Empress Ki

Empress Ki (2013)

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Ratings: 8.8/10 from 5,306 users
Reviews: 55 users

The series revolves around Ki Seung Nyang, a Goryeo-born woman who ascends to power despite the restrictions of the era's class system and later marries Ta Hwan to become an empress of the Yuan dynasty, instead of her first love, Wang Yu. The series depicts her loves and political ambitions.
(Source: Wikipedia)

  • Native title:

  • Also Known as:

    Hwatu; 화투; Qi Empress; Battle of Flowers; Gi Hwang-hu

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102 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Dec 22, 2014
  • Overall 10
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 9.0
At first, I was skeptical about it. Wanna know why? IT'S A FRIGGIN' LENGHTY DRAMA! To watch a 51-episode historical drama requires full time and dedication to finish it. And yes, I indeed took the challenge. Thanks to those who convinced me and of course to the helpful reviews as well.

Empress Ki, I must say, is a very compelling, powerful and controversial historical drama. I am always deeply enthralled with every read more scene with every scene that leaves you in awe and keeps you wanting for more. I suggest you (future watchers) dramathon it and don't skip a single episode nor a single scene.

Story - I love how the story of EK started and ended. Not the usual save-all-the-main-characters-protagonists kind of plot. I love killings, and I think these killings were the most highlighted parts of the drama aside from the intriguing plot. If you know what I mean. I was overwhelmed by it to the extent that I didn't look for any flaw. And mind you, when I'm really enjoying a particular drama, I become LESS OBJECTIVE. (You might disagree with me on this, but it's actually true.) It only means that I am satisfied about it. There was just one thing though that I got confused about. So if ever you happen to read this one and have watched the drama already, my profile is waiting for your comment to ask me what was it about. But, nevertheless, it was an EXCEPTIONAL sageuk. One thing that I loved as well was the turn of events. They were really unpredictable. I like unpredictable things.

Acting/ Cast: Every actor in this drama did a stellar job in portraying each character. I have not seen any actor acting with an expressionless face nor overrated acting. Again, if you know what I mean. Ha Ji Won's acting here was outstanding. She has that MAJESTIC BEAUTY. Joo Jin Mo did great as well. Just like how much he was great in A Frozen Flower. I mean, his acting. LOL

Special Mentions:
Ji Chang Wook - My first time seeing him in a drama. He did a great job in acting esp in crying scenes. He was the best. Actually voted for him in the MDL 2014 poll for best actor.

Baek Jin Hee - portrayed the Tanasiri character very convincingly. I hold her dearly to my heart. *whispers* I have a girl-crush on her. Hihihi ^^

Jin Yi Han / Tal Tal is a bonus here.

Lee Mun Shik / Bang - ahjussi, I will never forget how well you played in Iljimae and also here in EK. For the comedic parts, I salute you.

Jun Gook Hwan / El Temur - I never hated him even though how ruthless he was.

I loved all the villains in this sageuk except for one. His name is Yom. Yom the Scum.

Music - OST overall is pretty brilliant. Gosh, the feels... I especially liked Xia's I Love You.

Given the chance that I'd want to watch this again, I WOULD.

And finally, watching EK is an adventure which will be with me forever. It felt surreal when I finished it. I can't even start a new drama after watching it. No drama can surpass the roller coaster ride of emotions I felt in this drama.

P.S: Don't get surprised by its long episodes, it's totally worth watching!
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53 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Mar 18, 2015
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 8.0
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 8.5
  • Rewatch Value 10
It took me 5 days of mind wrecking just to decide on an overall rating for Empress Ki. The eternal reviewer's doubt whether it is fairer to value a drama using the brain or the heart is maximized here: this is an epic tale where almost every single aspect is at the same time exceptionally good and glaringly bad. In trying to elaborate this, what follows may become very long, and for read more this I apologize in advance.

First, the pace.
If you are preoccupied by the length, be assured the rhythm of the narration is so fast you'll come to the 51st ep. wishing you could have another 10. There isn't even one moment of boredom among the hundreds of little and big events that follow one another. By the end of each episode, I sat there wide awake wishing it wasn't already 4 a.m. and I could watch another. The downside of such a fast pace is that it never gives you respite. I wanted to linger, now and then to bask in the sweetness, or simply see these people being happy for a while, but it was not to be. Every time an issue is concluded the next is ready to shatter that glint of satisfaction it was so hard to finally obtain. The infamous last 10 episodes I've read many criticize, could have been the most poignant part of the drama if they hadn't been so incredibly rushed, to the point that events seem to make little sense. As a matter of fact they do make a lot of sense – with the glowering exception of the silly Maeback botch – but you have to think the entire journey over in order to see it.

Which leads me to the script and its characters.
This isn't a journey to begin in search of historical dependability, not in the details, at least. Little to nothing is known about the woman who became the Empress of Yuan before she entered the palace as a tribute from Goryeo, and there isn't much information about the single steps that were taken in order for her to sit on that throne. The writers have taken many liberties both in characterization as well as chronology, but I personally think they did a great job in always making those steps exciting and suspenseful and when you reach the end you will realize the plot is rounded up very well, with a couple of exceptions. This is why I think knowing a little about Empress Ki's true story in advance can actually enhance the watching and explain the choices some of the characters make.
For instance, we can assume Crown Prince Ta Hwan was exiled to Goryeo when he was only a teenager, which perhaps will make you judge his character with some indulgence. King Wang Yoo of Goryeo, on the other hand, is by all means the most fictionalized of all the main characters, so much so that knowing his true story is not only unnecessary but extremely counterproductive. My humble advice: stay well away from the true known facts about him if you want to enjoy the drama.

When history is taken into consideration, a lot of the twists invented by the writers acquire significance, since the opening scene tells us in advance where we are heading and curiosity is all on how they'll get there. History also explains why so many characters in this drama change side, go from good to bad, from bad to worse or are suspended somewhere in between. It obviously does not explain or justify the fact that everyone speaks Korean, but I am aware that having the huge cast speak different idioms would have rendered the watch almost impossible.

To this drama I own the realization that I possess a dark side too. There have been moments when I wanted to see blood and wished some characters would not only be killed, but killed with pain. It's such an alien feeling for me, it shocked me. It goes to the credit of writers and actors to make me hate with such an intensity, but I'm not sure I want to experience that kind of emotion again. Attachment and love to some characters, though, was equally intense and I swam in it with gusto. It's going to take a very long time before I can get these people out of my system. While it kept me highly entertained in the first half, in the second this drama almost broke my heart. It has very little to do with characters dying or living, and a lot with them losing their innocence. At some point I almost wished the leads had died on that exile island and remain forever what they used to be, before being scarred and marred by that terrible imperial palace, "a place with no blood, no tears and no mercy". to quote Lady Park.

When it comes to the much talked about love triangle, I must say I jumped on Seung Nyang & Ta Hwan's ship very early on and never wavered. I could not see or feel any chemistry between Ha Ji Won and Jo Jin Mo and while my brain kept on telling me these two characters had a lot in common and it was logical for them to fall for each other, my heart never agreed. In fact, my heart unyieldingly refused to accept it. Ha Ji Won and Ji Chang Wook, on the other hand… I could have watched them waltz one around the other for the whole 51 hours run without complaining even once. Some of the most poignant moments in the entire drama involve these two and they are the main reason why I enjoyed Empress Ki so much.
This said, the love triangle was not only central to the story, but dual purpose too. Because on final analysis the true seesaw is not between a woman and two men, but between a woman and two countries. The issue of eradication underlines the whole narration and should never be forgotten in order to understand Seung Nyang's choices. This is, after all, her story, how she's initially forced to abandon her country and her roots and gradually develops an attachment to her adoptive one. The more she distances herself from Goryeo, the more the story focuses on China and takes the viewer along.

Spectacular acting by Ha Ji Won - no news here, not for me, at least. I doubt any other actress would have pulled off such a role with that seeming ease; Ji Chang Wook - yes, I'm just a little obsessed with him right now, after seeing him in two very different dramas I loved and being impressed by his ability to convey such a varied range of emotions. His Emperor is so controversial I could write a review only on him, but let's go on; Baek Jin Hee – Danashili, my most hated and beloved villain was terrific too and Jin Yi Han, who possibly didn't deliver the best performance of his career, but whose charisma alone made him into an all time favourite, unforgettable Tal Tal. The rest of the cast did great too, although I was more impressed with the young actors than the older ones.
A word needs to be spent on the villains. There are a lot of them here, all evil for different reasons. A few of them are very consistent; others are such since the beginning, but the viewer is manipulated to the point of thinking otherwise; some suffer from inexplicable 180° turns. What they all have in common is the unyielding conviction they never did anything wrong, which for me is the saddest trait of this drama and even when they got what they deserved, I was left feeling… empty. Their evil logic is at times extremely lucid and makes the line between good and bad blur.

Music is the hardest aspect for me to rate and perfectly mirrors this drama fluctuating between good and bad. The instrumental pieces are hauntingly beautiful and extremely powerful. Listening to them with closed eyes might be the biggest spoiler of all as to how this story is going to end, which is an achievement in itself since an Ost exists to tell the story via music. The songs, on the other hand, were not only very annoying to my ears (personal taste) but also inserted too abruptly at times when not completely random for the scene they soundtracked. I ended up using good old maths: instrumental 12 + songs 5 = average 8,5.

To come to such a high overall score despite the glaring shortcomings of the script, I took the whole picture into consideration. A 51-hours long story that manages to keep the interest alive till the very end is commendable in itself and the fact that I already know I will definitely re-watch it in the future is proof of the high level of emotion it made me feel. Furthermore, this is not a book, and the visual means is used at its highest, with stunningly beautiful sets, costumes, colours and camera work. If you are able to suspend belief at times and focus on style and emotional impact, you'll no doubt enjoy Empress Ki as much as I did.
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Make a Recommendation More recs (35)Recommendations

both present the situation of an extremely capable woman in times women had little to no perspectives on getting an education and using it for the common good. They aren't greedy for power, but want it to save the state or improve the quality of ordinary people's lives. Their idealism comes in pair with an acute political sense. Even though they're surrounded by the men who love and admire them, their advice is often disregarded, their possibilities limited and their lovers would gladly just put them in a cage so they wouldn't get hurt. You got your fun, girl, now go home and let the boys play.
Both are gender-benders (short arc in Empress Ki, more in Tempest) and hide their identity. Both have multiple love interests. Both become a ruler's concubine. Empress Ki has stronger rivalry in the harem, while in Tempest even though the harem is a scene of a financial schemes, women are in comradery.
Recommended by namopanik
The two stories take place in the same historical time. Faith takes place in the last part of Empress Ki, after she gets married.
While in Goryeo reigned King Gongmin and Queen Noguk (Faith), in Yuan did Emperor Huizong and Empress Ki (Empress Ki).
The two states were in constant conflict with each other. In Faith, King Gongmin had to fight against those who wanted Goryeo to be another province of Yuan. And one of those, was the main antagonist, Ki Cheol, brother of Empress Ki.
Both are historical, action and romance dramas. Only that Faith it's a lot lighter, have fantasy and medical themes, and focused in a romance story between two characters. Empress Ki is a darker and more serious story, with lots of tragedies and political themes, that focuses on a longer range of time, and in which the romance is just another one of the many points that has to offered.
Recommended by Docta

Comments (507)

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  • Reply
    Aya 6 days ago - edited

    Can someone suggest me something even slightly similar to this?

    • Reply
      StarlitStorm 5 days ago

      Queen Seon Duk. It's also about a strong female lead, political scheming and love triangle. It has less romance and a slower pace though.

    • Reply
      Aya 5 days ago

      Already seen but didn't like it at all, Mishil was the only reason that kept me watching

  • Reply
    BlackGauna 11 days ago - edited

    I really wanted to like this drama. It has some very good and powerful scenes but those few scenes there are so many boring and, imo, illogical parts.

    At the beginning of the drama you are shown that (not yet-) Empress Ki had to live as a man and fights all the time. But as soon as she is with the Emperor she acts all weak and there are even scenes where he grabs her at her arm and swings her around and all of a sudden she can't escape the grasp of that total pushover of an emperor.

    There were other scenes which I thought were very weird but I can't really remember because I watched this drama a few months ago.

    I really couldn't watch this drama till the end, I dropped it after 30-something episodes which I normally never do. I really wanted to like this series because it has some really good scenes and I like intrigues, manipulation and politics, but I really cannot torture my way through hours of uninteresting, and sometimes unnecessary, parts. And the politics parts weren't that good either.

    And the main actress's acting was inconsistent, imo. I don't know if I am just imagining things, but sometimes she would speak really weirdly and slowly. I don't know if that was intentional or not but could swear that in the beginning she wasn't acting that way...

    P.S.: sorry for the long post

    • Reply
      namopanik 9 days ago

      In cases like this, fastforward button is your friend :D Confession: I watched this within 48 hours, with a short break for a nap. I was skipping through a better part of King in Exile arc because I was impatient to get to the moment showed at the beginning. Kissasian player is good, because you can skip with arrows by 5 seconds, so you still get the grip of what's going on. Other players can manipulate the speed, but I don't personally like that option.
      The politics part gets better in the second part, although admittedly it's not bulletproof. It may be a case of a 'proper mindset': it's more a battle of characters and reversals than political power struggles. There are stretches and naiveties typical for kdramas in general, but I'm yet to find a kdrama completely devoid of it. Some minor characters are virtually undefeatable and they keep coming back in a most frustrating manner, defying all plausibility (unless you look from a different perspective: those kind of people will survive all, like a cackroaches).
      As for MC weakness, it's not completetly unimaginable in that scene. If she was taken aback, she could be over-empowered even by a weakling like him, since he was heavier and had an advantage of surprise.
      But in the end, there's no need to force oneself to like it. It's just a drama.

    • Reply
      namopanik 9 days ago

      Most importantly: you're missing Tal Tal! He only gets relevant around that time and later.

    • Reply
      BlackGauna 9 days ago - edited

      Yeah, maybe this drama just wasn't for me. I am kind of cautious with history series or movies because there is a big chance that it will be boring. But because this drama has such a high rating, I thought "why not?" and then I got burned :). Sometimes you can't trust the score on this site, high rated dramas suck and lower rated dramas are really good sometimes...

      I am not someone who fast forwards, so if I really don't like it, I just drop the drama or put it on hold. I wanted to drop this drama way earlier but I wanted to know why people give such high ratings and thought maybe it gets better. So I watched ca. 10 more episodes, but it didn't get better.

      I don't want to badmouth this drama, there are many people that liked it, but it wasn't my cup of tea, I guess.

    • Reply
      namopanik 9 days ago

      Good for you re: fastforwarding, it's addicting and a little desensitizing.
      And don't feel bad about criticising it, that's what comments sections are for. Otherwise a hivemind emerges and other people who aren't getting the appeal feel outed.

  • Reply
    Nancy 15 days ago

    I want to watch this drama....but i can't take stand for baek jin hee negative role..if she is going to be hurt in this drama ....how can i watch it
    ..i really feel bad for tanashri character....unloved by husband...hurt so much......make her crazy

  • Reply
    yahel 23 days ago

    Tal Tal and Nyang make the best couple!!!

  • Reply
    Docta 29 days ago - edited
    Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      mali 29 days ago - edited

      I am trying to gather my emotions after this ending =(

  • Reply
    Ethio05 Apr 24, 2017 - edited
    Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    mali Apr 19, 2017

    Soo on ep 32.....wow these episodes feel like roller coaster rides. ..whoever ends with her..its secondary right now. I just love all the plotting and scheming!

  • Reply
    etcetera Apr 17, 2017 - edited

    i wanna rewatch this drama coz i really enjoy watching it. however the love triangle in this drama is so frustrating to watch. i really cannot stand JCW's character. the first time i was this frustrated was with the romance in hwang jin yi and this is the second time. also the ending really? wang yu didnt do any wrong to deserve that urghh. i swear after the last episode i felt like ripping my heart apart. too bad coz i loveee the romance between wang yu and nyang :(

    • Reply
      Ethio05 Apr 24, 2017

      Exactly my thought! If you're gonna distort the facts then just go all the way and give us some reall satisfaction!

  • Reply
    Meli Apr 16, 2017 - edited

    still there is nothing drama as good as this, after 3 years, i still haven't found ........ from the outfit, design, plot and amazing act

    • Reply
      Aya 6 days ago

      Did you watch Nirvana in fire?

  • Reply
    Chie Apr 14, 2017 - edited

    Happy Ending?

  • Reply
    AydinLan Apr 7, 2017 - edited

    I was amazed how could Ji Chang Wook the "Healer" & "k2" be weak & spoiled like that lol . His role in this drama was really different . I had fun watching his character development along with his great love story . He's such an amazing actor ! Made me laugh & cry like a baby .

    I also fell in love with Tal Tal...what a charming man !! His personality is captivating!!

    They look so damn GOOD with that long hair !! (╥_╥)

    • Reply
      mali Apr 16, 2017 - edited

      Tal Tal ...Yes!!!!! =)....He could be my king any day.

  • Reply
    ash k Mar 23, 2017 - edited

    I want to watch this but I've heard the romance is a bit ridculous (she chose the wrong man or something like that) I get annoyed by that shit should I still watch

    • Reply
      Lasharichards Mar 30, 2017 - edited
      Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      etcetera Apr 17, 2017 - edited

      the love triangle in this drama is absurd. i mean if the other guy is equally deserving than thats fine but he's not, really. earlier in the drama it was amazing with the romance and all after the other person appeared thats when everything went downhill for me. all the hype for this drama is mostly on ji chang wook. if you came here for him then u should watch, if not u better rethink. if u insist, then good luck. i watched this solely for the drama and not the actors maybe thats why im disappointed.

    • Reply
      Lasharichards Apr 17, 2017 - edited

      Lol those are not facts...just opinion. This drama did an amazing job at portraying the history between the 2 empires lol...; I honestly did not know who Ji Chang Wook before this drama, and I thought he did a beautiful job at playing his part...no one could've done it better than him. Now I'm a fan of him!

    • Reply
      etcetera Apr 18, 2017

      which statement are u referring to as not facts and just opinion? historically maybe, but jcw's character is a little bit too much. he's like a wimp in here

    • Reply
      Lasharichards Apr 18, 2017 - edited

      That's what the emperor in that time period was and honestly he was brought up spoiled and nothing expected of him so of course his character is wimpish. And plus he is not a wimp throughout the WHOLE story
      Opinion: The whole paragraph.

  • Reply
    zhaoliyingstan Mar 21, 2017

    i watched this way back 2015 but im just here to comment that im one of those few peps who ship wang yu and nyang. kbye

  • Reply
    anusathiya Mar 15, 2017

    result of watching Empress ki :
    Empress ki! : She is one amazing character and this is one drama where the female lead is the reason for this Drama! <3
    story : total politics with tragedy but what a great story!
    process of watching : You will go more crazy than watching a thriller...!
    lesson learn't : Reality is always demanding and hurtful.
    Ending : Kind of hurting, painful, reality struck heart ache but still loved this drama.

    what I got from this drama :

    A crush on Tal Tal,I loved his every move in this drama...I wish he was mine :p

  • Reply
    sanasoufi Mar 11, 2017

    I give up....it's excellent, but 51 episodes is too much. So many other movies I prefer to watch while watching this. Watched 11 episodes though and definitely 10/10.


  • Country:

    South Korea
  • Type:

  • Episodes:

  • Aired:

    Oct 28, 2013 to Apr 29, 2014
  • Aired On:

    Monday, Tuesday
  • Network:

  • Duration:

    1 hr. 5 min.


  • Score:

    8.8 (scored by 5,306 users)
  • Ranked:

  • Popularity:


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