Lee Byung-hoon, the maestro of Korean historical dramas including smash hit “Jewel in the Palace,” has called top Korean actor Ji Jin-hee “quite the mischievous one,” a trait suiting his role as the ‘frivolous’ King Sukjong in current drama “Dong Yi – Jewel in the Crown.”
The famed TV series director made the remark of the Hallyu star, widely recognized for his image as an actor with a mellow temperament and mild manners, during an interview with Asia Economic Daily over the weekend.
“He wasn’t able to show who he really was while doing ‘Jewel in the Palace’ because he was overshadowed by Lee Young-ae’s presence…… His role in the show also kept him from doing so,” the 65-year-old helmer said of his first experience working with Ji seven years ago.
“Jewel in the Palace,” which breached viewership ratings of 55 percent during its six-month run, had also became a sensation across Asia, airing in over 50 countries across the region and drawing high ratings in Japan in particular.
Ji’s then role as the benevolent and virtuous judge Min Jung-ho who will do anything to protect his love Jang Geum, played by Lee Young-ae, had helped his popularity soar in the region, as well as assure the director of his decision to cast Ji a second time.
“I knew from working with him before that there is no instability to his acting, as well the fact that he’s a Hallyu star, ” Lee explained. And his faith in the actor paid off.
The King Sukjong in “Dong Yi” who will frivolously wave at his court ladies and swing about a sword poorly saying he has “held one before but never put it into action,” is a favorite amongst viewers on the hit show whose ratings, which started out slow yet has been on a steady rise, breached the 30 percent mark on its most recent episode aired on Tuesday.
Unlike in previous historical dramas where all kings in Korean history have been portrayed as being solemn and grave, director Lee had his version of Sukjong be “a different kind of a king, just like there are different kinds of people.”
“There must have been free-spirited, humorous and playful kings too but they would only be able to show such a personality if they are confident about who they are, someone who is confident about their power,” Lee said.
“I concluded that Sukjong could be that very kind of person because he is the one true monarch in Korean history,” Lee explained of his decision to put a fresh take on the king portrayed over numerous occasions on screen.
“Dong Yi,” also starring Han Hyo-joo, is about Dong Yi who grows up to become Choi Suk-bin, a consort of King Sukjong and the mother of King Youngjo during the Joseon Dynasty.
The 50-part series, now halfway into its run, was sold to several countries in Asia including Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong which brought in profits over eight billion won even ahead of going on air in Korea.
Jessica Kim jesskim@