By Sara A. Layne: I will be honest. I don’t really watch historical dramas. I’m not sure why because I have seen some that I truly love but they aren’t something I think of when I want to start a new drama. Perhaps it’s the way they’re dressed and the fact that I am not familiar with Korean history, which makes me shy away from them. I do know, however, that there are enough of them to have their own genre section in Dramafever and for that reason I am shining my spotlight on them.
One of the historical dramas, or sa geuks, that I truly enjoyed was Damo. Damo is about Jang Chae Ok, who is a police woman. It’s not the same as being a police woman in today’s society however. Chae Ok is a slave who has been given the job to investigate upper class women. She is an amazing swordsman from all her years practicing with Hwangbo Yoon. The series follows Chae Ok as she investigates a money counterfeit ring and searches for her mother and brother, with whom she was separated as a child. There is a love triangle but unlike the some of other dramas I’ve watched, I like both male roles.  Hwangbo Yoon is Chae Ok’s police commander. They grew up together and trained together when Hwangbo Yoon was learning how to fight with the sword.  The other third of the love triangle is Jang Sung Baek, leader of the rebel gang Chae Ok is investigating. She is supposed to bring him down but is starting to get feelings for him. From the first episode, I was a goner. The action sucked me in and the story line was incredible. I loved watching how they figured out the crime without the help of modern technology. I can barely function when I am without my laptop and wifi, so to see how people lived and worked before any of that is amazing. I knew that the lead actress was the same from Secret Garden but I was so into this series that I never even thought of her as Gil Ra Im.
Another sa geuk that I’ve started watching and have liked so far is Iljimae. Iljimae reminds me of the story Robin Hood with the whole robs the rich to give to the poor. After each theft he leaves a painting of a red plum blossom branch. Even though Iljimae is doing this, he is really looking for the owner of the sword that was used to kill his father when he was a child. Eun Chae meets Iljimae by chance and admires him for what he is doing. Even though she is a government official’s daughter, she feels empathy for the poor.  Iljimae did well enough to spawn Iljimae 2 which aired in the beginning of 2009, though I haven’t seen it yet. I will say I absolutely loved the soundtrack for Iljimae.
I watched Sungkyunkwan Scandal because a lot of the reviews I read said that it was considered the Boys Over Flowers of historical drama. Kim Yoon Hee goes to Sungkyunkwan University disguised as a boy after her brother gets sick. When her brother gets worse and her family is almost evicted from their place, she makes friends with the school’s gang (think F4).  Now I’ll admit that there were some similarities between this and BoF but it did take me a while to get over the way they were dressed. I did like that Mickey Yoonchun and Park Min Young (Kim Nana from City Hunter *fan girl scream*) were in this drama. Also why does it seem like every historical drama take place in the Joeseon era? That last question had nothing to do with Sungkyunkwan Scandal, other than the fact that, well, it takes place in the Joeseon era. I’m not giving up on historical dramas.  I’ll keep watching them and try to look passed the different style of dress and they way they do things and try to focus on the actual story itself. What are some of your favorite sa geuks and why? Let me know in the comments section and I’ll be sure to check them out. More Historical Dramas To Enjoy Damo Iljimae Sungkyunkwan Scandal
Sara A. Layne contributes to the kpop and kdrama website Blackwomenlovebi. For other entries in Sara’s Spotlight series and more, click here!