Love in the Moonlight: Historical Context

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2016 was truly the year of well-loved dramas- with Descendants of the Sun, Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Goblin and of course, Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.

Moonlight, starring Park Bo Gum,

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Kim Yoo Jung

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and other popular young actors, received much love.

The drama had a happy ending, with Prince Lee Yeong (Park Bo Gum) surviving an assassination attempt (of poison) and eventually ending up with his lover Hong Ra On (Kim Yoo Jung)- although there was no wedding.

Much of the plot, however, is based on fiction. While Hong Kyung Rae, Ra On’s father, did actually exist, it is not known whether he had a daughter called Ra On.

Prince Lee Yeong is a character based on Prince Hyo Myeong- who, unfortunately, passed away at a young age.

Celebrating the 4 years since the drama’s hit, let’s take a look at the historical context of the drama!

Crown Prince Hyo Myeong

Born as the only son to the 23rd king of Joseon, King Sunjo in 1809, the prince became Crown Prince Hyo Myeong in 1812. The crown prince was handsome, intelligent, and talented that King Sunjo had high expectations of him.

스타SNS] '구르미 그린 달빛' 박보검, 세자 저하 손등 힘줄에 '나 죽음'…'심멎' - 박혜미 기자 - 톱스타뉴스
Photo Credits

In 1827, King Sunjo’s health had deteriorated seriously, necessitating “dae-ri-chung-jung”. (Dae-ri-chung-jung: when a crown prince takes over the king’s duties due to reasons that require the king’s absence; it was used when a king was too ill to actively go over documents, attend meetings with officials and make decisions. It was also used as a tool to test how equipped a crown prince was to become king in future, or to train a crown prince in dealing with national affairs.)

For four years, crown prince Hyo Myeong did dae-ri-chung-jung. According to historical records, when the order of dae-ri-chung-jung was first made known to all officials in the royal palace, the officials celebrated and cheered- (not really because they hated the king) they liked and had high expectations of the crown prince, and were ready to serve him as the next king in future.

월화드라마 '구르미 그린 달빛' 예고, 박보검 대리청정 나설까? '천호진과 기싸움' - 이투데이
Photo Credits. In the drama, the officials are strongly against Park Bo Gum’s character doing dae-ri-chung-jung.

Despite being only 18 at the time, the crown prince made firm, swift and meticulous decisions. When he received news that common people in a town were suffering due to the acts of a corrupt official, he made sure strict punishment was meted out. He did not hesitate to punish and go against high ranking officials, too.

Aside from being a good ruler, the crown prince was also highly regarded as a son who showed dedication and filial piety toward his parents. He successfully organized politically important parties, upholding the reputation of his father, King Sunjo. In organizing the parties, Hyo Myeong also showed talent in the arts, personally making suggestions and edits to dance moves and art works.

A beautiful scene in the drama in which Kim Yoo Jung dances in a party hosted by the crown prince

To the woes of many, however, the crown prince suddenly fell ill, and at the young age of 22, passed away. Certain royal officials brought up the possibility of assassination using poison, but no evidence of murder was found. Some considered that the crown prince could’ve passed due to illnesses resulting from overwork.

(Credits to KBS) A screenshot of a scene from the drama in which Prince Hyo Myeong becomes the king. The drama’s ending is a happy but sad one because the wise and good hearted crown prince in reality did not live to become king.
The scene in which the crown prince rises to the throne

King Sunjo grieved terribly over the death of his son. He wrote a long essay, which expressed the terrible sadness the king suffered not only from having lost his loving son, but also over the fact that a wise and good hearted potential king of the nation was lost.

Having already lost his other children before the passing of Hyo Myeong, Sunjo passed away in 1834 from illness and great stress.

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