Synopsis. Haechi is a 24 (48 split) episode 2019 kdrama about the struggle for the throne. The best candidate is a prince with a commoner mother, but no one wants him to become the next King. Through dogged determination, a cadre of supporters, and events outside his control, he makes his bid for the throne.
What I liked.
Writing and Production. Writer Kim Yi Young crafted each episode chock full of events, surprises and cliffhangers that kept you coming back. This was my first drama by Writer Kim. It won’t be my last. If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage. Writer Kim’s interruption of this historical time was never boring. There was balance between Team Good and Team Evil. They both won some and they both lost some. Even better, some of them garnered each other’s respect and support. That isn’t a typical outcome. Team Evil was nuanced and not one note characters. Writer Kim made the myriad of political struggles interesting. Yes, you read that right. Political machinations were watchable. I appreciated the low body count, unusual for a historical drama. The production of the drama was also top notch. This was the first drama I’ve seen directed by Lee Yong Seok. He and his team delivered what felt like authentic windows into that historical time. Good writing and direction laid the foundation then the actors brought the drama to life.
Leading man Prince/King Yeoninggun Lee Geum (Jung Il Woo). I watched this drama for Jung Il Woo who I fell for watching 49 Days. Jung Il Woo completed his military service in November 2018 and Haechi was his “comeback drama”. I was pleased to see that he still has “it” – intensity, a darling crooked smile, vulnerability, and command of the screen. I couldn’t be more pleased to see Jung Il Woo shine in a series that provided a showcase for his talents. This is what I hope for every actor I follow – they act in a series with great writing, a capable director, complimentary actors, all that combine and create a quality kdrama.
Secondary leading man Dal Moon (Park Hoon). Dal Moon was the king of the streets. His deep connections were originally mined by Team Evil but he became a friend and avid supporter of Prince/King Yeoninggun. His secret Achilles heel, was his first love who scorned the simple life to become the evil prince’s concubine. She played him, but he couldn’t give up hope that one day she’d see the error of her ways. Park Hoon was the best looking actor in the cast with swarthy looks and a terrific smile when he flashed it.
Secondary leading man Park Moon Soo (Kwon Yool). Moon Soo was the moral compass for justice. He believed everyone, regardless of rank or station, had to abide by the rules and those that didn’t should be punished. Needless to say in the corrupt core of inspectors, Moon Soo wasn’t well liked by those in power. Moon Soo and Prince/King Yeoninggun had a rocky start but they soon saw the positives in each other. They trusted and respected each other. I could use that phrase “respected and trusted” to all those in Team Good. Moon Soo’s evolution was one of the better ones in the series, he grew, matured and came into his own as leader and stanch supporter of the King.
Secondary leading man Minister Min (Lee Kyoung-Young) . Originally part of Team Evil, Minister Min slowly grew to realize that Prince/King Yeoninggun was worthy of the throne. He surprised himself and his political party when he aided his former adversary. Minister Min was a true politician and jaded by his belief that politics would always win. King Yeoninggun proved through perseverance, smarts, and respecting everyone, that wasn’t true. The final scene between Minister Min and the King was touching and the personification of the hard earned “respect and trust” between the two men.
Secondary leading man Prince Milpoonggun Lee Tan (Jung Moon Sung). This evil Prince was a dreadful, angry, murderer that believed he was the rightful person to take the throne. But Writer Kim made him nuanced. When you saw behind the curtain to the unsure man that desperately wanted to fulfill his promise to his father that he would be King, you felt for him. He only wanted respect and the throne, nothing else mattered. He never gave up his quest. He was used by others to pursue their own agenda, but as long as he saw the dots connecting to get him to the throne, he was willing. Jung Moon Sung did a terrific job with this character and commanded the screen.
Message. This drama’s theme “never give up fighting for what you believe in” was clear and the mantra of our many characters (good and evil). Belief in yourself was another theme. Surrounding yourself with supportive people was another take away.
OST. This drama’s a mini two song OST. Check out the two vocal songs here.
1. Love Poem sung by Jung In
2. Story Conveyed By The Wind sung by Jun Woo Sung
What I didn’t like.
Minimal Romance. The romance in this drama was a side note, it could have been fleshed out more.
Would I recommend Haechi? Absolutely. This was a stellar series. I loved seeing Jung Il Woo shine in an outstanding drama surrounded by a bevy of actors that made this well written, directed series a winner.
I appreciate that you mentioned the OST, it was good❣️ This drama was on my short list as I am also a Jung Il Woo fan too. I had high hopes for Haechi … who knew it would be my favorite drama in 2019 … so far.
I 💗 the themes of believing in yourself and never giving up. Kudos 👏 to writer Kim Yi Young for a superb script with an unprecedented number of nuanced characters and to the skilled actors who portrayed them. Flawed characters painted in shades of gray made them seem more realistic and human. My perspective of Minister Min 👴💩 was initially as an antagonist, but later changed to being a protagonist👴🌸. I even felt pity for psychotic serial killer Mil Poong 🍁🤴, who was distinctly a reprehensible villain; actor Jung Moon Sung gave a spectacular performance as Mil Poong 🍁🤴❗‼️ As KJT mentioned, the low body count was also unheard of, for a sageuk.
I’ve seen Yeoning 🏹🤴 and or his parents portrayed in “Dong Yi” and “Jang Ok Jung” as a child, growing to young adulthood in “Jackpot” and an aged King in “Warrior Baek Dong Soo”. I thought Jung Il Woo did a fantastic job of playing the controversial Prince Yeoning 🏹🤴 who became a very good king.
I really liked all of leading men and as much as I adore 💗 Jung Il Woo, I concur Park Hoon stole our hearts with “swarthy” looks … Oh those smoldering eyes and his smile ✳️
I had high hopes for Haechi … who knew it would be my favorite drama in 2019 … so far.
My hopes weren’t that high for this historical…it is my favorite drama of 2019…so far…I wonder what drama will overtake it.
Kudos 👏 to writer Kim Yi Young for a superb script with an unprecedented number of nuanced characters and to the skilled actors who portrayed them.
Well said. This was a perfect storm of writing, production and acting. This won’t be my last series I watch from the pen of Writer Kim.
Park Hoon…Oh those smoldering eyes and his smile
He was effortlessly hot.
(my screen orientation changed while I was typing and sent my comments accidentally – my apologies if there were any typos)
I can HARDLY WAIT for a drama with Park Hoon as the first lead.
Inspector Park Moon Soo 🖌️📄 won the award for having the truest moral compass; I like that in a man.
I was okay that the romance was minimal, since Yeoning 🏹🤴 already had at least one wife and concubine. I did like the character Yeo Ji 🍵👧 and her protection of Yeoning 🏹🤴, but I could never see such an independent woman find true happiness with the King. I thought she would have been a good match for Moon Soo 🖌️📄, but the heart 💓 wants what the heart 💓 wants AND she could not have been in a position to save him unless she was in the palace.
The writing, direction and acting was all WELL DONE; Oh that more dramas would have this impeccable trifecta. I would whole heartedly recommend watching Haechi. It is WELL WORTH your precious drama watching time.
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I had a soft spot for Jung Il Woo ever since THE RETURN OF ILJIMAE/ Moon River. After Haechi, he is currently my favorite actor. And Haechi is one of my favorite dramas of all time.
I had rewatched this so many times. Some dramas, no matter how good, gets boring after a rewatch (I am thinking of Crash Landing On You). But Haechi… The more I watch, the more I understand. And I continue getting inspired.
I do love underdogs who triumph against all odds. And our Prince Yi Geum was truly an underdog, looked down by many nobles as a half-breed prince.
He himself thought he was a nobody, without purpose in life. He was very smart though, and he wanted to help his younger brother (the only one who treated him with respect) become king. But when this brother dies before him, realizing his lack of power to protect his loved ones, he decides to gain that power by dreaming big dreams. He decides to become the next king.
He knows he can’t become a king on his own, so he starts gathering support around him. He faces many obstacles and most people mistrust him at first. But he doesn’t get offended at their distrust. He is able to put himself in the other person’s shoes and comes up with ways that may benefit both parties. Instead of demanding trust, he appeals to their sense of honor and love for the country.
And little by little, so many of his enemies, they start breaking down before him. You can literally watch so many of the adversaries become speechless at some of the prince/kings’ actions. So many times, faced with life and death situations, instead of running away, he confronts the problem head on with so much courage, people end up, not just admiring him, but loving him.
He never took the easy way out. Once he decided to become the king, he wanted to understand the heart of the lowliest of his people. So he would put himself at risk for their sake. He thus inspired those around him to dream big, and his friends returned their love for their master, sacrificially.
At the end, one old adviser does tell the king he is too idealistic and that fair policies are unrealistic, due to fail. But he still encourages the king to fight the good fight all he can. “Your Majesty, I pray you continue dreaming for a very long time. I feel like you can do it, since you are surrounded with many dreamers who support you.”
Five Stars all the way. I feel like this is so underrated because it does not use the usual cliches. And it’s a little hard to understand who is who at the beginning. But like a fine wine, the taste lingers for a very, very long time.
CHEERS TO HAECHI! Hail to the King!!!
Your assessment about him being an underdog is spot on. Glad you saw this series was a gem. I haven’t rewatched this drama, and agree it would be enjoyable for a rewatch.
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You should definitely rewatch. I could answer so many questions you may have. Im not an expert of k history, but I am gettting up there…
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