Drama Review – Haechi (SBS, 2019)

I’d say we were in really good hands for Haechi, as this writer is a seasoned sageuk writer. I like my sageuks semi-factual (as opposed to fantasy), so after a drought of such dramas, I was ready for some serious sageuks. However, I had to admit I wasn’t fully onboard until approximately one-third way in, and I began to wish this is 50 episodes instead of only 24. As stated over at Dramabeans, other than compressing the timeline to fit in the major events leading to Yeongjo’s enthronment and his early reign, I’m glad that the writer remained faithful to history (or at least the generally accepted view).

That said, it is understandable why Haechi struggled with higher ratings or hype although it did emerge in the first place for viewership ratings. It wasn’t easy to understand (especially for foreign viewers who did not read up on that part of Joseon history) and there wasn’t much instant gratification, unlike in dramas such as Special Labor Inspector Jo, nor were there bitching and slapping as would be expected in palace sageuks because this was solely focused on Lee Geum’s road to become a king. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of screen presence of his wife and other concubines. The loveline between Geum and Yeo-ji was alright, didn’t feel too forced or what although I think it wouldn’t make any difference if they were just platonic friends.

What I really liked was the bromance and rapport Geum had with Moon-soo and Dal-moon (I’m sorry for doubting you!). I’d gladly watch another 10 or more episodes of the trio working together to weed out corruption and faction fights in the kingdom. In comparison Lee Tan was absolutely pitiful because he never had people who truly believed in his abilities but only made use of or abuse him. Throughout the series we witness repeatedly how differently Geum and Tan approach problems and resolve issues, and it is some sort of testimonial to why Geum would make a much better king.

I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who is genuinely interested in Joseon history, or wants to know more about King Yeongjo (Geum) other than the sad history with his son Prince Sado. It’d help to have some prior knowledge of Geum’s father King Sukjong, and further reading would include understanding the faction disputes between Soron, Noron and if you would, the Nam-ins.

6 thoughts on “Drama Review – Haechi (SBS, 2019)

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    1. I guess the lack of bickering ladies here made the story more focused, it’s about fighting for justice (since that’s what Haechi represent) and Geum’s overcoming the prejudice and biasness against his not-so-royal lineage. You can always watch Yisan for the scheming and manipulative ladies in Geum’s life.

  1. I totally dislike dramas with scheming & manipulative ladies, Court ministers etc.
    Which is probably one reason why I love Haechi so much.
    Also wished the drama was longer, and wished other characters & relationship had more time to develop

  2. I had a soft spot for Jung Il Woo ever since THE RETURN OF ILJIMAE/ Moon River. After Haechi, he is currently my favorite actor. And Haechi is my favorite drama.

    I had rewatched this so many times. Some dramas, no matter how good, gets boring after a rewatch (I am thinking of Crash Landing On You). But Haechi… The more I watch, the more I understand. And I continue getting inspired.

    I do love underdogs who triumph against all odds. And our Prince Yi Geum was truly an underdog, looked down by many nobles as a half-breed prince.

    SPOILER ALERT:

    He himself thought he was a nobody, without purpose in life. He was very smart though, and he wanted to help his younger brother (the only one who treated him with respect) become king. But when this brother dies before him, realizing his lack of power to protect his loved ones, he decides to gain that power by dreaming big dreams. He decides to become the next king.

    He knows he can’t become a king on his own, so he starts gathering support around him. He faces many obstacles and most people mistrust him at first. But he doesn’t get offended at their distrust. He is able to put himself in the other person’s shoes and comes up with ways that may benefit both parties. Instead of demanding trust, he appeals to their sense of honor and love for the country.

    And little by little, so many of his enemies, they start breaking down before him. You can literally watch so many of the adversaries become speechless at some of the prince/kings’ actions. So many times, faced with life and death situations, instead of running away, he confronts the problem head on with so much courage, people end up, not just admiring him, but loving him.

    He never took the easy way out. Once he decided to become the king, he wanted to understand the heart of the lowliest of his people. So he would put himself at risk for their sake. He thus inspired those around him to dream big, and his friends returned their love for their master, sacrificially.

    Historically, he was one of the greatest kings of Joseon, reigning the longest (52 years). He was known to be humble and he implemented some of the greatest social reforms.
    This drama shows that journey and while watching, I wanted to dream too, that such fair policies and polititians existed in today’s world.

    At the end, one old adviser does tell the king he is too idealistic and that fair policies are unrealistic, due to fail. But he still encourages the king to fight the good fight all he can. “Your Majesty, I hope you continue dreaming for a long time. Because you surrounded with many dreamers too.”

    It was very inspirational but realistic at the same time.

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