Because I am surrounded by darkness, I am unable to see your heart

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty  t The obedient must be slaves

Henry David Thoreau

Title
 The Slave Hunters  (2010) 
Also known as
 Chuno
Genre
 Action, Drama, Historical
Written by
 Chun Sung-il  
Directed by
Kwak Jung-hwan  
Country of Origin
 South Korea  
Episodes
 24 

oh! … background

Kdrama Chuno is set in mid-17th century Joseon, an era when slavery was still in effect (approximately half the population of the time during this era were enslaved), and with the political background of a weakened King Injo who’s kingdom has suffered two Manchu invasions.

Following the invasions, King Injo’s son Crown Prince Sohyeon voluntarily gave himself up as hostage together with his wife and several other Korean officials and were moved to Shenyang, the capital of the Qing Dynasty.

Prince Sohyun returned to Korea in 1645, and after persecution from his father for attempting to modernize Korea, he died suddenly not long after his return. He was found dead in the King’s chambers bleeding severely from a wound to the head. – legends say that King Injo killed his own son, however, some historians suggest he was poisoned (he had black spots all over his body after his death and his body decomposed rapidly). Injo ordered the exile of Prince Sohyun’s three sons to Jeju Island and the execution of Crown Prince’s wife Minhoe, for treason. Of the three exiled princes, only Prince Gyeongan returned to mainland Korea alive.

Prince Sohyeon’s tomb is located in GoyangGyeonggi province.

oh! … brief

The story follows the life of Lee Dae-gil, a man from a noble family, makes the mistake of falling in love with the family’s beautiful slave, Eunnyeon (she later takes on the name Kim Hye-won). Dae-gil’s father won’t have the shame of his son cavorting with a slave, so he locks up Eunnyeon, leaving her to die. Eunnyeon’s brother sets fire to Dae-gil’s home and tries to kill him.

Keun-nom and Eunnyeon believe Dae-gil is dead and they are free, so they run away. They accumulate some wealth, buy Jokbo of a noble family and assume the identity of the yangban Kim family, taking the names Kim Seong-hwan and Kim Hye-won.

Meanwhile, Dae-gil endures ten harsh years on the street, driven by his desire for revenge as well as his obsession/love for Eunnyeon. He makes his name as a slave hunter.

Song Tae-ha is a military general who has spent years serving Crown Prince Sohyeon in China as a voluntary hostage after Joseon lost the war with the Qing Dynasty. The crown prince dies under suspicious circumstances shortly after returning to Joseon His three sons are exiled Cheju Island and his wife is executed for treason. Two of his sons are then killed. Tae-ha, for his loyalty to the Crown Prince, is framed for stealing military rations and is demoted to a slave along with his loyal subordinates. When SongTae-ha learns that the exiled youngest son of the late prince, who he believes to be the only rightful heir to the crown, is in danger, he is determined to protect him.

oh! … talks drama

This kdrama is such an epic masterpiece and a classic that every kdrama fan should add to their list to watch!

The more I watch sageuk, like this one, that is based in factual history and romanticized for a modern audience, the more I learn about Korea and have a greater appreciation for the country’s history. Political struggles within the various kingdoms and eras in Korean history often resulted in suspicious deaths among the royals and those kinds of facts offer a backdrop of political intrigue and a solid basis from which to develop scripts and screenplays.

Chun Sung-il (scriptwriter) crafted a fantastic script for this production, weaving friendship, love, loyalty, human dignity and the age-old, good fighting evil, into the fabric of the story and the accompanying dialogue. Dae-gil’s tale of undying love spanning the years is the main storyline for this production and running parallel to that romance is the tale of Song Tae-ha’s loyalty to his Crown Prince and surviving child.

The tale is well-crafted to captivate the audience with the varying perspectives of the characters and their relationships with each other or with other groups of characters. For example Dae-gil’s relationship with his men and with the other group(s) of slave hunters and the interactions he had with both the constables and the slaves he captured allowed us to see and understand that the reason he has chosen to chase escaped slaves is not he supports slavery, or that he can make money on the backs of slaves, or that he even supports the political institutions, instead we can clearly see that he is on a personal mission of revenge spurred on by a shattered heart — his sole purpose is to find his first love and avenge the death of his father.

As with Korean history, no sageuk or historical drama is without political intrigue and the backdrop to Chuno is not without political characters (with a little clout) making the story interesting, especially given that Chun Sung-il bases some of the backdrop court intrigues on factual history.

Master Lee Gyeong-sik is at the centre of all the political drama and intrigue, vying to obtain power while manipulating his son-in-law, Hwang Chul-woong, turning him into the villain of the production. It’s not that Hwang Chul-woong isn’t at fault himself, wanting to rise quickly through the ranks and gain his own power, but his hand is forced. His story is a sad one! Saddled with a wife that challenges his emotions and trying to be a good son to his oblivious mother. I think of all the characters beside Dae-gil, I pitied Hwang Chul-woon the most.

All this being written, the political intrigue is not as overwhelming as it can be in some productions (thinking of Empress Ki, another wonderful sageuk that I will review in the coming weeks), but, enough to place emphasis on the distinct differences between the royals and the common people. This parallel and some of the others you’ll find in Chuno are some of the best I have seen so far in kdrama and my attention was captured almost immediately and held to the very last moment of the very last scene.

Part of Chuno’s strength and success are those amazing characters brought to life by Chun Sung-il’s pen.  From the nefarious general who betrays his commander, or the various partners-in-crime, or gun-toting slaves revolting again the establishment that imprisons them, to the love-sick alehouse women obsessed with General Choi or the obscene monk aspiring to reach paradise, Chun Sung-il’s mind created and then penned characters so unbelievable and unpredictable, I hope this will influence other scriptwriters to break out of the stereotypical roles they consistently create.

Unlike western television productions, kdrama characters always develop along with the storyline ­- they are fluid instead of static, they are different people by the time the production ends, and that is why watching kdramas is so entertaining. Chun Sung-il’s characters and their consistent development throughout the production was not only astute and thorough but occurred with all the leading characters and even some supporting characters. Having written that, kdramas do have predictable characters, but with Chuno, Chun Sung-il surprised his audience with twists to his characters and their backstories, so much so that this production sets a new record as being least predictable when it comes to story and characters.  But, it’s no surprise, with Chun Sung-il as the writer and Kwak Jung-hwan as the director. Both men have other notable productions under their belts.

An insightful inclusion was the creation of junctions in each of his character’s lives where they either followed their predestined and controlled fate or made conscious decisions to seek out and follow their own individual path in life. This was refreshing as most like-styled kdramas only follow the lives of or pay attention to the royals with all the intrigues of the palace, family rivalries, including power grabs by power-hungry men and women vying for a blessed seat on a throne or seat in government. Chuno was very different, while the focus is on the life of one man and the people that intersect his journey, a storyline of equal importance lies in the recounting of the lives of the common people, forced into slavery for whatever reason and suffering under their rich masters. The slaves were controlled in every aspect of their lives, manipulated, mistreated, and used for any whim or political positioning and they couldn’t refuse, couldn’t escape and if they did manage to get away they were tracked and hunted like wild animals, captured, tortured and returned to their masters.

The sad love triangle that plagues the main characters plays out exceedingly well. One woman (Eunnyeon) trapped in her situation who dearly loves his first love (Dae-gil), but believing him dead, falls in love with the other man who rescues her (Song Tae-ha). It’s standard for storylines in most kdrama where a love triangle or two are involved. Chuno is no exception. But it’s not the only love triangle. Another one develops when Seol-hwa, a travelling performer arrives on the scene and forces her way into the band of slave hunters run by Dae-gil. She soon begins to fall in love with Dae-gil, but he spurns her attention in his obsession for Eunnyeon and only realizes his mistake too late. And if two full-blown love triangles aren’t enough romantic melodrama for you, there’s a third romance budding in the background, the one between two slaves, Eop Bok and Cho-bok. Unlike the other romances that have the freedom to develop and confess their affections, the two slaves cannot take such liberties, knowing full well that their lives are not their own. It is interesting the dynamics that the Chun Sung-il includes in these vastly different love stories and the different manners in which the relationships are developed and depicted. The romances are all tragic, doomed from the start and this is not a story that ends on a happy note. But it is one that will sweep you off your feet, pluck at your heartstrings and have you weeping by the end!

As the production centres on Dae-gil’s life, it’s perfectly understandable that Chun Sung-il developed his character and his circle of friends and or associates the most. A bromance is quickly established between Dae-gil and the two men he leads — General Choi and Wang-son. There is the more mature relationship between General Choi and Dae-gil that leaves the rather immature womanizer Wang-son outside of major decisions. But, there is affection for Wang-son by the other two, the type of affection you’d find older brothers have for a younger brother – tolerant and amusing. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the amusing antics and comradery between the three men and appreciated how they all came together and yet had their own individual personalities and traits. General Choi offering his muscle and strength and Wang-son, mostly maid-service, but also helping out in the many fights the three either initiate or participate in. The friendship, respect, and bromance between the men were engaging. Dae-gil is not only the tie that binds the slave hunters together but also the character central to the entire story and his losses, many of them, are the emotional pinning for the production — a foundation of sorts.

Between Dae-gil and Song Tae-ha there also existed a love-hate-bromance-of-sorts! Initially, their reaction to each other is aggressive, but not because of the knowledge of Eunnyeon who stands between them, instead, a hunter-prey kind of aggression — one fighting for the kill, the other fighting for survival. Once the nature of their individual relationships with Eunnyeon is revealed, a kind of mutual distrust and anger surfaces between Dae-gil and Song Tae-ha. The mistrust lingers for a time but is slowly replaced by a semblance of comradery, if not, respect. But it never develops further than this and it is only the love for Eunnyeon that ties them in their mutual desire to protect her and of course later, the exiled prince.

Chun Sung-il’s second storyline focuses on the slave characters and brings a lot of comedic relief to the otherwise romantic tragedy. I rooted for the slaves as they secretly learnt how to use guns and then targeted yangban who have mistreated them or their own slaves. What started as a personal vendetta to take out the bad masters soon became a much bigger plot to rid their world of all evil, rich masters, and secure the freedom of all slaves. Unfortunately, they fall victim to more political play when Geo-boon (a surprising insurrectionist) is planted to lead them astray. Watch for the humour within this group – it’s priceless! And it paints the male slaves as dimwits and the sole female character in their group, Cho-bok, as a savvy thinker with more insight than her male counterparts. I treasured every second of this storyline and the witty dialogue and narration.

For me, the most romantic aspect of Chuno is the relationship that develops between Eunnyeon and Song Tae-ha. Two characters deeply hurt by the story of their past that collide and end up helping each other as they run from the slave hunters and the courtiers and yangban hunting them. It doesn’t take the two characters long to see their commonalities and as they escape each obstacle or navigate their way through the melodrama, their mistrust for each other grows into companionship and eventually develops into romantic attraction and then love. It’s wonderful to watch and is so well written and narrated that it draws the audience in completely.

One thing I did notice, the difference in translation in sub-titles. I typically watch one episode in two or sometimes even three streaming platforms to find the best translation. I noticed a few discrepancies in how some dialogue was translated. For instance, there is a lot of reference to sexual intercourse, sometimes in jest, but sometimes a little more seriously. In at least two of the streaming platforms, the subtitles referred to the sexual intercourse as ‘sleeping together’ or ‘having sex’, but I far preferred the literal translation of ‘rubbing bellybuttons’ — I found it quaint and far more appealing that westernizing the translation. Although using literal translation doesn’t always work, I’m almost certain that I missed out on some of the wacky expressions.

There were some very interesting hidden messages that came from some of the characters. Take Eop Bok, for example, he makes a conscious decision to sacrifice his life, even while knowing he can escape and live a life of happiness with the woman he loves. But, to do that would trample on the dreams of the slave group he worked with, so he decides to try and fulfil their mutual aspiration – killing the yangban and freeing the slaves. He manages to, by accident, kill the traitor or plant Geu-boon, and the Left State Councilor, Master Lee Gyeong-sik — the mastermind behind much of the political conspiring and manipulation of the slaves — it is retribution for the countless lives enslaved. But its message is simple and inspirational – stand up for justice. When you see wrong, the very least you can do is to point it out and the most you can do is to use your life to make the changes you want to see!

Another case of retribution is the handling of the constables who sought to amass wealth by manipulating the slave hunters and the slaves. Constable Oh is a prime example of this being questioned and tortured just as he had done to the commoners under his jurisdiction. He is then replaced by a constable far worse than himself and this is where the hidden message comes into play. When injustice has been accepted at a political level as the norm it is increasingly difficult if not outright impossible to make systemic changes to the culture.

Dae-gil’s initial dream once he understood his affection for Eunnyeon, was to change the world to make it a better place for all people. He understands that he needs to manoeuvre himself into a position of power and no better to do that but to educate and raise yourself up through the ranks. However toward the end of his life’s journey he comes full circle and understands that having an education and a seat of power is not going to secure the changes he wants to see in the world, the only way that is going to happen is if the people unite and fight together to be the change they want to see.

Song Tae-ha also in his own determined manner wanted to see a change in the world, but he placed all his hopes in the life of one small boy who he expected to rule and restore order and fairness to the kingdom. He does come to realize that while that may aid the change, it will not be what makes the change. All along in his conversation with various characters, he has had his own idea of what the change will look like and who will initiate it, by the end he believes like Dae-gil that slavery is wrong and that change is essential for the benefit of all the people.

I think one of the most poignant scenes is when Commander Hwang is held in the arms of his severely afflicted wife while he sobs. If Dae-gil and Song Tae-ha had been there to see that moment, they would have understood that already their sacrifice was working to change the world. I want to believe his tears are an understanding of the horrors of his actions and that he is able to see the true reflection of his wife’s innocent heart – she wants to see change too, a society where her affliction is not shameful but where she would be accepted and loved. And then, it is Commander Hwang’s voice that we hear in voiceover narrating the end of slavery and the amnesty offered to Prince Seokgyeon still in exile. The quiet, gentle calm makes one believe that his character has grown accustomed to the future that lies ahead and has been able to move beyond the horrors of his own ignorance. So as the production starts with his voiceover, so as it ends with it. It is interesting that the villain in this production survives to bear witness to the change in the kingdom as a pose to those who sacrificed themselves.

Overall, the story, narration, and scriptwriting for this kdrama was above par. Chun Sung-il went above and beyond what I was expecting and I was immensely impressed. There was little time for boredom as the pacing of the production was exceptional. It was refreshing to have a script where the writer understood that on some level the politics were important to the overarching story, but were never going to be a focus, and while he may have swayed a little in this, for the most part, Chun Sung-il stayed the course.

Perhaps the strongest message that comes from the closing scene between Cho-bok and Eun-sil is the idea they share – what is a possession and what it means to belong to someone or something. In other words, you cannot possess a person!

Director Kwak Jung-hwan pulled out some mastery tactics in the filming of this production which made the visual narrative as breathtaking as the story itself.

Filmed as if for film, Kwak Jung-hwan made good use of the Red One production camera — Red One cameras are known for their amazing 4K images and their ability to shoot up to 60 frames per second. Kwak Jung-hwan’s use of them allowed for simply amazing panoramic scenes. As director, Kwak Jung-hwan planned out every scene, developing the best angles and lighting to capture every detail. Every single frame shows thought, insight and detail, not to mention a colour palette that is further intensified by the clear cinematic quality of film captured by the Red One camera lens.

There were many scenes where the men in the production got to display their naked chests and it was beautiful! But they also got to show off their skills in the field of martial arts. There were many fight and swordplay scenes, as many of those as chase scenes and lots of horseback riding. Fortunately, the leading male cast was in shape and are known to have vast experience with filming staged fights. The cameras were able to capture great action and the deliberate use of slow-motion magnified every fist connecting with flesh, every sword tearing at the skin, every bullet piercing another being. It was magnificent! But this mastery was not slow-motion alone it was a combination of causing an effect in slow-motion and heightening it with fast-motion which revealed the fluidity of body movement and the impressive male forms.

I cannot find fault in the cinematography – the cameramen did their due diligence from planning and stylizing their scenes and shooting raw footage to then editing it. Adding in the musical accompaniment from a soundtrack brimming with lyrical and rhythmic songs and instrumental pieces, including Change by Gloomy 30’s, Stigma by Yim Jae Bum, Moon has Passed by Beige, EopBok The Sniper by MC Sniper, Damned Love by Woong San, Biingnyeolli by Ccotbyel, Stigma II (bonus track) by Yim Jae Bum, and Evil Earth , Black Windy Mountain Flower Way, Star Way, The Lost Paradise,  and Swords Don’t Cry by Various Artists. If you take a listen to my playlist on Spotify (linked below), you’ll understand just how entertaining the soundtrack is. The music is as authentic and appealing as the cinematography is, and together they help heighten the visual narration and when combined with the tragic tale makes for winning entertainment.

If I had one area I’d critique harshly it would be hair and makeup alongside some of the costume. Not the choices, no the choices were appropriate – who doesn’t like men who look dashing and ravishing even in rags? Not me! No, my criticism is how the female characters manage to maintain pristine hair, faces, and apparel while running around and/or cavorting in dusty, dirty, rainy, places. Not a mark on their faces, no opportunity to wash and comb their hair, yet every scene they looked like they had just stepped out a hanbok fitting room or the salon. Now I can understand Kwak Jung-hwan using this stylized approach especially with Eunnyeon — he wanted to paint a picture of ethereal beauty and that even while she was complicit in the destruction of Dae-gil’s home and the life of his parents, she was above reproach because her brother forced the situation upon her. So this unrealistic cleanliness while on the run was more like a layer of innocence being added. At least that’s how I wish to interpret it.

Of course, writer Chun Sung-il and director Kwak Jung-hwan would not have the success and claim to fame for this production if it were not for the amazing cast of actors and actresses. I really liked the fact that a more mature cast was selected, it made watching the characters far more realistic and I was able to personally identify with the situation because I understood these characters to be of my age and maturity.

Dae-gil was played by (in my opinion, the only actor in the South Korean kdrama industry actor that could pull this character off) Jang Hyuk. Anyone who has been following this blog will know I am a die-hard Jang Hyuk fan. The man has so much talent in his field and he has never disappointed me in any of his role choices. As Dae-gil he inhabited the two aspects of his character – the compliant son of a yangban to start off with and then the lean, mean supercharged obsessed slave hunter. As is usual his performance had me hooked from start to bitter end. I laughed with him, I cried with him, I felt his pain and anguish, his frustration and anger and understood his jealousy, but most of all I connected with the heart of Dae-gil purely because of Jang Hyuk’s organic interpretation and delivery of his character. As is usual with most roles Jang Hyuk takes on, his characters are not always easy to watch or pretty because they all come with unique traits and flaws, but he always manages to breathe life into them and even when there are similarities, he never delivers by rote a performance that isn’t unique. What is even more impressive is the fact that he does all of his own stunts, rarely if ever uses a stunt double. In this production the demands on his martial arts knowledge and physique were demanding — his body was almost constantly on the move.

As the second male lead, Song Tae-ha, Oh Ji-ho cut an exceptionally refined character. I appreciated how Kwak Jung-hwan’s camera paid specific attention to Oh Ji-ho’s eyes for this production. Instead of delivering countless lines with meaningless words, Oh Ji-ho’s character’s face was used to create depth and soul to his character and intelligence in his eyes. He was absolutely mesmerizing and if I wasn’t a die-hard Jang Hyuk fan, I’d be a die-hard Oh Ji-ho fan … wait I am one – who says you can’t be a fan of more than one hot South Korean actor anyway? Oh Ji-ho succinctly delivered a strong manly character with the right moral ideology and a deep-seated loyalty. There is nothing more attractive than a loyal man! There was a depth to Song Tae-ha as a character that wasn’t written into Dae-gil’s character – not that he didn’t have depth, just Song Tae-ha’s depth seemed more profound. I was impressed at seeing Oh Ji-ho in this role and I want to now add more production he has been in as a result.

As Eunnyeon (Hye Won), Lee Da-Hae was a perfectly aesthetic choice to stand beside both Dae-gil and Song Tae-ha – physically speaking. Her very real, very ethereal beauty alone made her a wise choice. He soft gentle demeanour and features complemented the rougher sides but equally aesthetically pleasing aspects of Jang Hyuk and Oh Ji-ho. Lee Da-Hae’s character is the classic personification of beauty and grace for the Joseon era, a role made even more complicated by the love (perhaps different types) that she feels towards the two men in her life. Her performance was strong, genuine, raw, and filled with emotion and passion, tastefully accomplished though. There is a single moment where she is shocked to discover that Dae-gil is, in fact, alive, contrary to what her brother has told her. Lee Da-Hae emotes well in this production and her confusion over her two loves is visible on her facial features and body language. I felt a lot of empathy towards Eunnyeon as a character. Lee Da-Hae did her character justice with a solid performance.

General Choi (Janggoon Choi) was played by Han Jung-soo, another well-built dashing male figure playing a very masculine role. Han Jung-soo is definitely a gorgeous man, a more rugged and natural look than the younger flower boys that are beautiful to look at but lack depth in their acting skills. Han Jung-soo perfectly interpreted his character as a quiet, thoughtful and incredibly learned man. He didn’t use too many words too often, instead, when he delivered responses the audience felt that he had looked carefully and wisely at the situation and drawn the best course of action. I really enjoyed watching his protection of his brothers-in-arms. One other aspect of his character that I believe Han Jung-soo perfectly depicted in the oblivious reaction to all the flirtation and in some cases blatant throwing of affection in his direction by the two alehouse women. I loved watching Han Jung-soo deliver his character’s embarrassment and discomfort. It made him that much more alluring to the women, but also to me. I’m looking forward to watching more of Han Jung-soo’s acting.

Wang-son, the slave hunter team maid-service and lustful ladies’ man was played by the adorable Kim Ji-seok. The character was obviously penned to bring comic relief and a little humour and Kim Ji-seok’ character perfectly delivers this at opportune moments throughout the production. I wondered if Chun Sung-il had a little tongue-in-cheek moment when he named Wang-son – the little translation is big hand and given the way the character is depicted as being constantly horny, it’s sort of comical the name given. At least, to me it is. I think it was a good interpretation by Kim Ji-seok to make his character a little whiney and a lot immature when compared to the others. It allowed for audience members like me to draw the conclusion of two older brothers tolerating a rather spoilt younger brother. I liked that a lot! And Kim Ji-seok is not without his own physical attributes. I enjoyed his performance, though it was stellar and understood his role and why he was sometimes so annoying that I could easily have slapped him on the back of the head!

Lee Jong-hyuk played the nasty villain Cheol-woong Hwang. Lee Jong-hyuk is another fine looking, tall, dark, handsome character for this production, but he was also an actor that gave a strong performance as a man tortured by his past, his present and the future his father-in-law desires him to have. Fooled and manipulated into a marriage to a flawed woman, there is no escape for him except to do his father-in-law’s bidding, no matter how distasteful it is. I liked that Lee Jong-hyuk created this emotional space or distance in his character that was tangible. It’s almost as if in some scenes he has an out-of-body experience, where he visibly sees his future and refuses to participate in it. I felt a lot of empathy for this character and that speaks volumes because it means that Lee Jong-huyk delivered on his performance. The character hid his emotions well, for the most part. He was particularly strong in the swordplay which happened often.

Comical character, an angry slave, Eop-bok was played by Gong Hyung-jin. I absolutely was smitten by this character. He made me laugh and cry in equal measure. Gong Hyung-jin was amazing in this role. I enjoyed watching his performance, his growing hatred for the yangban and his desire for freedom. I believe at the heart of things this character portrayed the state of emotions of the male slaves – unable to protect themselves and the people they loved. It was a great performance.

A special mention to Jang Hyuk and Lee Da-Hae whose characters share a very innocent and timid chemistry in the first episode and subsequent flashbacks. Their blossoming love is pure and sweet and oblivious to the hardship they would face if they had been given an opportunity to fulfil their hearts desires. Unfortunately, they are ill-fated star-crossed loves.

In comparison, the chemistry shared by Oh Ji-ho and Lee Da-Hae’s characters is more mature and respectful of each other and their ‘standing’ in society. It’s far deeper because the two characters come to a place of love from a shared place of hurt, both having lost their first love through tragic circumstances, not of their making. The time they spend together and the circumstances they find themselves in only brings them closer together and helps develop an attraction and desire for each other. As much as I empathized with Dae-gil, I did not see him as a good life partner for Eunnyeon, so I was happy when she fell in love with Song Tae-ha, who I felt was better suited to their present lives. Dae-gil had spent so many years obsessing over vengeance and being angry at Eunnyeon that he love was jaded and tainted with hurt and past regret.

oh! … sidekicks

One character that I found in a supporting role that irritated the hell out of me was Seol-hwa. Kim Ha-eun’s interpretation of the whiney, bratty and seriously immature woman grated my nerves and made me want to skip any scenes she was in. I didn’t like Kim Ha-eun’s interpretation. I found it excessive and annoying. I think she faltered in creating the ingénue that Kwak Jung-hwan needed. Instead, she delivered a half-baked and unnatural performance. I was not impressed, and I could not and did not want to connect with her performance which seemed forced and excessive.

A character that never utters a single word but is central to much of the story’s political ongoing is exiled Prince Lee Seok-kyeo played by the adorable Kim Jin Woo. Such a young actor but already has appeared in other sageuk and kdramas. He was such a good boy, staying in character and delivering stately or regal facial expressions. What a sweetheart, I’ll be watching to see if he continues to go on and become an actor or not. I loved him in Empress Ki and I’ll have to watch that one again, so I can write a review.

Another character that deserves mention is Baek Ho, a fierce looking former slave hunter who wants to maintain an aggressive reputation but is generally a good-natured man. This character was played by Danny Ahn whose acting skills are growing on me.

Cheon Ji-ho who is Dae-gil’s arch nemesis but also a sort of surrogate father-figure. He was played by Song Dong-il, an actor who has had a prolific career in film and kdrama and has won awards. As Cheon Ji-ho, Song Song-il gave a mighty performance and was one of those characters you dislike because you think they’re a bad guy only to later realize that they weren’t as bad as some of the others. I was impressed.

Lastly, was the character Geu Boon, the political plant and insurrectionist. I really Park Ki-Woong’s performance as this character. I think he did a fair job of depicting a rather maniacal and slightly unhinged man who spurs on a war on the yangban. I liked the addition of this character because to the plot line it made absolutely no sense whatsoever but added an interesting twist to the fates of the gun-toting slaves. Nicely achieved with a performance where Park Ki-woong used his face mostly to reflect his inner disdain for those following him while passively protecting his secret identity. It was wonderful!

oh! … that’s a wrap

I loved this kdrama. It’s presumptuous to say I knew I would, but with Jang Hyuk acting in a production you can’t go wrong. I must say that you need to pay special attention though because there are many characters, there’s a lot going on at all times and it’s easy to miss something important.

When a strong script is supported by a skilled director who makes critical choices in music, cinematography, cast and production values, it combines to bring about a successful end product and that is what Chuno is. A success!

I’ll watch this kdrama again, it will be added to my list and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a kdrama fan, especially if you can appreciate a sageuk with a twist.

That’s not to say that there weren’t flaws to the story or some of the characters, but the little faux pas was not overwhelming or unbearable and the pacing that was slow to get started fixing itself with time.

oh! … tidbits

The hit series topped the rating chart for 7 consecutive weeks, averaging 31.7% and reaching a peak of 35.9%. Chuno ratings reached 31% to 36% nationwide in Korea.

In 2010, the series was honoured at the Seoul International Drama Awards and the KBS Drama Awards (notably the highest prize Daesang for lead actor Jang Hyuk). Jang also received a best actor nomination at the 2011 International Emmy Awards for his performance.

Critics praised director Kwak Jung-hwan’s lush cinematography and his use of the Red One camera.

oh! … soundtrack

I could only find one song on Spotify that I know for certain is on the soundtrack, but I’ll keep looking for a better playlist.

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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