I’ve got some good news and some bad news, with the bad news dependent on whether you can spot the difference or can’t/don’t want to see it. The good news is that the upcoming 50-episode ambitious MBC sageuk Empress Ki (formerly known as Hwatu) finally has a full main cast. The remaining character of Yuan Emperor Huizhong has finally been cast and its someone who may not yet be a sageuk veteran but at least isn’t foreign to the genre and experience. Ji Chang Wook just signed on to complete the main love triangle which includes Ha Ji Won as Empress Ki and Joo Jin Mo as King Chunghye of Goryeo. First off – Ji Chang Wook was NOT one of the six guys rumored to be in the running. But secondly – apparently this role was impossible to cast because the Yuan Emperor is Mongolian so the look isn’t exactly going to be aesthetically pleasing, plus playing a non-Korean character is always a drawback. What? You didn’t know sageuks are jingoistic? All shows produced by one country is inevitably going to favor said country’s history vis-a-vis foreign powers. The reason why Empress Ki even merits her own sageuk was because she was a Goryeo born woman who married into the Mongolian Yuan dynasty and rose to the top female position and produced the next Emperor. But her husband the Yuan Emperor? He’s either going to be portrayed as a puppet on her string, especially if he’s younger, or else he’s just going to come off as somewhat conflicted and mildly antagonistic. But I still see this as good news for the production since it’s already filming. and with Ha Ji Won onboard I’m rooting for this to be good and entertaining, even if it will have zero historical accuracy. If anyone wants to learn late Goryeo history, please do not learn it from watching this sageuk, and in general do not learn your Korean history from watching any sageuk and go read a history book. So what is the bad news? The bad news is that Ji Chang Wook seems to have disappeared from our television screens for a long time only to re-appear with a brand new face. That picture above? Does not look like what he used to look like. A vague resemblance, but the proportions have all changed, the skin is pulled taut, and in general the baby-faced Ji Chang Wook suddenly looks tense and frozen. I am really sad about it since I liked him and he had a lot of potential. Yet another one falls to the knife.
In Empress Ki, the love triangle forms when the future Yuan Emperor is exiled to Goryeo when his younger brother steals the throne from him. While in exile, he is befriended by noble lady future Empress Ki as well as Emperor Chunghye, and those two grew up together and are first loves. I don’t know how she ended up married to the Yuan Emperor and off to rule the court in Yuan dynasty China, but I’m game to watch a fictional take and not take it too seriously.