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Reprise: Jackpot The Royal Gambler

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I’ve just finished watching Daebak, aka Jackpot, The Royal Gambler again. This is the first time I’ve watched it since it originally aired in 2016, and I have to admit I enjoyed more than I did the first time. The first time I focused on the story line and plot and failed to just enjoy the story and acting. This time, I just sat back and watched. This time I watched the acting and ignored the flaws in the script and story line that kept this drama from achieving the ratings the all-star line up of actors should have garnered.

Regardless of the flaws in the script, I believe, now more than ever, that Jang Keun Suk should spend his time focusing on acting. I’ve watched a lot of actors during my life….yeah, I’m a film buff…but rarely have I seen a more natural born actor then Jang Keun Suk. I’ve seen most of his films and dramas and have always been impressed by his acting in them, but in this drama, he exhibits an acting talent that is overwhelming…and deserving of greater scripts.

From the beginning in Jackpot, where his cock-fighting rooster meets defeats and becomes the family meal to his theft of 100 nyang to his adolescent joy at finally being in Hangyang, Jang Keun Suk enthralls this audienc and keeps them laughing. He portrays his character with such an innocence and youthful exuberance that we, the audience, can’t help but fall in love with his character. His joy, his happiness, his excitement combined with his back woods, innocent belief in himself all make for a character that causes us to laugh at his antics. Even when he meets the one special woman in his life, he exhibits all the comedic antics common to youth but rarely seen by the adult world. Again, Jang Keun Suk makes viewers continue to gleefully adore his lovable, silly, and happy-go-lucky character.

But it’s those very emotions that continue to affect viewers when his character’s life turns around and he’s faced with the harsh realities of his world. Having gained the audience’s empathy, we can’t hold back our emotions when he’s put through trial after trial. Even though the plot has Jang Keun Suk’s character, Baek Deagil, survive unrealistic and thoroughgoing torture, beatings, and stabbings, he somehow manages to survive…and become yet another character. In this character, Jang Keun Suk exhibits a coming of age wherein he loses the innocence of his earlier character to grow into a man who is capable of seeing the best and worst of his world. In this character, we see a Jang Keun Suk that is probably true to his own nature and character. In that sense, at this point in the story, he portrays a character that is very much akin to himself.


However, as the character of Baek Daegil grows along with the plot  line, we see a character that develops an empathy for others, particularly the underprivileged and poor. He chooses to become one with them and protect them. He puts aside his own ego in the recognition that they are more important than he alone…and, thus, he must save them, his brother the King, and Josean itself from destruction. This is a Jang Keun Suk not previously seen. An actor capable of realistically portraying someone other than himself and a person of his own age. Yet, Jang Keun Suk pulls off the transformation with amazing agility and grace. Not once does he stumble in showing the both the innate humor of Daegil that harkens back to his youthful self as well as the seriousness the character deserves as a mature man intent on fighting corruption and the evil that haunts his nation. Pulled out of his retirement as a Royal Guardsman, he seeks to end a revolution that will cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Here again, Jang Keun Suk demonstrates his remarkable ability to transform himself into an older and wiser man who chooses to put the nation and her people before himself.


There are so many scenes which I could point to that make my point as to the formidable quality of Jang Keun Suk’s acting that it becomes impossible to choose one or two alone from this drama. His performance was masterful to say the least. It is unfortunate that the drama failed to receive higher ratings. Nevertheless, of all the Korean dramas I have watched…that now numbers in the hundreds…this one kept my interest the longest because of the quality of the acting, particularly that of Jang Keun Suk and Choi Min-Soo.


Nevertheless, it is Jang Keun Suk’s ability to portray realistically the maturation of his character with such believability that makes him an outstanding actor. In all of his previous dramas, he’s portrayed a character approximating his own age because they were not only comfortable characters for him but also because he could relate to those characters. However, in this drama, he went far beyond his comfort zone to show a range of character development that few Korean actors are permitted in a drama to achieve. And although he worked with some of Korea’s finest actors, he matched and often exceeded them in his portrayal of his character and the character’s development and growth.


Personally, I would love to see Jang Keun Suk acting in a major film that drew Hollywood’s and international attention, just the way Lee Byung-hun, Rain and Yunjin Kim have. His acting talent is far too great to be confined to Asia alone.


Written by Valerie Curl

April 26, 2017 at 9:30 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Save me, please!

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I need some help. After reading about Trump’s proposed appointments and his transition team and what the entire GOP is planning, I am more than ever convinced it’s time to leave my beloved country. I may be too old and too sickened of heart to fight the coming battles for heart and health of our country. I am not a liberal by choice but by a heritage that goes back nearly 300 years to the earliest days of the MA and CT settlements.


Donald Trump during the Presidential Debates

Many among my family fought in the Revolutionary War and one received a medal from General Washington himself. In addition, nearly every side of my family, from those in Missouri, Kansas and Ohio to those in CT, Maine, Illinois and New York, fought to preserve the nation and end the evil of slavery during the Civil War. I have the pictures. My grandfathers fought in WWI and my father and uncles in WWII and Korea. My cousins in Vietnam and now my step-children wherever they are needed. I am proud of my family and their contributions to this great country. As someone who has moderately studied the history of my country, I am thoroughly ashamed by what I see occurring.

As a result of what I’m reading and seeing, including much Ku Klux Klan graffiti on walls, stores, and elsewhere, I am becoming far more serious about leaving the US. This decision hurts my heart. My family smuggled themselves out of England to avoid the anti-protestant ideology of King Charles. Others, as French Protestants, escaped to Holland and then to the English Isles to keep from being slaughtered by the French King because of their religious beliefs. Others from Scotland and Ireland were sent as slaves to the shores of US colonies because they sought freedom from England and freedom of religion.

Current background info on Trump Admin:

His transition team consists of bankers/investment CEOs, real estate moguls, supply siders (aka tax cutters for the wealthy), the disgraced New Jersey governor (2 high level members of his staff are on their way to jail and he may end up there too) and a steel mill owner as well as a large number of lobbyists. (I guess this is his version of clearing the swamp as he said during the campaign.)

Proposals for Cabinet offices include:

A rogues gallery of climate change deniers, major bank CEOs, oil company execs, and lobbyists from various industries. Yet, not one recognized economist or labor leader or foreign policy expert. It’s said that you can tell a person’s character by the company he keeps. If this melange of characters represent Trump, then heaven help everyone who is not supremely wealthy.

Already proposed legislation includes repealing Obamacare (The current plan takes 2 years to phase out completely Obamacare) with no replacement worked out except previously rejected GOP ideas that increase costs and leave millions more uninsured; overturning the Dodd-Frank financial regulations instituted after the financial meltdown in 2008l – thus, leaving Wall St free to go back to the same old practices and activities that causes the Great Recession and global financial meltdown; eliminating the CFPC, the agency that prevents financial companies  and banks from cheating consumers as in the recent Wells Fargo scam case; rolling back or eliminating environmental regs (and maybe the EPA altogether) so companies can pretty much do what they want, in the name of profits, regardless of the harm to the environment and the residents; dramatically cutting taxes for major companies and wealthy individuals while raising them on middle and low income people; block granting Medicaid with no restrictions so states could use that money for whatever choose; decreasing Medicaid and Food Stamp budgets by almost a 1/3 (if I’ve calculated correctly), leaving many millions of children facing homelessness and starvation; cutting medicare benefits while raising rates; increasing the retirement age for Social Security…and trying to privatize the program (a la IRAs that have worked so well vs pensions); eliminate head of household and individual deductions on tax filings so median and lower income families pay more in taxes with fewer deductions; eliminating taxes on investment income (i.e. dividends and sales of stocks) that basically only help the wealthy; reducing to corporate tax rates to 12% while leaving small business tax rates at current levels (if not higher); dramatically increased deficit spending (now that Obama will be out of office) on infrastructure (built with Chinese steel, etc – which is why the Chinese commodities markets climbed dramatically today); a trillion dollar expenditure on a wall between Mexico and the US that will be put on the national credit card; mass deportations of undocumented aliens and overturning the Obama rule that allowed undocumented young people to stay in the country, provided they attended college and did community service or joined the military; overturn Roe v Wade that allowed women  in consultation with their doctors to control their own reproductive system; and end all funding to Planned Parenthood which serves low income and college student women with all manner of women’s health screenings including cancer and STDs, birth control and family education, and lest one need reminding no where in the Bible does it discuss abortion, although it admonishes over and over again the need to take care widows and orphans, the sick and hunger, the homeless and forgotten, the helpless and forgotten; and finally – most disgusting of all – require Muslims to register with the government (disgustingly ugly shades of Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews).

Getting back to real life:

If you naively think this extreme agenda won’t pass, I remind you that extreme far right Republicans now own both houses of Congress and soon the Supreme Court. The entire federal government will be under their control…and Trump, meanwhile, will rubber stamp all that they desire no matter the consequences to average citizens.

If Americans had any sense or knowledge of their own history, they’d see that the current Republican agenda smacks of the 1880s when workers were abused and killed on the job without repercussions, when full time workers lived in cold water flats because that’s all they could afford, when farmers were financially abused by Wall St banks and put out of business, when government sided with big business to steal private property for far less than market value, when small businesses were put out of business by government protected large businesses and organized business trade associations, and when collusion and corruption  – i.e. vote buying  – ran rampant through state, local and federal governments. But Americans don’t know their history…and don’t care to learn. They can barely remember what occurred ten years ago, let alone who the nation’s leaders are today. We’ve become a nation of idiots!

A strong and healthy nations is one with healthy and incorruptible institutions of government: legislatures, courts, law and justice. When belief in these institutions fail, nations fail. 

That is what is occurring right now and will be accelerated under a Trump adminstration. I can guarantee it. History provides ample examples.

Thus, my query:

I’m lucky in many respects in that I’m very old, retired, and a white person. But these GOP and Trump proposals which target the poor and desperate offends everything I was taught in Baptist Sunday school, offends everything Robert F. Kennedy taught me about caring for the poor and those left behind; offends everything I learned from the Old Testament Biblical prophets; offends everything I’ve read about Jesus in the New Testament – indeed it feels like Jesus is once again being crucified by the [money-grubbing] Romans and Pharisees; offends everything Jefferson, Madison and Washington wrote prior to the Continental Congress; offends Madison and Hamilton who wrote most of the Federalist papers; offends Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence; offends Franklin’s beliefs and ideals in a progressive republic; offends the very nature of a caring, compassionate and respectful humanity as Buddhists’ state. It offends decency itself.

I am no longer proud of this nation,  This nation that I have loved so dearly has now chosen a president who has gleefully stomped on every one of Ten Commandments, is vulgar and vile in speech and disrespectful of others in action, and cares nothing about anyone other than himself. If he is a symbol of what this country has become, then I want no part of it. While I hate leaving my beloved country, I all too much feel compelled to follow the precedent of my ancestors and leave.

So, my friends, help me if you will in finding somewhere in this world where compassion, respect, and understanding still exist. I am not wealthy…Wall St saw to that. As a result, many harmonious countries will not accept me as I don’t have the financial resources they require and I’m far too old now to start in business all over again. What I seek is peace and joy and contentment and respect for both nature and the people around me. If you will, please help me find such a place…and God willing, I can convince my family to go with me as I cannot live without them and the joy they bring me.

Written by Valerie Curl

November 10, 2016 at 8:53 PM

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized

Jang Keun Suk and Jung Kurt, as Team H, raise the roof once again at Osaka Jo Hall with their new EDM album “Monologue”

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This week, after the end of drama series “Jackpot, The Royal Gambler” also known as ”Daebak” and halfway through a season of Korea’s TvN’s “My Ear’s Candy”, Jang Keun Suk, the mult-talented Korean actor, singer, MC, DJ, and award winning short film director, as part of TEAM H performed in Osaka Jo Hall, which is situated on the grounds of Osaka Castle in Japan.


Jackpot script reading

Osaka Castle is the site of the ancient Shogunite that essentially ruled Japan for hundreds of years. Thus, it is both a historic site and a beautiful park now open to the public. From the top of Osaka Castle, one can walk the ramparts to view the entire city of Osaka. Osaka Jo Hall sits on the grounds of the Castle and has become a major site for international shows and festivities.


Osaka Castle

In the midst of this park is the Hall where many Korean performers choose to come to perform. Team H, comprised of Jang Keun Suk and Jung Kurt, alias Big Brother, often have performed previously there. On the evenings of October 16 and 17, Team H put on a show, as part of their annual Halloween ritual, in Osaka Jo Hall that wowed its international audience. Attendees for the two nights came from Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, and all over Asia. Tickets were sold out.

The show formally announced the release of their new album, Monol0gue, and it’s leading song, “Like a Zombie”. Watch it here: http://jangkeunsukforever.com/archives/45945

Performing numbers from their new hit album, Monologue, Team H had the audience dancing and jumping to their Electronic Dance Music (EDM). As usual, Jang Keun Suk, during their musical interludes, talked directly in fluent Japanese to his audience, teasing and joking with them.

As a young actor who became enamoured with the leading Japanese musical groups and wanted to break into the Japanese entertainment market, Jang Keun Suk, informally known as Asia Prince JKS, chose to learn the Japanese language and the culture long before he ever performed there. As a result of his learning their language and culture, he’s been taken into Japanese hearts and remains among the most popular Korean artists in Japan with album sales consistently among the top five on Japan’s highly ranked Oricon chart.


Team H, formed during their years at Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea, as a group of several university students who chose to put on shows for other university students in order to raise money for the University, Jang and Jung built a close relationship and continued their collaboration even as the others within the initial group left to pursue their own interests. Consequently, Team H, well known for its “head banging”, hard rock sounds combined with rap, has become the most popular Electronic Dance Music (EDM) group throughout  Asia, consistently drawing sellout performances wherever the duo chooses to perform. In addition, the duo has gained a huge following across the globe, with fans all across Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas as well as within Asia.


International Fans

Why Jang Keun Suk, who remains a major acting Hallyu star in Korea, chose to sing mainly in Japan remains somewhat of a mystery. He’s said it’s because Koreans don’t like his dancing (which is not akin to that of Justin Bieber and other American artists) but the fact is this performer feels more comfortable and relaxed as himself in Japan than in Korea. Like it or not, Korea, in many ways, still lingers within its pseudo-Confusion ideology that most people within the Western world reject as antiquated even as its polite manners prove highly popular among those of the West. Nevertheless, Jang chose, and still chooses, to sing in Japanese and within Japan where he feels more comfortable being his irreverent and honest self. Given his overall liberal based attitude and Buddhist ideology, he very much resembles Western singers and performing artists as both a actor and a singer.


Jang Keun Suk before Monologue Osaka Concert

With the release of their new album, Monologue, Team H once again reached the heights of Japan’s Oricon chart. Many of the album’s songs are expected to be hit singles among the duo’s fans. Unfortunately, Team H has a minor following in the United States due to variety of copyright issues that has prevented the USA from enjoying their music. If these issues can be resolved, Team H easily could lead the major musical charts within the USA as good music knows no language barriers.


Team H in Osaka Jo Hall

Written by Valerie Curl

October 17, 2016 at 11:49 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Daebak ~Further Reflection on Episode 22

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One thing that should be noted now that subs are completed is Daebak doesn’t make clear either whether Yeoninggun poisoned his brother the King. It leaves that mystery up the viewer just as actual history leaves it up to the reader. Is it possible that Yeoninggun poisoned his brother to gain the throne? Certainly. The Lee [Yi] family were infamous for wiping out competitors for the throne. One has only to back at Taejong and the number of brothers he killed to take and keep the throne. The historical record of the Joseon Dynasty is rife with murders, assassinations, and overthrown kings by family members who had a strong claim to the throne, i.e. being male member of that lineage but were not in direct line to attain it. Lest anyone think the Joseon Dynasty was alone in this behavior, I would remind them of Britain and, specifically, the War of the Roses as well as the many wars following the William’s 1066 conquest of England for control of the throne.

Yeongjo-2016-06-07 22-30-14

But is it likely that Yeoninggun murdered his brother, the King? Probably not. Nevertheless, the writer-nim has taken some dramatic license to potentially, although not directly, indict Yeoninggun as that works better for the plot. It is true that the Sorons, fearing their loss of power, did incite violence by using the rumor that Yeoning poisoned the King. They posted flyers throughout the country, attempting to incite the populace in their favor as they planned their rebellion. They needed the people to be with them to overthrow any local Noron officials along the way towards Hanyang.

Injwa Revolt2016-06-07 22-35-58

Although Injwa makes a big deal about overthrowing the Yi kings for the sake of the common people, the fact is, as is stated obliquely, that his plan seeks revenge (and his vision of justice) for his own and those other Soron families who lost power during Sukjong’s purge of them decades earlier. When his voice-over discusses discusses leading a revolt against a corrupt government, he’s most definitely not talking about the needs, wants or desires of the common people. He’s talking about the deaths and exiles of his and other yangban families who were executed or banished by Sukjong. To him, as is the case in actual history, the plight of the average, common people was irrelevant. What mattered was seeking revenge for the loss of their family power and prestige in a highly structured neo-Confusian society where parentage and birth status meant everything for one’s opportunities in life. In other words, if you weren’t born in the yangban [noble] class, no matter how smart you were, you couldn’t achieve much of anything in that rigid hierarchical structure.


Although Daebak states the rebellion beginnings in Cheongju in south central Joseon, not too far from the capital, it in fact had began in Jeolla Province at Jeonju with the other leaders of the rebellion. Nevertheless. Cheongju became an important location for the furtherance of the rebellion simply because of its central location and the ability of the rebel leaders to mobilize their disparate armies in that location.

Many rebels appear convinced that the rebellion would be led by fifth-columnists who could mobilise powerful military resources for the rebels. Put simply, the rebel organization initiated the rebellion because it believed it had sufficient resources to attack the government. The rebel organization believed it had acquired sufficient resources because the fifth-columnists had come to power, and the fifth-columnists were only in power because of the 1727 Soron restoration.

Perhaps if Yeongjo had not practiced a policy of factional reconciliation, the rebellion may not have taken place. But in fact, the Sorons, although they were brought back to court, feared that their place in politics was only temporary. They had not forgotten the harsh treatment of the Noron faction at their hands during the reign of Gyeongjong and believed that their installation into court politics was only temporary…as well they should have. It is certainly true that Yeongjo grew ever more tired of the Noron demands and sought to use the Sorons to balance the power scales.

In fact, many among the Soron rebels believed not only their return to power was only temporary but that they would soon be ejected again. Having had a taste of power once again, they were not willing to relinquish it. In the end, their lust for permanent power spelled the Soron’s permanent downfall. Not only did the Soron faction lose as a result of Injwa’s Mushin Rebellion, it never regained any power position thereafter. It could even be said that Crown Prince Sado’s demise was in part due to his alignment with the Soron court faction against the reigning Noron faction.

Daegil 1728 Military 2016-06-07 22-51-28

Interestingly, Yeongjo gives Daegil five days to succeed, and although the Soron faction side with Injwa, the Soron faction leaders fear he may lose. They hedge their bets in the drama, just as they did in reality. Nevertheless, the fact that they are Sorons leaves them in suspicion. Regardless, from the time Yeongjo decided to mobilize to the end of the Rebellion was a mere 15 days…under the leadership of the Soron general. General O defeated Injwa’s army south of Suwon near a crossroads. Injwa was captured and taken to Hanyang. Other rebel leaders were killed and beheaded along the way. Their heads were sent to the palace.

One other thing in this episode that needs to be emphasized again is King Yeongjo was very sensitive about his maternal heritage. He loved his mother very much and wrote many poems to her and about her. He spent years trying to attain the status of National Mother for her as other mothers’ of Kings were given (although not necessarily for the concubine mothers of kings…again neo-Confucion status). But because she was not of of the yangban (noble) status but of the cheonmin (lowest) class,  he was blocked over and over again.


Nevertheless, whenever anyone was foolish enough to deride his mother as a water maid (one of those persons in the lowest hierarchical structure of Joseon’s neo-Confucian society), he took great offense and dealt with them harshly. After decades of trying, he finally attained his wish and his mother was given the recognition he sought for her…and the proper burial place he wanted. Until that occurred, he was even denied, by the court, from going to her burial place and offering annual rites to her.

From Wikipedia:
Although Yeongjo in his adulthood was very sensible about the origins of his mother, one cannot deny the deep love he had for his birth mother, Choe Suk-bin. His reverence for his mother had no limit. He wrote her many poems and said in one of them, “My father begot me, my mother fed me, led me, bred me, brought me up, reared me, kept her eye on me, tended me, at every turn aided me. Their goods deeds I would requite”. Yeongjo fought at court to have his mother Choe Suk-bin recognized as a public mother, but she was like other concubines—mothers of Kings but regarded as a “private mother of the King”. But Yeongjo wanted to change that and have her as his “public mother”; however, the officials were opposed to making her a public parent as this meant the ministers would have to honor her and gave the King the right to visit her tomb often as a part of his royal ceremonies.

During the time he was fighting this, there are two interesting accounts of his feelings about this situation. In 1739, the day before the scheduled visit to Choe Suk-bin’s tomb, dissatisfied with the protocols that the Board of Rites had drawn up, he censured two officials who were directly responsible for them. The Sillok explains the measure, “The King respectfully served his private parent [Choe Suk-bin], but he suspected that the officials were unwilling to comply with his desire. Thus, on each occasion sudden clashes erupted, inevitably followed by a distressing royal declamation.” On another occasion, the King was leaving her tomb for the Palace. About to mount the palanquin, he instead summoned the Minister of Military Affairs, Kim Songung. Breaking into sobs, he said, “Since 1737, this was the first time I came to pay respect to my mother. For those years, my heart has been filled with sadness. When children fall down, they automatically call out for their mother. This is human nature. At the time of divination, if there is no person offering earth, how can there be a divination? I have sent down orders [to make his birth mother a public or legal mother], but the bureaus in charge have ignored them. True, the ruler is not allowed to have private concerns, but it is wrong to lose trust [in his officials]. The elite scholars of today are just too cold-hearted. Those elite scholars must also have parents. They could not have fallen from Heaven or sprung from earth.” In the end, he got what he wanted and Choe Suk-bin was made Yeongjo’s public mother.

So, when Yeongjo sentences the Daegum of the Sorons to death, he’s not only sentencing him for attempted assassination and disloyalty, he’s sentencing him for disloyalty and insults to his mother as well as towards himself. Additionally, Yeongjo’s birth status as the son of a water maid is the leading reason why Prince Mal-wha, aka Poon Mile Goon,  choose to join Injwa’s Rebellion. It’s also part of the excuse the Dowager Queen Seonui uses when she joins hands with Injwa.

Daegum Arrest-2016-06-07 22-44-42

Even though I argued with myself over which subject to put first, in the end Injwa’s Mushin Rebellion and Yeongjo’s birth status as the son of a former water maid are inseparable. Towards the end of Yeongjo’s reign, a leading Joseon scholar wrote that Joseon’s neo-Confucian philosophy was corruption of Confucius’  philosophy and unjust largely because of the extreme focus on parentage, birth status, and one’s birth ranking in the nation’s hierarchy.

For more complete information on Injwa’s Mushin Rebellion:

– google books – http://bit.ly/1U6NWsD

Written by Valerie Curl

June 7, 2016 at 11:02 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Daebak Episode 22: In Jwa’s Revolution Begins

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The excitement really begins now as In-jwa escaped capture and King Gyeongjong died. First, it should be noted that when Gyeongjong died, Yeoninggun was accused by the Soron faction of poisoning his brother, the king. The official record does not provided a clear conclusion. It’s probable that Gyeongjong died of food poisoning from eating tainted shrimp. The shrimp had been transported 30 miles from the ocean to the palace in fairly hot weather and the shrimp were not keep cold and fresh. No ice was packed around the shrimp so by the time they reached the palace, they were really not fit to eat.

The Sorons refused to accept that Gyeonjong died from simple food poisoning, and even if they did accept it, they refused to tell anyone as keeping the murder rumor alive was one sure way of defeating Yeongjo. They couldn’t stop him from ascending the throne, but they could use the rumor against him in other ways. And that is exactly what they did.

Rumor poster 07/06/2016 08-42-53

As the Mu-shin revolt moved north towards Hanyang, the armies were clad in mourning clothing and carrying flags for Gyeongjong. They claimed they were revolting against the murderer of King Gyeongjong who usurped the throne.They roused the people by spreading the rumor far and wide. Some governors and military commanders along the way simply handed over the keys and supplies to the revolutionaries because either they were Sorons or they believed the rumor. Others tried to fight and were slaughtered. Once In-jwa’s army captured a city or garrison, he put one of his people in charge.

From Korea Review, Vol 3:

This conspiracy was headed by the son of the executed Kim Il-gyung, by Mok si-rung the brother of Mok Ho-ryung and by the sons and other relatives of the killed and banished leaders of the Soron party. A large force was collected in Kyung-sang Province and Yi In-jwa was Chong Heui-ryang [Jeong Hee-ryang] were put in command. The conspiracy honeycombed the whole country, for we are told that in Pyung-an Province Yi Sa-sung took charge of an insurrectionary force, while at the capital Kim Chung-Geri and Nam T’a-jung worked in its interests. It was agreed that on the twentieth of the third moon Seoul should be entered and that Prince Mil-wha be put on the throne.

Further south, Jeong Hee-ryung lead another army while Park Pil Mong lead a third. Unfortunately for Park, his army was defeated early in the Jeolla area where the local commanders and governor stopped them early. Jeong’s army too was eventually defeated and he was killed. In-jwa’s army marched further north, to nearly reach Hanyang before they were stopped. More on that later.

Jeong-2016-06-07 08-34-41

Mug-2016-06-07 08-35-41

So, first in this episode, we have In-jwa recruit Prince Mil-wha. Now, how he was related to Yeongjo, I don’t know. I cannot find his lineage, but it has to back a couple of, or even several, generations to the kings’ prior to Sukjong.

Prince Mil-wha 2016-06-07 08-22-44


A second note to be aware of is the introduction in this episode of Yeongjo’s son. This son is not Sado. Sado was Yeongjo’s second son. The son shown is Crown Prince Hyojang (효장세자, 1719–1728).

Yeongjo Son 2016-06-07 08-18-24

The child was born to Royal Noble Consort Jeong of the Lee clan as both of Yeongjo’s Queens remained childless. It’s fairly obvious that this young prince, in the episode, will be a victim of In-jwa’s Mu-shin Rebellion. So, we can expect him to die in the next episode. My suspicion is that Gyeongjong’s widowed queen, Queen Seonui, will play a part in the child’s death. She dies 2 years later in 1730.

Queen Seonui 2016-06-07 08-20-29




Written by Valerie Curl

June 7, 2016 at 8:55 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Daebak ~ Daegil and Park Mun Su Speculation

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Since the airing of episode 18, some viewers speculate that Daegil will evolve into the legendary Park Mun Su, the famous undercover inspector (amhaeng-eosa) for King Yeongjo. It’s possible…after all this is dramaland.



A Little History Please ~

 The life of an undercover – or secret – inspector was far from easy. Generally, young officials (usually in their thirties) of low or middle rank were appointed as secret royal inspectors because they had to travel long distances for an extended period of time. Young officials also were more likely to have a strong sense of justice and were less likely to have personal connection with local officials. Even though the secret royal inspector position was temporary (and young men of lower rank were appointed to it), its authority was equivalent to a governor (highest-ranking local official) and had the power to dismiss local officials including governor in the name of the king.

So, who actually were the amhaeng-eosa in the Joseon Kingdom? Generally, they were young, incorruptible officials who were recommended for amhaeng-eosa by retainers and appointed directly by the king, though their positions were not as high a rank as people may think. For their secret missions, they received a letter of appointment or “bongseo” from the king, and a description of their destination for surveillance was written in the letter. The appointed officials were basically required to leave as soon as they received their missions. They were sent to local provinces to punish corrupt officials and comfort the sufferings of people while traveling incognito. The amhaeng-eosa system was one of the most excellent inspection systems in the world, the likes of which is very unique and hard to find in other countries.

For their secret mission, besides receiving a letter of appointment (bongseo) and a description of their destination and mission (samok), they were given a “horse requisition tablet” called mapae, which they used to requisite horses and men from a local station run by the central government. Mapae was a symbol of the secret royal inspector. There were horses carved on the mapae, meaning the inspectors could commandeer as many horses as were carved on the mapae. The mapae was used not only to ask for horses but also to prove identity. Whenever the inspector made an appearance, a team of royal inspectors reportedly exclaimed, “Now entering, the secret royal inspector,” presenting the mapae in hand. The mapae was used as a stamp of the inspector.


To ensure secrecy of the mission, a secret royal inspector could open bongseo only after leaving the capital. When they arrived at the assigned district, they surveyed the area in disguise. After the secret surveillance was completed, they revealed themselves by presenting mapae or bongseo and inspected the magistrate’s office and records. If they found cases that were unjustly judged, they presided on retrials to redress wrongs. After the completion of their mission, inspectors presented reports to the king called “seogye” and “byuldan.” In seogye, rights and wrongs committed by former and active local officials were written in detail, and the byuldan included indictments of the province that they inspected, the mood of the populace and virtuous villagers for awards. The Joseon Kingdom took actions based on the reports of the inspectors, for instance, taking disciplinary measures against corrupt local officials and conferring awards on virtuous women and exemplary sons.

However, the mission of a secret royal inspector was not an easy job. Although they were the rigorous royal inspectors who even terrified tyrannical officials, they faced many challenges. They traveled wearing ragged robes, broken hats, and with little money. Sometimes they had to sleep in old inns, were exposed to danger, or even got mysteriously killed while performing surveillance and concealing their identity. As a matter of conscience, a large number of inspectors chose to share the suffering, joy and sorrow of the people by travelling in rags instead of donning official uniforms.


The secret inspector system was very effective in reducing corruption in provinces, but it also had many problems. According to one account, the survival rate of secret royal inspector was only 30%. Sometimes they fell victim to wild animals, bandits, or assassins sent by a corrupt official. In addition, secret royal inspectors had to pay expenses for the mission out of their pockets. Therefore, a secret royal inspector sometimes had to pose as a beggar more out of necessity than for sake of secrecy. After Sukjong’s reign, the secret royal inspector system was also abused as a weapon in factional fighting.

Since the Middle Joseon period, about 670 secret royal inspectors went into action. Jo Gwang-jo, Yi Hwang Jeong, Yak-yong Yi Sibal (during Seonjo‘s reign), Yi Geon-chang (during Gojong‘s reign) and especially Park Mun-su (during Yeongjo‘s reign) are famous for their work as secret royal inspector. Secret royal inspectors were a popular subject for fiction in both Joseon period and modern times. Many legends about Park Mun-su as the avenger for the people exploited by corrupt officials have passed down through folk tales (There are 300 such stories). The exploits of secret royal inspector were featured in the popular Joseon-era novel, Chunhyangjeon.

Of the secret royal inspectors of the Joseon era, Park Mun-su (during KingYeongjo’s reign) is considered to be the most famous figure. He had a lot of administrative experience and was thoughtful and caring about the lives of ordinary people, so he insisted that the government help people starving from famine and make a national effort to encourage old maids to marry. It is obvious that such a person must have left a strong impression on the people when serving as righteous a judge and secret royal inspector.

The Real Park Mun Su ~


The real Park Mun Su was born in 1691 to a misfortunate family: his father and grandfather both passed away while he was still a child. Nevertheless, through diligent study, he passed the government exams and began his career as a government scribe in 1723. He was promoted a year later but was soon laid off, the scapegoat of a political feud.

After entering government service, he developed a special relationship with King Youngjo and earned great merit in putting down Yi In-jwa’s rebellion, although I have yet to discover what he did to put down the rebellion. Regardless, it seems that Park Mun Su was a person with a strong will and character who had always wanted to serve the public. In that regard, he was a very attractive figure and was very much trusted by king Yeongjo. Yet at the same time, he was not much of an academician, and he had a short temper. Thus, when King Yeongjo carried out a court-wide reform in 1727 to bring political sects under control, he reinstated Park Min Su. Their relationship continued until he died in 1756.

Having noticed Park’s integrity and sound political views, the king sent him to the Yeongnam area (Gyeongsang Province) as his secret inspector. Up until March of 1728, Park traveled all over the southeastern part of the country to investigate the wrongdoings of local officials and dismiss them if found guilty. He also returned the illegally seized assets to their rightful owners and appointed qualified and respected figures to fill the vacant posts. His righteous actions against the powerful made him a folk hero among the ordinary people.

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Park was again dispatched in King Yeongjo’s seventh year to investigate the famine and ensuing unrest in the southern regions. He gave away his personal belongings and riches to the poor and reported the dire situation back to the king. When he was touring the Gyeongsang region in southeast, he saw lumber and homes floating in the sea and realized that a big flood had swept the northern region. He ordered that 3,000 seoks (480,000 kilograms) of grain be immediately shipped to Hamgyeong Province in the north to relieve post-flood famine.

In addition to his post as undercover inspector, Park served in many different government capacities, such as defense minister, justice minister, and Gyeongsang Province governor. In 1749 Minister Park Mun Su wrote a rulebook that set the regulation for the finance uses of the palace and central offices to reduce royal expenses. The book set standards to reduce the goods from different provinces that were offered to the king, to different palace buildings, to the crown prince, princesses, and so on. It was published to correct the financial system of that time which was rife with corruption.

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Records show, however, that he served as secret inspector only four times – in 1727, 1731, 1741, and 1750. But what he did to remedy the hopeless situations of the poor and stand up to high-ranking government officials to correct social injustice gave rise to numerous legends and a classical fiction named “The Story of Eosa Park Mun-su.” Understandably, these folklores, which number about 210, paint a grander picture of Park as a secret inspector appearing all over the country and carrying out superhero-like deeds.

But there is reason for Park’s undying fame as the most righteous official of Joseon even after his death. That’s because he showed what a public servant should be, by unrelentingly standing up against the powerful and sincerely looking after the interests of the poor. Moreover, during his thirty years in office, he showed unique political traits for that era. He did not focus on theories or parties but instead showed excellent abilities for actual work, with a broad perspective.

After he died, official commemorative projects for him were poor. Intellectuals out of office and the general public have written and handed on many stories. As a result, most of the stories about Park Mun-su written later were based on his achievements and disposition. The public has accepted his down-to-earth personality with an affinity, and has described him as a witty character. The public has also projects their wishes into his administrative abilities, and has created his image as a salvager. There is a broad contact between history and folklore. The historical facts have provided dynamics for handing on folklore. Folklore has not stopped making efforts to participate in history.

Baek Daegil as Pak Mun Su ~




 Given the development of Daegil’s character over the last several episodes, with his now chosen desire to work for the people and his vow to protect Yeoninggun, it’s more than possible Daebak’s writer chose Park Mun Su as Daegil’s role model. Moreover, as seen in the first episode, Daegil throws off the silken robes of a noble and wears the simple robes and broken hats of the peasantry. So, it is possible that Daegil’s identity could change one more time to become Park Mun-su. Having Daegil evolve into Pak Mun Su would be nice resolution for the two brothers, and especially for their never-ending fight against political and governmental corruption that had been so pervasive for generations upon generations.

Written by Valerie Curl

June 1, 2016 at 4:43 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Daebak Episode 19 ~ Beginning The Second Turning Point

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Just as an early episode represented a change from Gae Ddong to Dae Gil, this episode represents a major turning in the politics of the nation as well as a major turning point for our leading protagonists, Dae Gil and Yeoninggun. But let’s step back into history first.

With the death of King Sukjong, Crown Prince Yi Yoon assumes the throne as King Gyeonjong. He’s not an especially bright individual and easily swayed by whomever get to him first. Moreover, he’s physically sickly. Unlike his mother in the drama, history records her as saying she wanted him to die with her and, using a wooden instrument, inflicted a wound on his body that prevented him from reproducing. Nevertheless, the new King is allied with the Soron party – the party of In Jwa and Jeong Hee Ryang. Shortly after Yi Yoon assumes the throne as King Gyeonjong, a major merge occurs. The Sorons take power and throw the Norons out. Worse, a multitude of Norons are killed. The remaining Norons continue to pin their hopes on Yeoninggun whom Gyeonjong has named Crown Prince.

Partly of self-interest and partly out of concern because of the King’s illness, the Norons push to make Yeoninggun Crown Prince Regent. Their plans fails, however, and more Norons are exiled or killed. After that plan fails, the Norons decide to assassinate the king. Again their plan fails and more lose their heads.

Meanwhile, the Sorons are not satisfied with having momentarily defeated their political opponents, they still fear Yeoninggun who has assumed control of most the government due to his brother’s illness. They want him dead. Their first plot to assassinate him while on a hunting trip to rid the palace of a white fox fails. Yeoninggun learns of the plot and hides out with the Dowager Queen Inwon who protects him. Afterwards, he tells his brother, the King, that he wishes to resign his station and live as a commoner. This plea was not the first nor the last time Yeoninggun used this ploy to show his loyalty to the Crown. His plea, though, is refused, and he remains Crown Prince. The only ones who suffer from the plot are the Soron servants who assisted their masters.

At the end of four years, Gyeonjong dies after eating shrimp salad. The shrimp had been brought from the coast, some 30 miles away, during the heat of the year without any ice to keep them fresh. Seeing their chance again to rid themselves of Yeoninggun, the Sorons accuse him poisoning the King. However, given the absolute rules of succession, they can’t stop him from assuming the throne as King Yeongjo. Once he does, the Norons regain their ascendency and the Sorons not only lose power but also forfeit thousands of lives. The History of Korea says Yeongjo was probably powerless to stop the Norons from their bloody revenge, but he grew so distraught by their blood lust that he brought back some Sorons to counterbalance the control of the Norons.

The Sorons, though, don’t give up. Determined to regain the former power, they spread the rumor throughout Joseon that Yeongjong poisoned his brother, the former King.  Yeongjo constantly battles those rumors and eventually beheads Kim Il Kyung, one of the leading Soron ministers who spread the rumor. However, the Soron plot to rid themselves of Yeongjo doesn’t end with Kim’s beheading. The Sorons decide the only way is revolution. Continuing to spread their rumor throughout Joseon and building up support, they devise a coup d’etat. Both Yi Injwa and Jeong Hee Ryang are recruited as generals. At first, Yeongjo doesn’t take their posters and activities seriously. However, when word reaches the palace of the Soron backed armies marching north, taking town after town and garrison after garrison under the banner of the dead King, towards Hanyang, he mobilizes the five military branches. He sends extra troops north, east, west and south. In an almost surprising move, he promotes a Soron, O Myeong Hang, to General In Chief. Needless to say, the main instigators of the rebellion are caught and beheaded. Jeong’s army is defeated fairly early, and General O defeats In Jwa’s army on their march towards Hanyang. General O captures In Jwa and takes his prisoner to Hanyang. The heads of the revolutionary leaders are mounted on the city gates. And King Yeongjo holds a palace feast to celebrate the victory and to reward General O and others for their loyalty.



So, with all of that history having been said, we can begin to see where Daebak is heading. Sukjong is dead; Yi Yoon ascends the throne as Gyeonjong; Yeoninggun becomes Crown Prince; Jeong Hee Ryang is in prison; and In Jwa remains free and able to influence the new King. Given how closely the script writer, Kwon Soon Gyu, has chosen to follow actual history, it’s not impossible to assume that Jeong will be released from prison at the insistence of In Jwa and that many of the Noron leaders will disappear as a result of both Soron revenge and their own aborted treasonous plots against Gyeongjong. Both Dae Gil and Yeoninggun will be caught in the middle of this political battle for ascendency. How Kwon, in the few remaining episodes, deals with all this political upheaval obviously remains to be seen. But we know Yeoninggun survives to become King Yeongjo.  And Dae Gi;’s fate? Maybe he will become the Dynasty’s fabled corruption fighter.

Now, episode 19. Here I have a couple of nitpicks with writer Kim concerning logic.  First, why was the young, murdered prince living outside the palace (or so it seems) and unguarded? Okay, I get that he wanted to spend as little as possible on himself and give his allowance to the poor, but still…unguarded and living outside the palace? Second, why did all the ministers assume or want to assume that Yeoninggun committed the murder of his younger brother? What would he gain by killing a younger brother? I could understand Yeoninggun wanted to rid himself of his older brother to gain the throne, but his younger brother?  My last nitpick concerns the portrayal of the rebel Jeong. He’s portrayed as this great hero of the common man fighting against the deep corruption and rot of the government who suddenly turns out to be as corrupt and rotten as the government.

Nevertheless, many of the plot threads, through this episode, begin to come together into a tightly woven tapestry of political intrigue and psychological warfare. And episode provides the turning point that brings all those threads together. At least I hope that is the case. Quite honestly, in my opinion, episode 19 is one of the best of the drama. It didn’t leave me sitting on the edge of my chair, demanding to know what happens next, or leave me stunned shock. Rather it sparked some psychological nerve that said slow down, look closely and think about what occurred. Where will the drama – and the characters – go now while at the same time remaining true to history? How are the multiple threads coming together? And why is Man Geum running around so mysteriously? Does he really believe his son, whom he raised and knows so well, will choose to be King or has he lost his mind? What was the point of bringing him back to life when he seems like such a doomed character? Is he aligned with In Jwa and Jeong as this episode indicates or not as episode 17 led us to think. I can’t quite figure out his presence yet…or why Dae Gil with all his seeming allies can’t find him. It’s all these questions that cause me to say this drama is a suspenseful mystery rather than just a historical drama. And perhaps only mystery addicts would love it as we try to figure out “who done it” and why.

Written by Valerie Curl

May 31, 2016 at 12:45 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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