgot his character’s name in Dong Yi. Such a lapse of memory normally carries a capital punishment, but since you called “what’s-his-name” a hot warrior, you are merely and briefly banished to the Damo dungeon (aka that cave crawlng with scorpions). There you shall engage in meditation (on the myriad ways in which BSB is hot); at the end of your stay you shall produce a Damo treatise, or what ordinary mortals call a review.

    Ah, doozy and lovekorea, do I like Jejoongwon? “Like” does not even scratch the surface; I am madly in love with the drama! Setting aside the recent one-episode drama special from MBC, My Sister’s March, Jejoongwon is the best thing I’ve watched this year. It’s in fact the best long (anything beyond 4 episodes) drama I’ve watched in 2009 and 2010. Certain episodes, as standalones in themselves, are so flawlessly executed they rate up there as among the best I’ve ever seen. I want so much to write about it and have been mulling over the format (a review when I’ve finished? a character piece similar to what I did for Assorted Gems? or are-you-out-of-your-mind-thundie-this-is-36-episodes! recaps?). I’m still deciding.

    Also, and this is why I avoid spoilers like the plague, I had no idea (or I plain forgot) that Jejoongwon is written by the same writer who wrote awesomesauce White Tower. I only knew after I watched about 10 episodes and was digging for more info on the real Jejoongwon hospital. No wonder it is so good! Above all, what can I say about Park Yong-woo that won’t sound like hyperbole? It makes me sad that Chuno got all the attention while Jejoongwon, which premiered about the same time in early Jan 2010, just slipped under many people’s radar. Last night I was reading some of the comments in the WITHS2’s Jejoongwon subs thread (http://withs2.com/view/jejungwon) and was not surprised by the “This is the best drama I’ve watched in years” raving.

  7. I’m surprised at all the mentions of Hwan Jin Yi. The one with Ha Ji Won, right? Or is there some other drama of the same name? I watched the first few eps and found myself completely bored. I wonder if I should give it a second chance.

    Glad to see at least one reviewer really liked Chuno (and we all know Dahee has pretty high standards!). I admit it was a little lacking in later episodes and probably should have been cut down a bit, but other than that I thought it was great and left me a blubbering fool after the last ep. That being said, why did they have to pick Oh Ji Ho for one of the leads? Horrible choice. The action scenes were probably the best I have seen in a drama yet, sageuk or otherwise and I thought the choice of music for those scenes was also good.

    I MUST see the Conspiracy In The Court that everyone is raving about. I have the eps but just haven’t had the motivation to watch it yet for some reason.

  8. Your Baejesty, pei-ha. May I come out of the cave if I proffer this humble tribute to your supreme oppa-ness?

    ockoala’s top 10 sageuks (in listing them, I discovered I’ve only ever seen, like, 12 sageuks! Hahahaha, I is so unworthy of participating in this award’s ceremony):

    1. Conspiracy in the Court
    2. Damo
    3. Tamra the Island
    4. Jumong
    5. Hong Gil Dong
    6. Emperor of the Sea
    7. Seodongyo
    8. Chuno
    9. Hwang Jin Yi
    10. Kingdom of the Wind

    Oh, and last on my list, A Thousand Year’s of Love.

    Back to my cave now….

  9. Oh boy, ockoala, as His Baejesty’s emissary I feel beholden to tell you that you are in BIG trouble for mentioning TYOL in the same breath as a sageuk. Even a site like Dramawiki avoids associating the two, mindful of the terrible consequences.

    Go to http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Thousand_Years_of_Love and you’ll see that TYOL belongs to the romance and fantasy genres. Can a drama where the lead (hot though he admittedly is) blows bubbles while immersed (presumably nekkid) in a modern bathtub BE CONSIDERED A SAGEUK? Not only that, he teaches the female lead (a princess though she admittedly is) THE PROPER WAY TO WEAR A BRA! Plus… both leads KISS A LOT!!

    There’s nothing I can do to save you from the following worse-than-death fate:

    EDICT FROM THE KING
    ockoala is hereby ordered to watch Winter Sonata Episodes 1-2 (The High School Years) five times over the weekend. Fastforwarding or pointing at the screen and laughing hysterically is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

  10. What’chu say, O’honorable emissary?

    I can’t hear you from them thar CAVE I’m living in. 😀

    As for your the matter I was tasked with, oh ho ho, it’s coming along nicely. What out for my redemption. Mentioning TYOL is merely to awaken Your Baejesty from his stupor in Dong Yi.

  11. WOAH, almost unanimous vote on Conspiracy of the the Court for Best Writing . . .

    Never miss a chance to catch any of Shim Eun Kyung’s projects . . loved her ever since Sweet Buns 단팥빵

  12. Hi Thundie and Ockoala
    What a wonderful post!! Thank you so much. Although I check your blog and Dramabeans religiously everyday, I don’t normally comment. Loved Saguek and Wuxia to bits. I have watched quite a few of the Saguek and Wuxia mentioned in the post above. I know, quite sad!

    Totally agree with Thundie that Jejoongwon was a hidden gem missed by a lot of people because of Chuno. Have to watch Shin Don next since it is so highly recommended.

    If we are voting for the best Saguek movie, my vote will go to Duelist. This movie is so beautifully made. Loved the music score too!

    My love for Wuxia started when I first watched The Heaven Sword and The Dragon Sabre(1978 version). Question for Ockoala, have you ever watch Wuxia – The Heaven Sword and The Dragon Sabre? Which version did you like best? I am thinking of re-watching some of Jin Yong’s adaptation. Any recommendations?

  13. Hi Fei, I’m just going to say that thanks should be shared amongst all the awesome constributors, but I’m glad you liked my insertion of some wuxia tidbits into this sageuk post. 🙂

    With respect to your question:

    Yes, I have watched Dragon Sabre and Heavenly Sword, how can I not, when its the final book in the Condor Heroes trilogy, and me loves that trilogy! I’ve seen the 1986 TVB Tony Leung adaptation, the 1994 Taiwan Ma Jing Tao version, and the 2003 Alec Su version. I’ve watched a few episodes of the 2009 Zhang Ji Zhong version, but I still don’t like his works, and found this one equally pretty but vacant.

    My fave version is Tony’s, but honestly, I don’t think there has been a stellar Dragon Sabre adaptation, ever. (oh, and I haven’t watched the Adam Cheng TVB 1978 version, that was before my drama watching days).

    If you want to re-watch Jing Yong works, I suggest either Chow Yun Fat’s 1985 Smiling Proud Wanderer for the je ne sais quoi vibe, or Tony + Andy’s 1984 Duke of Mount Deer for the hilarity and epic story construct. Both hold up with the test of time.

    Enjoy your walk down wuxia memory lane!

  14. Thundie and Ockoala! Finally come to this post. You guys rocks!!! Now I know why everyone’s talking about Damo on Twitter. I’d love to start on something out of your lists as soon as I have a chunk of time off. Thanks!

  15. Princess Huai Yu! omo lol i never thought anyone will remembered that drama ! i still own the set of DVD` LOL ..i think the china attempt Legend of the Condor Heroes make me take notice , the only one i think outdid the HK version (the rest as you say never manage to keep my attention for more than 10 esp) huang xiao min protrayl was closer to the novel version of yang guo that is in my mind^

    ya i lived through the drama era of the HK & taiwan wuxia drama ,and yes including the Justice Bao era i can still rem that yuan yang hu die meng tune lol..you might take a look at the real saguek by china .there are certain masterpiece in them .~

  16. We luv Damo, Yi San and Dong Yi,Emperor of the Sea Killed me at the end, Jumonga inspired us. Queen Soendok and Dong Yi and Yi San showed us all what absolute power does and Mishil gets the vote for the most diabolically beautiful spider woman. Also how many times can you trick the King and public and live. Before internet…a long time. Painter in the Wind was the best trans-gender film. Kingdom of the Wind was good but it really taught me that there is no way I want China as the dominant force in the world we live in.
    Sorry, but you can’t watch from Jumong to Kingdom without catching china hay fever. Right now we are enjoying Hur June, so far Korean Medical Sageuk are some of the best.
    Really liked Jejoongwon. Plz tell how come Shindon was rated so high, I finally stopped at 43 it was too monotonous, it had moments. But overall it is just a dreary story with a dismal king and actor playing the King with a Queen I would go back in time for. Very sad.
    Please don’t have any episode 53 days.

  17. I am really glad that Legend was included in this article, even if it was a disappointment (for me) in the end. I haven’t even realized that it was a sageuk until I read this post, because their costumes were sorta different from those I have seen in other sageuks, like Jewl in the Place etc. The ending caused it to drop out of my top ten list of favourite Korean dramas (why couldn’t the king have ended up with Kiha or something? Instead of returning to heaven and the like.) If not for the stupid ending,it would have taken 2nd place, honestly. But I would never forget it, because it was the drama that made me into a Moon So-Ri fan in the first place, and also because the CG effects were simply spectacular.

    And I love TVB wuxia dramas. They were so awesome! Grew up with them, and personally, I like them a lot more than Korean dramas. I was heartbroken and disappointed with TVB (and still am) for not continuing to make them.The swordplay, the plot and the actors! They were all perfect for their roles, and brought out the spirit of the books. In my opinion, none of the later remakes, with the exception of Legend of the Condor Heroes 2008, could ever surpass the TVB version. I particularly enjoyed The Laughing Swordsman, both the 1996 version and the book. Watched the Singaporean version, the Taiwanese Version and the Mainland Chinese Version, and they seriously all paled in comparison (sorry to the fans of these shows). Haven’t watched the 1985 version, but I think I will try it, since you recommended it. The music for the TVB Wuxia dramas were all great. Of course, I like Justice Bao too. It is an unforgettable show.

  18. Have been an avid reader of dramabeans in the last few months and just happened on your blog now, but kudos to what you have done here and keep up the good work!

    @ ockoala –
    Totally related to your bit on wuxia as I grew up watching HK shows (though TVB’s drama glory days have long since waned) and I too had the same dream, i.e. NOT to be princess, but to be a wuxia expert / smiling wanderer. In fact my 1st dream job (and most unachievable of course) is actually to be an actress who can play out wuxia / period roles (SKKS’s Yeo-rim type roles being the best) but also gets to live in the comfort of the modern world…
    Anyway would just like to note that several of the shows you mentioned don’t really sit within the ‘wuxia’ category, although they are certainly in the ‘period’ category which is closer to the korean saguek. However they are still noteworthy mentions (although I haven’t watched all you mentioned) and includes some classics!

    *my first comment online as a kdrama addict -_-; and I’m nitpicking on wuxia… sorry*

  19. Found this post because I just started Conspiracy in the Court today…and now I guess I have even more dramas to add to the list! Thanks for the fabulous post!

  20. I finished Hwang Jini today. Best sageuk I’ve watched in a while. I would really like to see Damo now because of Ha Ji-won.

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