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.

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Episode 1 teasers: Eight Days – The Mystery of Jeongjo’s Assassination

It’s one and the half years since we bade farewell to 2007. Yet many people continue to discover what a gold mine that year was, giving us some of the best Korean dramas ever made.

Among 2007’s quality offerings was a relatively unknown period drama aired on cable TV. Eight Days – The Mystery of Jeongjo’s Assassination did not blow me away like Conspiracy in the Court did, but that’s like comparing a Pulitzer Prize to the Nobel Prize, a Lexus to a Lamborghini.

Both of these two 2007 dramas are short: Conspiracy at just eight episodes and Eight Days ten. Both deal with the same subject: King Jeongjo.

You will see a very different king in each, but both are unforgettable and portrayed brilliantly by actors at the top of their game. Eight Days’ Jeongjo is played by Kim Sang-joong. I love his version more than Ahn Nae-sang‘s in Conspiracy, if that is even possible. Ahn Nae-sang’s king made me sad, but Kim Sang-joong’s made me swoon, so smitten was I by his charisma.

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Women in the Sun: Episodes 1-2

KBS 2008

The children wait expectantly, one of them more eager than the rest. A childless couple is coming to the orphanage that day, purportedly to check out a child to adopt, although in reality the wife is reluctant, insisting she will one day conceive. So what if ten years of trying have produced only tears and a bitter resolve? But the husband is adamant, so to the orphanage they go.

Already identified for them is a young boy, Hong Eun-sub (Kang Ji-sub). If the couple picks him, Eun-sub’s life will change forever, for the couple is a pair of professors, learned and rich. But in the end they choose another child, a girl whose tear-stained face caught their eyes, whose death-grip hug took the woman by surprise. And so they leave, with Kim Han-suk. All Eun-sub can do is throw himself on the ground, his anguished cries echoing through the orphanage.

Kim Han-suk is renamed Shin Do-young (Shim Eun-kyung) and for a while everything is perfect. Her new parents dote on her; isn’t she their only child, after all? But shortly after, the mother discovers she is pregnant. Overwhelmed that her cherished dream will soon become reality, the mother says aloud to her husband (and within Do-young’s earshot) that they should not have hurried to adopt.

The arrival of the baby girl, Ji-young, means Do-young is now an afterthought for her mother. Not a day passes where she is not made aware that she is less loved and wanted. Her sister owns all of their mother’s heart and all Do-young can do is watch with growing resentment… until one day when a reckless impulse leads her to do the unthinkable.

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