The story is set during the Joseon Dynasty, at a time when twins were considered an ominous sign. As a result, when the Crown Princess Consort gives birth to twins, an order is sent to kill the daughter. To save her, she is secretly sent out of the palace. A few years later, the twin daughter Dam Yi returns to the palace to work as a maid. When the male twin, Lee Hwi, loses his life through a case of mistaken identity, their mother, having recognised her daughter as court maid Dam Yi, persuades her to take Lee Hwi's place. Although she distances herself from everybody, Dam Yi starts developing feelings for Jung Ji Woon, her original first love and later teacher who comes from a noble family. (Source: Wikipedia) ~~ Adapted from the manhwa "Yeonmo" (연모) by Lee So Young (이소영). Edit Translation
Where to Watch The King's Affection
Cast & Credits
To love and be lovedThe King’s Affection is one of three sageuk produced by KBS this year, following River Where the Moon Rises and ending right at the start of The King of Tears, Lee Bang Won. It is also one of eight sageuk set during Joseon Dynasty, as well as nine overall to be aired this year. 2021 truly has been inundated with a number of K-historicals and fans of the genre are all the better for it!
This firmly belongs to the fictional romance variety, the likes of Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung, Love in the Moonlight and the more recent Lovers of the Red Sky as well as the currently airing The Red Sleeve, albeit purportedly based more closely on historical records. The thing with romance-centric sageuk is that there is generally a wider scope of themes being depicted, in addition to the love story between the leads.
In this case, they include palace politics, melodrama, comedy and a fair amount of “fluffiness”, while commonly established tropes are added into the mix for good measure, comprising childhood connection, contract marriage, crossdressing or gender bender, found family, love triangle, and the star crossed lovers. So if you’re in the mood for a sageuk that isn’t too heavy in terms of historical accuracy or the seriousness of the politics but with enough light-hearted moments mixed with a dash of heart-wrenching events and a big dose of passionate romance, then this is definitely one to consider.
The drama tells the story of a pair of royal fraternal twins who switch places, with the female becoming the Crown Prince in her brother’s stead before eventually succeeding the throne, hence the appropriately given title for the drama. Along the way, the “King” develops affections for one of her subjects, amidst the intense political rivalries between various factions in the palace. Further complications arise to the already precarious situation in the form of dysfunctional family dynamics, forced marriages and murderous antagonists who are hell-bent on furthering their nefarious agendas.
The screenplay by Han Hee Jung, who previously wrote Gunman in Joseon, is adapted from the manhwa, Yeonmo (연모) by Lee So Young which was serialized between 2011 to 2014 and revolves around the fictional King Namjang but with references to real life historical figures from the late Yejong to early Seongjong era of the Joseon Dynasty. This is the first work from directors Song Hyun Wook and Lee Hyun Suk that I have seen.
Being a pre-produced drama that began principal photography in April, filming finally concluded in late November, halfway through the drama’s airing schedule, due to a number of delays caused by Covid infections to the crew and a fire that reportedly broke out at a filming set. Yongin Daejanggeum Park, the iconic MBC film set for historical productions, served as the primarily filming location along with several other famous landmarks and notable locales. These include Minsok Korean Folk Village in Yongin, Sangdangsanseong Fortress in Cheongju, Gwanghalluwon Ojakgyo Bridge in Namwon-si, Jeongseon-gun Doroni Pond (Gangmujang Pond), Itaesarangbawi Rock in Geochang-gun (Gangmujang Cliff), and Andong Seaside Film Set.
What I Liked
The production values are obviously very high and reflected not only in the nationwide filming locations but also the quality in terms of the visuals presented. In addition to the cinematic feel to the atmospherics courtesy of the excellent cinematography and post-production effects, the aesthetic art direction as well as the beautiful elaborately designed costumes certainly enhanced this aspect significantly as well. There is quite a fair bit of slow-motion immersive and “romance-themed” framing. I truly appreciated this approach to the visual language.
The direction as well as editing absolutely complements this aspect of the storytelling because the entire drama takes its time allowing certain key moments and scenes to breathe and leave a memorable impression on viewers. Although nothing to write home about, the action sequences and the choreography for the sword fighting appears quite decent for the most part and progressively intensifies as the story approaches the climax.
The grand scheme of the overarching plot and the conclusion. As soon as I had read the synopsis (which is rather spoilery, by the way), I knew that the conclusion to the story was going to be limited to only a handful of options, some of which probably would leave viewers somewhat distressed. Without spoiling it, I will say that the outcome of the story surprised me a little but in a good way. I also think that the drama ends as strongly as it starts, with episode 19 a particularly thrilling rollercoaster of emotions and adrenaline rush.
As far as the characterizations are concerned, the FL, her grandfather and the ML’s father stand out for me. Especially during the more serious segments of the plot development pertaining to the court intrigue. Each of them is extremely grey and buried beneath the many layers that they have embodied into their persona that sometimes I, as a viewer, become unsure of which mask that they put on is the "real" them. After years of pretending to be a man, the FL probably does not even know what it means to be a woman anymore, until her affections have been awakened by the very person whom she first developed feelings for, as a child. Physical attributes aside, her demeanour is utterly that of a royal Crown Prince.
The Left State Councilor, Han Ki Jae is a man who will stop at nothing to preserve his political powers, including his own flesh and blood. At times, the villainy of this character is truly awesome to behold. Likewise his retainer, the cold blooded and ruthlessly efficient Jung Seok Jo. If Han Ki Jae is Emperor Palpatine, then this man is Darth Vader. But beneath the facade of unrelenting malice lies a truly conflicted and tormented individual who knows deep down that he has sold his soul to the Devil.
The performance by all 3 actors for the aforementioned roles are the highlight of the drama for me. Park Eun Bin is absolutely phenomenal. This lady has so much potential given her track record for compelling portrayals in recent times, and her iteration of the gender bender is one of the best I’ve seen. Yoon Je Moon provides the perfect delivery of the antagonistic grandfather and politician of the Joseon court, where his subtly expressed passive-aggressive undertone imbues an added dimension to the depth of the characterization. Bae Soo Bin is much more action oriented given that he portrays quite possibly the best swordsman in the drama, Jung Seok Jo. In addition to the physicality and despite being a man of few words, the nuanced microexpressions on his face say it all, really.
Apart from the impressive trio, Bae Yoon Kyung’s Shin So Eun is noteworthy considering that she lacks screen time because she steals the scenes whenever she does make her appearance. I have to mention the child actress, Choi Myung Bin. Out of all the child actors I’ve seen this year, and there have been many, I do think that her portrayal of both Lee Hwi and Dam Yi is the best. Of course, at 13, she’s considered quite mature but her duality in depicting two vastly different characters, one of whom is male, sold it for me.
The soundtrack is very good, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. If there is romance involved, one can be sure that the music will no doubt play a major part in tugging at the heartstrings with emotional love ballads, of which there are plenty in this production. In this aspect, TKA definitely does not disappoint. My personal favourite is the main theme by LYn, which gets significant airplay via the infusion of countless MV scenes of the lead couple.
LYn (린) - One and Only (알아요)
Ro Woon SF9 (로운) -No Goodbye In Love (안녕)
Baek Z Young (백지영) - IF I
SUPER JUNIOR-K.R.Y. - Shadow of You (그림자 사랑)
An Da Eun (안다은) - I Believe
VROMANCE (브로맨스) - Hide and Seek (숨바꼭질)
Haeyoon (해윤) of 체리블렛 Cherry Bullet - Full of You (티가 나)
Room for Improvement
As much as I have waxed lyrical about the positives, TKA is not without its flaws but on the whole they aren’t overly detrimental to the storytelling. I think at times, particularly midway through the story, the fluffiness probably receives slightly more attention than is perhaps necessary. As a result, cuteness overload features prominently as fillers, where the leads behave out of character and out of place with the setting. Adorable but ridiculous at the same time.
Rowoon, portraying the ML Jung Ji Woon, has the physique to match the action scenes well. His chemistry with Park Eun Bin, as the only CP in the drama, is quite apparent and their scenes together are pretty convincing. My only gripe is the emotive aspects of his performance. Park Eun Bin appears the more superior performer and it truly does show, IMHO. The same goes for the other supporting cast of Nam Yoon Su and Choi Byung Chan as Lee Hyun and Kim Ga On respectively. I’m actually rather intrigued by the character of Kim Ga On, who I wish could have been more fleshed out because despite the potential of his backstory, his character arc never fully materialises into something more than the stoic persona throughout.
As far as the other supporting characters are concerned, Lee Pil Mo as King Hyejong, the FL’s father, appears somewhat inconsequential to proceedings before eventually becoming a mere plot device to the overarching plot. The character of the psychotic Prince Chang Woon who has a penchant for unmitigated violence, played by Kim Seo Ha, is clearly a cliche and written to be nothing more than an OTT antagonist. He comes across as a cartoon character whose only job is to provide angst and cringe. Meanwhile, Jung Chae Yeon has the unenviable task of playing the annoying airhead and occasional comic relief, Noh Ha Kyung. That said, the character is rather pitiful and I actually feel sorry for her in the end, which is a credit to the actress’ interpretation of the role.
The pros outweigh the cons, and I have absolutely enjoyed Park Eun Bin’s performance here. The story also provides an acceptable closure, much better than I had initially anticipated. The King’s Affection ranks as one of the better produced romance sageuk that I have seen this year.
Drag drag and drag...I think the writer of the drama wanted to make a daily soap out of the script but then they faced some production issues and for the sake of just making it they had to squeeze the whole thing into a 20 episode drama, even when they didn't want to.
Let me get to my point straight, I didn't like it. Not like I hate it, but I hust couldn't bring myself to like it. On that note, my review will be short as well, which is more like a rant.
"The King's Affection", originally titled as "연모" (Affection) fictional sageuk drama which is primarily based on the typical gender-bender concept where the female lead disguises herself as a male and the male lead anyways falls in love with a man, just to realize in the end that he had been loving a woman. Well, I don't hate that concept but it's already been outdated and also experimented in historical dramas before. Moreover, given the basic plotline the execution is not up to the par; I mean it could have been a decent price if they had not Incorporated all kind of typical sageuk elements into the script.
Let's get a simple plot. The Crown Prince's Consort gives birth to an identical boy-girl twins but citing it an ominous sign, the King orders the girl child's death, since only the boy can climb up to the throne. The consort however sends the baby far away who somehow ends up in the palace as a maid after a decade. The siblings come across each other and adms the Prince one day is in the girl's disguise to sneak out of the palace, is mistakenly gets killed. At the same time, the girl in the Prince's disguise remains in the palace and to hide the late Princes demise, she continues to grow up as the Crown Prince, upon her mother's advice.
She shuts all the door to her heart in order to become strong but her starts to waver as she meets her childhood first love whom she had met in the palace as a maid and had a beautiful encounter. The person not knowing the king-to-be is actually a girl and in fact his first love, grow fond of her with time. The story is about their journey of love, affection and struggles on their way to togetherness. It also involves the usual period politics, conspiracies, secret revelations, fightings, unusual deaths, etc.
Park Eun Bin plays the girl Dam-i/Yeon Seon who is in the disguise of her late brother, Crown Prince Lee Hwi. Rowoon plays Jung Ji Woon, a great scholar & Royal Inspector General's Son, who is also Dam-i's first love. Nam Yoon Su plays Lee Hyun, Prince's cousin and son of the previous king. Lee Pil Mo plays King Hyejong, Dam-i's father. Yoon Jae Moon plays Left State Councillor Han Ki Je, Prince's Grandfather. These are the major characters who are also known for good acting; Pil Mo and Jae Moon ahjussi infact the veterans. I (have) loved Park Eun Bin's acting and Rowoon has still a lot to do though his performance was up to par. Nam Yoon Su is amazing as a rookie actor. Lee Il Hwa is also there as the Queen Dowager, the Prince's Grandmother. There are in fact many good and familiar actors in playing key characters of the story.
Special mention to 3 actors...Baek Hyun Joo playing Court Lady Kim Sang Gung whose delivery was nice and her firm voice :0; Go Gyu Pil playing Eunuch Hong Bok Dong whose expressions were very funny; and Choi Byung Chan playing Prince's Bodyguard Kim Ga On, ofc for his visuals.
The thing about this drama I loved the most is the childhood love story of Dam-i and Ji Woon. The way they encountered each other and became friends gave off immense romantic vibes. Them spending time in Hanyang and gradually growing fond of each other in just those 2 episodes, really melted my heart. In fact when they met each other after a decade as The Prince and the tutor, their longing hearts trying to find each other made me cry so much. It was difficult seeing the ML struggling with his sexuality but also mesmerizing the way he was falling for the King-to-be not knowing his real identity.
The old Korean poetic verses, philosophy and the characters deciphering those is another thing I loved about the drama. Obviously yes, all the historical Korean dramas have this element but I particularly liked the way the writer in here has accurately used and related to life and their situations.
The problem with the drama is it's plot development, content and the thorough execution. The first 2 introductory episodes are good enough to keep you hooked, in fact the best episodes of the drama though you'll have to cry every now and then. After 2 leaps of 10 years each, when the characters appear in their final stage, it becomes more interesting. The premise is gradually set up by intriguing screenplay methods and the romance between the leads begins with initial tease-party. Simultaneously the politics sector of the drama develops steadily. Despite all that, the drama seems to be lacking a specific destination with which it is supposed to end; it becomes unclear where exactly the drama is heading to.
However, everything goes smooth for a while. Somewhere around the 9th episode, the drama starts to be uninteresting with the beginning of crude romance between the leads, which is very typical and don't spark any good chemistry any longer. Events happening for the romance plot of the drama becomes repetitive and unnecessarily dragged to a great extent. Also, the love triangle of the story doesn't create any firm impression on the viewers; like I don't get why was it even there in thr script? Great waste of Nam Yoon Su's skills, ngl.
Starting from the 2nd half, i.e. the 11th episode, the drama becomes a greatly typical sageukk with the cliché elements like power struggle conspiracies, Ming Envoy visits, corruption among ministers, revenge game among families, etc. Given that the drama has 20 episodes and it already runs out of substances right at the interval, It didn't interest me at all to even finish it and I was forced to watch the rest at 2x speed. They try to send the plot to peak several times by incorporating twists here and there but it was clear, they were trying their best to drag it to make it a 20 episode drama. The script didn't even deseve 16 episodes to being with, forget about 20. Simply, it could have been a decent drama at least, if they had planned for a 12 episode set.
Writer Han Hee Jung seems to have not improved over these years. Among her works, the only thing I liked was "Gunman in Joseon". "Clean with Passion" was a wasted potential too. She was the reason I didn't have high expectations from this but I was hoping she might have bettered than before... well, meh! Given the basic plot, the script is totally exaggerated in the 2nd half and the main problem is with the lenthy writing and many unnecessary plots as well as characters. I wish it were a 12 eps drama.
Director Song Hyun Wook is actually experienced and have produced many good dramas but I guess for the reason that it's his first sageuk (historical) drama, he couldn't prevent the flawed outcome of the drama. Screenplay is average given how it runs out of substance sooner than expected. Cinematography is quite well handled, I should admit. The natural elements as well as architectural aspects were taken care of properly. Screen-editing is also good but the dragged script makes it uninteresting and difficult ti keep up with.
I loved almost all of the OSTs. The composition by Tae Keun is very good and he's been able to produce such beautiful tracks, perfectly fitting to the mood of the drama. My most favourite is "Shadow of You" by SuJu K. R. Y; it's soulful and gladdening. They're my favourite trio in the world of Kdrama OSTs. "One and Only" in heart-wrenching vocals of Lyn is another favourite. Baek Ji Young's high notes in "IF I" are very emotional. An Da Eun's "I Believe" felt like a classical sageukk OST. "Hide and Seek" by VROMANCE is a jolly track TT. "Full of You" by Hae Yoon is a modern romantic song and very likable; it's also covered by Vromance. Loved Rowoon's smooth vocals in "No Goodbye In Love" which also makes me cry so much.
In overal, The King's Affection felt like an exaggerated version of Lovers of the Red Sky. I can't help but compare these 2 because they are produced around the same time period. The former is obviously a lot better than the latter but still the amount of dragging the script to produce more episode is the same. Also, the ratings of both the dramas are hugely influenced by the cast and not the quality, everyone is aware of that.
I still wanna insist that I love the basic plot line but the script is pretty mediocre and around the average. Yes, I am disappointed even though I didn't have very high expectations. The cast was obviously the reason I had anticipations but the flaws of the drama amounts to my disappointments, hence I won't recommend this drama to anyone, even for an one time watch, unless you want to give it a try for the visuals.
P. S. I ended up writing a lot anyways haha.