Fact, fiction mingle in ‘Splendid Politics’

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 8, 2015 - 19:43
  • Updated : Apr 9, 2015 - 11:49

Upcoming TV series “Splendid Politics” hopes to establish a new genre of Korean period drama by straddling the boundary between history and imagination.

Directed by Kim Sang-ho and written by Kim Yi-young, the series’ genre has been described as “faction” ― a blend of fact and fiction. 

A promotional poster for “Splendid Politics,” starring (from left) Jo Sung-ha, Seo Kang-joon, Cha Seung-won, Lee Yeon-hee, Kim Jae-won, Han Joo-wan. (MBC-The TicTalk)

“Our series is somewhere in between fantastical fiction and strict nonfiction,” Kim explained in a news conference Tuesday.

Certain historical dramas, such as the KBS series “Jeong Do-jeon,” aim to adhere strictly to historical records.

On the other end of the spectrum are the likes of MBC’s “Moon Embracing the Sun” and “The Night Watchman’s Journal,” which deal with entirely fictional characters or incorporate elements of fantasy into a historical setting. 

Cha Seung-won takes on royal role in upcoming MBC drama about Joseon court

“We will be as imaginative as possible to bring about dramatic excitement, but always within the boundaries of historical fact,” the director said.

The title is ironic, Kim added, as “Splendid Politics” tells the dark, tumultuous story of Joseon politics and man’s intense hunger for power.

The stellar cast features Cha Seung-won (“The Greatest Love”) as Prince Gwanghae, who takes over the Joseon throne after his father’s death, and Lee Yeon-hee (“Miss Korea”) as Princess Jeongmyeong, who is exiled by Gwanghae and plots her revenge while living among commoners disguised as a man.

Actor Kim Jae-won will be playing the ruthless Injo.

“The role is a big shift for me,” said the actor, who is known for his sweet-faced smile and romantic boyfriend roles. “I’ll be playing the quintessential villain.”

The story of Gwanghae, the son of one of King Seonjo’s concubines, has been told many times in Korean dramas and films, but “Splendid” aims to put a new spin on it.

“He was a very unfortunate king who spent 19 years in exile,” Cha explained on his role.

Currently beloved for his cooking skills and humor on the variety show “Three Meals a Day,” Cha hopes his portrayal will be “as charismatic as possible” and “different from those people have seen so far.”

Director Kim said he wanted to further explore the infamous king’s motivations, desires and transformation.

“Gwanghae has been lauded for good diplomacy, but also criticized for abusing workers in his construction of Changdeok and Changgyeong palaces,” Kim said. “What did those palaces mean to the ambitious king?”

He aims for the show to serve as a mirror to modern times and address issues we face today.

“I think the precarious Joseon politics will reflect Korea’s current, cautious position in between superpowers China and the U.S,” he said.

“The interesting aspect of ‘Splendid’ is that it is a debate on what kind of leader should rightly be king and what kind of person should be involved in politics,” he added. “But the question is asked in a way that is entertaining and not too heavy.”

“Splendid Politics” will air Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. starting April 13 on MBC and run for 50 episodes.

By Rumy Doo (bigbird@heraldcorp.com)