Category Archives: Dong Yi

Did Dong Yi and King Sukjong really have a long romance?

Did Dong Yi and King Sukjong really have a long romance?

Well, the answer is – we don’t know.  Because there’s very little information to be found about Dong Yi in the history books. All that’s known about her is that she came from the cheonin, servant class, then was noticed by the king, became a concubine, and eventually received the title Bin – the top rank for a royal concubine – when she gave birth to King Sukjong’s son. She was given the name Sukbin and her son became King Yeongjo who reined for 52 years and was the longest reigning king in Joseon history.

Dong Yi and King Sukjong blend in with the crowd, Dong Yi, MBC

One of the reasons there is so little information about her in the history books is that she came from the servant class. In the introduction to the novel Dong Yi, I read that Continue reading


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Is Dong Yi too slow?

I’ve just come back from a few weeks in the UK for a holiday and there was a pile of recorded Dong Yi episodes waiting for me. Normally I’d sit down and keep watching one episode after another, but this time I watched a couple of episodes and then took a few days break. This means that this drama is still not gripping me as much as Lee Byeong Hoon’s previous ones did. It’s slower and not as exciting and I was asking myself why.


King Sukjong at the daily meeting, Dong Yi, MBC

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The Romanization of Korean Names

hi, i have a question about the romanization of korean.

for han hyo joo, on wikipedia it lists:
revised romanization: han hyoju
mccune-reischauer: han hyo-ju

hmm, that is not so different. consider also ji jin hee.
revised romanization: ji jin-heui
mccune-reischauer: chi chin-hŭi

specifically, what is the romanization that is often seen, the form han hyo joo and ji jin hee?


Thanks for the question. I’ll take this opportunity to try to tackle the complicated and confusing world of romanizing Korean names. Over the years there have been several systems created to romanize Hangul, but since 2000 the Revised Romanization system became the official system taking over from McCune-Reischauer. BUT still, names and place names don’t always follow the new (or old) rules, so I’ve been trying to work out the best way to spell names too. For example, I’ve used the spelling “Jang Hee Bin” in my blog but elsewhere I’ve also seen her name spelt “Jang Hui-bin” or “Chang Huibin”. Where to use capital letters and when to hyphenate or not to hyphenate are more problems. On Wikipedia Ji Jin Hee is written as Ji Jin-hee and Ji Jin Hee.I know this is only a minor difference but still….(sigh)

Ji Jin Hee as King Sukjong, Dong Yi, MBC

As you’ve pointed out, Ji Jin Hee should technically be written as Ji jin-heui in Revised Romanization and I can’t find any rule in any romanization system (see this chart) that suggests that 희 should be written as Hee! The same is true for Han Hyo-joo which would be Han Hyo-ju in Revised Romanization.

According to my Korean friend, Continue reading

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Dong Yi, court lady sang-gung

So if all goes well, Dong Yi will soon move up the ranks to become a concubine.

Dong Yi, MBC

At the moment she is a court lady, sang-gung, rank 5, (top rank for a court lady but below the concubines). But of course she is different to the other sang-gung. First of all, she’s different because she hasn’t worked her way up the ranks like the other court ladies have had to do. Dong Yi has gone from no rank to sang-gung thanks to her relationship with the king and so her title is not just sang-gung but sung-un sang-gung 승은 상궁 承恩尙宮. This is a special title for sang-gung who are intimate with the king and are likely to move up to concubine status. Jang Hee bin (currently the queen) was this level at the beginning of the drama and we saw her ceremony when she became a concubine, hu-gung 후궁 後宮, rank 4 Sook-won.

Lady Jang becomes concubine Jang Sook-won, episode 17, Dong Yi, MBC source

Because of this special status, the sung-ung sang-gung doesn’t have to work  like the other sang-gung do. The regular sang-gung have jobs to do around the palace – in the drama we see sang-gung leading the court lady investigation bureau. It seems that all that the sung-un sang-gung has to do is look nice and wait for the king!


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Searching for original portraits of King Sukjong

This post was inspired by a question I was asked about where we can find portraits of King Sukjong and Dong Yi. I began a search, although I was not too hopeful as I had heard that a lot of Joseon royal portraits were damaged during wars and natural disasters over the years. I didn’t find anything on King Sukjong but I did find a portrait of Choi Dong Yi’s son, King Yeongjo, (see further below) along with several other kings. In this post I’ll take a quick look at the process of portrait painting in the Joseon court and the reasons for portrait painting and which royal portraits are still around.

King drinking coffee. OK so I couldn’t find an original portrait of King Sukjong but here’s a more contemporary image. Source: MBC Dong Yi blog

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Dong Yi Actor Quits Drama

Choi Chol-ho as Oh Yoon in Dong Yi, MBC

Dong Yi actor, Choi Chul-ho (40) who plays Oh Yoon, (the nephew of the leader of the southern faction Oh Tae Suk)  held a press conference on the 11th and voluntarily quit the drama in response to public criticism over an incident he was involved in one evening last week. Continue reading

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Who is Watching Dong Yi?

According to this article about the viewer ratings of Dong Yi in Korea, there was a lot of interest in Dong Yi when it first aired because it is directed by Lee Byung hoon who as we know also directed the hit palace kitchen drama Dae Jang Geum, (Jewel in the Palace). However, although Dong Yi has a loyal following, it has not been able to keep the interest of many other viewers. So why is this?

It seems that due to the leisurely pace of the plot and lack of thorough historical research the drama has not been able to keep the interest of middle aged men and younger viewers in their 20s. According to TNS Media Research, the drama is mainly watched by female viewers in their 30s and 40s. Followed by ladies in their 50s and 60s and then men in their 40s.

Seo Jang geum (Lee Young-ae) with her cooking teacher Han Baek young (Yang Mi kyung) in the 2003 MBC drama Dae Jang Geum (Jewel in the Palace)

Dae Jang Geum also had a female lead and was popular with women in the same age group as Dong Yi viewers. However Continue reading

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Dong Yi Star Han Hyo-joo gets presents from fans

I read that Dong Yi heroine Han Hyo-joo has been getting lots of gifts from her fans and that last weekend she put some pictures up on her gallery on along with a thank you note. Due to all night filming fans have been worried about her health so have sent health presents including red ginseng, mosquito repellent, pain relief packs and snacks. On her gallery page she writes that two large boxes of presents arrived for her and that she was touched by the fans’ concern. She also says that she will take lots of ginseng to try and get rid of the dark circles under her eyes! And ends by encouraging everyone to take care in the summer heat and promises to do her best for the rest of the filming and for us to look forward to Dong Yi becoming Suk Bin soon.

The pictures in the gallery show her trying the health drinks. There’s also a picture of a birthday cake given to her by fans on her birthday, February 22. The figures on the cake are all characters that she has played in various dramas.

Visitors to the gallery have had a chance to respond to the pictures. There has been some criticism too. One comment is that the photographs are sloppy and not taken with care. Another wonders if the pictures are an advert for red ginseng. Positive comments remark on her kindness and thoughtfulness for responding to the fans and that other young celebrities don’t put photos up like this to show their gratitude to their fans. (My initial reaction to the photos was that it was refreshing to see natural pictures that were not staged.)

Han Hyo-joo writes that she uses all the presents sent her with the greatest of care. The ginseng she was given for her dark circles (다크서클) she uses every day during filming and she feels gratitude every time she uses any of the gifts.

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Was there really a Court Lady Investigation Bureau in the Joseon Palace?

So I found this interesting site comparing the events in the drama, Dong Yi, to actual Joseon historical records. In episode 12 Dong Yi enters the 궁관 kung-gwan (court) and joins the Court lady Investigation Bureau. But according to records from the Joseon period, officially, there was no Court lady Investigation Bureau in the palace. And so, no official title of Court Lady Investigator.

Organization of court ladies

The ladies working in the court would be assigned to the King, Queen, Queen Mother, Crown Prince or Crown Prince’s concubine. The number of ladies in court probably varied throughout the period but according to records from King Gojong’s reign (1863-1907), 100 ladies would serve the King, 100 the Queen Mother, 100  the Queen, 60 the Crown Prince, and 40 the Crown Prince’s concubine. Then they would be assigned to work in various areas of court – bedrooms, washrooms, private rooms etc. Generally speaking, the court ladies that were ranked from 5 to 8 had duties concerned with day to day living in the palace. The lowest ranked court ladies (rank 9) were the female musicians. Then within each area of the palace, court ladies were assigned as inspectors  to check up on the other court ladies and make sure they were behaving themselves. There was one inspector assigned to the Crown Prince, and two for the King or Queen Mother. If moral issues or indiscretions amongst the court ladies were discovered then the inspector would report these to the head court lady,제조 상궁 che cho sang gung 提調尙宮 who would then report to the lady’s master or mistress – the King, Queen etc. So, although there was no actual police bureau, unofficially there were female inspectors chosen within the various departments amongst the court ladies and they were known as 감찰 시녀 kam chal shi nyo 監察侍女, which in English we could call ‘lady inspectors’?

As I wrote about in my last post the court ladies were given ranks from 9 to 1. Their male counterparts, the yangban officials in the sa-dae-bu, were also ranked from 9 to 1.

Joseon Court Organizational Chart


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Dong Yi, Court Lady Rankings, part 2

In my last Dong Yi post I looked at the ranking system for the King’s concubines in the Joseon period. The  내명부 (內命婦) ne-myeong-bu were the concubines and court ladies in the palace and they were divided into two groups  – the higher 내관 ne-gwan (for concubines) and then the lower  궁관 kung-gwan (for court ladies). There were 9 ranks altogether. The top 4 ranks were held by the concubines and the remainder by the court ladies. In episode 12 Dong Yi moves into the kung-gwan inner court and becomes a court lady 궁녀 kung-nyo working in the investigations bureau. We are not told what her rank is but she has to speak plain Korean to the palace slaves as she is now above them and finds this difficult. The other court ladies in the investigation bureau don’t want to accept her though, because they still see her as a slave.

episode 12 Dong Yi becomes a court lady, MBC

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