All about ideas…

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

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Deabak Episode 17 & Beyond: Much Ado about Everything

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Thus far in media stories for Episode 17, we’ve seen Daegil dig up his father’s coffin and scream in pain while tears pour down his face. We’ve seen Kim Chaegun hand over the saving tag  Sukjong gave him to Seolim who hands it to Daegil while he tells Daegil to use it. We’ve seen Daegil stop Yeoninggun from slicing Injwa’s head off. We’ve seen Deagil in a police uniform, probably so he can enter the prison easily. And now we see Daegil in mourning clothes, performing last rites.




Given all the released details of Episode 17, I think at this point the story line speeds up. No more lingering over torturous pain and long bouts of gambling.

The writer-nim and PD have too much ground to cover in these next seven episodes. If the writer stays as close to history as he has so far, Daebak has another almost 6 to 8 years to cover very quickly. Granted, we don’t know if the drama ends after Injwa’s 1728 Revolt or before it. (Personally, I hope after the Revolt ’cause I want to see Injwa completely lose to the combined forces of the two brothers.) But we do know that Yeoninggun takes the throne to become King Yeoning in 1724 before the drama ends. We saw that in the opening scenes of the drama.

Right now the story remains in 1717 or early 1718 ’cause Suk Bin is still alive. ..at least so far at the end of episode 16. A thought just occurred to me, is Daegil mourning his lost father, Mangeum, or does he hold mourning rites for the passing of his long lost mother, Lady Choi Suk Bin? I’m betting on the former.

Anyway, Suk Bin dies in 1718…and Sukjong dies two years later. The Crown Prince takes over in 1718 when Sukjong retires and becomes King Gyeongjeong in 1720 when Sukjong dies. During the four years of Gyeongjong’s reign, the Soron’s more or less reign supreme. He was a weak king, both in mind and body. Sickly most of his life, he handed over much of the reins of government to Yeoninggun. Nevertheless, he controlled everything…but how he reigned had everything to do with who got to him first and convinced him to take the action that person wanted.  He was capricious, to say the least.



For our story, the scenario of Gyongjong being king is tailor made of Injwa and his merry band of Sorons who absolutely despise Yeoninggun for no other reason than that his mother was a water maid. By the way, the Norons weren’t exactly in love with him either for the same reason, but they knew he fell on their side of the political aisle so they tolerated him and supported him for their own political futures.

Finally, the Sorons are in control of the government…more or less. Injwa is a “pal” of the new weak king and can get him to do whatever Injwa wants. But this new king is sick. As a result, Injwa continues as a cunning devil intent on bringing down the current Yi (Lee) monarchy and installing Daegil as his own puppet king, replacing Yeonninggun, the lowly son of a water maid who should never be king.

As a logical side note and bending history just a touch, the rebel Jeong should join Injwa in his rebellion. Jeong was the family name of Jeong Dojeon who was the King Taejo’s Prime Minister and the primary force behind not only ending the Goryeo Dynasty but also in creating the Joseon Dynasty. (Watch Six Flying Dragons for all the details.) Anyway, Jeong’s followers raged against the Yi kings because Taejo’s son, Yi Bang-won, killed him and became King Taejong. (Taejong was the father of the famous King Sejong,)  Jeong’s family and followers harbored hatred for the Yi monarchs for decades. So it’s easy to imagine Deabak’s writer using that piece of history to throw another log onto the fire of revolution. He already has to some extent, but will the rebel Jeong take Injwa’s bait or be caught and die? Only the writer-nim knows.

In addition to add the action packed events that take place over this period of time, the Sorons attempt to assassinate Yeonginggun a few times before he becomes king. The most famous is their plan to kill him while on a hunting trip, but Yeoninggun learned of it and fled to his step-mother, Queen Inwon, for protection. No, we’ve not met her yet…and she may not show up. Anyway, when Gyeongjong dies of food poisoning (Never order unrefrigerated shrimp in the hot summer months!), the Sorons accuse Yeoninggun of poisoning his brother the King. Too late…Yeoninggun has already become King Yeoning.

The Sorons lose the majority of their power, but Yeoning rules unlike his father. He desires reconciliation and power sharing between the two parties. As a result…and I shouldn’t give the story away if the writer continues to follow history…Injwa is betrayed by his own Soron party.

Written by Valerie Curl

May 22, 2016 at 7:31 PM

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Kpop Herald Recognizes Jang Keun Suk’s International Fans in Interview

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On Thursday, May 19, 2016, Kpop Herald asked its readers to submit questions to them for an eminent press conference with Jang Kuen Suk and Yoo Jin Goo for #Daebak, the newest SBS fusion seguek drama offering. Unlike previous fusion segueks, Deabak (aka Jackpot or the Royal Gambler) is the story of a real prince, the son of King Sukjong, who died shortly after his premature birth (Yeonigso) and, through the creative imagination of the screen writer, takes the viewers on an adventure of what his life might have been had he lived as an outcast prince who was born too soon. His being born too soon casts a pall across his life and the lives of his mother and brother, the future King Yeoning, as well as causing political factional fights for his father, King Sukjong. Nevertheless, this young prince grows up as Baek DaeGil, never knowing his royal heritage and endures unimaginable hardships, loss and tortures…until the day arrives when he learns the truth. The story supposedly pits two brothers, Yeoning and DaeGil, against each other for the crown while at the same time showing how similar they are. They are, in every sense of the word, close friends and comrades in their fight against the political and economic corruption and injustice that infects Joseon society in the late 1600s and early 1700s.




Much to everyone’s surprise, Kpop Herald chose three Eels Family members’ questions for their article from the hundreds they received. Two of the questions are from residents in the USA and one from Australia. Two people asking the questions are members of The Eels Family (TEF) as well as being members of EelsUSA. EelsUSA is a recently created Jang Keun Suk fan club exclusively for United States fans of Jang. Although not yet certified, it hopes to become a subsidiary club to The Eels Family which is one of the main Jang Keun Suk international fan clubs. The Eels Family membership comprises fans from all over the world, including Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Central and South America, Canada and, of course, the United States. TEF boasts a membership in the thousands and is constantly growing as Jang’s reputation for music and acting spreads across the planet with lightening speed…and access to his concerts and acting performances became more accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The third TEF member who had her question answered is a long time fan of Jang Keun Suk from Australia where he is well-known and much admired.




The first question mentioned in the article came from a Jang Keun Suk fan in Kentucky in the United States. Her question was, “Your growth as an actor is apparent when watching Daebak. Though maturity is sure to have played a role, to what do you attribute this growth? Have you had to do anything in particular to prepare for this role that you haven’t done to prepare for others?

Kpop Herald edited down her question, but, nevertheless, posed it. You can read his answer in the published interview. He went on to respond to the two other equally complex questions posed by TEF and USAEels members. The mere fact that Kpop Herald chose questions from TEF and USAEels points to not only his worldwide appeal but also the native intelligence and curiosity exhibited by both The Eels Family and EelsUSA members. His “pretty boy” image not withstanding, they exhibit through their questions a desire to know the person behind the celebrity image and his motivations. Japanese fans have long been privey with the person behind the personality of Jang Keun Suk’s public image, but rarely has the rest of the globe had a peek into his world in a language they can understand. Kpop Herald chose to step outside of traditional boundaries by not only asking for questions from across the globe but also choosing questions from those international fans. That change is unique amongst Korean media and signals a recognition of Jang Keun Suk’s international fame and stardom that extends well beyond the accepted boundaries of Asia.




Here’s hoping that the rest of the media, especially in Korea, takes note that Jang Keun Suk is a highly respected and admired international actor and singer who shines a bright, glowing light on Korea.

The Kpop article, in English, follows:




Written by Valerie Curl

May 20, 2016 at 10:28 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Budapest Diary ~ A Review

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The first time I watched Budapest Diary I fell in love with it. I lost count of how many times I’ve seen it since and each time it captivates me. I wrote this review about a year ago and watching the film again last night reminded me of it. My views about this short film haven’t changed since I originally wrote this review.

Made in 2011, the plot is a romantic story of lost love. Jang Geun Seok’s emotions range from initial anger to acceptance to a return to living to, finally, redemption. In 40 minutes, Jang, under the direction of Director Chang, presents the entire range of emotions that accompany the loss of love. An amazing feat in a Korean industry that takes multiple hours upon hours to tell the same or similar story. In that sense, Budapest Diary has a very American feel to it. It gets to the heart of the story quickly and shows the character’s emotions without lengthy discussion or display. The film moves quickly, but yet it’s the many little details, such as a shot of left over food littered on the coffee table in his hotel room or Jang suddenly staring staring at at a tulip on his table in the restaurant scene, that enable the viewer’s imagination to fill in – or color – all of the character’s emotions without explicit explanation.

It’s like the difference between Dickens’ explicit, detailed scenes and Hemingway’s highly descriptive short use of words to show a scene. Dickens provides every detail, leaving nothing to the reader’s imagination. Hemingway, on the other hand, does the opposite by providing just enough detail for the reader to use his vivid imagination to fill in details of the scene.

I believe it was famed acting coach Strasberg who taught that, when acting, the emotions should be honest; otherwise the audience won’t believe them. It’s clearly apparent that Jang displays honest emotions in this short film. In viewing Budapest Diary yet again, it’s obvious that anyone who denigrates this actor’s acting abilities hasn’t watched this film. The range of honest emotions he displays takes the viewer from lows to highs, from ddep anger to desperate sadness to free-wheeling joy to calm acceptance and everything in between. We partake in his emotional journey because we believe in it. It’s real to the viewer.

That ability to create desired emotional sensations in the viewer is the essence of good acting. Anyone within the industry –  or out –  who claims he’s not a great actor has not studied this short film. As that Korean/Canadian director recently tweeted, Jang is highly under rated by his Korean industry. Personally, given the broad stretch of emotions required in this film as well as in his other films (specifically, The Case of Itaewon Homicide), I believe Jang has the acting talent to become far more than an Asian actor. As yet, I’m not convinced that Tree J, which is his company, understands that potential.

Nevertheless, if I were still in school, I’d choose Budapest Diary for a thesis paper. It’s like a John Donne poem or late Shakespearean play: tightly woven and full of imagery that not only sets the mood but describes emotions, thoughts, settings and ideas without elaborate descriptions and words. Each scene is a painting, full of details that only the subconscious registers, creating a specific mood in the viewer’s mind.

Every time I watch it, I see different aspects of the film. I don’t think any film has so intrigued me. Maybe because it is so short that it’s easy to watch over and over again. The overall picture, like a masterpiece at the Louvre, is condensed; thus, each detail stands out waiting to be discovered. Director Chang and film editor did a masterful job. Interestingly, Chang is also the director for CAMP. Thus, I suspect the same attention to artistic details – metaphors, similes, and symbols – all designed to elicit an emotional response, without the viewer even realizing it. It’s highly possible that CAMP could well be extraordinary, given how much both have grown both in life and in the industry.

Moreover, even the music, from the initial song to the harmonica solo to the final orchestration, draws the viewers’ emotions along on the character’s journey: solitude to sadness to joy to, finally, grandeur…or hope. If you listen closely, you can hear the horn instruments softly holding up (or lifting up) the stringed instruments. Again, every detail of the film is as finely honed as a masterpiece…which makes me wonder why Tree J did not treat it as such?

Written by Valerie Curl

May 1, 2016 at 5:27 PM

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Daebak (Jackpot) Queries, Post Episode 10 ~ History vs Fiction, in one of the most fascinating eras of Joseon history, and What Happens

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I’ve just finished watching the fully subbed version of Ep 10 of #Daebak. So, here some questions to ponder before the next episode.


1) When Chae-geon referred to the Tiger that could move mountains he once knew and adored and to whom Dae-gil reminded him, to what person was he referring?

2) Do Dae-gil and Yeoning become friends at some point after rescuing Dam-seo?

3) Are Dae-gil & Yeoninggun working in concert? They both wear In-jwa’s old white masks and are both coming at In-jwa from different angles, converging on him, but have they coordinated their efforts?

4) If they’re not working in concert, why did they both choose to use In-jwa’s old gambling masks at the same time?

5) What is Sukjong, if he’s still alive at this point, up to? He’s a master at playing politics, and from the look on his face when he dismisses Yeoninggun, telling him not to investigate further, he’s deciding on something. Who is he going to use and what is he going to do to bring down Yi In-jwa?

6) And what about Dam-seo? Does she just disappear? Where will she again appear? And what will she do now that she’s been disabused of her long held beliefs regarding her father’s death? Will she too choose revenge? If so, to whose camp will she choose to use her skills, Dae-gil’s or Yeoninggun’s?

7) Speaking of characters, when will Gye Sul Im show up again? And how will she, as a Busan gisaeng, help Dae-gil?

8) What about Kim Chang-jib, a previous Minister to Qing under a Cultural Exchange Program who has returned after 17 years, in 1712, and is now the new leader of the Noron party? He’s an actual historical person associated with the Noron Faction, although information on him is difficult to find. Nevertheless, what does he do to thwart In-jwa whom he finds objectionable?

9) Meanwhile, what about Crown Prince Yoon (aka King Gyeongjong)? Although he is politically aligned via his mother and her family to the Sorons, he’s a weak Crown Prince and King due to illness and, historically, a weak character who was easily swayed by whomever got to him first. (His reign as King only lasted 4 years.) But what does he do; does he continue to protect In-jwa?

Aside from the gambling aspect and the character Dae-gil, none of the historical aspects of this drama are too far off the possibilities of the historical record. Yi In-jwa did lose his family in the 1680 Gyeongsin Hwanguk purge. His father and grandfather both had been high officials in the Joseon government, but their downfall destroyed In-jwa’s future. So, even while the Annuals (not in English yet) don’t state the reasons for In-jwa’s Revolt in 1728, it’s not hard to imagine his scheming and planning a revolt against Sukjong and his son, King Yeongso (aks Yeoninggun/Prince Yeoning). Nor is it hard to imagine the other historical figures – Sukjong, Yeoninggun, Crown Prince Yoon, Kim Chang-jib, and even Suk Bin – acting as they do in this drama.

Personally, I think the scriptwriter, Kwon Soon-Gyu, has done a masterful job of distilling 30 years of Joseon history into one 24 episode fictionalized account. He’s blended the factional history of one of Joseon’s most dynamic kingship eras with a fictional story of gambling, revenge, and honor. It’s like reading a great suspenseful novel, filled with any number of heroes and villains, almost villains, greedy side characters, sorrowful characters, and great schemers. It’s a mystery, a thriller, and a fictionalized history all rolled into one…like a Steve Berry novel that combines history, mystery, and thrilling adventure into one magnificent tale.

But it requires an engaged mind, rather than being simple mindless entertainment, to enjoy this drama. Nevertheless, I am sure it will stand out as one of 2016’s best dramas.


Written by Valerie Curl

April 26, 2016 at 9:37 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Daebak The Royal Gambler is daebak

with 2 comments

Great heavens, I’m really loving Daebak The Royal Gambler!

In Hangul, the word deabak means a jackpot. In other words, this drama is a winner. It truly is a jackpot.

It’s been a long time since I watched a show that engaged my mind the way Deabak does. The closest to it was SBS’s sageuk drama Six Flying Dragons. But Deabak is by far a better drama.

Every episode just gets better and better. My only complaint is that the episodes end too soon. I want them to continue. I don’t want to stop watching what happens next. Honestly, this drama is better – more captivating – than Six Flying Dragons (and DoS), and I didn’t think any current drama could beat Six Flying Dragons. Yet, Daebak has easily…and I’m not saying that as a Jang Keun Suk fan. I’m saying that as a fan of suspenseful, high quality, well scripted and directed shows.

One of my main problems with Kdramas is that after the first couple of episodes the dramas fall into lag as main characters begin to over-analyze or become paralyzed into inaction. They let opportunity after opportunity bypass while they figuratively suck their thumbs. Daebak, thus far, hasn’t fallen into that trap. The story is fast paced and the tension remains constantly high, moving from one event to another with just enough dialogue to keep the plot logically moving without it’s becoming tiresome.

For me at least, it’s like reading a Steve Berry thriller that combines both actual history and fiction to create a story that keeps the reader up all night reading. It’s more than engaging. It’s suspenseful and action-packed with a touch of humor and a just enough actual history to intrigue the mind of the reader. Or in this case, the mind of the viewer. I’m left after each episode – as with a well written chapter – wanting to know what happens next. I want to stay up all night with the story.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt at all that Daebak is extremely well acted. Nevertheless,  it’s the story – the plot – that draws my attention and makes me want to watch more and more and more.

Written by Valerie Curl

April 19, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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