The Portrayal of Hugungs (Second Wives) in Korean Movies

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy

Table of Contents

Focus of the topic , Apr. 1st 2011

Focus . . Go to Teacher's Comment

For about a month, Ive been working on the topic "The Hugungs of Joseon Dynasty and the misportrayals of historical dramas". To find out the errors in Historical Dramas, Ive been collecting information about Hugungs and watching some episodes of historical dramas depicting the lives of Hugungs. However, while studying about the Drama Dong-i, I became skeptic about the topic. Since the drama was about a rather unknown Hugung, the base historical source was so wick and unproved; just two facts that she was a Hugung of King Sukjong, and that she is the mother of King Gyeongjong. This leaded to the conclusion that most of the environment and the plot are merely fictions, which do not worth determining whether historically true or false.
Ive got to think that not only Dong-i but also other dramas must somehow contain some scenes created by the producers to fill in the blanks among information. This skepticism gave me a clear conclusion that I should not investigate small details of plot or settings, but rather concentrate on the overall viewpoint of the producer on a specific historical character. That's why I changed the overall flow of my research. I believe this worth more than one month of efforts. That's how I made this decision.
Now, I'm planning to concentrate on Jang Heebin, a famous Hugung of Sukjong, whose story was made into historical dramas 7 times in Korea. Overall, most of these dramas are depicting Jang Heebin as a femme fatale or a typical example of immoral and greedy woman who is full of jealousy and who wants to monopolize her husband among several wives. The fact that Jang Heebin was jealous about Sukjong having affection with other Hugungs and misbehaved (for example heating) is recorded in the anal of Joseon Dynasty and seems to be true. However, not many dramas put importance on the background of Jang Heebin's immorality. Connecting concurrent diplomatic and political situation with my study, I want to show that there were reasons why Jang Heebin should be a femme fatale; to seek for husband's love in the situation where she should be abdicated to mitigate disputes between 'Bungdang's, political parties of late Joseon era.