The identity issue comes to a head in eps15/16 when the Hwarangs are sent to Baekjae on a peace treaty mission and Sun-woo stepped up to proclaim himself “King” on account of Ah-ro. To the characters in Hwarang, Sun-woo’s self-proclamation “cleared the air” over any doubts of the hidden King’s identity. However, to the omniscient viewers, he really muddied up an already dirty pail of water.
I don’t know whether to pity Ji-dwi or snigger at him. It could be pure bad luck that Sun-woo beat him to announcing himself as Shilla’s King, or it could be Ji-dwi’s habitual cautious nature that made him hesitate. After all, Ji-dwi has spent most of his entire life living anonymously and probably on the watch for possible assassination, since with his death, the nation would fall into turmoil.
Whatever the case, Sun-woo’s proclamation in the face of grave danger (nobody in the right mind will volunteer to duel with blood thirsty Crown Prince Chang) “confirms” everyone’s earlier guess about his “true identity”. Moreover, Sun-woo really went all out to win the freedom of the captured peasants, and already the townsfolk in the Capital had heard of his bravery and approved of it. So it isn’t surprising if they already made him their King in their minds.
So…where does that leave the real King – aka Ji-dwi? He really is in a very sticky situation. If he or Queen Regent Ji-soo comes forward to correct the mistake now, and even if they claim that Sun-woo taking on the role of King (temporarily) is a ruse, it is likely the citizens will lose faith in their rulers. Not only are the top people blatantly lying to them, but they are hiding behind a hero who already proved himself more than qualified to be a leader. Though I suppose Queen Ji-soo probably can’t be bothered about her citizens’ opinions, as long as her precious bloodline is preserved.
But not so for Ji-dwi. He has shown himself to be very introspective, constantly questioning about his role of as a King and he has expressed many times that he sincerely wants to be a good King. Right now, he is both envious at Sun-woo for earning the adoration of his people (which he craves) but also mad at himself, for not stepping up in time. And to throw another rock at him – not only had had he failed to protect the girl he loved in Baekjae, he also realised she would never love him since she has eyes only for Sun-woo.
As for Sun-woo, we already know he is someone who is decisive and proactive (even though he can be rash and hotheaded as well). When he first sneaked into the Capital with Mak-mun, he was already playing the roles of leader and protector to Mak-mun (even though the latter was the one who wanted to enter the Capital). The Baekjae incident only brings these 2 qualities to the fore. He is not afraid to bite the bullet and do what is necessary to save not only his Hwarang friends and the Princess, plus also the jailed peasants. It was very noticeable as well that his Hwarang friends deferred to him during their short stay in Baekjae – even Ji-dwi, cos he saw Sun-woo contemplating the prison compound and later supported him in the jailbreak.
Then again, who exactly IS Sun-woo? If I have any gripes about Hwarang, it’s the annoying tidbit-dangling move the drama keeps making. We have Hwi-kyung, Woo-reuk and now Ji-gong making know-it-all eyes whenever the topic of Sun-woo is broached. It’s like the entire universe knows who Sun-woo really is, except us. And it’s getting irritating – considering we have 4 more eps to go and we are still angling after the carrot that is Sun-woo’s secret identity. Is he an alternative King? Or is he, as Hwi-kyung suggests, someone who has potential to BE King, even though he may not be noble born?