SUNGKYUNKWAN SCANDAL, SONG JOONG KI, KOREAN DRAMA

 Kim Yoon-Hee / Yoon-Shik (played by Park Min-Young)Lee Sun-Joon (played by Park Yoo-Chun)Gu Yong-Ha (played by Song Joong-Ki)Moon Jae-Shin (played by Yoo Ah-In)

If you commit a crime against a system that is gender biased, is it really a crime? And, just as importantly, should you be punished?

Yoon-Hee is an impoverished girl who is her family’s sole breadwinner. Her father is deceased, & she has a mother and sick younger brother lớn support. Industrious và smart, Yoon-Hee learns that people will pay her to write their reports and take their exams for them, if they think she’s a boy. So, she borrows her younger brother’s name và disguises herself as Yoon-Shik.

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Through a series of circumstances she didn’t initiate, Yoon-Hee finds herself enrolled at the prestigious all-male Sungkyunkwan University. Though she’s well aware that she will be executed if anyone reveals her secret, Yoon-Hee falls in love with the adademic lifestyle, the camaderie and the three square meals a day.

Of course, she will eventually also fall in love with one of her classmates. There’s the richly-dressed và impish Yong-Ha, who loves nothing more than lớn stir things up. His polar opposite & best friend is the mysterious Jae-Shin, who is a social justice warrior in the literal sense.

Then there’s stoic and straight laced rule follower Sun-Joon, whose world is black & white. He sees no reason for grey. Coming from a privileged background, he has never gone hungry và doesn’t have lớn worry about rules, because rules were made by and for people like him. When his eyes are opened khổng lồ poverty and those who have no privileged background to lớn fall back on, that’s when he truly grows up.

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Because Yoon-Hee is easily the tiniest student, the other young men give her a hard time at first, nicknaming her girly boy, pretty boy & flower boy. But when she more than holds her own academically and in athletic competitions and, more importantly, wins the favor of the era’s most famous kisaeng, her classmates are under the impression that Yoon-Hee is quite the Romeo & nickname her Big Shot.

“Sungkyunkwan Scandal” is a love story, but it’s also a mystery in many ways, as the Joseon-period Scooby Gang tries khổng lồ discover a missing scroll that entails the previous king’s wishes for a society without class distinction. It all sounds like a good idea, but if the caste system was eliminated, then what would become of the royal family? Would the king have been willing lớn live as a commoner?

It wasn’t too long ago that girls were discouraged from continuing their education, and this series makes it painfully obvious what happens lớn women when they are reliant on men for survival. When her mother is unable khổng lồ pay her bills, the Minister of War decides that he will take Yoon-Hee instead. Enrolling in Sungkyunkwan allows the education that was denied her, but it also allows her to escape a life where she will at best serve as his concubine.

It’s not a huge surprise to lớn learn that the Minister of War’s son, In-Soo–who happens to be the student toàn thân president with a ridiculous amount of authority–becomes Yoon-Hee’s biggest enemy at school.

The question of homosexuality arises when several of the boys are attracted to lớn Yoon-Hee, who they believe is a young man. Questioning his attraction, Sun-Joon asks Yong-Ha if he has ever been attracted lớn another man. Yong-Ha admits that he was once attracted to lớn Jae-Shin và adds, “Hating people is a sin. How could liking them be one?”

Yessssssssss!

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The series goes by quickly và (for the most part) is engrossing. I could’ve done without all of Yoon-Hee’s crying, which made her appear much weaker than her male classmates. In that kind of school situation, her crying would’ve made her ripe for being bullied.

Though she bound her chest lớn appear male, most women will wonder how she hid her monthly cycle from her roommates. You can suspend your belief in reality khổng lồ overcome that dilemma, but I wondered why none of her enemies did a little sleuthing of their own. Had they gone to her village & asked around, they would’ve seen the real Yoon-Shik at home with their mother. & even if they didn’t find him, they would’ve learned from Yoon-Hee’s neighbors that they hadn’t seen her in months. It would’ve been easy enough khổng lồ figure out that the tiny boy at school, who looked like a girl, actually was one.

The ending is satisfying, with everything falling into place as it should. But moreso than the ending, my favorite scene was when her brother revealed to Yoon-Hee that their father wanted her to lớn learn, but didn’t know how to bởi vì so in a society that made it illegal for girls khổng lồ obtain higher education. (The real) Yoon-Shik pointed out that when he was a toddler, their father would read lớn him, always picking higher cấp độ books than he could understand. Sitting by the door with him on his lap, their father would read in a loud voice so that Yoon-Hee could listen to the lesssons as she waited outside. The lessons weren’t for Yoon-Shik, but for her.

Gay rights:

It was interesting to lớn me that though homosexuality was treated as an aberration–as it would’ve been during the Joseon era–the writers also pointed out that more important than punishing “deviants” was understanding và loving everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. In a day when homosexuality is still treated as a perversion in Korea and, yes, in many parts of the U.S. As well, it is heartwarming khổng lồ see these Korean dramas present it is something that just is. You don’t choose lớn be gay, just as you don’t choose lớn be born.

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Frustration:

Whenever someone became angry, but had to lớn present an even-keeled persona, they balled their fists up in frustration. I enjoyed this, because it’s something little kids do; & it made some of the more unlikable characters a bit more human.

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You may recognize:

• Many new Song Joong-Ki fans sought this drama out after watching him in “Descendants of the Sun.” Coincidentally, he is a graduate of the real Sungkyunkwan University.

• Kim Min-Seom, who played the hated Queen Bo-Kyung in the “Moon Embraces the Sun,” portrays a much more sympathetic character here: a highly cultured, but low-caste kisaeng named Cho-Sun. When Yoon-Hee, dressed as a boy, shows her kindness, Cho-Sun falls in love with her.

• Kim Mi-Kyung portrays Yoon-Hee’s mother. In “The Master’s Sun,” she played So Ji-Sub’s fashionable aunt.

• In this series, Ahn Nae-Sang plays a professor, who knew & respected Yoon-Hee’s father. In the “Moon Embraces the Sun,” he portrayed Kim Soo-Hyun’s father — the king.

Airdates:

This 20-episode Korean drama aired from August 30 lớn November 2, 2010 on KBS2.

Spoiler alert:

Yoon-Hee’s father was a revered Sungkyunkwan professor who was killed while carrying out a mission for the king. It’s not clear why her mother kept this tidbit from Yoon-Hee và her brother, but it was most likely khổng lồ protect their lives. He và Jae-Shin’s older brother were murdered while trying to help the king implement plans for a country where there were no class distinctions.

What’s puzzling is the fact that Yoon-Hee’s father had ties to lớn the king and Sungkyunkwan University, & yet no one helped out his family after his death. The least the king could’ve done was ensured that his widow và children would have a a roof over their heads & food on the table.

In episode 15, Sun-Joon tries khổng lồ revive Yoon-Hee, who he rescued after she fell in the river. When he opens her shirt, her bound bosom is revealed. Now, he knows that she is a girl.

The final episode shows that In-Soo — the evil student body toàn thân president — is capable of showing humanity lớn those he love. When his father tries to lớn strike Cho-Sun, In-Soo defies him to protect her.