How does an orphan from Korea go on to become the most powerful woman in China? That’s the tale of Empress Ki – a “sageuk drama” (Korean historical drama) based on real-life events.
Since its debut, the show has received critical acclaim, including sweeping up major awards at the 2013 MBC Drama Awards.
Here are just five reasons why you should be watching Empress Ki right now.
The TV drama tells the tale of Ki Seung-Nyang, portrayed by Ha Ji-won in the show.
At the start, Ki is dragged away from her homeland Goryeo (Korea) to be used as tribute to the Yuan dynasty in China. Although she manages to escape, her mother dies in the process.
Ki grows up disguised as man plotting revenge for her family. By a stroke of luck and a lot of determination, she becomes a palace maid; and eventually become the Empress.
We’re not going to reveal any further spoilers, but let’s just say she faces many personal and relationship conflicts along the way.
The ever graceful and versatile Ha Ji-won is perfect for the role as Ki. Best known among international audiences for playing Gil Ra-im in the romantic comedy Secret Garden, she gets to draw on a range of emotions, mastered through the years in her other roles on both film and TV.
Subtle at one point, emotional at others, Ha Ji-won’s little nuances help capture the emotional and physiological struggles that Empress Ki faces – from her youth to her ascension to the throne. And as the political intrigue ramps up, Ha Ji-won’s performance becomes veiled and mysterious, leaving the audience guessing what Empress Ki might do next.
Then, there’s the love triangle between Ha Ji-won’s character, the king of Goryeo Wang Yoo(portrayed by Joo Jin-mo), and Ta Hwan, the future Emperor Huizong (portrayed by Ji Chang-wook). This tantalizing love triangle kept the show on top of the ratings in Korea for much of its run, keeping tensions high throughout.
Of course, the supporting cast aren’t no slouches either. Most notably, Baek Jin Hee (who often plays cheerful or comedic roles) is able to display her acting chops in the role of Tanashili (Emperor Tahwan’s first Empress) – whose love for the Emperor eventually turns into hatred and agony.
Sageuk veterans such as Lee Jae Young, Jun Gook Hwan, Lee Won Jong, Kim Young Ho and Jung Woong also add credibility to the show, with their experience and inane ability to bring out the depth of their characters.
One of the reasons why the show is so critically acclaimed is because the show is so well written – the story never feels rushed even though the plot moves at a swift pace.
Each story arc does not feel dragged out and instead constantly presents new obstacles for our heroes. Amid all the plot development, you’re kept wondering what’s going to happen next.
As viewers, we’ll eventually begin rooting for some characters, even as they all try to backstab each other in a grab for power. Baek Jin-hee’s character Empress Tanashiri and Yeon Chul (played by Yeon Guk-hwan) for instance are instantly hate-able characters, but their motives are still understandable and relatable.
Empress Ki is indeed loosely based on a true-life story, one which helped shape much of Asia at the time.
The real-life Empress Ki herself is a controversial figure in Korea. The fact that she used the Chinese army to invade Korea is still a subject of animosity, but the show’s scriptwriters try to humanize the character and explain her motives in an action-packed and intriguing fashion.
Again, we really don’t really want to spoil the show for you, but let’s just say that you will certainly tear up at some point in this enthralling drama.
Almost every scene in this show feels “cinematic”, with an impressive instrumental soundtrack as well as attractive backdrops.
Empress Ki was the top watched show in South Korea for nearly 26 weeks, with nearly 32.4% of the entire Seoul population watching an episode at one point.
You can now catch Empress Ki on VV Drama StarHub TV Channel 855, every Monday – Friday at 5.45pm. Plus stand a chance to win a photo opportunity with the empress, Ha Ji Won! Visit www.starhub.com/empresski to find out how.
What else do you like about Empress Ki? Let's discuss.
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