So my growing obsession with Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love is starting to gain steam and this might hit runaway train status faster than any drama in my watching-blogging history. I need to slow myself down before I get my heart broken in the off chance the show starts sucking. I do have a tiny bit of comfort knowing its adapted from the same-name novel, though I’ve heard on DC that the drama is veering materially from the novel because the screenwriter wants to take liberties with the individual details while keeping the construct intact. So far its working for me since I haven’t read the novel. I’m playing catch up these days with the drama since I was barely interested in it prior to watching so I didn’t pay much attention to the promotional material. Normally I translate character descriptions, plot synopsis, etc. to add more color to a drama but I went into JOJ as clueless as everyone else. Now that all the characters have won my heart (seriously, the way Prince Dongpyung calls her “Ok Jung-ah” makes my heart feel squishy, the way Lee Soon holds his daddy King’s hand sends me sobbing in the corner of my consciousness), I need a bit of knowledge of what to expect so that I’m prepared for it. I was only able to come out of Bu Bu Jing Xin alive (and barely that) because I read the novel and knew what type of rocks-fall-down ending was in store. And still nothing prepared me for watching it onscreen. I needed an IV drop by the end of that show I was so dehydrated. Will JOJ have the same effect on me? I’ve translated the complete main character descriptions below and my answer is yes. This drama looks like the second coming of BBJX in terms of feels (plot is totally different). The character descriptions give a lot of plot away so don’t read if you want to be spoiled. Some stuff I expected, others really threw me for a loop, but the most intriguing bit that was revealed is how similar in political love and power trajectory Lee Soon will take as King Sukjong compared to how 4th Prince evolved into Emperor Yongzheng in BBJX. Same ruthlessness, same all-encompassing love for one woman. This is so not going to end well, is it?
Jang Ok Jung (Jang Heebin)
Born from the lowest class in the rigid hierarchal society of Joseon, yet she became the one and only true love of Lee Soon, the highest ranking man in Josen. She became the King’s political partner and Joseon’s top fashion designer. She endured the powerful attacks from the Soron faction but remained proud and true, a woman with great charisma.
Her touching story is not because she is Jang Heebin, but because it is the story of Jang Ok Jung the woman. Her father was a merchant class and her mother the slave of the Jo household, a distant relative. She was born a lowest class citizen. Despite her low birth, her natural talent in fashion design and an extraordinary victor’s aura, on top of all of that her fated love with the highest man in Joseon Lee Soon, all of that led to her transforming her lowly birth and going from a seamstress in the Palace to the root of the greatest turmoil to sweep through Joseon politics.
From the lowest birth to the highest woman in all of Joseon, she sat in the position of the mother of the country. With her man, the King of Joseon, they had a love story that was unforgettable and intense. But her impressive and eventful life will lead her towards the cruel fate that awaits her…..
Lee Soon (King Sukjong)
The ruler who holds the Kingly power with strength, Joseon’s most absolute and powerful ruler. For his Joseon kingdom to have peace and stability, he is the cruel man who will kill with his own hands the only woman he ever loved in his life! He will sit alone on the King’s throne, a lifetime of sorrow and loneliness, that is his fate.
“The age of absolute royal power! The King is the nation!” He has the same ruling philosophy as Lois XIV, he is the 19th King of Joseon Lee Soon. He ascended the throne at the age of fourteen and immediately could match wits with the ministers. Enduring countless political attacks made him into a seasoned, intelligent, and ruthless warrior. “No minister can challenge the King’s authority.” Lee Soon’s life seemed to be fated to kill. Because his ministers time and again challenged his position and plotted against him, Lee Soon had no choice but to face this bloody reality.
But Lee Soon’s heart is filled with the infinite loneliness of a man facing the fate of a King. In this icy cold heart, there was one woman who walked in. She crossed the sharp ragged barriers of their class difference, using her own talent to illuminate the world, she was a woman named Jang Ok Jung. But…a King’s love will severely shake up the power play in government. Ok Jung’s background is from Noron faction, the party that opposes the currently in power Soron faction. Lee Soon realizes that he must proactively protect his love……….
Hyun Chi Soo
To bring back Ok Jung, he has come back to Joseon from the depths of hell and become the richest merchant in the nation. His entire life is devoted to shedding blood to bring back the Ok Jung that was before. He bleeds until the very end, when he loudly and proudly proclaims to the King “For your insignificant power, you threw her away. But I can throw everything away just for her!”
In Jang Ok Jung’s theatrical life, this man existed and was her first love. He was almost drowned by Jang Hyun who said “You bastard, if you cannot have more wealth than the top merchant of Joseon that is me, and more power than the King of Joseon, then don’t even dream about having Ok Jung.” After he survived and settled in the Qing dynasty, to Chi Soo who got a second chance at life, Jang Hyun’s mockery was like the nails of death, it was his motivation to succeed.
So Chi Soo’s dream was to take everything away from Lee Soon! But the depths of the Palace is like an ocean, and Ok Jung is so far from his reach. He cannot hope to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Lee Soon, the King of Joseon. He cannot tightly hold on to his most precious Ok Jung. Lee Soon uses his power to push Chi Soo to the end of the road. For his own revenge, to save his Ok Jung, in the end he pays the price with everything. Because to keep in his heart the King’s woman was the original sin.
Min In Hyun (Queen In Hyun)
The second Queen of King Sukjong, the choice of a political marriage, born in the most illustrious noble family in Joseon, Her incredible pride makes her the fated rival to Jang Ok Jung. Though she is jealous of Ok Jung, her ultimate motivation is preserving her family honor and esteem. A woman born and raised to be Queen: money, prestige, power, she has it all and eventually she sits in the position of the Queen of the entire nation. The only thing she cannot have is the love of a man to a woman. Because of this, she cannot give up the image in the hearts of the nation’s citizens of her as the “kind mother of the nation”. This is only thing she clings onto to support her to keep walking forward.
In the deep recesses of her heart, she had the same hope for life as Ok Jung. To be like an ordinary woman, to be loved and cherished by her husband, the life that Ok Jung has. But compared to the temporary light of a firework, she would rather have the steady illumination of the moonlight. This is how she chooses to leave her mark, and this is the goal of her life. For this, no matter using what tactics, what methods, she will never show her hand. For her final wish, she would endure in the background so thoroughly that even her toenails are hidden away. Only then can she achieve her wish, to become the final victor who remains in the history books.
Born in the royal family, but he has never once coveted what belonged to others. A beautiful and pure soul. He keeps deep inside his heart a love that is more precious to him than his life. He can only watch from the sidelines as his dearest friend pushes his most beloved woman to the end of her road.
As a member of the royal family, his existence is to balance out Lee Soon. Diametrically opposite of Lee Soon, he is an upstanding and righteous young man. He is the only confidant of Lee Soon in a political whirlpool. He is always joking and appears not to care about the desires of the world. But that is his fate being born into the royal family, and his only way to survive.
Even his love for Ok Jung is the same – he helps Ok Jung secretly and protects her. Once he knows that she is Lee Soon’s woman, he hides his feelings for her. But he patiently and enduringly watches over this woman that he loves beyond all else. He thinks it is happiness just to be able to see Ok Jung. A simple but beautiful man.
But in the end, he cannot escape the cruel fate that puts the poison in his hand. He cannot endure having someone else do it, but he cannot bring himself to end her life……..
Dong Yi (Choi Sukbin)
She is as beautiful as Ok Jung, and just as bright and smart. But she is not as innocent as she seems, in truth she is a very calculating and impressive personage. She reads men’s likes and needs very astutely. She was a maid and the right hand woman to Queen In Hyun. She is the origin of all the danger that comes towards Ok Jung.