The sun loved the moon so much, he died every night to let her breathe!

moon embracing the sun

Do not be afraid; our fate Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift

Dante Alighieri, Inferno

Title
Moon Embracing the Sun   (2012)
Also known as
The Sun and the Moon   &   The Moon That Embraces the Sun   &   The Moon Embracing the Sun
Genre
Fantasy,    Fusion Sageuk,    Historical,    Romance, Sageuk
Written by
Jin Soo-wan
Directed by
Kim Do-hoon   &   Lee Seong-jun
Starring
 Kim Soo-hyun,    Han Ga-in,    Jung Il-woo,    Kim Min-seo,    Yeo Jin-goo,    Kim Yoo-jung,    Lee Min-ho,    Kim So-hyun
Country of Origin
South Korea
Episodes
20

oh! brief

The book by the same title (Haereul Poomeun Dal), written by Jung Eun-gwol, forms the basis for this romantic period-fantasy and tells the poignant love story between a fictional king of the Joseon dynasty and a female shaman. The story begins when the two main characters are younger teens, progresses into their early adulthood, and develops against the backdrop of a traditional Korean palace, with all the conflict and vying for the political power you can imagine. The drama is a simplified sageuk with supernatural features.

oh! talks drama

Right off the bat, you need to know a little about shamanism in order to stay on top of the black magic in this drama. So, for those who are not in the know, shamanism is a practice that involves reaching altered states of consciousness in order to interact with the spirit world and channel the spiritual energies, either good or bad. In other words, black magic and the occult. A person who is able to attain this state is called a shaman. In Korea, a female shaman, such as the ones in this series, are called mudangs.

Throughout the drama, there is a lot at play, and I decided to segment it into two seasons. The first season is the younger years and the second, the later years.

The drama begins following the capture of a shaman and spiritual commitments and promises of protection. This sets the tone for later when more of the dark arts is used to carry out plots, both good and evil.

The real story, however, opens with the innocence of attraction which blossoms into first love. This, of course, happens with the two main characters (Heo Yeon Woo and Crown Prince Lee Hwon). The first season’s main characters are played by a younger cast presumably in their early teens. The younger cast was dynamic and acted phenomenally in my opinion. They created the right balance of innocence and attraction – I was very impressed. They also set a solid foundation for the story to be further developed by the older cast.  Heo Yeon Woo played by Kim Yoo-jung oozed innocence and virtue with a good dose of intelligence added. Lee Hwon was the playful prince who simply wanted to escape the drudgery of the palace and was brilliantly played by Yeo Jin-goo.

Also at play in the earlier part of the series is the ‘bromance’ between the male lead (Lee Hwon) and his half-brother (Yang Myung played by Lee Min-ho) and another childhood friend (Kim Jae-woon played by Lee Won-keun) who later becomes the male leads personal bodyguard. There is an unwritten understanding by Yang Myung that he will not become King and that he will live out his life in the shadows of the Crown Prince. He appears to accept his fate and carries on living out his life is a very free manner – coming and going as he pleases. The camaraderie between these three is great, but an underlying mystery as to why Yang Myung stays away from the palace hangs in the air.

The conspiring Queen Dowager played by Kim Young-ae conspires with her vile power-hungry nephew and his cronies. Everyone wants to be rid of the Crown Prince and is plotting his downfall. What strikes me most in this early section is the complete dismissal by almost everyone to the fact that these are children’s lives they are manipulating and exploiting and that their power struggles will ensure that all their innocence is lost in the process. As a parent, I just cannot imagine causing injury and harm to someone’s child to further my own child’s future. It’s mind-boggling at times the extremes these characters go to. This is especially true of Bo Kyung played by KimSo-hyun, the replacement princess. She is a spoiled brat to start with, so little sympathy from me, but her arrogance and jealousy are fueled by her father and played out in her favour by the Queen Dowager. There were many better life lessons they could have taught her.

Back to Yang Myung who has the misfortune of falling for Heo Yeon and suffers unrequited love in the process, as she is oblivious to his affections and seems to consider him a brotherly figure. The poor guy not only has no chance of holding power in the kingdom but, must forfeit the object of his affection. It is quite sad in the first season, but less in the second.

A side story included early on for its amusement, but is the catalyst for bringing Heo Yeon Woo into the palace, is the obsession that Princess Min-hwa played by Jin Ji-hee has for Heo Yeom played by Yim Si-wan (Yeon Woo’s brother). Her obsessive compulsive disorder is easily manipulated and brings much guilt later in the series.

I’m not intending in revealing spoilers, you have to watch this series to see how everything comes together.

In the second series when the characters are reunited under almost comical conditions, the intensity is heightened, especially the sexual tension between the two main characters and the people around them. The characters are now played by the older actors and actresses.

The ‘bromance’ between the younger boys is gone, replaced now by sibling rivalry and a tug-of-war in the three friendships. Kim Jae-woon now played by Song Jae-rim quickly became my favourite character. Okay, I may be biased, but he was handsome and had grand fighting skills. But it was his loyalty that was the charm. He isn’t afforded many opportunities for affection and doesn’t display much emotion, but, there was a warmth and gentleness to his being, especially when he realises before everyone else does, that he will sacrifice much to protect those around him.

The battle of wills at the end is intense – Yeon-woo played now by Han Ga-in, must contend with Queen Bo-kyung played now by Kim Min-seo, her father who still remains as Prime Minister and is plotting to the very, bitter end and the Queen Dowager who also never gives up or gives in. And King Lee Hwon now played by Kim Soo-hyun, not only has to fight for his kingdom and the woman he loves, but he also has to fight to protect his own life.

There is lots of mystery and intrigue in the second season as the Crown Prince becomes King and starts to unravel the wrongs within the palace.

Throughout the production there is a voice-over speaking about the balance of things in the world and eventually after more incidents, the balance is restored. Queen Bo-kyung acts out her guilt, Yang Myung played now by Jung Il-woo, sacrifices his life for his half-brother and the woman he loves. The Sun and the Moon are together as they should be and finally, the King can have his woman, completely.

This was an easy-to-watch drama with an easy story, which was, in my opinion, exceptionally well written, especially the early story featuring the younger cast.

For the most part, the actors and actresses were well chosen and acted above-par. The leads were all strong and brought their characters to life perfectly. They complemented the skills of the younger cast.

I particularly enjoyed the comradery between the King and his personal guard. The two young actors did an incredible job of pulling this off. Kim Soo-hyun managed to paint a serious monarch with a no-nonsense attitude ready to take on the manipulating cronies within the palace, even his own grandmother. And the next moment, he would deliver a playful, cheeky, flirtatious vulnerable young man in love with a memory. It was fascinating to watch him! Kim Soo-hyun is going to be an actor to watch for in the years to come, as he crafts his talents further.

However, not all the main actors delivered, Han Ga who played the older version of Yeon-woo was either miscast or misdirected. She seemed dull and emotionless, devoid of any ability beyond batting her eyelids. She looked lost all the time! And, I appreciate that her role was written that way due to the backstory, but, Han Ga-in was excessive in delivering the doe-eyed lost-soul. Her features matched and perhaps enhanced those of her male counterpart, but her acting certainly didn’t. It’s certainly not the fault of the writer that this character was flawed.

Speaking of writing, this series, while being a little more ‘light’ than some of the others I have watched, was exceptionally well written and delivered. Could the writing for the second season have been tighter? Yes! Could the plotlines have been more intricate? Maybe. However, you think or feel, the truth is this production was addictive. It flowed easily, the cinematography was visually appealing, the colours bright and at times intense. The costumes were detailed and appealing. Overall, it was all magnetic!

Lastly, the musical score that accompanied this drama was wonderful. Okay, perhaps closer to excellent. I have downloaded some of my favourites and I listen to them often.

oh! sidekicks

I would do him a disservice if I did not mention the fantastic acting of Jung Eun-pyo who played Eunuch Hyung Sun. Hands down my favourite character for his brilliant delivery! I was in love with this odd character from the very first time I laid eyes on him. He completely held the series together with his charisma. I don’t mean to diminish the acting of all other characters, but this man immersed himself in his role and became his character in a way I don’t believe the other actors did entirely. He was 100% believable, but that may be because the writing for his character was above-par!

oh! that’s a wrap

At the heart of this drama is a tender love story. It’s simplicity and gentleness is what arrested my attention and speaks directly to how effective the young actors portrayed their affection to each other. Once I was hooked, there was no going back and I felt compelled to watch to the very end. It was not disappointing and is a drama I will watch again.

You will either like this drama, or not. I did. Surprisingly, because I really am more attracted to watching thrillers and horror than romance. It will appeal to those who are sentimental.

oh! tidbits

Most of the royal palace scenes were filmed on location at MBC Dramia located at Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si in Gyeonggi Province, where other historical dramas such as Dong Yi, Jumong and Queen Seondeok were also filmed. The House of Choi Champan was used as Yeon-woo’s childhood home, and the Korean Folk Village was used for local markets, private residences of commoners, and night scenes.

The young cast members who did such a brilliant job have grown up and continued their careers:

  1. Yeo Jin Goo has continued to act in dramas and films. In a twist of casting fate, he was paired with the girl who couldn’t get his love in The Moon that Embraces the Sun. Yeo Jin Goo played his first leading-man role in the fantasy romance drama Orange Marmalade. He also completed a movie, Shoot Me in the Heart.
  2. After The Moon that Embraces the SunKim Yoo Jung continued to act in movies and dramas. She has been in many roles.
  3. Kim So Hyun has continued to take on great roles such as the one where she plays opposite Yeo Jin Goo.
  4. Lee Min Ho once considered changing his name because of its similarity to the other Lee Min Ho, but didn’t, fortunately! He has successfully transitioned to adult roles for both Kdrama and movies – School of Youth, Time Renegade.  

In March 2012, the drama’s broadcast rights were sold to eight Asian countries, including Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

A stage musical adaptation was performed at the Seoul Arts Center from July 6 to 31, 2013, with succeeding runs in 2014. Kim Da-hyun, Jeon Dong-seok and Cho Kyu-hyun alternated as Lee Hwon, and Jeon Mi-do, Ahn Shi-ha, Lina, Jung Jae-eun and Seohyun alternated as Yeon-woo.

oh! soundtrack

The Moon That Embraces the Sun


oh! … gallery

I loved this kdrama and so I have added a mix of photos – some behind the scenes of my favourites from Behind Cut and then more of photos from the drama added from the collection on Asianwiki.com.

oh! trailer

oh! nooz

The All Casts Gathering on The Moon That Embraces The Sun’s Press Conference
Song Jae Rim Alert: Woon from The Moon that Embraces the Sun
100 Media Sources Cover Kim Soo Hyun’s “The Moon That Embraces the Sun” Tokyo Press Conference

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