It feels like an eternity since the news about Splendid Politics or Hwajung first came out and the wait is almost over with the premiere date set on 13 April, which is next Monday! After the mixed reactions regarding the casting, the drama is ready to embark on its 50-episode journey, with the promise to stay true to the history without going off-tangent with the fictional parts. Still, it is a drama after all (and not a documentary), so I’m hoping to see a good sageuk which respects the historical facts and manages to fill in the blanks with acceptable fictional takes, making it a decent ‘faction’ historical drama.
The press conference took place on 7 April and the main lineup attended the event decked up in suits, save for the only flower Lee Yeon-hee, who opted for a simple black dress. Posters and teasers for the drama have been released, with the main poster boasting the painting of the royal palaces with the red calligraphy of the title in Hanja across it. The painting is a part of the National Treasure of Korea No 249, Donggwoldo (Painting of the Eastern Palaces), which depicts the two eastern royal palaces of Joseon, Changdeok Palace and Changgyeong Palace. Changdeok Palace was known as Donggwol or Eastern Palace due to its location to the east of the main palace Gyeongbok Palace, but the painting also included Changgyeong Palace as the palace was built adjacent to Changdeok Palace.
Changdeok Palace served as the main residence for Joseon kings after Gyeongbok Palace was destroyed during the Japanese Invasion (Imjin War, 1592-1598). Thus, the palace witnessed the political situations during Gwanghae and Injo’s reigns, and it will be the main background of this drama. The calligraphy holds a special meaning too, as it was written personally by Princess Jungmyung. The princess was famous for her calligraphy skills taking after her father Seonjo and her mother Queen Inmok.
The production team promises a drama full of the political turmoils surrounding Joseon during the dynasty’s most challenging times, weathering attacks from the neighbouring countries as well as the rising influence among the political factions. Looking at the list of characters, the list is incredibly long, stretching from Seonjo to Injo’s eras of reign. I am hoping that Hwajung will be able to tell another side of the story despite the abundance of productions centering around Seonjo, Gwanghae, and Injo.
I’m loving the colourful character poster as well, because it reminds me of the portraits of the kings and high-ranking ministers. All the characters are seated and bear no smile at all, just like how the portraits were made back then to preserve the regal mannerism of the figures inside them. After all, they’re the key players of the splendid political games in Hwajung 🙂
(Jo Sung-ha, Seo Kang-joon, Cha Seung-won, Lee Yeon-hee, Kim Jae-won, Han Joo-wan)
Prince Gwanghae (Cha Seung-won/Lee Tae-hwan)
A charismatic, refined, and heartless ruler. Personal name Yi Hon, second son of Seonjo and his concubine, Lady Kim Gongbin. His birth to the world wasn’t welcomed by anyone but he proved himself to be a bright child since he was young. He did his best to protect the country as the Crown Prince for Seonjo’s sake when the war broke out, but the betrayal he experienced after the war ended became a turning point in his life. He brought out the ugly side of him, training himself to become a ruthless man. Right after his ascension to the throne, he got rid of them without mercy: from Imhae, Neungchang, Yeongchang, and the people behind them, to the flower-like Jungmyung, who called him brother with affection. Years later, he pushed for the development of gunpowder in secrecy for the sake Joseon’s safety as well as his own and got reunited with Jungmyung whom he couldn’t recognize at one glance, but he was shaken by the subtle emotion he felt…
Princess Jungmyung (Lee Yeon-hee/ Jung Chan-bi/ Heo Jung-eun)
A legitimate princess with the Heaven’s prophecy. The first legitimate issue of the 14th ruler of Joseon, Seonjo with his second consort, Queen Inmok, making her the only legitimate princess among Seonjo’s children. Growing up a sheltered life in the palace, showered with love from the royalties, Jungmyung’s life turned upside down at the expense of his half-brother Gwanghae after he became the king. She fell from her high status to the lowest rank as a slave and almost met her death, but Jungmyung ended up being deported to Japan and grew up into a tenacious woman after sending her years working at a sulphur mine. With the help of Hong Joo-wan who came to Edo as a diplomat, she managed to make her return to Joseon. Hiding her real identity, Jungmyung entered the heart of Gwanghae’s government, the Special Directorate for Artillery (Hwagi Dogam).
Prince Neungyang/ Injo (Kim Jae-won)
The ambitious,obsessive, and jealous prince. Neungyang was the eldest son of Seonjo’s issue, Prince Jungwon and later, he organized the reform to overthrow Gwanghae before rising to the throne himself as the 16th ruler of Joseon, Injo. Instead of having the authority in his hands, he wanted to become the authority itself. There was no king in Joseon who had active participation in staging a coup like him.After Gwanghae’s coronation as the king, the Westerners were accused of committing treason and it was his brother, Neungchang, who was accused of planning to make himself the next king. Neungyang was humiliated but eventually, his brother made the decision to plan the reform in secrecy. His brother ended up being sentenced to death by poisoning, and he was the one receiving the support from the Westerners and led the reform to success. But then, he got to know that Seonjo’s only legitimate child, Jungmyung, was still alive and the people, including his own court, preferred her words over his own, despite his status as the nation’s ruler. Injo felt inferior, and thought that the woman had to be eliminated.
Hong Joo-won (Choi Kwon-soo/ Yoon Chan-young/ Seo Kang-joon)
The cold, handsome man who fell into a tragic love. Joo-won was the firstborn of the influential, reigning noble family of that time, Poongsan Hong clan. After getting the first place in the state examination, he was transferred to the Office of Diplomatic Correspondence (Seungmunwon) as a drafter (Gyori) but in reality, he was the person in charge of the Special Directorate for Artillery. A true Confucian scholar at heart, Joo-won could be regarded as a walking encyclopedia, as he knew literally everything. As he’s always firm in making decision and a level-headed scholar, he was not afraid to speak his mind even in front of the high-ranking ministers and appeared to be a man full of pride; but then, the proud man had a knack in persuading people, and the ladies inside the palace, especially the palace maids and female investigators called him with the nickname ‘cold, handsome man’.
Kang In-woo (Lee Tae-woo/ Ahn Do-kyu/ Han Joo-wan)
A man abandoned in love; the darkened kingmaker. The only heir to a family with the inheritance that would put the Royal Family in shame, In-woo gave up on entering the government rather early in his life since he had no interest in politics. He spent his day waking up late and visiting various spots in the capital: from the haunted houses and the archery grounds to the newly opened courtesan houses. If Joo-won was considered the cold handsome man, then In-woo was known as the ‘real handsome man’ among the Hanyang ladies. Possessing confidence in his looks more than a woman should be, the handsome lad had more good points in his books, considering how kind and generous he was to others. That was how the man named In-woo spent his time indulging himself in other people’s eyes. No one would have imagined that the same In-woo, the one who was called the whiz, underwent a complete change after a few years..
Kang Joo-seon (Jo Sung-ha)
Kang In-woo’s father. Secretary (Bujeong) at the Bureau of Translation (Sayeokwon), managing the translators and teaching them. Thanks to the frequent trips to the foreign countries with his grandfather and his parents since he was young, he became an open-minded and flexible man. Growing up in a special environment like that, he turned into a man who possessed neither any favoritism towards the political factions nor any interest in them; instead, he became a mediator between the factions. He was not rigid but had the grace of a real man, earning him endless respect and admiration from others because of his virtues. Since Joo-won’s father, Hong Young, was his close friend, Joo-won trusted him with all his heart.
Hwajung/Splendid Politics takes over the Mon-Tue slot from Shine or Go Crazy on MBC.
Credit to: iMBC