Empress Ki

Empress Ki (2013)

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Ratings: 8.8/10 from 2,261 users
Reviews: 32 users

A woman from Goryeo marries Emperor Huizong and becomes a powerful Empress of the Yuan Empire, Empress Ki. The series depicts her loves and political ambitions as she is torn between the two countries.

  • Native title:

  • Also Known as:

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

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
13 days ago
  • 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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25 of 27 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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Make a Recommendation More recs (15)Recommendations

Both dramas have similar stories about a poor female with strong personality. Also, it has amazing OST, cast and it's based on real life of the royal concubine Jang Ok Jung/ Jang Hee Bin.
Recommended by patyredf
Historical dramas centered on a woman (empress).

Empress Ki takes place in Korea while The Empress of China takes place in China.
Recommended by Sady

Comments (224)

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  • Reply
    onewbaby 8 days ago
    Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      Claire 8 days ago

      Then watch healer the emperor is great there you really like it for sure.

    • Reply
      DBSK 5 days ago
      Reveal Spoiler »
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      onewbaby 1 day ago

      Hmm well ill edit that then :P thanks

  • Reply
    zumzummara 9 days ago

    Just finished it yesterday, and all I can say is: there are no brakes on the feel train.......LOVED it ♥

  • Reply
    amrita828 10 days ago

    This isn't a perfect drama, nor is it my all time favourite, but it's obsession-inducing. I still can't get over it. :(

  • Reply
    Kiseki 10 days ago

    The prelude is way too long, 6 episodes in and she still isn't Empress... I feel like i am sitting through a long trailer waiting for the main content = =

    • Reply
      technololo 9 days ago

      just so you know she'll become Empress in ep 50

      it seems that you didnt quite get the drama cuz the drama isnt about her life as an Empress but about her long journey on the path to become empress so .....

  • Reply
    Asherya 12 days ago

    I absolutely adore JCW here!! He plays the role of the Emperor really well with just the right mix of being serious and handsome and cute as hell. :-)

    It was the first time for me to watch such a long drama and I don't regret it.The storyline was great (no comment on the ending, though)!!

    However, I really started to dislike Lady Ki around the 30th episode... and that dislike stayed until the end. I just couldn't do with her spite, hidden cruelty and somehow-obsession with the throne... and for me she started to be no better than all those who wronged the Emperor or her. I can't really explain it... I sometimes caught myself scowling when I saw her. :-P

    I was no reason for me to stop watching, however and I can recommend this drama for anyone who has loooots of time to spare and is interested in historical dramas with the traditional elements of tagic love, action, treason, bribery and cruelty they always come with it. :-P :-)

    Great watch!

    • Reply
      Claire 8 days ago

      Lol better to hide your comment coz its contained a spoiler look in the first paragraph hayzzzzz

  • Reply
    Irresi 22 days ago

    The Emperior and Tal Tal - the only ones who were kind and didn't want to be on the top of world like others. I loved the show but there was too many cruel people and too many ppl had to die... And the last ep was so sad T_T. Still I'll give it 9/10 becouse plot was just awesome.

  • Reply
    Kawaitanee 28 days ago

    Right now I am on episode 40, but I just feel that every character here is so cruel.

  • Reply
    onewbaby 28 days ago
    Reveal Spoiler »
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    megumiryuu Feb 27, 2015

    I don't usually watch historical dramas, but after watching Healer I can't get enough of JCW that's why I'm watching Empress Ki. I'm halfway through and I'm loving it <3

  • Reply
    Doremeduck Feb 27, 2015
    Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      technololo Feb 28, 2015
      Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      Doremeduck Feb 28, 2015

      OK. Thanks.

    • Reply
      kristina303 22 days ago
      Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      Kiseki 10 days ago
      Reveal Spoiler »
    • Reply
      kristina303 10 days ago
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    technololo Feb 26, 2015

    watching it for the 3rd time and still as amazing as before ugh <3

  • Reply
    RedHead5 Feb 22, 2015


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    lovelydream Feb 21, 2015

    This drama was really great for the first half , then the writers went CRAZY ,to please the audience who wanted more of the emperor they cut down the role of joo jin mo and changed the script , and as much as i love ji chang wook, his character here was SO HORRIBLE ,selfish childish and the the writers kept going and going until an ending that made NO absolute sense , such a dissapointment...

    • Reply
      Raincat 24 days ago
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    i_am_andi Feb 21, 2015

    Right after watching it, I would want to write a review but the reviews above pretty much said it all. Just for the sake of saying something, as I always do. I could have given it a 10, if and only if, they will change the ending. It was at its peak when it reached 40's and I was so excited to reach the end, and then I was like: "what the hell?!" The worst ending of 2014! LOL P.S: Jin Yi Han, Nice Meeting You! :) I didn't like knowing he was killed at the end...BUT good thing it was like 10mins before the actual ending. I just love his character.

    • Reply
      Kawaitanee 26 days ago

      I loved Tal tal as well, and I must agree with you with everything you said.

  • Reply
    fun_fun Feb 18, 2015

    I want to start this drama for JCW....
    is this drama proper for me? I mean how is JCW in this drama... he has a bad role, good role? it's 51 eps...can I finish it just for him?

    • Reply
      technololo Feb 18, 2015

      of course you can ! it's the best korean drama of all time at least for me and many other people . You 'll never get bored even for a mnute and you def wont regret watching it

      this drama made me fall in love with JCW , he's one of the lead btw

    • Reply
      TopSecret Feb 18, 2015

      I normally don't watch sageuk, but I started this drama because of JCW. But more than JCW, the story has been keeping me hooked. And also, Ha Ji Won is a very good actress. I'd say: give it a try :)

    • Reply
      fun_fun Feb 18, 2015

      thank u so much....i will start it tonight...:)
      u know when u start a drama for an actor...and if that actor doesn't seem good in that drama even if the drama itself would be perfect...but u kinda will be disappointed...
      I try to watch this drama not just for JCW...it will be better this way...:)
      but still hope he plays a lot...i really miss him after healer. :D
      also not a happy ending...

    • Reply
      TopSecret Feb 19, 2015

      Well since he's one of the main characters, you see him quite often. :)


  • 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 2,261 users)
  • Ranked:

  • Popularity:


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