Splendid Politics (Hwajung) : Episode 5

The bloody fragments of Gwanghae’s reign dictated in the history has just begun in the drama, yet the body count is already at an alarming rate. Insecurity lingers around the royal throne despite the absence of major threats to the king, and everyone is trying to make the best out of the happenings in the palace. One thing we can be sure of is that the death rate will continue to rise in these few episodes.

[Episode 5]

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Grand Prince Yeongchang’s quarters was lifeless without its inhabitants, and Jungmyung reminisced the good old times she had with her little brother there, playing on the compounds with their attendants. Gwanghae’s court was empty save for his supporters, while the moderate ministers including Deok-hyung were pleading for him to retract his decision regarding the dowager’s family. They were detained with the reason of siding with the criminals, and Kim Je-nam’s men were all beheaded before their heads were displayed in front of the palace gate (what a gory sight =.=’). Jungmyung’s plea was ignored by Gwanghae, although he was undeniably affected when she mentioned his promise to protect Yeongchang and her.

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Yi-cheom was elevated to the position of a minister (Minister of Rites, to be exact) and the Greater Northerners celebrated their victory in pushing the Westerners away from the court. But then, Yi-cheom wasn’t satisfied because he felt that they had to completely get rid of the potential threats to them. Deok-hyung was already packing his belongings (which mainly consisted of books) when Hang-bok went to visit him. The pleading ministers were all fired from their positions and they made the decision to return to their respective hometowns. Deok-hyung remarked that his path and Gwanghae’s had differed greatly, and he couldn’t possibly stay in his post like that.

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A servant accidentally dropped the book which was hidden under his horse saddle while packing and it turned out to be a daily record of the Royal Infirmary (naeuiwon). Deok-hyung retrieved a letter inside the book and he was enraged after reading the letter and the page marked by the letter. He went to meet the man who gave him the record in the first place, and the man was actually a royal physician named Dr Jang. The physician suspected that the late king was poisoned before he passed away but he couldn’t tell anyone about it. He found a spot on Seonjo’s body while cleaning the corpse and confirmed that it was a proof that poison was present in the dead body. Dr Jang thought that someone used a type of beetle to do so, and it was carried out meticulously throughout a long period of time.

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Deok-hyung realized that the late king’s death was so sudden and it happened to be perfectly timed, right after Seonjo announced that he would be changing the Crown Prince. His suspicion led to the person with most disadvantages at that time, who was no other than Gwanghae. With Lady Kim beside Seonjo at that time, it would be easier for Gwanghae to kill the late king without raising any suspicion. Seonjo did guess it right that his legitimate children would be in danger after his death, because Jungmyung was worried about his brother as she stared at the dark sky and Yeongchang was scared of the roaring thunder at his place of exile.

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Chief Hong decided to share the written prophecy by the fortune teller Nam Sa-go with Minister Kang, leaving the latter to wonder what was the meaning of the document. Gwanghae, on the other hand, had Lady Kim reminding him that there were still Queen Dowager Inmok and Princess Jungmyung left, and he had to kill both Yeongchang and Jungmyung to secure his position. Lady Kim was not afraid to voice out her opinion on that matter, because that was her duty as dictated by Gwanghae. She remarked that Gwanghae would have to make up his mind eventually, whether to remain as a human or as a king.

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Jungmyung managed to meet her mother after telling the guards to back off, but her mother was worried that they would become the next target of Gwanghae’s massacre. Although the dowager assured the princess that she would have to stay alive to protect Yeongchang, Jungmyung asked about what she heard from the shaman before: that the energy inside her would cause a number of people to die. So, was she an unlucky child? Queen Inmok couldn’t even bring herself to deny it, but there’s a palace maid eavesdropping on their conversation outside the room.

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Joo-won had made up his mind and went to meet his Chief Hong with his wish to go through with the royal wedding if it would happen. He wanted to protect the princess and the Grand Prince, because the court politics was something he would eventually get involved in. If Yeongchang was falsely accused and the Westerners wrongly executed, then it’s fitting for him to be involved since that was what he learned from his father. Awwwww he’s so cool! Minister Kang overheard what he said and In-woo too, but Joo-won himself couldn’t explain where did his resolution stem off. He thought that he was affected by Jungmyung’s plea on that night.

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Minister Kang was there to bring the confirmation that the written prophecy indeed belonged to the fortune teller, and he thought that Yeongchang would rise to become a strong ruler. It was unfortunate that they found out about it too late and Yeongchang was already exiled; plus, the prince could end up losing his life should the prophecy was known to the world. Meanwhile, the conflicted Gwanghae made a visit to Namhan Fortress again on that night.

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The palace maid who eavesdropped at the dowager’s quarters reported what she heard there to Lady Kim, and Yi-cheom knew that the maid was from Queen Inmok’s attendant. They sure had a wide connection to know everything about the palace. Lady Kim wasn’t going to waste her time lounging around since she thought that it’s not time for them to relax just yet. She asked for Yi-cheom’s help to find someone.

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The servants went to the throne hall (Injeongjeon) to clean the place before the royal audience begin early in the morning, but they were greeted with the sight of blood trail, leading to a hanging animal carcass on the throne (creepy!). A bloody letter was tied to the carcass and Gwanghae was fuming to witness such humiliation to the throne. It was a dead body of a lamb with its horns and tail cut, referring to the king, or Gwanghae himself (from the Chinese character for goat 羊, which will form the character king 王 when the ‘horns’ and ‘tail’ parts removed). The letter said that Gwanghae wasn’t the true owner of the throne, and the proof could be found at the Police Department.

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Off the royal guards went to the said department, with Yi-cheom leading the search there. Chief Hong couldn’t do anything since it was a royal order, and the search yielded the prophecy in the police records. Even the dowager was affected and she had to be interrogated. Minister Kang wasn’t impressed to learn about it, wondering how they found out about the prophecy, and Deok-hyung appeared in front of him..

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Yi-cheom brought the prophecy to Queen Inmok, demanding to know who was the person she ordered to carry out the plan of mocking Gwanghae. He didn’t hesitate to raise his voice in front of her, knowing that she’s first the mother who would do anything for her children before her position as the dowager. She was shocked to find out that the written prophecy belonged to the fortune teller who met her years ago. As for Court Lady Kim, she had managed to catch the person she was looking for: the shaman who met Queen Inmok to discuss about Jungmyung’s marriage fortunes.

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Minister Kang got to meet Chief Hong as Gwanghae discussed about the prophecy with Leader Jung and Yi-cheom. Although Yi-cheom felt that the dowager knew something, Gwanghae wasn’t convinced that he would need to kill Yeongchang just yet. Minister Kang felt that he probably caused the information about the prophecy to leak out, but Chief Hong knew that it was one of his staff’s doing, since the said staff was nowhere to be seen and he was aware of the document’s existence. Chief Hong was more concerned about Yeongchang’s safety now that Gwanghae had found out about it.

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Jungmyung blamed herself for everything that had happened to her family, but Lady Choi reminded her that her birth brought happiness to their nation, being the first legitimate issue of the king in more than 60 years, so she’s not someone who’s considered as an unlucky child. Queen Inmok realized that the prophecy she heard from the fortune teller was not like what she thought initially. She called for the person outside the room she was locked in. Yi-cheom tried to persuade Gwanghae into ordering Yeongchang’s death, but the king refused to believe the groundless prophecy; instead, he wanted to keep the promise he made with Jungmyung. Lady Kim heard everything from outside and she looked like she’s already thinking of Plan B.

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Queen Inmok managed to call in the current queen’s brother, Minister Yoon, and persuaded him into giving her some time to go back to her quarters and retrieve the proof he needed in the investigation. That was only a ruse as the princess’s attendants were rushing to pack her belongings, and Queen Inmok told Jungmyung to leave the palace and hide herself. The dowager would soon go and find her since it would be so dangerous inside the palace. Jungmyung was given the bracelet and her mother told her that she’s a precious child, so she shouldn’t forget who she really was.

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Deok-hyung was still waiting for Minister Kang and Chief Hong to return home from the palace but they’re nowhere to be seen. Joo-won approached Deok-hyung, asking whether it’s possible for them to enter the palace together. As for the dowager’s attendant, she made up the excuse that Queen Inmok needed to go back to her natal house to find the proof, but Lady Kim found out that Jungmyung’s quarters was already empty. She explained to Yi-cheom about Jungmyung being the real owner of the prophecy instead of Yeongchang, and they should end the princess’s life. The one being escorted outside the palace was actually Jungmyung, dressed in boy’s clothes.

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Gwanghae was left wondering about the prophecy: if Queen Inmok was indeed the one who instigated the incident, why didn’t she use the prophecy before he send Yeongchang away? He felt that there was somebody else who orchestrated the entire event, but he couldn’t point out who the person was. Meanwhile, Jungmyung’s entourage didn’t get too far when Yi-cheom’s men blocked their way and the princess was almost dragged away; lucky for her, the palanquin bearers were trained swordsmen and she managed to flee the scene with her attendants. Deok-hyung, Joo-won, and In-woo happened to witness everything, and helped them to run away.But then, Deok-hyung was cornered by Yi-cheom.

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Joo-won guided Jungmyung’s entourage towards the jetty, but the guards were approaching them fast. He told her to remember his name so that he could find her and protect the siblings. He decided to distract the guards while the princess find their way to the boat they were supposed to go on.

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Gwanghae was still wondering about the person who dared to ridicule the throne when Court Lady Kim went to see him. She brought a shocking news to the king: soon, he would receive the news of Yeongchang’s death and also Jungmyung’s while on her way to flee from the palace. He was dumbfounded, even more when she told him that the prophecy actually belonged to Jungmyung and the princess would  harm him in the future. Hence, it’s a must for them to get rid of the siblings to protect Gwanghae’s life. Gwanghae was so furious and pointed his sword at his attendant.

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Jungmyung reached the jetty and a man showed the way to the boats: one was a small boat fit for one while the other was a big one, but containing a large chest of gunpowder. Lady Choi told the princess to get on the big boat, but Yi-cheom reached the jetty before they could escape. Jungmyung was told to get on the small boat first while Lady Choi and the other maid would hide first. She initially refused, but Jungmyung eventually followed her attendant’s words. Lady Choi told the princess to come back and regain all the things she lost, and Jungmyung paddled the small boat by herself as her attendants waited for the guards to arrive there.

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The maid saw the guards coming, and Lady Choi took a deep breath as she looked at the gunpowder. Yi-cheom spotted the ladies from afar and the guards approached the boat, but Lady Choi lit a fire, causing a massive explosion at the jetty when the gunpowder caught the fire. And Jungmyung could only screamed out loud her attendant’s name as she witnessed the explosion from afar..

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[END of Episode 5]

Ah, I was hoping that they spared Court Lady Choi because she’s so likable, but they didn’t  😥 Poor Jungmyung had to witness everything blown up in front of her eyes, burning down literally everything in her life into dust. I couldn’t help but to regard her as a phoenix, who would rise from the ashes of her ‘death’, putting back things into their rightful place.

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History was said to be written from the winner’s point of view, and that saying does hold the truth to some degree. In Gwanghae’s case, the Veritable Records of his reign (or Annals) were written by the Westerners who dethroned him, so there would be some facts written against him. Hwajung didn’t really portray Gwanghae as a total saint, but most of the unfortunate events happening around him were portrayed as the works of his treacherous subjects. Although one could simply sympathize with him, I couldn’t help but to wonder why he didn’t do anything to get rid of those people. Was it because they did the dirty jobs for him and he could rule the country without any threats? Gwanghae would be a good subject of character study.

Still, I am a bit on the happy side to see Gwanghae’s affection for Jungmyung intact up to this episode. He did care about the only sibling  who regarded him as her real brother, and he’s trying to keep the promise of protecting Yeongchang. One point for him, but then, he couldn’t deny what Lady Kim told him: that keeping Jungmyung alive would ensure Yeongchang’s safety, and the siblings would become even bigger threats to Gwanghae when they grew up. Even if he keep them alive right now, there’s no guarantee that they would be safe from him once he view them as threats against his position.

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I really like Lady Kim Gae-si’s character here, because she has the ability to spin the events according to her plan. She is truly the femme fatale and while she can’t cause a direct effect by using her power like the minister, she’s much more powerful than the male ministers, in the sense that she knows where to poke and where to interfere. Ah, she’s really smart! I wonder if Jungmyung will have the chance to encounter her personally and see how a humble court lady has managed to have the whole court operating under her will without anyone realizing about it.

Now that we’re already in the third week, it’s almost time for us to part with the teenage cast…Oh, I’ll miss you, teenage Joo-won!

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5 thoughts on “Splendid Politics (Hwajung) : Episode 5

  1. Thank you so much for the insightful recap 🙂 I have some questions if you don’t mind.
    1. Is the grand prince dead at this point?
    2. This episode seems to be centered around this piece of document, the prophecy.
    I am not quite sure how harmful this prophecy can be to Gwanghae?
    How crucial is it that Gai-si and Yi-seom have to kill the princess and grand prince off?
    3. Do the queen and Gwanghae believe in this prophecy?
    4. What is the queen trying to do with the info from the prophecy?
    Does she believe that the princess will grow up to rule the country?
    5. Why would so many people get to do so many actions including murder just because of what a piece of paper says?

    Who hanged the dead lamb and what is the reason for?

  2. The prophecy said that Grand Prince was the owner of the throne and a power ruler.
    Since this prediction is for Princess Jeongmung and not the Grand Prince, so what does it mean? Does it mean that the Princess will rule and she will be a very powerful ruler???

    1. Sorry for the extremely late reply!
      1. No, he’s still alive but exiled.
      2. Well..Gwanghae didn’t really think that the prophecy would affect him but Gae-si and Yi-cheom were utilizing it to validate their action in getting rid of the children, because they could be threats to Gwanghae when they grow up.
      3. Queen = yes, Gwanghae = most probably not.
      4. She realized that Jungmyung was the one mentioned by the prophecy, so she’s trying to keep Jungmyung alive by sending her away and hiding her somewhere safe, so that Yeongchang would never be harmed. Instead of believing that the princess would become the ruler, she believed that Gwanghae won’t kill Yeongchang as long as Jungmyung’s alive.
      5. Some people believe it, while others are just grabbing the chance to act with the prophecy to justify their decision.

      • The person responsible behind the dead lamb case would be unveiled in episode 6.
      • No one probably believed that Jungmyung would become a ruler in the future since they’re following the Neo-Confucian rule, but rather that she would be someone powerful, even more influential compared to the king.
  3. Thank you so much for this detailed recap! It’s not my first time to watch a saeguk drama but this is the first time that I felt really excited watching one! Despite everything, I believe Gwanghae is really good at heart. And I am disappointed to see that he’s always being dictated by his attendants. Two thumbs up for this drama! Great cast, awesome writing, wonderful production!

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