Drama Review – Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love (SBS, 2013)

(photo courtesy of Yoo Ah In for he uploaded onto Twitter)

Ok. So this half a trainwreck of a drama is finally over. I blame the super slow pacing in the beginning, which left virtually no breathing room in the latter half for better character developments.

The WTF-is-the-purpose-of-the-character award of the first half of 2013 in K-drama should go to Jae Hee’s Chi Soo. I seriously have no idea what is the purpose of his character, despite being touted as the second male lead, but in the end that position was being taken over by Lee Sang Yeob’s Prince Dong Pyeong. Chi Soo is like, one of the most delusional second lead I’ve ever seen. He thinks that by trying to cause harm to Jang Hee Bin she will be deposed and then she will be his is the worst ever course of action.

And then we had KARA’s Seung Yeon as Choi Sukbin, the evil version, as opposed to what was painted in Dong Yi. Her appearance in this drama is not only late, but very contrieved. I do like that when she said she’s here in the palace to steal, it resonates with her character’s brief behaviour in the first episode, but that’s it. There’s no further development of her character, only as a plot device. The other idol actress in this drama, Dal Shabet’s Ah Young, played a character who was blink and you missed her. Princess Myung Ahn, I don’t know why she’s included in the script. Producers, please. Don’t include idol actresses/actors just for the sake of it and create characters that last only 10 minutes in the 24 hours of the drama.

The first half of the drama was pretty solid, with a love story that one does not necessarily have to identify with, but is pretty to look at nonetheless. The shots are usually colorful, especially in the beginning where Ok Jung (Kim Tae Hee) was still managing her own business. It is strange, as javabeans and girlfriday had mentioned in their latest podcast, that everyone was so modern, from something physical like the catwalks, to behaviors of the characters, but I accepted these because this drama was supposed to be a retake on a (in)famous historical character. I do not expect major historical happenings to be omitted (as per some viewers wished Ok Jung did not have to die in the end), but I expected creative answers and explanations as to why Ok Jung did what she supposedly did.

But no. I was badly disappointed. It all started with why Ok Jung wanted to be a consort. That was when it all went wrong. I could still accept that she wanted to just be with the man she loves, but the villains were totally ridiculous. The Queen Mother (Kim Sun Kyung) was one character whom went from bad to worse, with all the classic nonsensical mother-in-law behaviors, a la bulging eyes and screechy screams. And then Ok Jung went tit-for-tat. The change in behavior in Ok Jung was abrupt and hard to swallow, and that she was supposedly gentle and sensible became yet another crazed woman.

It would had been better if the scriptwriter had planned for Ok Jung to be actually good friends with Queen In Hyun (Hong Soo Hyun), but the bff was not meant to be due to political reasons. The strange thing about Ok Jung and and In Hyun’s acquaintanceship was in the beginning, it seemed as if In Hyun was the petty one, and I seriously thought that the scriptwriter would make a daring reversal of character. Alas, I was in yet another disappointment. I guess Koreans are not too forgiving.

I question whether King Sukjong (Yoo Ah In) really loved Ok Jung. Too many times I asked myself this question when watching this drama. A lot of times it felt that Sukjong was just using her to consolidate his political power, even till the end. It wouldn’t be a surprise that he actually loved his son more than the mother.

Lastly, one peeve I had with the dialogues was that the dialogues were contrieved most of the time. It was as if the characters already knew what will happen in the future, it’s like some forewarnings, which totally got under my nerves. For goodness sake, why can’t scriptwriters stop making their characters some oracle who seems to know the future?

If only the production team was not hampered by the low ratings, perhaps this drama would have had more imagination and made Jang Ok Jung a truly tragic woman who lived to love.


  1. I love your review, I have the same feelings as you about the drama. I think the drama lacked a lot. I firs loved the colorful clothing she design(although very unrealistic to think she was a designer) But then I started to disliked the lack of consistence, the effort of the writers to made her look like the victim justifying all her bad deeds while blaming others for her bad decisions and ultimately her fall. On their effort to made her likable they ended up transforming her and the historical events so much that the final product was unrecognizable. I though they were going to gave us her side of the story of why she did this or that. or maybe making her a victim of circumstance, but no, all they did was giving us a martyr with a super unrealistic love story. the man who supposedly love her was the one to kill her,

    also I found ridiculous the argument that a lowly servant, suk-won, who was not even loved by the king, incredible easily, in just one shot, gets rid of Jang hui BIN a former Queen and the current and only love of the king, the mother of the crown prince, and chief of the powerful faction Soron. And she accomplished with no mistakes and with no one knowing what she has done. But then again the writers forgot to gave us the “why” of her conduct, she doesn’t really have a reason to want Hui Bin dead. In the drama she is not even a Bin (next to be queen) but a won (lowest concubine rank) she is not even pregnant because since the king did not love her and had not sleep with her, But Sure the argument that the nobles of noron faction so wanted to used her because a powerful faction like Noron would totally use a new lowborn slave unloved concubine to accomplish their goal to regain to power makes a lot to sense. I am not surprised it did not make it to the awards why I am saying.? awards?. a least ratings.

    • I felt so cheated by this drama. Same as you, I thought we’re going to have HER side of the story, but it seems that the writer just kept shooting herself/himself in the foot and gave us this half-baked drama. And I don’t even want to talk about Suk-won. Sigh.

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