Korean Drama

A Classic: Goong (궁)

Can you believe that it has been 11 years since Goong (or widely known by Filipino viewers as Princess Hours) aired in Korea? Can you believe it?

Eleven years have simply flown by, yet Goong stayed very close to my heart. My fanaticism over it is still burning so bright and stuck deep in me.

You might be wondering and asking why all of a sudden I’m bringing this all up and blogging about it. It’s because I recently binge re-watch it and my feels are going haywire. So I thought, maybe writing a blog post might get all of my feels out or at least lessen this major TV series hangover that I’m experiencing right now. It’s also fitting because during the time when Goong aired in Korea and here in the Philippines, I’m not into blogging yet and all I ever did was to collect photos from the internet.

GOONG: Thoughts and Feels trip

Watching the series again, made me notice some things that my young self might have just shrugged off at the time and so crafting this blog post is a very exciting thing for me to do. I’ll be able to rehash my feels here and at the same time do some commentary. So win-win.

STORY AND CHARACTERS

Goong is a drama based on a manwha that delves into an alternate 21st century Korean royal family with a Cinderella and a power-playing royal family member arc in it. A commoner, Shin Chae Gyeong, ends up marrying the Crown Prince Lee Shin because of their grandfather’s pact. I know, you may say that this story is too cliché and you can obviously see episodes away that these two will just fall in love with each other. I’ve seen it too but there were elements in the story that made it more exciting to watch.

THE LOVE SQUARE COMPLEX

Having a love square arc in stories is a common element and even Goong has that. Clichè but it was believable. It felt natural for the characters to get tangled in this web of relationships. I may disagree with some of the decisions that the characters made (especially, during the last four episodes) but considering their situations it was quite expected for them to fall back towards another person. Like with Chae Gyeong who’s having a tough time in the Palace and not having a good relationship with her new husband, it was expected for her to find solace. Luckily (or unluckily), it was Lee Yul, Shin’s cousin and second-in-line to the throne, who was there and later on developed feelings for her. 

The other part of the love square is Shin and the girl he originally proposed to, Min Hyorin. He may be married already but before that he has invested a lot of his feelings to Hyorin, who ultimately broke his heart by rejecting his proposal. His heart and ego may be bruised but certainly his feelings for Hyorin are still there. While Chae Gyeong is slowly harbouring feelings towards Shin, he remains to be side-tracked with Hyorin’s presence and mostly neglects the girl whom he took the hands in marriage.

With Yul and Hyorin part of the equation, it complicated and stirred a lot of drama between Chae Gyeong and Shin. Particularly during the part wherein there were noticeable changes in Shin’s attitude towards Chae Gyeong already. Just when you thought that there’s going to be a progress with their relationship, comes a boatload of drama on all sides. Despite being attracted to each other, time and time again different setbacks occurred and led for them to not fully connecting. One step forward, two steps backwards seems to be the recurring factor in the story for Shin and Chae Gyeong’s relationship.

The drama between these four flawed characters just all the more piqued my interest and made me continuously root for Shin and Chae Gyeong.

SLOW BURN

The cliché way to deal with their relationship is for them to fall for each other mid-way of the series and for them to face their problems together as a couple. Good thing is they didn’t have that in this drama. Add that to my list of why I love Goong. I love the fact that during most of the run of the show they weren’t really an actual couple. Come to think of it, it makes everything that they did sweeter. They encountered a lot of drama and did some personal sacrifices just to have that sense of happiness and be together. In the show, they became an “official couple” during the second to the last episode and oh damn it was definitely full of feels.

MULTI-LAYERED STORY

With how I’m gushing about the love square, you may suddenly think that Goong is solely focused on them but the truth is those four characters were just the foundation of the story. The past and the relationships of the senior characters play an important part in the story. Their actions and how they make decisions during the present time were obviously rooted on something that happened in the past.

If I have to make a comparison, I could say that Shin, Chae Gyeong, Yul and Hyorin were the chess pieces and the player, the one who’s controlling them was Lady Hwa-young who up until the present was tied to the royal family’s past. She’s so hung up with how her life could have turned out to be if her husband didn’t die. In a way, the four main characters were used as plot devices. They went through various manipulative schemes coordinated by Lady Hwa-young to carry out the story ARC that concerns her greed for power. Lady Hwa-young’s actions created a ripple of consequences that affected everybody in the story. In the past, I was all about feeling annoyed with her character and what she has done to them but now I know that I haven’t given proper credit to her character because she’s one heck of a villain. I’m still in awe with how she carefully plotted and manipulated most of the characters.

Two of the most memorable things that she ever did were those scenes wherein she was meeting up with Hyorin and the scandal. She was putting ideas in Hyorin’s head about her being a much better choice as a Crown Princess than Chae Gyeong and the story about Prince Charles and Camila. Through Lady Hwa-young’s words, Hyorin felt more of her loss over initially rejecting Shin’s proposal. With realizations setting in and Hyorin getting desperate for Shin’s attention, she spun into action. Then the Shin-Hyorin reunion in Thailand happened. Being the clever Lady Hwa-young that she is, she used Hyorin’s attempt to be with Shin towards her own benefit. Photos of Shin and Hyorin in Thailand graced the pages of the newspapers and tabloids. Painting Shin as an unfaithful husband, unsuited Crown Prince and ultimately tainting the image of the royal family. In the process, she also managed to hurt Chae Gyeong’s heart and created a rift between the husband and wife.

Lady Hwa-young is as vicious as an antagonist could get by using the heart and emotions of her pawns. She tore relationships apart and chaos amongst the royal family members to be able to snatch the positions that she wanted for herself and her child. I understand her sentiments and why she felt that way but being stuck in her what ifs in life and causing trouble to other people won’t do anything good for her. Thus, karma biting her back in the ass.

Looking at the bright side, Lady Hwa-young may have thrown issues and caused a lot of problems but these characters became stronger. They benefited from those challenges that they faced, actually. They were tested as to how they’re going to solve these shit storms Lady Hwa-young keeps on stirring and how far they would go to protect their loved ones.

PERFECT MESH

Ever since, people are already fascinated by the idea and the existence of Royal Families. We are curious on how things are being dealt with in their system. With that, I’m quite sure that there are tons of Korean dramas out there that are catering to this certain craving of the viewers. But then allow me to talk about some things that attracted me to Goong regarding this aspect.

Living in a fast paced world where things could change in a blink of an eye, Goong encapsulated both the traditional and the new-age. Goong is basically a show wherein viewers could see how the Royal Palace is keeping up with the times yet not forgetting about their roots. Just like the house of the Crown Prince and Princess which is giving off this modern vibe because of how it was designed but once you focus on the little pieces that constitutes the rooms, you’ll see antiques dominating it. Same as with their wardrobe, we see the Royal Family wearing traditional costumes but we also see them in formal modern day clothes. Or just how fashionable Chae Gyeong can get.

To completely give the viewers a taste of old Korea, the production also highlighted several traditional Korean ceremonies and even proceeded in showcasing those in the show. MBC really went big for this drama having impressive sets for each scene and using elaborate costumes and props. They were able to successfully pull-off a grandiose and intricate wedding sequence for Shin Chae Gyeong and Crown Prince Lee Shin. The lengths that they had to take just to encompass the significant parts of the wedding ceremony must be to the extreme. They also had to deal with scenes concerning tea times, court, political affairs inside and outside the palace. As an international viewer, Goong was definitely a treat to both my eyes and mind. With Korean viewers, I’m sure it made them reminisce about Korea and their traditions.

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Goong’s original soundtrack is probably my all-time favourite Korean drama soundtracks. I love the fact that the OST is dominated with instrumental songs. It was very fitting for them to do this because of their setting, story and the atmosphere that they were going for. Through those pieces they were also able to lift the richness of Korean traditional music and meld it with the present.

How the songs were used on the show was to a tee. Every piece on the OST has this distinctive sound, viewers will easily identify these songs from Goong and even name some key scenes where it was played. This is a perk that they get from using minimal songs and just focusing on making each sound leave a mark. It is also very noticeable that the person in-charge with the soundtrack has a unified sound and feel going for and he/she was very successful in that endeavour. The songs stand individually but when listened to as a whole; you’ll probably get goosebumps because it is Goong.

Let’s talk about Perhaps Love by Howl & J! Eleven years since this song was released and there’s no song from any OST out there that would beat this on my list. Listening to this song feels like flicking through the pages of Chae Gyeong and Lee Shin’s story book. Every hardship and sweet moment between the two will always flash on my mind. I still know the lyrics to this song and even sing it whenever I feel like it. All of my Chae Gyeong and Lee Shin feels is celebrated in Perhaps Love.

STILL A CLASSIC

With the amount of Korean dramas being released now, I know Goong is not the most mind-boggling one out there. Not even a story with a unique plot. There were scenes that made me want to pull my hair out because of the frustration these characters made me feel and the story became a tad bit dragging. But I think Goong will always be one of those dramas that most people would treasure for imprinting a lasting impression. An impression that would last for years after it aired because it basically banked on the hearts and emotions of its viewers.

If you haven’t seen this drama yet, you better try getting into it already. It’s a feast to the eyes and heart.

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