“Queen Cheorin” (2020 drama): Historical context

tvN’s airing 20 episodes of “Queen Cheorin” on Saturdays and Sundays from 12th of December to 14th February 2021, starring two of my very favorite actors Shin Hye Sun and Kim Jung Hyun!

(FYI, K-drama lovers are commenting how this is a tragic combination of Yeong Eun Soo of Forest of Secrets and Gu Seung-jun of Crash Landing On You- both beloved characters who died at the end of the dramas)

First “Start-Up” with Nam Joo Hyuk, Suzy and Kim Sun Ho, and now “Mr. Queen” featuring these two actors with visuals & insane acting! Wow, tvN’s really spoiling us ๐Ÿ™‚

This drama is categorized as a “fusion saguek/historical comedy” drama, and the moving posters & teasers already reflect much of the “comedy” aspect! It’ll be refreshing to see Shin Hye Sun in a comedy, given she’d just recently starred in a dark legal film called “Innocence”. (She’s a lawyer trying to prove the innocence of her mother, who’s been diagnosed with dementia.)

Innocence (Korean Movie - 2018) - ๊ฒฐ๋ฐฑ @ HanCinema :: The Korean Movie and  Drama Database
Photo Credits

“Mr. Queen” (Korean title: “Chul-In Wang-Hu”, literally “Queen Chul-In”) is about a 21st century man called Bong Hwan who ends up in the body of Queen Cheorin (Shin Hye Sun) of the Joseon era. He meets King Cheoljong (Kim Jung Hyun), who has the facade of a pushover, foolish king that harbors secrets to change the country.

I’m a fan of K-historical dramas, especially because despite being Korean, I grew up (and am still growing up) in Singapore and didn’t have any opportunity to study Korean history in an official curriculum.

It’s fun reading historical records/books on Korean history, but it’s also interesting to learn about history (albeit indirectly) through historical dramas!

So let’s take a brief look at the historical background of this upcoming tvN drama :))

Queen Cheorin (or: Chul-In)

Photo Credits. Actress Shin Hye Sun

In 1837, Queen Chul-In was born to her father Kim Mun Gun and mother Yeo Heung Min. Her father Kim Mun Gun was a royal official in the position of overlooking the affairs of the relatives of the king and queen.

Kim Mun Gun persuaded the king at the time, 20 year old King Chul Jong, to marry his 15 year old daughter, with the aim of increasing the power and wealth of his own family. With the king’s acceptance of this offer, Kim’s daughter became the queen of Joseon in 1851.

Image result for ์ฒ ์ธ์™•ํ›„ ์Šคํ‹ธ์ปท
Photo Credits

In 1858, she gave birth to a son, who mournfully, passed away after 6 months due to an unknown cause. In 1864, the king also passed away. 14 years after her husband died, the queen passed at the age of 41 from tuberculosis.

Photo Credits

Queen Chul-In never involved herself in politics, or stood up actively for her family/clan. She spoke sparingly and did not reveal or express her emotions readily, and was highly praised for her dedication to caring for the king’s grandmother and the previous king’s wife.

King Chul Jong

Photo Credits. Actor Kim Jung Hyun

Born in 1831 as Lee Won Bum, King Chul Jong was born in a royal-blooded family that was not exactly treated as a proper royal family. In 1786, his grandfather was accused of treason against the throne, driving the whole Lee family to exile. Unsurprisingly, Lee’s family members were not even given proper titles (usually given to royal family and to relatives of royal family).

Although his father passed away when Lee was 10, Lee led an ordinary life with his two older brothers- all until when he was 14, his oldest brother was executed for royal treason.

According to the law at the time which executed or exiled all related family members of those who attempted treason against the throne, Lee Won Bum and his second brother were also exiled to Gang Hwa Do. (Hence Lee Won Bum’s nickname, “Gang Hwa Do Doryeong”, or, “Young Master of Gang Hwa Do”)

With just his second brother left as his family, Lee Won Bum spent the next 5 years of his life not as a relative of the royal family but like an ordinary commoner, farming and cutting trees. All was quite peaceful, until abruptly, when Lee Won Bum was 19, the 24th king of Joseon, Hun Jong passed away at age 23 without any heir-to-throne.

์กฐ์„ ์‹œ๋Œ€ ๋†์‚ฌ -์งํŒŒ๋ฒ•๊ณผ ์ด์•™๋ฒ•(๋ชจ๋‚ด๊ธฐ) ๋†์‚ฌ๋ฒ•์œผ๋กœ ๋ณธ ์กฐ์„  : ๋„ค์ด๋ฒ„ ๋ธ”๋กœ๊ทธ
Photo Credits. Painting of farming in the Joseon era

With Hun Jong’s sudden death, Hun Jong’s grandmother, the queen grandmother, appointed Lee Won Bum as the next king of Joseon. While there were other royal relatives at the time (who were not in exile), according to the lineage of the royal family, Lee Won Bum was the next heir to the late Hun Jong.

When officials and soldiers came to Lee Won Bum’s house to escort him to the palace, with the painful memories of having his oldest brother and grandfather being executed for treason, Lee escaped deep into the forest with his second brother, who broke his leg in the process. (ouch…) Only when the royal officials came to persuade him did Lee Won Bum follow them to the palace.

By the time he rose the throne, Chul Jong was already of age 19 and showed that he was quite well-read and had potential to become a competent king. Having witnessed the hardships of the common people with his own eyes, he tried to implement changes to the country’s laws, but was met with strong opposition from royal officials and clans (who probably wanted to maintain their power).

Such opposition had always occured, but because Chul Jong was not officially educated to be king and lacked political support (like most kings have the political support of their powerful families), he was unable to go against the opposition.

A few years later, an unprecedented scale of rioting occured in Joseon; the common people had grown tired of their poverty and struggles. Royal officials did not even attempt to address the anger of the common people, let alone address the causes of their hardships. Only Chul Jong again tried to implement policy changes, but was again met with strong opposition.

CU๋ชจ๋“œ: ์กฐ์šฉํ•œ ์•„์นจ์˜ ๋‚˜๋ผ_(1)-[์ž„ํŽ˜๋ผํ† ๋ฅด ๋กฌ] ๊ฐค๋Ÿฌ๋ฆฌ ์ปค๋ฎค๋‹ˆํ‹ฐ ํฌํ„ธ -๋””์‹œ์ธ์‚ฌ์ด๋“œ
Photo Credits. Example of a royal palace, the king and the officials

Years into his reign, sick of rigid royal palace rules and with the sense of hopelessness in feeling like a puppet king, the king spent his time with women, drinking. The health he had maintained in his younger years by farming and cutting trees crumbled, and at age 33, after suffering from various illnesses, he passed away.

Queen Chul-In’s family was in chaos due to the king’s death (since they had married their daughter off as the queen for power and money), and in scrambling for the next king, those in the royal palace scarcely paid attention to the death of Chul Jong, the last king of Joseon before the era of Korean Empire began. (Really a pitiful life…)

While Chul Jong had 5 sons and 6 daughters with the queen and the royal concubines, most of his children died when they were young. He had one surviving daughter with a royal concubine, but she also passed away at the age of 14, just 3 months after her marriage.

With the death of Chul Jong, the bloodline of Joseon’s royal family in Chul Jong’s line was cut off. The next who rose to the throne was Go Jong. Go Jong and Chul Jong were 17th cousins- in other words, pretty much unrelated.

๊ตญ๋ฆฝ๊ณ ๊ถ๋ฐ•๋ฌผ๊ด€ ์†Œ์žฅ ๊ณ ์ข…ํ™ฉ์ œ ์–ด์ง„ (์ž‘์ž ๋ฏธ์ƒ)
Photo Credits. A painting of Go Jong
๋Œ€ํ•œ์ œ๊ตญ ๊ณ ์ข… - ์œ„ํ‚ค๋ฐฑ๊ณผ, ์šฐ๋ฆฌ ๋ชจ๋‘์˜ ๋ฐฑ๊ณผ์‚ฌ์ „
Photo Credits. A photograph of Go Jong

I’m not sure how closely this drama will stick to the actual records of the king and queen, especially considering there’s the fictional element of body swapping involved, but I’m looking forward to watching it!

I’m especially curious to see how Shin Hye Sun will depict a man in a woman’s body. Wait, so will there be bromance instead of romance?

Hope you liked this post on the historical context of Queen Chul-In and King Chul-Jong! If you did, please give it a “like” and check out my other posts on “Han Style!” ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers, Han Seol :))

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