Korean Drama PODCAST
I did a ramble about this Kdrama on my podcast, the Lee Evie Korean Drama Podcast, and so if you are interested in giving that a little listen, you can check it out below, or on most podcast platforms (spotify etc.)
Korean Drama REVIEW
First of all, let me say that this drama was my most anticipated show of 2014. It stars Lee Jun Ki whom I adore and the story comes from some of the same people behind ‘The Princess Man’, another gorgeous, romantic and ‘edge of your seat’ sageuk drama.
So to say I had high expectations is an understatement.
And now, having completed it, and re-watched it many times, I can say it was my favourite 2014 drama for sure. It is epic and exciting, tense beyond belief, and it also made me care. Enormously in fact, more than I expected.
The thing I love most about this drama is that there is never anything painted in simple black or white. No character is evil just for the sake of evilness, and even a good guy hero can have a streak of darkness within. And that can only make for a satisfying and gut wrenching story!
Just my kind of drama!
Be warned though, this review is loooooong.
The Beginning of JOSEON GUNMAN.
I really enjoyed the beginning of the drama. I liked the interesting stirrings of plot which involved these multiple gunmen (who at times seem an almost invincible adversary), and I liked the set up and where the story seemed to be headed. Sure I thought some of the old evil men council meetings were a little bit boring but they are a staple of most sageuks so they are expected.
I liked Lee Jun Ki’s character. At the beginning he comes across as a bit of a careless playboy type, though there are still glimpses of someone more underneath, someone better. He is smart and capable and when things really get bad and real danger is involved, he is willing to jump in front of a gun to save the girl he likes, even though he barely knows her.
Which is quite moving and lovely.
Yoon Kang is a character with a lot of depth and potential and I could see him growing and evolving into someone pretty heroic and wonderful as the drama progressed.
Soo-in too, the female lead, was lovely. She is progressive yet charming and especially after getting to know her better in a beautiful scene in episode three, I found that I absolutely loved her. After all this girl is brave, no one can deny it. She has very strongly formed opinions on what is right and wrong in her society and she is willing to possibly die on dangerous missions dressed as a boy to deliver the book she believes can truly make a difference.
I also really liked the fact that just because this young noblewoman is brave, it didn’t magically mean she isn’t also deathly afraid. She knows these stakes are very real and she is very fearful for herself. She doesn’t want to die and I really like the idea that someone who is being heroic and brave can also be terrified at the same time, both vulnerable, strong, determined and afraid. It makes them more realistic, more human, and more layered as a character.
I loved the beginning of the drama when Soo-in is being the haughty noble daughter and being so huffy with the newcomer to her house, Yoon Kang (who at this point still has no idea they have met before or what he has done wrong).
It is quite funny as at this point she has total control over him and the situation, and it is only when Yoon Kang figures out that the crying gunman he met is in fact Soo-in herself (which he realises refreshingly quickly because he is a smart boy) that the tables turn and now Yoon Kang has nothing better to do in the whole world other than tease and poke at Soo-in, as she is forced to come and go at his beck and call.
It is very mischievous of him but it is not at all done in a malicious way, and the whole thing is quite fun to watch. And Yoon Kang is very obviously already quite interested in this strange girl and enjoying very much this wonderful opportunity to force her to spend time with him.
When Yoon Kang finally does find out Soo-in’s reasons behind her actions I think he is even more impressed, and he offers to help her (still out for a jaunt and enjoying being near her I think rather than maybe fully realising the full gravity of the situation.) And the time they spend together on this little journey (especially the time being chased at night) goes a long way in bringing the two together and showing sides of themselves they haven’t seen before.
For instance, Yoon Kang isn’t only some good for nothing playboy, for all his teasing, when it really comes down to it he is both strong and protective, he is willing to die to look after Soo-in, a quality that shows he is a very good man with a good heart.
And for Soo-in, Yoon Kang starts to see who she really is, a girl who is deeply saddened by her teacher’s death and trying desperately to do the right thing for what she believes in, despite being ill-equipped and despite her gender which holds her back in the world she lives in.
And Yoon Kang?
He doesn’t believe in anything, he has been burnt out in the past from his mother’s death and also his absent father and I think this girl with her new thoughts and ideas, hopes and dreams would be an unheard thing to him, someone who is making him feel something real.
Some of Soo-in’s dialogue was also very intriguing and I started to realise that she is indeed a very forward thinking, modern woman for her time.
And even better she is clever enough to fully understand her predicament. As Yoon Kang and Soo-in bond, she displays a side of herself we haven’t seen before, a side where she is the useful one and he needs to be guided and taught. On the lunar night she creates fireworks and I loved seeing her so absorbed in this task, somehow I found her wonder for all things modern and fantastic very interesting and it is a magical moment as the two watch the fireworks go off.
One of my favourite Soo-in moments is a statement which she makes that actually kind of made me love her.
She says that her dream is to go right to the edge of the sea, but in the current world she lives in it is hard for a woman to even pass through her own gate. Therefore her dream is to live in a world where a woman could go to the edge of the sea, if she chose to.
And the way Yoon Kang just stares at her, a man with no dreams or thoughts of the future himself, falling in love already as his mind is opened by her beautiful thoughts and ideas.
I am so grateful for these lunar date scenes because they really opened my eyes to Soo in’s character and made me really begin to root for her. And so when the action kicks in, I am ready to follow her and Yoon Kang to the end.
Yoon kang’s past is also revealed a little more around this time, and maybe it is understandable that he has become a bit of a waster (he isn’t too bad really but he has no direction, no ambition, no hopes or dreams of the future). He is unable to forgive himself for his mothers death when he was a child (he watched but did not, could not, help her) or forgive his father who he has never stopped blaming, believing his dad cares more about the job as head police dude than about his family.
The raw emotion Yoon Kang shows about this past event and his sister’s sudden kidnapping in the present, shows he is still carrying very deep wounds that have never healed.
Whilst they search for his sister, Yoon Kang and his dad finally manage to communicate properly with eachother, quite possibly only because Yoon Kang’s dad finally allows himself to be honest with his son. Yes he knows his son has blamed him for his mothers death, and maybe he didn’t exactly deserve it if the true full details of her death were made clear to Yoon Kang, however it seems to me that letting Yoon Kang hate him was a self inflicted punishment for his dad, because truly he does feel like he let his family down and deserved it.
As soon as the two clear the air and begin to understand eachother, Yoon Kang’s dad finally treating his son as a capable young man and not just a wayward youth to be scolded, they are immediately separated by death which is heartbreaking.
That scene where Yoon Kang kneels screaming over his father’s body in the rain as Soo-in and the soldiers all arrive is just painful to watch, for me and Soo-in, whose heart is clearly already breaking for this young man she has begun to understand and possibly love.
Next we see the bad guys put tremendous pressure on the king to adhere to false evidence that the now deceased head of police was a traitor. And the worst possible thing ever happens. The king betrays himself and his former loyal servant by sentencing his family members to death (Yoon Kang) and slavery (his little innocent sister). Horrifying.
I feel sick thinking about poor Yoon Kang’s little sister, and even worse when poor Yoon Kang can do nothing to save her, barely getting out of the city alive himself. It’s so sad for him. He loses his father, fails his sister, and then is forced to say goodbye to Soo-in just when his heart has opened to her, just when he has begun to discover all there is to life that he could have in the future if he wanted. It is heartbreaking because as Yoon Kang says to Soo-in after realising he is leaving her for good, for the first time in his life he has a dream, something that could make him truly happy, her.
He wanted to be beside her everyday, he wanted to talk with her everyday.
I love this scene because when Soo-in begins to cry you know she has understood what lies beneath his words, he loves her, he would have asked her to marry him, he was going to follow her forever.
Its so utterly sad.
And even worse is this couple’s final goodbye beside the little boat which is meant to take Yoon Kang away from his pursuers. Soo-in gives him her compass so he will always be able to find his way. And how they look at eachother, their worlds falling apart, devastated.
And then Soo-in runs after him as he leaves, throwing herself into his arms. Yoon Kang leans down for the sweetest, saddest, most desperate goodbye kiss ever. It breaks my heart.
As Soo-in leaves by horseback along the shore, soldiers are descending with arrows raining down and Yoon Kang is slowly floating out to sea, until suddenly he is shot down by a gunman (who needs to kill the police chief’s only son to avoid revenge being taken by Yoon Kang) and he falls into the sea.
Soo-in’s scream is just awful, raw and destroyed as she sees this man she loves die before her eyes. It is so excruciating and terrible. Like she is dying herself.
But we see that the bullet that kills Yoon Kang is actually caught by the compass that Soo-in gave him, saving his life.
Yet this scene worried me because although her love has saved him (in the physical form of the compass) we also see that the instrument that Soo-in gave to Yoon Kang to show him his way has been utterly destroyed, it can no longer be used to light his path. I feel like this means things will get much worse and Yoon Kang’s path much darker and murkier before it gets better.
The Middle of JOSEON GUNMAN.
Fast forward three years and we see our lovely Park Yoon Kang return to Joseon from Japan, now a business man extraordinaire and a sharp shooter to boot. Out for revenge, his plan is to use his new persona of Mr Hanjo to infiltrate and investigate the group of merchants who his father believed was behind the original gunmen, resulting in Yoon Kang’s father’s death.
I love this kind of tense storyline where we have Yoon Kang playing the role of Hanjo in front of his enemies, but also sadly in front of the people he loves too, his friend from the police and of course Soo-in, who herself has become jaded and withdrawn into a world of objects because of all she has experienced.
I like the change in Soo-in’s character, she is still herself but has lost that wide eyed wonder and certainly lost her belief that the world could ever change for the better. She is a shell of herself in many ways, still obsessed with objects from overseas but perhaps losing herself in them a little too much, a distraction from the hollowness that has invaded her since Yoon Kang’s death, from the pain of failing to save Yoon Kang’s sister (Yeon Ha) who has been a slave for three years now, lost and treated god knows how.
I also liked the way her state for the last three years is slightly alluded to by the other characters, they say that it is good she can even go outside now, that she is often seeing Yoon Kang’s face on the street, that she is very clearly ripped apart still from his loss, and perhaps just moving through the motions of life, living whilst breathing only and losing herself in objects and treasures to keep herself going.
And the fact that she has lost her hope and her dreams is the saddest thing. She no longer believes the world can change, that it could ever become a better place, and maybe even worse, she no longer cares to try.
When Yoon Kang comes face to face with Soo-in it is time for some serious acting on his part. He is clearly still utterly in love with her, but love is not something he is able to have at the moment and only vengeance and the search for his sister can fill his heart.
He has no room for anything else.
So he fights his feelings and treats Soo-in like a stranger, pushing her away and making sure she knows that she means nothing to him, that he is certainly not her long lost Yoon Kang.
As Yoon Kang investigates what exactly happened to cause his family to fall apart three years ago, he is thrown into action, ninja-ing around the place and fighting for his life in some very tense and fantastic action sequences. (Lee Jun Ki is so totally fantastic at the action stuff.)
And finally he hears that Yeon Ha has resurfaced, about to be shipped off to China as a slave. So he heads down to the port to save her.
And so do the police.
And all the bad guys.
But Yoon Kang is a crafty (and totally awesome ninja-ish) guy and he manages to fight off the Head Merchant Man and his gang (Merchant Choi – his father’s killer) and Yoon Kang manages to escape, but he isn’t able to save Yeon Ha.
But he does come face to face with Soo-in, and though he has his lower face covered surely she must know it is him! Those eyes! (Lee Jun Ki’s lovely eyes!) Not every man in the world has eyes quite like that and she was so close to him, surely she must recognise his beautiful tortured eyes?
All this hidden identity stuff is freaking delicious! I adore it, it really makes for such incredible gut-wrenching angst in all the best ways!
Back to being nasty Hanjo again, Yoon Kang ends up alone with Soo-in in the forest, off to inspect the gunpowder she is meant to he an expert in.
Spending time alone is quite an interesting development and I liked their new dynamic, which I think changes significantly when there is no audience to watch how Hanjo treats her. Yoon Kang still tries to act like Hanjo would but there is much less bite to it now, and it even sometimes feels like he is enjoying teasing her a little maybe, just enjoying being next to her again. It is quite lovely actually and Yoon Kang has moments with her where he does completely forget himself, either awkward and strange in her presence or because of her proximity, or moments when he is being genuine, being himself again.
It is such a beautiful series of interactions between the former couple as he confirms that she truly hasn’t forgotten him, nor will she ever, but also that he is still as affected by her presence as he ever was all those years ago.
Gah! These two!
And in his mission to find Yeon Ha, Yoon Kang finally tells the truth to someone about his identity, his best friend, Goofy Policeman. I like this scene because here we truly see the old Yoon Kang, and we see how happy he is to be able to do this, be himself and see his old friend again.
But we also finally hear him voice his thoughts towards Soo-in as well. He cannot tell her who he is because he is a fugitive, he will constantly be in danger and he will not involve her in that. She needs to forget him. It will be better for her if she does.
And though it’s so terribly sad and hard to keep the truth from her, (and normally I really dislike a noble sacrifice,) I can totally understand where Yoon Kang is coming from in this.
He can’t marry her.
He can’t be with her.
Unless he completely clears his father’s name he can never go under his true identity in Joseon again (and I don’t think he has even thought that far ahead yet only because it is such a daunting mountain and saving Yeon Ha is his first priority) so he has nothing to offer Soo-in.
She can’t go to Japan and live with him there, and they can’t be together in Joseon with Yoon Kang pretending to be Hanjo forever whilst the Head Merchant and all the others who killed his father and enslaved his sister just wander around free right under his nose.
Therefore Park Yoon Kang really cannot see any future for him and Soo-in and he wants to protect her even the small bit that he can, which means he will continue to deny who he is to her and she should forget he ever existed.
And that folks? That is a freaking noble sacrifice done right!
As Yoon Kang gets closer to discovering his sister, the Head Merchant Choi Won Shin is closing in too. Choi can’t openly accuse Hanjo because he desperately needs Hanjo’s company’s support, but he also can’t let it go if Hanjo really is Park Yoon Kang. So by tracking down little Yeon Ha, Merchant Choi has the perfect weapon to use against Yoon Kang, placing his sister before him when he is wearing the guise of Hanjo.
It is the most awful thing in the world to see Yoon Kang push his sister coldly away, slapping her as he screams he isn’t who she thinks he is. She is so fragile and has been through the worst hell on earth, so it is really such a cruel blow to her to find her Oraboni again only to be pushed away.
And of course it breaks Yoon Kang’s heart to do it, and we see him collapse into a sobbing mess when he returns home, not only having been forced to pretend he didn’t know his own sister, but even having to leave her behind alone in the home of their father’s suspected killer.
In his quest to save his sister, Yoon Kang is unable to just barge into Merchant Choi’s home and rescue her, (Gunmen! Gunmen everywhere! ) so he has to come up with a better plan. And he turns to Soo-in, who is already feeling utterly confused about Hanjo’s identity. There are these moments of clarity with him, where it is impossible not to believe he is Yoon Kang when he speaks to her genuinely, or even throws himself in front of a possible explosion just to save her. So I doubly loved this moment where he asks her for her help in creating a smoke bomb. He doesn’t tell her what it is for, but finally Soo-in is getting closer to the truth and I just love that he enlisted her help in this.
I know that no matter how much Yoon Kang wants to believe he can continually push Soo-in away and watch her choose someone else (handsome scholar second lead Ho Kyung of course!) I also think he wants more than anything to tell her the truth, to be with her again.
But even so he will hold out to the end, denying his identity constantly because for her to know who he is for her to truly be in danger. It will take something drastic to change his mind.
So meanwhile, because the mining explosion Soo-in was trying to demonstrate has failed, Merchant Choi Won Shin and his interesting daughter Hye Won desperately need an alternative expert, and Choi finds a way.
He has already received what he wanted from Yeon Ha’s presence in his house (well maybe not everything he wanted) and so he swaps her for a gunpowder expert, and she ends up in the house of a repulsive lord who wants her for her young girl body.
It is truly a horrifying turn of events, and although Hye Won allows her father to make the trade, she is certainly conflicted about it.
This girl Hye Won is such an interesting character, I really want to dislike her because she is a rival to Soo-in in Yoon Kang’s affections (well kind of), but somehow she just makes me respect her with her level head, her brave demeanor in the face of certain death and her constant composure. I can even understand her interest in Hanjo, he is a strong man who knows who he is and what he wants, someone she could admire because that is who she herself wants to be. Hanjo appears to be in control of every situation constantly, and it is her and her father who must dance at his beck and call.
In fact, Hye Won is actually a pretty damn cool girl…… right up until this issue with Yeon Ha.
She is clearly very unhappy with what her father is doing, sending Yeon Ha off to be raped by an old horrible man, yet she still lets it happen which does mean that she believes the business is more important than a young girl’s life. I think although she couldn’t have really gone up against her father exactly, she could have perhaps let it slip to Soo-in, her best friend who she knows has been searching for this girl for three years whilst sleep walking through life.
Yet she doesn’t.
So this was the first time I thought maybe Hye Won really is terrible and now I can dislike her like I want to, except then Hye Won has the most heartrending conversation with her father and she makes it incredibly clear that because of his decision to send Yeon Ha away, she is losing faith in him, a slippery slope because as we know, the Head Merchant Choi has plenty of terrible secrets hidden from his daughter, and once she finds them out she will be so unhappy.
I do think Hye Won is a better more moral person than her dad, and her conversation with him was pretty intense, revealing that she was once a slave herself who was treated appallingly, raped and beaten and humiliated and shamed. Fuck!
So once again I can’t dislike her, even though it is terrible she didn’t save Yeon Ha, I also understand that doing so would have jeopardised everything her father has built in his merchant empire, and she really loves him and adores him, and she doesn’t want to believe he is wrong, she wants to love him and believe he is the good man she wants him to be.
I feel a lot of sadness for this girl, because she will be faced with some very hard truths which will be very painful and she will need to make a choice, does she follow her beloved father blindly, or does she decide for herself what her own path is, no matter the consequence?
Back to Soo-in’s smoke bomb, I really love this as the bomb is the beginning of a real partnership again between her and Yoon Kang (or Hanjo as she thinks he is), and she will know for sure that Hanjo is involved in more than he is letting on once she hears of the attack on that creepy noble’s house.
And when Yoon Kang attacks it is really very exciting, smoke everywhere, gunmen waiting to ambush him as he comes tearing in on horseback, and just in time too. Yeon Ha is in serious trouble, she has avoided being raped (thank fucking god) but now her life is in danger, though her Oraboni manages to save her.
And gosh if this reunion isn’t a powerful one!
Everything falls away as these siblings reunite, with Yoon Kang already sobbing with guilt and begging forgiveness not only for having to pretend to be cruel Hanjo last time they met, but also for leaving her behind to be enslaved all those years ago. It’s not his fault of course but he still feels truly shattered because he has not been able to offer his sister the protection an older brother should.
But Yeon Ha has her Oraboni back and so nothing else matters in the world, she is no longer alone.
It is pretty tense as the two try and run from this terribly dangerous battle scene, gunshots firing at them from all directions. But Yoon Kang comes on horseback and rips Yeon Ha from the gunmen and the two ride off into the night.
I like so very much all their quiet reunion moments. So so much. They are heartbreaking, beautiful and so utterly sad and distressing, because you can’t help but think of what has happened to them both and how much they have changed. Yeon Ha is so lovely and has endured so much pain for her young age, yet she still wants to protect her brother from knowing too much, she just wants him to be happy that she is okay and they are together again.
But of course they can’t be together yet. It’s quite sad in a way that it isn’t an option for Yoon Kang to jump ship with Yeon Ha and live somewhere hidden and remote with her. I think that would be better for Yeon Ha, but I can also imagine the fire of injustice inside Yoon Kang would just grow and grow and grow, eventually eating him alive and turning him into god knows what.
Yoon Kang needs to discover the truth, he needs to avenge his father and clear his father’s name. I don’t think he has any other choice.
But he sure risks it all to do so, gambling on plans that could so easily go wrong and end in death. Its pretty scary.
Of course Merchant Choi is positive now that he knows exactly who Hanjo really is, especially after Yeon Ha’s rescue and disappearance. And he is pushing hard!
He sets up a trap to assassinate Hanjo/Yoon Kang, and even though Yoon Kang knows exactly what is going on, he still walks right into it, his only hope for survival being that his trusty sidekick dude, Sang Chu, will be able to create a sufficient alibi for Yoon Kang by pretending to be the mysterious gunman and breaking into Choi’s warehouse and stealing his personal documents.
So much could have gone wrong in this plan but luckily for everyone, it doesn’t.
It is so close to Hanjo being shot here, but in the end it is Choi who is destroyed. His personal file has been stolen, he now believes he was wrong about Hanjo’s secret identity, and even worse he has insulted (very badly) this one man he desperately needs to secure his business ventures. And of course this one man promptly pulls out of their contract and leaves Choi high and dry, desperate and totally about to go crazy.
Meanwhile Soo-in is changing. Her burning curiosity has returned, her thirst for finding out how things work has come back to her and she has also been seeing a different side of Hanjo too. Not only has he been saying progressive (and totally swoon-worthy for a woman in her position) things about women being equal to men and allowing her to learn about gunpowder from his technician, but she is also pretty damn sure that he has used her secret smoke bomb to break into the Minister of Justice’s household and assassinate the Minister. Which is kind of sexy? Sort of. (yes it is)
And slowly she is hearing little details that are making her re-evaluate him all over again.
She knows the gunman took a slave girl who used to belong to her friend Hye Won’s household and then finally, finally, she hears the name of the slave girl.
Not only has Hye Won lied to her and done the unthinkable, swapped the girl that Soo-in most wants to save in this world and sent her somewhere awful only for a technician in return, but this can only mean one thing about Hanjo’s true identity.
He is Park Yoon Kang.
Soo-in is a mess of nerves and emotions as she arrives at Hanjo’s house, immediately sneaking into his room to find some sort of proof of the truth.
I love love love this scene.
The feeling of it is so strong, almost terrifying as she walks so slowly in his room, looking at his things and trying to control herself. It is so slow, so deliberate and just beautiful, like she cannot breath and is only just holding herself together. It is such a moment of trepidation and baited breath that we see Soo-in slowly opening Hanjo’s drawers as she peers inside.
Until finally she finds a box.
Inside lies the compass she gave to Park Yoon Kang, now broken by the bullet hole, proof not only of Hanjo’s true identity, but even more importantly proof that Park Yoon Kang still loves her, he has kept this relic close all these years only because he still loves her.
Soo-in collapses onto the ground, gasping and sobbing.
And when Hanjo returns home she just stares at him, a mess of tears and unable to speak at all.
But their reunion is cut short, because right at that moment the police investigating the assassination of the Minister who died (with the help of a smoke bomb) have followed the trail right back to Soo-in! And now she knows the truth about Hanjo she will never give him up for the world.
This show is so tense and powerful! I am constantly reminding myself I should breathe whilst watching!
Soo-in is one brave strong woman, and now she knows who Hanjo really is she will never implicate him. Even when the evil Vice Premier dude (Ho Kyung’s daddy) gets involved, using this as the perfect opportunity to frame Soo-in’s dad, the newly promoted head of the enlightenment department (or close enough).
So Soo-in has a choice, give in and implicate Hanjo, or maybe accidentally destroy her entire family in the cross fire.
But the poor girl has only just realised that Park Yoon Kang still lives and she cannot, absolutely cannot, make any choice that might compromise that.
So Soo-in is tortured as the officials try their best to get her to turn against her dad. And then her dad is tortured to try and get her to confess. And there is only so much pain a man can bear to see inflicted on his beloved daughter….
These scenes were decidedly difficult to watch and I think Nam Sang Mi is an incredible actress (whom I constantly just adore more and more), the scene where she watches Yoon Kang die and now also this torture scene as well both being so realistic that I felt uncomfortable to be watching her, like I am actually viewing someone truly feeling the pain of loss or torture. It is amazing but also a little bit unsettling to watch.
Park Yoon Kang of course isn’t going to just watch it all happen and he marches into the office to turn the blame on himself. Except of course the Vice Premier dude doesn’t want to hear it and sends him on his way, as Yoon Kang screams and screams in front of everyone for Soo-in. Whoah.
Everyone sees this intense reaction coming from a man who shouldn’t in fact really feel so strongly for his almost employee, and I know it gives Hye Won pause.
And I think if her father wasn’t so deep down a dark hole of despair right then he might also have seen something very strange in Hanjo’s reaction too, but really I think Choi has given up on the Park Yoon Kang connection. He needs Hanjo desperately and that matters more to him than whatever identity hides below Hanjo’s merchant exterior.
That night a distraught Hanjo visits Soo-in in the gaol. She is bruised and pale and destroyed, dressed all in white and covered in blood and it is horrifying for him to see. He hasn’t realised yet that she is aware of who he is so he cannot understand why she is protecting him so adamantly, but he is wracked with guilt because she is going through it because of him.
She reaches up and grasps his hand in hers and it really takes him back, staring at her in surprise. And then with tears streaming down his face he grasps her hands back.
It is such a powerful moment because Yoon Kang has fully let down his guard, but he still doesn’t realise that Soo-in has figured it all out.
And it doesn’t look like she will tell him at all.
Sweetheart second male Ho Kyung also steps up during this awful time, finding Hanjo (and seeing how similar he looks to Yoon Kang) and yelling at him to save Soo-in, which of course Hanjo is more than willing to do. I think it is a big step for Ho Kyung, only because his actions lead to the imprisonment of his own father, a man with whom he shares an incredibly troubled relationship. They obviously share some good early history, and that makes their current situation even worse. And Ho Kyung makes the choice to save Soo-in and her dad over his own father, meaning his alliances are laid bare.
It also shows Park Yoon Kang that Ho Kyung is a good choice for Soo-in, he has stepped up for her on more than one occasion and clearly cares for her. Ho Kyung is illegitimate but Soo-in’s dad seems fairly enlightened so may not mind this, and I think if it were not for the very existence of Park Yoon Kang then Ho Kyung and Soo-in might have been very happy together.
But how can Soo-in ever love another now? She has held out for Park Yoon Kang for three years and now he has returned from the dead.
But she is planning to let him go.
She has seen the danger he is surrounded in, she has guessed what his plans are and she knows she can only be a burden to him, someone he will want to protect. So she pretends she doesn’t know who he is to save him the heartache.
Meanwhile Soo-in and her dad are freed from their imprisonment and Park Yoon Kang apologises to her and her father, this awful guilt in his eyes.
Once she is back home, Soo-in grips the compass she has taken from Hanjo’s room and cries in pain and sadness and gladness too. He is alive but he can never really be hers. So Saaaaaad!
Soo-in is also still so upset at Hye Won for deceiving her about Yeon Ha and when Hye Won tries to counter that there was nothing she could do, Soo-in clearly doesn’t believe her. Poor Hye Won loses her friend (she really did screw up though!) and then realises also that she has maybe somehow lost Hanjo too. He comes to visit Soo-in and I think Hye Won can tell already that there is something between them. Hanjo went above and beyond to save Soo-in yet normally he is so uncaring of anyone.
And Hye Won’s dad is also running into trouble and for the first time in this drama we are given a very saddening glimpse into what exactly drives Choi to be the ruthless man that he is.
His family, his desire for himself and his daughter to live as human beings in a world where nobles cannot treat them like dirt just because of their lower birth. And we see how he has been tangled up with the overall plot to kill Park Yoon Kang’s father as well. He works for the conspirators because it was a way out of poverty, of slavery, it gave him a position in the world. The way Choi’s eyes fill with tears and rage as he is called a dog by his employer, it makes me sympathise with him in a way I hadn’t before.
Yes he still steps over others uncaringly to get what he wants, but he is at core a desperate man who has been so low he could not protect his own daughter from rape and humiliation, and what wouldn’t he do to provide a future for her where she is treated as a human being, with respect? He is a father foremost and I think he will get his hands very dirty for what he wants.
And what he wants is a future where money equals power, so he and Hye Won are never again forced to sell their souls for the cutoffs bestowed upon them by powerful lords with good family names. And I cannot really begrudge him that.
But what he needs in order to create this future is Hanjo and the business deal with Yamamoto. And he is willing to forget about Park Yoon Kang and his dignity and get on his knees and beg for it. A scene which made me feel decidedly uncomfortable. Park Yoon Kang has reason to hate this man but I think even he realises he has pushed too far when Hye Won walks in on this awful scene, a witness to her father’s shame.
All Choi wants is to live in a world where he and his daughter are never again forced to bow down or beg to anyone. Which is a reasonable and even admirable dream. But I think Choi’s hands are too dirty and his sins too great already for him to ever achieve this. And it makes me feel awful for Hye Won, whom I cannot help but like and feel impressed with no matter how much I want to dislike anyone who will try and take Park Yoon Kang away from Soo-in.
And that’s what I adore about this show, what makes any show totally great, characters with depth and personality, characters who are not all good or all bad. Even Park Yoon Kang, in making Choi kneel down to him when he still doesn’t know whether or not Choi did actually kill his father, showed some terrible darkness. It gave him pleasure to see that man on his knees because it means he is winning.
And yet I don’t like Park Yoon Kang any less for this. He is a layered and complicated man, a man who has gone through absolute hell and still possibly has even deeper to sink.
But it goes to show that maybe these two men aren’t really all that different. Each have darkness in them, caused by their painful pasts, and each has the capabilities to do terrible things in the name of revenge or to save the people they love.
The only real difference is that Choi is much further down this murky path than Yoon Kang is at the moment, and also that Yoon Kang has people whom he can rely on to pull him back from the edge.
I think in this episode Hye Won seeing her father on his knees really brought Yoon Kang back to reality. Her horror made him realise he had taken it too far.
And later, Soo-in’s obvious love in front of Hanjo as she speaks of how incredibly grateful and happy she is that Park Yoon Kang must still be alive, makes him remember that he is loved, that going too dark would be a bad thing. Going so far that there is no return, just means there would be no life beyond all this for him, and isn’t that just what he is fighting for? The chance to stand as Park Yoon Kang in Joseon again, his sister and Soo-in beside him and his father’s name cleared.
Meanwhile, Soo-in has made the decision to keep the truth from Yoon Kang, she doesn’t want him to have to worry about her on top of everything else he must endure, but she has clearly also made the decision to do everything and anything in her power to assist him on his journey. Which is really confusing Hanjo, who still hasn’t figured out that she knows.
There is this beautiful scene though which betrays just how badly he wishes she did know the truth and I love that despite the fact he knows he is right in keeping Soo-in apart from all this and not telling her the truth, another part of him desperately more than anything wants her to know who he is.
It is this perfect war between what he knows is better for Soo-in and what he wants for himself.
The scene where he slowly checks whether the compass is still there was beautiful, and I loved how he hesitates, just for a moment clearly hoping that it will be gone when he checks, that maybe Soo-in risked her life for him, for Park Yoon Kang, because she still loves him.
But of course the compass has been replaced by Soo-in and Hanjo is left wondering why her attitude towards him has changed so much, why she is always helping him.
And Soo-in is unable to keep away. She may be trying to keep it a secret that she knows but that is as far as her self control extends and every chance she gets she is near him.
And things change fast!
Park Yoon Kang figures out that Choi must be the original gunman afterall, Ho Kyung saves Soo-in’s dad from death and starts to be clearer about exactly what he is feeling for Soo-in by making pointed comments about what he wants. Hye Won figures out the whole truth and makes her decision, a shocking one, to hell with Soo-in and to hell with her father, what she wants is Hanjo, what she wants is Park Yoon Kang.
And she’s not at all afraid to show it, telling Yoon Kang to let Soo-in go and telling Soo-in in no uncertain terms that she has her eyes on Hanjo and that Soo-in should return to her place, she should marry Ho Kyung and she will grow to love him and have a quiet life.
Holy fuck, I can’t believe she said all that!
I still can’t help but be fascinated by Hye Won’s character because she is so strong and she knows what she wants but I also feel like she doesn’t understand love at all, even though when she spoke to Soo-in she acted like the older Unni telling her young naive friend that although Soo-in cannot see it now, really she will fall in love with Ho Kyung because he is simple like she is.
How completely patronising!
Soo-in understands love so much more fully than Hye Won, she has loved the same man for a long time now, even when she believed he was dead, and the fact that Hye Won thinks she can just tell these people how to feel (tells Soo-in she should just be with Ho Kyung and tells Park Yoon Kang to forget Soo-in and love herself instead) shows me she has no idea of what love is.
Love cannot be changed because of sheer willpower, you cannot tell someone how to feel and then expect their heart to comply.
In many ways Hye Won is not as smart or worldly as she believes she is and I particularly didn’t like the feeling that she was looking down on Soo-in in this scene, as if she believes Soo-in somehow isn’t as strong or as modern a woman as she is herself.
Soo-in may not have endured being a slave, but she has lived through many other hardships and proved her own strength on many occasions and is in no way any less deserving than Hye Won is. Hye Won is so interesting because sometimes beneath her cool calm exterior, this wounded animal lashes out. There is a spiteful cruelty lurking there, though it doesn’t make me like her less somehow, because I can understand where this spite comes from.
Meanwhile, Park Yoon Kang and Head Merchant Choi are circling closer to eachother, and finally during a tense fight scene Choi rips off Yoon Kang’s mask and the whole truth is revealed.
Whoah! So unexpected yet gratifying!
The best thing about this development is that now both men know the true identity and history of the other, but neither is really in the position to do anything about it, still needing the other in their long term plans!
And then finally, finally, Yoon Kang learns the truth about Soo-in, that she knows exactly who he is, and in a last ditch effort to cut off ties he tells her to forget him, yells that he forgot her a long time ago.
With tears in her eyes Soo-in asks him if he really means it, will he not regret it if she is no longer his?
And then as she walks away, Yoon Kang’s face just breaks apart and he can hardly breathe. He has done the right thing, he wants to protect her, keep her safe, but the effort is actually destroying him.
And he cannot do it.
He runs after her and grabs her into his chest to hold her close as they both cry.
Poor Yoon Kang, he really wants to do the right thing but it’s too hard for him without Soo-in. He truly loves her. After all, is he willing to lose her in order to clear his father’s name? And if he does clear his father’s name and is able to stand in front of Soo-in as himself, as Park Yoon Kang, what if by then she has moved on from him because he lied and said he didn’t want her anymore, is any of it worth it?
I love that it is only Soo-in inside his heart. I love that it’s only ever been her.
And I love that he isn’t strong enough to push her away.
But nothing is ever as easy as one would hope (and also…. this drama is only half way through!). Park Yoon Kang is so totally ready to end this, he is so totally ready to set up a home with Yeon Ha and Soo-in and just forget about all this rubbish, so (after a sweet reunion kiss) he runs off to Merchant Choi’s house and just goes all out. But right at the point he is really trying very hard to kill Choi, Hye Won walks in. And then everything goes to shit.
Choi pleads his case, saying he is just a slave and he does what he’s told because he has to in order to protect his daughter. Which is all true and though Park Yoon Kang wants so badly to hate this man he is still not yet callous and cold enough to commit an outright murder of an unarmed man. But he does try.
But as Choi is arrested everything turns around. The Head Merchant continues to deny anything happened at all, and Park Yoon Kang’s identity comes out loud and clear, leading both of them to an audience before the king.
And once again the King is totally blindsided by his evil courtiers and is forced to let Choi go as an innocent man, and against his will orders Park Yoon Kang to be beheaded!
I kind of hate this king.
I know it is not his fault that he is completely powerless, I know he is trying hard to change the system for the better so he doesn’t have to answer to all these terrible courtiers, but still….. he can’t protect those that try to help him. People give their lives for him and then, because he is on the brink of losing his own position he just does what the courtiers want and orders his loyal servants killed.
I know he doesn’t like it. But the fact is, he still does do it.
And what is the point of being loyal unto death to a man who is not willing to stick his own neck out to change the system too.
Sometimes this show is just so tense and unexpected that it is a mission to watch. In a really good way though, but I must admit this next episode actually made me feel sick afterwards it was just that intense. I couldn’t really deal with it.
Hye Won has followed her father to the end, and by lying for him in front of the king she has saved her dad but lost her best and only friend Soo-in, the man she loves Park Yoon Kang who is the first person who made her feel proud to be who she is, and perhaps worst of all, she has lost her own integrity.
I think Hye Won is really a very tragic figure and I think she seems very strong but really she is very isolated. Because of her status as a merchant she is unable to socialise in the same circles as other welloff women (or men) her own age, yet she is still of a higher status than servants and slaves too. She is lucky to have someone like Soo-in who doesn’t care about things like that, but by becoming a rival in love and making the decision to save her father rather than do what is right (which is a dark road to choose but come on… he is her father! And she knows he has sacrificed everything for her in order to keep her safe. Including his own pride. I cannot blame her for her choice. It is a terrible one) but she loses Soo-in for good.
And Hye Won also clearly feels by choosing her father she has betrayed herself and she attempts to go and make it on her own as a merchant, wanting to prove to her dad that it can be done without having to lean on nobles and be their dogs.
But it all goes horribly wrong. She loses everything, and when she meets an escaped Park Yoon Kang who tells her he was never once interested in gaining her heart and that no matter what he will kill her father, Hye Won just breaks.
It is horrifying to watch her slowly walk out into the water, ready to end everything. It nearly killed me. And when Choi manages to save her at the last moment, crying that he cannot exist without her, crying that his wife died of starvation to feed her as a child while he could do nothing but watch, it is just gut wrenching. It is horrific.
These guys may be on the opposite side to our hero but they are not exactly bad guys either. Everytime Choi does something terrible (like condemn Park Yoon Kang to death and feel damn happy about it) I feel like he has gone too far and I can hate him now, but no, these people are real and I can understand and sympathise with them. They are tragic and have had a truly terrible existence.
Is it so wrong to do anything, even something terrible, to ensure your daughter is never raped a second time? I mean, obviously it is wrong because Choi is badly hurting other people, even able to send little Yeon Ha off to the same fate he is trying to protect his daughter from without a second thought, but it still breaks my heart.
I want something better for these people than the hell they exist in. It is so terribly truly sad and watching Choi hold his near drowned daughter and cry, I can understand how he has become the way he is.
And Park Yoon Kang witnesses this scene too, saved from execution by the King he has gone rogue because he cannot trust the authorities to do the right thing, and he has learned the hardest most terrible lesson from Choi during their recent bout of push and pull.
Sympathy and hesitation are useless in this world. You must be hard and merciless.
I think it is a terrifying thing for our hero to have learned.
When he next faces Choi he does not hesitate. And Choi dies.
It is a shocking development, and Yoon Kang has gone somewhere very dark he hadn’t been before, and is left crying in pain on this clifftop having achieved what he set out to do, what he desperately needed, vengeance. But I don’t think he feels any better. It must be such a hollow victory after what he witnessed between Choi and Hye Won after she nearly drowned. Choi is not the man giving orders so really nothing has changed.
Except surely Yoon Kang has changed.
Actually I was a bit sad to find out that Choi didn’t really die, not because I wanted him dead or anything but because I kind of liked the huge about-turn the drama would have to take by killing him off so soon and unexpectedly, and also the dark place it would push Yoon Kang.
But still even with him alive I love how this drama is still slowly unfurling, heading into areas I hadn’t really expected.
With her father believed dead, Hye Won is filled with fire and rage. And when she finally comes face to face with Yoon Kang afterwards she tells him flat out that she is going to kill him.
But she also says something that rocks him to his very core. Yoon Kang has done to her exactly what Hye Won’s father did to Yoon Kang all those years ago. He has murdered her beloved father and left the man’s innocent child filled with burning revenge and hatred.
I loved this scene because although Yoon Kang has been feeling uneasy about what he has done, and Soo-in has already been telling him he needs to find a better way to go about his plans, I still don’t think it hits him right until this moment that he is literally becoming the exact man that he hates, that he has just inflicted onto another innocent person the great pain of losing someone they love and rely on.
It doesn’t matter whether the act is justified or not, Yoon Kang realises he is treading down a path that will take him somewhere dark he should not go, a path with no return (except luckily for him he didn’t really kill Choi and therefore has immediate instant redemption… yay!?).
And once the decision has been made to join hands with the police and king to try and clear his father’s name in the (sort of) legal way, Yoon Kang immediately falls into his next path, in quite a natural and believable way.
It finally comes to light that little Yeon Ha is perhaps much more damaged than she was letting on, that perhaps her time as a slave was much worse than she wants Yoon Kang to know, just another reason for Yoon Kang to proceed the right way and ensure they can live on the right side of the law in the future.
And when Je Mi (Hanjo’s book keeping girl and runaway badly treated slave) is rounded up and sent back to her previous owner along with a bunch of others, all beaten and bloody, Yoon Kang goes off to save her.
But what he finds is a fury at the injustice of it all, amd instead of only saving Je Mi he saves the whole lot of mistreated people and leaves behind a tale of a heroic gunman who is freeing slaves.
I loved how naturally the storyline moved towards this new purpose for Yoon Kang, I really did. The whole hero by night, saviour of the people thing can be cheesy as hell if not handled in the right way, but Yoon Kang just falls into this role accidentally and I believed in it.
He isn’t some amazing hero because we know he didn’t set out to free everybody and its only because of his own personal experience with Yeon Ha that he has even thought about how terrible slavery is.
But to the common people hearing the rumour he sure comes across that way, an incredible hero, though we know if Je Mi hadn’t been taken he would never have gone to save the others who had.
Because frankly the boy has been super busy, balancing his love life, family and revenging all whilst dressing up as a different Japanese merchant Yamamoto. But in trying to deceive the big head honcho bad guy, the man behind basically all the terribleness who opposes the King and the enlightenment movement, (who looks like a large ancient turtle in my opinion, like his head will suck back up into his shell at any moment), Yoon Kang has also been seen again by the totally not dead Choi. Who recognises his face!
Although I was a little sad that Choi came back to life, it was good timing for Hye Won who, having failed to kill Park Yoon Kang in vengeance and also having held a gun against her former best friend Soo-in’s head, decides she has nothing left to live for. But Choi reurns just in time, and this time he makes sure she won’t treat her life so lightly in the future if he dies for real.
And together father and daughter both take another step over to the darkside, plotting on how best to get themselves in the best position for the forthcoming chaos.
Park Yoon Kang meanwhile has infiltrated the evil Turtle Minister’s house and taken the parchment that proves his (and his friends) plans to rebel against the king. And unfortunately this move just pushes things to happen faster and in no time at all the palace is attacked for a coup!
Now I love that Park Yoon Kang’s first reaction to the rebellion is to grab Soo-in and run, but of course Soo-in has other plans, being loyal to the royal family and a true believer that this particular king can make a difference for their world. She talks Yoon Kang into saving the Queen and they end up in a small village far away with the totally righteous and very likeable Ho Kyung.
I love how Soo-in has become this voice of reason for Yoon Kang, constantly reminding him of his duties to his sister and making him remember himself whenever he seems close to forgetting and going off the deep end. I love how strongly he relies on her and trusts her judgement, that he doesn’t just treat her like a silly girl who has no sway over his life or their situation. He clearly admires Soo-in’s strength and smarts, which I really like.
In fact I really like their whole relationship vibe. It may not be as swoony or fiery as the romance in other dramas, but these two have something very quiet and real going on, something very believable that makes you think if they can get through all these awful trials then they would actually do well together living a quiet life and raising some kids. They both appreciate and respect the other, depend on each other and don’t cause unnecessary drama with stupid misunderstandings or stupid noble sacrifices.
They just talk to eachother until they have solved any problems and quietly get on with it. It may not be as dramatic or passionate a relationship but I really do like the solidness of it, the dependency they have on each other and most of all the trust. It is a much more realistic portrayal of a romance really, more true to life.
It’s kind of gorgeous and lovely in a really quiet understated way.
But next poor Soo-in loses her dad who is standing by the King (figuratively) during the rebellion which is terrible for her and also begins to turn a few things on their head. (Also I wish when Merchant Choi had died earlier he had really died, because I kept waiting for Soo-in’s dad to pop back up like a daisy too, so I lost some of the dramaticness of his passing because I never quite believed he really was dead! Sigh.)
Now both Yoon Kang and Soo-in’s fathers have died for their king, both loyal good men. And what did they get in return?
Not a hell of a lot!
The King pardons Merchant Choi and the Vice Premier dude (Ho Kyung’s evil dad) because he needs their network of power. But it also means the King sacrifices what is right.
Yoon Kang is left with no sense of real justice at all. Yes his name is cleared, his father’s name is cleared. He is free.
But so is Merchant Choi.
So is Ho Kyung’s dad.
What was is all for?
What is the point of protecting the King with your life when he has no respect for it? He sacrifices justice for power and safety. And in doing so the King loses his loyal subjects.
And Soo-in goes through a similar understanding. Whilst she risked her life to protect the Queen, her father was killed. And for what? To see men like Merchant Choi raised up to rule over the lower classes? To see merchant Choi partner with the Japanese in trading until the country is drained dry of its foodstuffs, until the people are starving?
And the king just lets it happen because he is idealistic but not as willing to sacrifice himself for a good cause as he is to sacrifice others. He chooses power and Merchant Choi and Ho Kyung’s dad over what is right.
The ending of JOSEON GUNMAN (sort of).
And so Yoon Kang and Soo-in are dragged into a different plot, this time we have the scholars of enlightenment deciding that the King must he stopped as he has become corrupt.
I really like this angle.
I don’t know enough about Korean history so I never expected this interesting about-turn in the story, where suddenly Yoon Kang and Soo-in are drawn into this treasonous plot to take over the government (but leave the figureheads of the King and Queen in place). It was so naturally done that they both, for independent reasons, end up disillusioned with the way things never change, and suddenly both want to fight for something bigger than just revenge or one single case of injustice, suddenly changing the whole of Joseon seems incredibly important, and even attainable.
Soo-in becomes a court maid to spy on the Queen and Yoon Kang begins to train the new rebellion army.
But as we watch they are both being manipulated by Yoon Kang’s old teacher, who uses one against the other to get what he wants with no scruples on how he gets there. Yes the abolition of slavery is a freaking good cause, but if you reach it by playing dirty, then do you still deserve to say you were completely in the right? Can you still stand tall and justified?
And of course there is no black and white in war. Which we see incredibly clearly as the coup begins with warriors arriving at a party to slay all the officials there.
All the old unarmed helpless officials.
It actually made me a little sick to watch the coup, because no matter how right their reasons and hopes for the future may be, it is still sickening to watch the murder of unarmed men. But of course to change the world it is surely unavoidable to spill blood and this was certainly a bloodier time in history….still, I felt sick to watch it.
Poor idealistic Ho Kyung abandons his post to save his father when he learns of the coup, just another man manipulated by the Teacher (sorry I forget his name!) into doing something against his nature, and we see his father’s realisation of his son’s betrayal. It is awful to see Ho Kyung’s face in this moment. He has betrayed and been betrayed and he doesn’t know what is right anymore. His father dies in his arms and it is the worst thing I have ever seen.
And when Ho Kyung later confronts the Teacher it is even more heartbreaking. Ho Kyung is such a sad tragic figure, this scene just raw and lost. Soo-in realises her mistake, having been cruel and furious at him for so long not realising that he was undercover, and now she sees that because he chose to help the coup Ho Kyung’s father is dead.
But it’s only the beginning of an absolute bloodbath.
The King and Queen are moved to a smaller and more easily defendable palace, but things begin to go wrong, a servant is murdered and it becomes clearer and clearer that Teacher is working differently to Yoon Kang and Soo-in. He has called in the Japanese and made a secret deal with them, despite Yoon Kang’s warning.
And then Choi gets involved too, trying to raise a merchant army to save the King and Queen. But to do it legitimately they need a seal from the commerce department in the palace, which Yoon Kang is out to stop.
This is such a tense scene, so full on. Hye Won and her father stalk Yoon Kang around a dark department and then they come face to face with eachother and the father shoots the daughter in the darkness.
It is awful.
Choi carries Hye Won to the doctor but they are too late. With her last breath she tells him the old days were better, that back then they didn’t need the world, they only needed hot rice and eachother.
And they were happy.
It is the most awful thing ever!!!!.
It is heartrending because Hye Won was always such a truly tragic figure, she was always pitiable even though she walked the line between good and something else. But she didn’t deserve to die and the moment she does she renders everything she and particularly her father have ever worked for completely senseless. Useless. Pointless.
It really was all for her. And yet it never made her happy. None of it. It is such a painful thing because I think it must be the moment that Choi really truly realises that he has failed her as her father. Not because he let her die, but because he couldn’t make her happy, he didn’t understand it himself. He has lived and breathed for her and god knows he loves her, he will and has done anything to keep her safe and looked after, and then in one swipe it is all gone.
And there is nothing left.
What was any of it for? What was the use of saving her from killing herself, what was the use of all those painful years of survival. Not living like a person, just survival. It’s so awful and gut wrenching because it is so true to life.
Not everything ends in a neat little bow.
It is all so futile. So ugly.
But for now at least, things are going well for Yoon Kang and Soo-in as both look on with happiness as the King declares that all slaves will be free. But Ho Kyung watches and feels no satisfaction. It is the moment he has dreamed of for his entire life but now he has accomplished his dream I think the price he paid was too dear. Already he has lost sight of the goodness in this change because of what he was forced to sacrifice to gain it. And of course what he sacrificed was not only his father but also a part of himself, that idealistic part that believed without a doubt that the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. Now he can see the gray and he can see within himself.
And even Yoon Kang and Soo-in’s happiness is shortlived. The Japanese arrive and just as Yoon Kang warned, everything gets fucked up. The Joseon coup members immediately lose complete control of the situation as the Japanese troops take over (what else were they honestly expecting? ) and suddenly it turns into a battle between the Chinese and the Japanese, except the Japanese bail and it is just a Chinese army back to reclaim Joseon, fighting for the King and Queen who called them in. Fight against basically only Yoon Kang, Ho Kyung and their small band of soldiers. The Teacher and the rest of the coup instigators all jump ship to Japan to protect their own skins and once again poor Yoon Kang is faced with the futility of it all.
The Ending of JOSEON GUNMAN.
This is about where I started crying.
Sang Chu dies. And I bawled my eyes out.
Ho Kyung dies and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.
Poor Ho Kyung, his death was so sad and horrible, but he had lost his own integrity I think because of what happened with his father and I feel he was too disillusioned to continue. He didn’t know what to believe anymore. So when he saw he could save Soo-in and the man she loves by sacrificing his own life, he did it. But it was still so awful and senseless and he didn’t deserve such a sad pointless ending.
Though I guess to Ho Kyung, in the end he made the smallest difference in the world if, because of him, Soo-in could survive and be happy.
Even when Merchant Choi’s minion guy died it made me cry in despair because he wasn’t evil, he was just a man making a life for himself and choosing a side.
Poor Soo-in is shot and then shares a tender kiss in a cave with Yoon Kang, both fugitives now, ending up even worse than where they started, all of it for nothing, no change no nothing. What did they sacrifice it all for? Its so awful.
Soo-in asks Yoon Kang, ‘How do we live on?’
Because how do they? After so many have died because of them or for them to protect them. How can they be worthy of it all?
I cried and cried and cried.
And then Merchant Choi finally catches up to Yoon Kang and the two end it.
Choi has no chance and is shot twice within moments, but perhaps he doesn’t care anyway. I think he came here to die, to hopefully take Yoon Kang with him, but ultimately just to die.
But even then he is thwarted and Yoon Kang realises none of it even matters. Revenge only destroys your soul and so Yoon Kang walks away.
And perhaps Choi is again reminded of the mistakes he has made, because if he had also let it all go from his heart and just tried to live a simple life with his daughter, would Hye Won still be alive beside him? I don’t know.
He kills himself because there is absolutely nothing left in this world to live for. He is a pitiable man who struggled horrifically in life and even now in death he cannot rely on others to help him. He ends it all himself.
It made me cry.
And then the epilogue.
We see Yoon Kang and Soo-in years later, still in love, living a simple existence surrounded by people they can trust and believe in, and they are still working towards a better future for those around them. Even if they can’t change the world, they can change a few people’s lives.
Thoughts about JOSEON GUNMAN.
Such an intense drama. I actually really liked this ending, it really effected me strongly on such a heartbreaking emotional level, and by the end I was a mess.
I thought the whole drama was brilliant and tense and I loved the twists and turns, the plot always changing and surprising me with its new directions, completely evolving from one thing into another. It was often unexpected and I think brilliantly acted and the characters were all created so tenderly, even those classed as villains being given such depth and time to change and grow. They do bad things but are not painted as evil.
I adored it, and I adore Park Yoon Kang and Soo-in. I hope they live happily ever after now, because they deserve it!
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LEE EVIE is a podcaster, blogger and author of dark historical fiction set in old Korea. Discover Lee Evie’s historical fiction novels by clicking on the images below!