I’m enjoying Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love more as a drama than for its story. It’s just a re-imaging of the love triangle between King Sukjong Lee Soon, Jang Heebin Ok Jung, and Queen In Hyun, plus their respective baggage of royal power v. Noron v. Soron factions. It’s exciting to see how this drama delivers the dueling wits but the visual cohesiveness and dramatic oomph is the sweetest part of the package for me. I haven’t been running around trying to find the novel because I think the ending ought to be clear by now and I actually don’t think knowing the possible ending will detract from enjoying the journey. If Ok Jung does like Jang Heebin does in history, how did that happen in this version when Lee Soon loved her so much he’s willing to give up his throne for her? And how does Lee Soon marry yet another consort in Choi Sukbin and she bears him a son as well? We love our love stories innocent and pure, the devotion of the OTP at odds against the world but nothing coming between them. Will it hurt when Ok Jung starts to battle In Hyun and Lee Soon gets caught in the middle? For sure. Will it be rage-inducing to see the arrival of Dong Yi as she tries to raise herself up through Lee Soon the same way she thinks Ok Jung has? Absolutely. So far both Lee Soon and Ok Jung have fought to be with each other, have sacrificed and have declared their intent loud and proud, and by staying true to their love for one another they will earn the right to be together. But that doesn’t mean a price won’t continuously be paid to stay together, and in the end, will they regret having loved if it means having lost? I’m not them so I don’t know, but I do know the novel answers that question for us.
A woman who is inclined towards sacrifice, that is indeed a cruel thing.
Heebin Jang Ok Jung’s coffin left the Palace through Sinmumun, the gate on the Southeastern corner of Geoncheonggung. The night Ok Jung’s coffin left the Palace, another person also left this world. He was the person who has been wasting his life away drunk in a gisaeng house ever since he was unable to rescue Ok Jung from the Palace. That night, he declined the gisaeng’s offer to stay the night using the excuse he wanted to go home to rest. He left the gisaeng house and drunken Chi Soo stumbled as he walked. He passed by an alley he walked past many times, his soul filled with such deep despair as he had never felt before. He drunkenly walked through the streets and arrived at a restaurant where some yanbans had gotten into a fight. He got embroiled in the dispute and was killed. All the hatred and rage twisted into his heart was never untangled and he left this world carrying with him his anger.
The night Jang Ok Jung’s coffin was carried out of the Palace, Lee Soon went to sleep alone. He woke up suddenly in the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep. Lee Soon walked out of the residence and ordered the servants to retreat. He wandered aimlessly by himself and unwittingly arrived at the familiar creek. He realized this was where he spent many a wonderful time with Ok Jung. Lee Soon sat down beside the creek and thought back to a time over 20 years ago now. He rested on her shoulder and laid down his burdens.
“At that time, she was like a mother embracing a thoroughly exhausted me. She allowed me to express my loneliness that I had never shown to others.” His eyes flitted over the place Ok Jung once sat. What was this girl really like? As a wife, she was the first woman I fell in love at first sight. She was the first woman to bear me a son. She was always my support behind the scenes in politics. Whatever I wanted, she did her best to make me content. Even faced with death, she still loved only me. A woman like this, I was the one who caused her death.
His fingers lightly brushed across the top of the creek water. Lee Soon’s expression was in such pain like the deepest inner recesses of his heart had been scooped out. His shoulders started to shake more and more. In this place, where she once watched him cry and wiped away his tears, she was no longer here. Lee Soon’s tears once again sprang forth. From that moment on, there was no one in this world that could reassure the lonely shoulder of Lee Soon or wipe away the tears from his face. Because the only woman who ever loved him, Jang Ok Jung was no longer in this world.