Network drama revisits life of Joseon kingdom’s architect

January 3, 2014

Joseon’s founding seen in unique angle

KBS’ new period piece ‘Jeong Do-jeon’ will fill the 9:40 p.m. weekend drama slot starting today. (Courtesy of KBS)

KBS’ new period piece ‘Jeong Do-jeon’ will fill the 9:40 p.m. weekend drama
slot starting today. (Courtesy of KBS)

By Do Je-hae


The founding of Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) has been a popular theme in period TV dramas. KBS is starting another one this week, aiming to duplicate the resounding success of the 1996 “Tears of Dragon” that covered the same period.

After two years of prepration, “Jeong Do -jeon” will air on 9:40 p.m. on weekends starting today. It is the longest-running period piece from KBS this year with 60 episodes. The broadcaster is hoping to counter mounting criticisms against historical dramas that have come to rely too much on fiction rather than facts.

The drama is KBS’ response to critics’ call for the restoration of authentic period pieces, which have become increasingly rare since the beginning of the new millennium. Viewers will be looking to see if the drama can simultaneously entertain and retain historical integrity, which had been a major factor in the adulation and ratings success of Tears of Dragon.

“We have been eager to produce this project for a long time,” Jang Seong-hwan, a KBS executive said during a press conference in Seoul, Thursday. “These days, schools don’t give due respect to history education and period dramas are more about fictionalized history. As a public broadcaster, we felt that we had a duty to create dramas that promote a proper awareness of history.”

The drama sets itself from others in the same genre by focusing on the life of a political titan rather than the lives of monarchs. Jeong’s ideas had a lasting impact on Joseon’s politics and laws. “The drama will deal with Jeong’s crucial role in the planning and founding of Joseon and the many obstacles he faced in the process,” said Kang Byung-taek, the director of the drama.

KBS has brought back some of the stars of Tears of Dragon to headline the new drama, including Yoo Dong-geun and Ahn Jae-mo. Film star Cho Jae-hyun makes his TV comeback as the main character of Jeong Do-jeon (1342-1398), one of the most powerful aristocrats and politicians of his time and a close supporter of King Taejo, the founder of Joseon.

“I’m very emotional about starring in my first period drama since 1995,” Cho said. “I don’t think a lot of people are aware of Jeong’s achievements. I hope to learn more about him with our viewers, because I believe he is someone we should know as Koreans. I am happy with the choice I made in joining this project.”

A political rivalry with Yi Bang-won, the fifth son of King Taejo, decided Jeong’s final destiny. Jeong and Yi collided, among other things, over the issue of choosing a successor to King Taejo. In 1398, Yi killed his two half-brothers including the crown prince as well as Jeong and his supporters in a coup that came to be known as the “First Strife of Princes.” Yi eventually became the third king of Joseon.