Saturday, July 14, 2018

“Mr. Sunshine” synopsis by episode, Eps. 1-24 (no spoilers)











“Mr. Sunshine” is a 2018 South Korean television series written by Kim Eun-sook and directed by Lee Eung-bok, starring Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-ri, Yoo Yeon-seok, Kim Min-jung, and Byun Yo-han.

The series is set in Hanseong (the former name of Seoul) in early 1900s, and focuses on activists fighting for Korea’s independence. The series airs every Saturday and Sunday on tvN starting from July 7, 2018. It premiered internationally on Netflix. (Wikipedia)

‘Hollywood cinematography’ on Netflix’s ‘Mr. Sunshine’ makes South Korean TV drama a hit

K-drama 'Mr. Sunshine' writer is accused of distorting history
Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; Some holes in the “Mr. Sunshine” narrative; Historical backgrounders and other information; Lessons in photography from “Mr. Sunshine” (with in-depth analysis of the drama’s cinematography)

How I wrote these synopses with no spoilers


1. I assumed that you will be reading these synopses and watching the videos chronologically.

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode, without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

3. At the beginning of each synopsis starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table a summary of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.

4. With the Finale, however, I included spoilers; people who have not seen the drama want to know whether it has a sad ending or a happy ending before they invest their time in watching it.

(I used this same structure in my synopses/recaps of “A Tree With Deep Roots,” “The Princess’s Man,” “The Flower in Prison,” “Saimdang, Light’s Diary,” “The Moon That Embraces The Sun,” “Moonlight Drawn By Clouds,” “Jumong,” “Dong Yi,” “Rebel: Thief Who Stole People,” “Yi San,” “Jejoongwon,” “Six Flying Dragons,” The King’s Doctor,” and “A Jewel in the Palace.”)

Episode 1: “A time of turbulence”


Captain Eugene Choi and his superior Major Kyle Moore of the US Marine Corps are promoted and ordered to set sail for Joseon to lead America’s expansion into Asia.

Flashback — Joseon, 1871 (8th year of King Gojong’s reign) ...

Yoo-jin, a 9-year old slave, escapes as his mother and father are being punished by their cruel master. On the run, he meets Eun-san, who gives him food, and an American missionary who wants to buy from Eun-san some ceramics before he goes back to America the next day.

As the American warships arrive in Joseon, Daewongun (the highest official in the Joseon court) urges King Gojong to reinforce their forces on Ganghwa Island to fight against the American barbarians. Later, hostilities erupt, and after exchanging cannon fire with the Joseon forces, the American troops storm the island. Helping the Americans is Lee Wan-ik, a self-confessed Joseon traitor; during the battle, he is shot.

After the slave hunters who were sent by Yoo-jin’s cruel master reach his house, Eun-san pressures the American missionary to help Yoo-jin to escape.

1875, Japan ...

Together with Song-yeong (a former Joseon minister), Sang-wan and his wife Hee-jin are members of a resistance group called the “Righteous Army” that aims to kill Lee Wan-ik. But a spy has infiltrated their ranks.

1894, 31st year of King Gojong’s reign ...

Joseon has been colonized by Japan; with slavery and the civil service exams now abolished, turmoil rocks Joseon society.

The slave hunters who chased Yoo-jin (Il-shik and Choon-shik) decide to set up businesses that will take advantage of the turbulent times.

Yoo-jin’s cruel master urges his grandson Kim Hee-sung to study in Japan and to enter Joseon politics later on. Meanwhile, Go Ae-shin (daughter of Sang-wan and his wife Hee-jin) is now a young lady who’s frequently visited by the seller of cosmetics, hair pins, and “norigae” (tasseled ornaments for women).



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Episode 2: “In her father’s footsteps”


Episode 1 recap:

Yoo-jin’s parents die at the hands of their cruel master.

After his father dies during the battle on Ganghwa Island, the teenaged Seung-gu shoots Lee Wan-ik in blind anger. Later, after being released by the American forces, he vows to Eun-san that he will become a rebel.

With the missionary’s help, Yoo-jin reaches America, where years later, he enters the military service and becomes “Eugene Choi.”

Lee Wan-ik, now a Japanese collaborator, kills Sang-wan and his wife Hee-jin.
Ae-shin has grown up to be a young woman of great wealth and privilege, thanks to her grandfather Lord Go (a former high-ranking minister and King Gojong’s mentor). But she gets punished when her grandfather finds out that she has been secretly reading newspapers to keep herself informed about what’s happening to the Joseon government. Her grandfather warns her about what happened to the late Queen Min.

Lord Go contacts Gunner Jang after he becomes worried that Ae-shin might one day follow in her father’s footsteps. He then orders Ae-shin to follow Gunner Jang up to a mountain.

The Spanish-American War erupts, and Eugene and his superior Major Moore are thrown into a fierce battle.

Present times ...

Ae-shin meets a young fabrics seller who used to visit her grandfather’s house; she becomes intrigued when the fabrics seller says that she’s studying English with an American lady teacher, not for a title but for “love.”

Eugene arrives in Hansung (Joseon’s capital) and stays in Glory Hotel, which is frequented by foreigners. His official cover is that of acting consul of the American legation. But his top secret assignment is to kill Logan Taylor, the Joseon government’s foreign-affairs adviser who has been selling intelligence secrets to Japan.

Eugene targets Logan Taylor on the night when the American-built electric lamp system is being inaugurated on Hansung’s streets.





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Note: Coffee is frequently mentioned in this drama: the first mention of coffee is in Episode 2 at the 47:34 mark when King Gojong orders that coffee be brought to his quarters. It is mentioned again in this episode at the 55:45 mark.

In history, King Gojong did have a fondness for coffee. Most sources say that he came to know about coffee during his 1896 stay at the Russian embassy. But historian Robert D. Neff proves in “Koreans, coffee and the king's court” (Jeju Weekly) that coffee was known and served in Joseon’s royal court even before 1896.

King Gojong’s fondness for coffee provided the means for an assassination attempt against him and the Crown Prince. This is the historical basis for the 2012 movie “Gabi” aka “Russian Coffee” starring Park Hee-soon (as King Gojong), Kim So-yeon, and Joo Jin-mo (he played the role of Wang Yu in “Empress Ki”).

Episode 3: “More passion than shooting a rifle”


Episode 2 recap:

Gunner Jang is none other than Seung-gu, the teenager who shot Lee Wan-ik. On the mountain, he teaches Ae-shin how to be an expert sniper.

Ae-shin joins Gunner Jang’s resistance group and gets assigned to kill Logan Taylor at a geisha bar. But before she can shoot, Eugene shoots Logan Taylor first. As they’re chased by Japanese swordsmen, they also chase each other on the roofs. Later, without their masks and disguises, they meet on the streets where the American-built electric lamp system has just been switched on.

The Japanese gang leader named Dong-mae and his men ransack the house of Logan Taylor as they look for a document.

Glory Hotel is owned by a Japanese woman named Kudo Hina.

The American ambassador urges King Gojong to allow American soldiers to restore order in Hansung’s streets, but the ministers protest.

As consul, Eugene is assigned to investigate Logan Taylor’s killing, and Ae-shin is eventually called to the American legation for questioning. They begin to suspect each other of being the sniper.

Eugene and Ae-shin continue their verbal sparring on what their real identities are. Later, as Ae-shin leaves, the legation’s interpreter, Gwan-soo, tells Eugene that Ae-shin is the granddaughter of Lord Go, a highly-respected former government minister who was King Gojong’s teacher. He is also well-known and loved for his charitable acts for the poor people of Joseon.

On their way home, Ae-shin and her servants stop to buy some candies from a French bakery. Meanwhile, in a nearby house of a tarot card reader, Dong-mae remembers his past. But his reverie gets broken as he overhears two Japanese men who want to molest Ae-shin.

The next morning, while they’re having soup, Gwan-soo tells Eugene about the possibility of Logan having been assassinated by an American. While they’re talking, swordsmen from Dong-mae’s gang (“Black Dragon Society”) appear and forcibly take Gwan-soo with them.

King Gojong gets the report that Logan Taylor’s document hasn’t been found yet. He then issues a royal order that allows American troops to be stationed in Joseon.

Eugene goes back to the riverside inn where he ate before, planning to take a boat and visit Eun-san, the ceramist who saved him years ago. But to his surprise, Ae-shin is also there.

After meeting Eun-san and on their way back as they ride on a boat, Eugene remembers his mother when he sees the “norigae” on Ae-shin’s dress.

In Japan, Hee-sung receives a telegram from his parents that asks him to come back to Joseon.

At a tailoring shop, Ae-shin and Eugene meet again. Thinking that Eugene could really be her comrade in the resistance, Ae-shin feels at ease and asks him what the English word “love” means.

Later, Ae-shin and her servants board the train that’s bound for Jaemulpo. The people graciously give way to Ae-shin, but a rowdy Japanese soldier appears and aims his rifle at Ae-shin.

Spoiler alert: 1. Dong-mae belonged to the despised class of people known in Joseon history as “baekchong” (alternative spelling “paekchong”); the baekchong were primarily butchers.

A. From “Jejoongwon, Part 1: The History”: Joseon society was divided into four castes, with the “yangban” (nobles) as the highest caste. The lowest caste was “chonmin” that consisted of slaves, convicts, shamans, and entertainers (such as gisaengs and storytellers).

At the very bottom of the “chonmin” caste was the outcast group known as the “baekchong.” Consisting of butchers, gravediggers, and executioners (anyone associated with death), they lived in segregated communities and had no family names; other castes treated them like worthless dogs.

B. From “The Paekchong: ‘Untouchables’ of Korea” by Soon Man Rhim (UP Diliman Institute of Asian Studies Journal of Critical Perspectives) citing Herbert Passin:

(1) Some scholars believe that the “paekchong” were descendants of the Tartars, based on the writings of Jung Yak Yong (one of the most prominent scholars in Joseon history; you might remember him as the nerdy scholar in the last few episodes of “Yi San”).

“Tartar” is the general term for all northern peoples, Mongolians, Manchurians, and so on.

Other scholars believe that the “paekchong” descended from the disgraced scholars who in 1392 remained loyal to Goryeo when the Joseon Dynasty was founded. (You might remember these scholars in Episodes 37 and 38 of “Six Flying Dragons.”)

(2) The status of the paekchong was far below that of the slaves in the traditional Korean social system. Although the slave status was hereditary, slaves could buy their freedom and become “sangmin” (commoners). Paekchong, on the hand, had no way of escaping from their outcast status.

The paekchong were divided into two basic groups: the “chaein” and the paekchong proper.

The “chaein” were the actors, jugglers, acrobats, and magicians. The paekchong proper were the butchers, leather workers, and basket makers.

(3) Discrimination against the paekchong:

Until the breakdown of Korea’s traditional social order at the end of the 19th century, the paekchong were forced, by custom and law, to live in segregated quarters isolated from the common people in order to maintain public peace and public morals.

Their dead had to be buried in segregated plots so as not to pollute the sacred burial grounds of the common people.

They were not allowed to buy fresh fish in the public market.

Honorifics: Ordinarily, Joseon men talked down (informally or “banmal”) to boys, while the boys had to reply formally (“jondaemal” meaning, with respect). But the paekchong were required to speak formally even to boys from the “sangmin” class (commoners).

Butchering — their main occupation — was more a public obligation than a source of income. They slaughtered the animals for the five great animal sacrifices that were offered each year. But they were not paid for their services.

In addition, whenever an ordinary man wanted some butchering done, he would call a paekchong to do it. No compensation was received in these instances as well.

Paekchong were also assigned to torture and execute prisoners, when the regular executioners were not available.

2. At the 1:00:25 mark, Ae-shin’s faithful servant, Haman, says that Americans eat people. She’s referring to a historical incident known as “The Baby Riots of 1888”; read more about it in the Historical backgrounders section below.

Episode 4: “Gun, glory, sad ending”


Episode 3 recap:

Dong-mae kills the two Japanese men who wanted to molest Ae-shin. Ae-shin’s servant recognizes Dong-mae as the young man who was saved by Ae-shin years ago.

With his gun, Eugene confronts Dong-mae’s gang in their turf; when Dong-mae says that they need someone to write a letter in English, Eugene allows them to take Gwan-soo.

Eugene is happy to see Eun-san again, but despite his hints, Eun-san doesn’t recognize him.

Ae-shin grabs the rifle from the rowdy Japanese soldier. Later, after embarking from the train, she’s stunned to see Eugene in his military uniform as he leads American soldiers in searching Joseon citizens. Eugene admits to her that Logan’s assassination was a ploy to bring American soldiers to Joseon.
Despite guns pointed at her by American soldiers, Ae-shin refuses to be searched and, in controlled rage, questions Eugene’s real identity. Later, on the mountain where she practices shooting, Ae-shin finds out who stole the rifle from the Americans.

Despite her servant’s protests, Ae-shin goes to enroll in the school that teaches English. She tries to impress the American lady teacher with the English words that she already knows, one of which she learned from Kudo Hina, owner of Glory Hotel.

On her aunt’s instructions, Ae-shin goes to Glory Hotel to look for her cousin. There, she meets Eugene, and after she leaves, she finds Dong-mae blocking her palanquin.

After finding that his room has been ransacked, Eugene confronts Dong-mae and his men.

Gwan-soo gathers all the passengers in the train and asks them to describe for a sketch artist what the person who stole the gun looked like. Later, he also brings Ae-shin to Eugene for another round of questioning. Despite her anger towards Eugene, Ae-shin becomes confused when he says that his investigation is fueled by jealousy.

After helping a sister and a brother who were being harassed on the street by two Japanese soldiers, Eugene and Major Moore continue walking along Hansung's streets. But Eugene suddenly stops and stares at a man who’s passing by — it’s the son of the cruel noble who killed his parents.



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Note: In this episode, Ae-shin enrolls in the English school. Respected historian Robert D. Neff in “Learning English in the 1880s, A glimpse into the history of learning English in Korea” tells us how Koreans first came to learn English:

“In 1882—just prior to Korea opening to the West—Koreans who desired to learn English had to travel to Japan.”

“Missionaries also established schools. In 1886, Mary F. Scranton, an American, established Ehwa Hakdang (Pear Flower School), a school for girls. One early teacher recalled that it started out as more of a place where poor girls would be fed and clothed rather than a place of education. The school is now known as Ewha Womans University and is one of the most prestigious schools in Korea.”

“English was also learned on streets and around the ports that foreign sailors and soldiers frequented.”

Episode 5: “Saving Joseon”


Episode 4 recap:

Kudo Hina offers to help solve the impasse with Eugene by lending to Ae-shin the tight-fitting, Western-style clothes that she’s wearing.

Ae-shin tells Dong-mae that she didn’t look at him with disgust because his father was a butcher but because he has become a traitor to Joseon.

Eugene goes to the pawnshop to hire Il-shik and Choon-shik to look for the cruel noble who killed his parents. There, he recognizes them as the slave hunters who chased him as a child. But he also finds out the truth about what happened that day in Eun-san’s place.

Eugene tracks down the cruel noble’s son and his wife. As he shows the wife the “norigae” that his mother snatched back then, they recognize him as the young boy Yoo-jin and that he has come back for revenge.

After arriving in Hansung, Hee-sung buys flowers and goes to visit his fiancée, Ae-shin.
Ae-shin gives Hee-sung an icy welcome and says that after 10 years, he looks exactly the way she envisioned him to be — pale and weak.

Eugene threatens the nobleman and his wife that if they’re not able to find the bodies of his parents, he will ruin them.

Dong-mae finds out that Ae-shin’s fiancée has returned to Joseon.

Eun-san and his apprentice present a white porcelain vase to Foreign Minister Lee Se-hoon; as they walk on the street on the way to a tavern, Eun-san sees and recognizes Eugene.

At the American embassy, Eugene is visited by Do-mi, the young boy whom he helped against the abusive Japanese soldiers.

In Glory Hotel, Hee-sung pressures Ae-shin about their marriage. As they’re talking, Eugene arrives and sees them.

Lee Wan-ik returns to Joseon, and Dong-mae welcomes him. When Lee Wan-ik asks about an alleged secret slush fund that King Gojong set up in China, Dong-mae refuses to answer.

The bald-headed Japanese soldier who was beaten up by Eugene remembers that Eugene is an American soldier; he then orders several platoons of soldiers under him to march on to and besiege the American embassy.

Note: At the 42:32 mark, Lord Ito Hirobumi mentions to Lee Wan-ik the term “Operation Fox Hunt”; this was the name of the plot to kill Queen Min.

Episode 6: “The way that leads back to you”


Episode 5 recap:

Hee-sung agrees with Ae-shin to postpone their marriage.

After finding out that Eugene was responsible for linking the Righteous Army with Logan Taylor’s assassination, Eun-san searches his room in Glory Hotel. There, he finds the “norigae” that the young boy Yoo-jin offered to him decades ago.

As Japanese and American soldiers aim their guns against each other, Eugene defuses the situation by threatening the two Japanese sergeants.

After getting the list of gunners in Joseon, Eugene traces Ae-shin’s training ground on the mountain. As they walk back to Hansung, Ae-shin tells Eugene not to worry about her because she has to fight for Joseon’s future. But she’s caught off guard when Eugene replies that he’s worried not about her but about himself.

Ae-shin and Dong-mae meet each other in a paper and brush store. As Ae-shin picks up the spilled brushes and other items, she’s startled when Dong-mae holds on tightly to the hem of her skirt.
Dong-mae confesses his love for Ae-shin.

The slave who beat Eugene up before he escaped from his cruel master takes him to a hill on Ganghwa Island where his parents could have been buried. While searching for the burial ground, Eugene meets Gunner Jang (aka Seung-gu).

Contrary to his parents’s order, Hee-sung comes back home.

In Glory Hotel, Eugene gets a letter from Joseph, the American who helped him escape from Joseon.

At the riverside inn, Gunner Jang asks Ae-shin to return the gun to the American legation. Later, as she’s traveling back with her servants, Ae-shin meets Eugene and Major Moore.

Foreign Minister Lee Se-hoon warns King Gojong of the rumors that are circulating among the people about his slush fund that has been deposited in a foreign country. King Gojong dismisses as he welcomes Lee Wan-ik.

Major Moore assigns Eugene and some marines to protect the wife of Logan Taylor as she negotiates the sale of her house to Lee Wan-ik, who’s accompanied by Dong-mae and his men.

In Glory Hotel, Eugene meets Dong-mae again; as Hee-sung joins them, Kudo Hina introduces him as Ae-shin’s fianceè.

Ae-shin’s aunt visits Hee-sung’s mother and pressures her to proceed with the wedding.

In disguise, Ae-shin sneaks into the American legation to return the gun that Gunner Jang stole. But she bumps into two marines om patrol and later gets caught.

Eugene finds out that the other man responsible for killing his parents is none other than Foreign Minister Lee Se-hoon. He rides his horse and then blocks the minister and his guards on the street.





Episode 7: “Let’s do it. Love.”


Episode 6 recap:

Eugene catches Ae-shin as she jumps over the wall of the American legation but doesn’t arrest her. Later, he writes a letter to his American friend Joseph about his growing feelings for Ae-shin.

Eugene rides his horse at full speed and jumps over Minister Lee Se-hoon, causing his litter to overturn and sending him crashing into the mud.

Logan Taylor’s nanny (Do-mi’s sister) hands over to Eugene the document that Dong-mae has been searching for — the certificate of deposit for King Gojong’s slush fund in a Shanghai bank.

Eugene finds out that Hee-sung is the grandson of the cruel master who killed his parents.

In Eun-san’s place, Eugene meets Ae-shin and tells her, “Love. Let's do it.”
Knowing only that the English word “love” means something better than getting a title or government position, Ae-shin agrees to do “love” with Eugene.

Lee Wan-ik goes to Glory Hotel and asks for a room, but Kudo Hina brusquely turns him away. Later, in a geisha bar, Lee Wan-ik pressures Dong-mae to find Logan Taylor’s document. But Dong-mae walks out in anger when Lee Wan-ik offends him.

The Japanese ambassador punishes the two sergeants who led their platoons in besieging the American legation.

Overhearing the conversation between Gwang-soo and the other translator, the two former slave hunters (Il-shik and Choon-shik) fear Eugene’s revenge against them; they hurriedly try to close down their pawnshop and to escape from Hansung.

At the English school, Ae-shin is mortified to finally learn what the English word “love” means. She writes a letter for Eugene and tells her manservant to sneak it into the American legation.

With Hee-sung downcast over Ae-shin’s latest rejection of his latest attempt to win her affection, Kudo Hina advises him to forcibly proceed with his wedding to Ae-shin according to Joseon customs.

After finding out that Eugene has a letter with English writings on it, Dong-mae thinks that it could be Logan Taylor’s document. He brings his men to Glory Hotel and searches Eugene’s room.

Ae-shin meets Eugene at night and at gunpoint, demands to know what his real intentions are towards her. While confronting each other, they hear a gunshot outside. Looking out the window, they see the drunk, bald-headed Japanese sergeant who’s dragging along and threatening to shoot a geisha who Ae-shin recognizes as the one who opened the window on the night that Logan Taylor was shot.

Ae-shin takes Eugene’s gun and confronts the rampaging Japanese sergeant.





Note: In Episode 7 (starting at 20:29 mark), Ae-shin and her servant stop by at the French bakery and order some “bingsu.”

“Patbingsu” (literally “red beans shaved ice”) is a popular Korean shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings that may include chopped fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrup, and red beans. Varieties with ingredients other than red beans are called “bingsu” (or “bingsoo”).

The early forms of “patbingsu” consisted of shaved ice and two or three ingredients, typically red bean paste, “tteok,” and ground nut powder. The earliest forms of “patbingsu” existed during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Government records show officials sharing crushed ice topped with various fruits.

The modern forms of “patbingsu” are reputed to have originated during the period of Korea under Japanese rule (1910-1945) with the introduction of a cold dish featuring red bean paste. (Wikipedia)

Episode 8: “The sins of the parents”


Episode 7 recap:

Lee Wan-ik is Kudo Hina’s biological father.

Not knowing how to read and write Hangul, Eugene doesn’t know what Ae-shin says in her letter.

Dong-mae becomes angry and jealous after he finds out that the letter with English writings in Eugene’s room is actually Ae-shin’s letter.

When Ae-shin is about to shoot the Japanese sergeant, Eugene takes the gun away from her, shoots himself on the arm, and confronts the Japanese sergeant as Joseon policemen arrive.

The geisha turns out to be a member of the Righteous Army; Eun-san, Gunner Jang, and the lady from the riverside inn plan to send her to safety in Shanghai.

King Gojong releases Eugene from jail.

In Glory Hotel, Hee-sung realizes that Eugene and Dong-mae are fighting over his fianceè Ae-shin. In a rapid turnaround from his easygoing ways, he warns Eugene and Dong-mae to stay away from Ae-shin.
When Hee-sung asks him why he’s looking for his family’s slaves 30 years ago, Eugene warns him to back off lest the sins of his parents and grandfather be visited on him.

At the training ground, Gunner Jang scolds Ae-shin that her actions against the Japanese sergeant could have put the Righteous Army at risk. Ae-shin asks about So-ah, the woman whom she saved, and adds that she wants to help her escape from Joseon. Later, Gunner Jang visits Lord Go and asks for money to help So-ah escape to Shanghai.

Minister Lee Jeong-mun convinces King Gojong to call Eugene to the palace, saying that his Joseon ancestry might be beneficial for them. Before Eugene goes to the palace, Hina advises him to speak in English and to use a court translator.

When Hee-sung bumps into his mother at the pawnshop, he asks her about what happened during the year he was born and about a 9- year old slave. But his mother rushes away, telling him to just stay at Glory Hotel and not come home. Later, he meets the tailor’s assistant who has been making suits for Ae-shin.

Eugene confesses to Major Moore about the certificate of deposit that everyone has been looking for and asks for advice on what to do with it.

The pro-Japanese Minister Lee Se-hoon orders the Joseon police to search for the geisha, and checkpoints are set up all over Hansung.

While Ae-shin gets ready to go to Jemulpo to help So-ah to escape, her grandfather Lord Go worries about her as he looks at the photo of her parents.

Ambassador Hayashi pays Dong-mae and his men to proceed to Jemulpo to look for the geisha. There, they find the ship ticket dealer and torture him to reveal how the Righteous Army will help So-ah to escape.

As Gunner Jang goes to the American legation to confront Eugene about why he has been helping Ae-shin, he’s stopped at gunpoint by the marines.



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Episode 9: “Like a flame, burning brightly”


Episode 8 recap:

Eugene admits to King Gojong that he and his parents were slaves in Joseon. Later, he goes to see Minister Lee Jeong-mun and tells him that the court interpreter deliberately mistranslated his words to King Gojong.

Gunner Jang and the Righteous Army create a diversion for So-ah’s escape, but Dong-mae and his men find out about it. As they rush from the port to get to the train station, Ae-shin and other Righteous Army shooters pin them down with gunfire. Dong-mae gets hold of a rifle from one of Ambassador Hayashi’s men. As Ae-shin runs across the rooftops, Dong-mae shoots her down.

So-ah escapes with help from Eugene and Major Moore.
Ae-shin hugs Eugene, saying that she has already learned the meaning of “hug” in her English class. Later, Eugene invites her to Glory Hotel. But Hina becomes suspicious of Eugene’s mysterious visitor, and as she passes by Eugene’s room, she overhears something.

Dong-mae and his men capture a Righteous Army soldier and torture him. Later, they bring the owner of the geisha bar to Ambassador Hayashi.

Eugene begins to suspect that Hina is a member of the Righteous Army; meanwhile, Minister Lee Jung-moon meets the court interpreter during Eugene’s visit to King Gojong.

Ae-shin visits Hee-sung in Glory Hotel and tells him not to hope about changing her mind because their destinations are different.

Hee-sung, Dong-mae, and Eugene meet in a bar, and in macabre humor, they speculate on who the limping man that Dong-mae shot could be. Later, Eugene visits Gunner Jang to repay his debt.

Minister Lee Se-hoon finds out what happened to the court interpreter; after realizing his dire situation, he goes, together with his concubine, to visit Lee Wan-ik.

Eugene redeems the bank certificate from the pawnshop. Afterwards, he blocks Minister Lee Se-hoon and his escorts on the street. Fighting off the escorts, he takes a sword from a fallen escort and attacks Minister Lee Se-hoon.

Note: Slavery during the Joseon Dynasty

From “Jejoongwon, Part 1: The History”: During the Joseon Dynasty, society was divided into four castes, with the “yangban” (nobles) as the highest caste. The lowest caste was “chonmin” that consisted of slaves, convicts, shamans, entertainers (such as gisaengs and storytellers), and butchers.

From “Korea, The Politics of the Vortex” (1968) by Gregory Henderson: the “despised people” (chonmin) consisted of private and public slaves, shamans, buffoons, traveling dancers, singers, Buddhist monks and nuns, and butchers.

Nobi: Rescuing the Nation from Slavery

One of the interesting aspects of pre-modern Korean history is the existence of a huge number of slaves, perhaps averaging 30% or perhaps 40% of the population for the Chosŏn dynasty.

The institution of slavery in Korea has a very long history and there are a number of unusual and interesting features of it. Slaves, for example, could own property for which they were taxed, though this appears to have been uncommon. They were given base names which often had the suffix “kae” which apparently implied a tool of some kind. The slaves were not prohibited from marrying commoners though their offspring could then often be enslaved. Marriage with the Yangban was banned, but this ban was sometimes ignored and slave women were sometimes taken on as secondary wives or concubines of the elite.

Three major events happened in Korea in 1894 (The Korea Times)

Slavery, hereditary social status, discrimination against widows and concubines, and many other forms of determining social privilege were legally abolished.

This did not mean that everything changed overnight. Some of these ideals took years and even decades to realize, but the Gabo Reform's initiation and articulation of momentous change proved significant and durable. The “spirit of Gabo” persisted as a driving force for social and political reform and shaped the subsequent emergence of modern Korea.

Episode 10: “A simple question”


Episode 9 recap:

As Ae-shin listens to the music box and speaks about her hopes and dreams, Eugene thinks, “I thought I had reached my end, but I may need to go further into the flames one step further. Joseph, I think I’m completely ruined.”

Lee Wan-ik rejects Minister Lee Se-hoon’s gift to him (the concubine) and orders him to bow before him.

From a nearby roof, Eugene and Gunner Jang shoot up Minister Lee Se-hoon’s house. As Minister Lee Se-hoon grabs his gun and goes outside to shoot back, Eugene goes inside his room and plants the bank certificate in a vase.

Minister Lee Jeong-mun arrives with the royal guards, and they find the bank certificate. On King Gojong’s order, Minister Lee Se-hoon is executed on the spot for treason. Gunner Jang sees King Gojong for the first time and raises his rifle to shoot him. But Eugene stops him just in time.

On the frozen river, Ae-shin is stunned when Eugene confesses that he and his parents were slaves.
Eugene challenges the Joseon that Ae-shin is fighting for: “Who lives in the Joseon you’re trying to save? Can butchers or slaves live there?” He finally tells her that they can no longer walk together.

Minister Lee Se-hoon’s concubine runs to Glory Hotel with the gold bars that she had stolen; she asks for Hina’s help so that she can escape from Hansung.

With the funds now available because of the bank certificate, King Gojong and Minister Lee Jeong-mun discuss setting up the Royal Military Academy. Later, Minister Lee Jeong-mun meets Hina in the now-abandoned house of Minister Lee Se-hoon.

At the training ground, Ae-shin asks Gunner Jang if the leader of the Righteous Army is a noble and what kind of country Joseon will be if they win. Gunner Jang is surprised by her questions, and, after hearing more, he tells her everything that Eugene has done to help the Righteous Army.

Hina catches one of her workers who’s searching Eugene’s room and throws her out. She then posts a sign that asks for a new hotel maid.

Lee Wan-ik meets Ambassador Hayashi at a hunting camp and proposes a deal; he also presents to him several government ministers. Later, Ambassador Hayashi, the British ambassador, and the ministers petition King Gojong to appoint Lee Wan-ik as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.

At the legation, Eugene continues to learn Hangul; he tries to reconstruct the characters that Ae-shin showed to him.

Dong-mae recognizes the new hotel maid as Logan Taylor’s nanny; he also realizes where the bank certificate was hidden. He and his men drag the girl from the hotel and threaten her to reveal to whom she gave the bank deposit. But on the street, the girl runs and asks for help at a store; inside the store is Ae-shin.

Major Moore returns from helping So-ah escape to Shanghai. To his surprise, Eugene asks to be transferred out of Joseon. Later, Eugene meets with Ae-shin’s servants.

Lord Go’s male relatives pressure him to hold a memorial service for his sons and to adopt a grandson who will continue his line. As Lord Go argues with them, Ae-shin hears everything and later wonders what her parents looked like and what they would say about her love for Eugene.

After his visit to the riverside inn with Major Moore, Eugene goes back to Glory Hotel. He sees a line of royal guards outside the hotel, and as he asks Hina what’s going on, he sees King Gojong waiting for him.









Episode 11: “Run to me and hide”


Episode 10 recap:

Hina forcibly takes the gold bars from Minister Lee Se-hoon’s concubine and uses them to buy the minister’s now-abandoned house. After Minister Lee Jeong-mun assures her that he’s continuing to search for her mother, she answers all his questions about Eugene.

Ae-shin finds herself deeply conflicted about the Joseon that she’s fighting for, its strict moral laws and class divisions, and her love for Eugene. At the training ground, Gunner Jang tells her that she must end her relationship with Eugene. Later, she sneaks into Eugene’s hotel room and leaves the music box there.

Ae-shin slaps Dong-mae and rescues the girl; realizing that the girl is protecting Eugene, she tells her not to tell him about what happened.

King Gojong wants Eugene to be the instructor for the Royal Military Academy, but Eugene turns the offer down, saying that he’s leaving Joseon.

Eugene asks Ae-shin’s servants to give the music box to her. Later, he visits Eun-san to say goodbye.

After putting up the red paper pinwheel in the pharmacy and learning from her English class the words “mister” and “sunshine,” Ae-shin walks under the snow along the street where she and Eugene first met. As the train passes by, she meets Eugene.
With Ae-shin in tears, Eugene says that he will step back and wishes her well in her fight for Joseon. Meanwhile, Dong-mae grabs Hina from the trolley and embraces her.

Returning to the hotel, Hina meets a new guest — Dr. Matsuyama, the Japanese doctor who holds the autopsy report of Hina’s husband.

After visiting the servant girl who was shot by Minister Lee Se-hoon, the pawnshop owners report to Eugene. Back in the legation, Eugene continues his Hangul lessons with Do-mi.

Minister Lee Se-hoon’s concubine goes to Lee Wan-ik and begs him to take her in. When she badmouths Hina, Lee Wan-ik tells her that he is Hina’s father; he also calls the Police Bureau to arrest her. She’s dragged to the bureau, where she finds that Hina is waiting for her.

Eugene visits Gunner Jang at the training ground and later meets Ae-shin’s servants.

Hee-sung visits Ae-shin at the English school, wearing a suit and coat that are exactly the same as what Ae-shin was wearing when Dong-mae shot her. Hee-sung then asks her to take a trolley ride with him, but Dong-mae finds out about it.

The newly-appointed foreign affairs minister is assassinated on Lee Wan-ik’s order.

Hina finds out about a mysterious guest who’s occupying Room 205, which is registered in the name of Lee Duk-moon (Lee Wan-ik’s assistant and Ae-shin’s cousin-in-law). But Dong-mae has also become interested about this mysterious guest, and to Hina’s shock, he pushes her aside and grabs the registry book.

After intercepting Joseph’s letter to Eugene, Lee Wan-ik orders his hit man to search Eugene’s hotel room. But while the hit man is searching the room, Eugene arrives; a gun fight erupts in the hotel’s corridors, sending all the guests running for cover.



If the GIF above doesn’t work properly, view it in another tab.

Note: Continuity error - At the 15:20 mark, Hina is wearing a hat and a coat. But a mere two seconds later (15:22 mark), she’s no longer wearing a hat and a coat. She must be the world’s fastest quick-change artist!

Episode 12: “Until the day I die, I will be Lady Go Ae-shin ...”


Episode 11 recap:

After finding out that Ae-shin owes money to Dong-mae, Hee-sung offers to pay for everything.

Eugene captures Lee Wan-ik’s hit man, but Lee Duk-moon (Lee Wan-ik’s assistant and Ae-shin’s cousin-in-law) provides an alibi for the hit man.

Minister Lee Jeong-mun goes to the riverside inn and, through Hong-pa, gives Eun-san a new assignment.

At the training ground, Ae-shin hears the music box playing; unable to restrain her emotions and taking the music box, she rushes to see Eugene. But Gunner Jang stops her and asks if she’s willing to go on another mission.

As Ae-shin and Hina fight each other inside Lee Wan-ik’s house, their masks fall off, and they stand transfixed as they stare at each other.
During the birthday party for the British ambassador, the Russian ambassador insults Ambassador Hayashi. Meanwhile, Lee Wan-ik asks Dong-mae for a separate room and to bring the American ambassador (Horace Newton Allen) there.

To end their standoff, Ae-shin gets the reports of the court interpreters, while Hina gets the autopsy report. They agree to meet three days later. But as Hina leaves the house, she gets caught by Lee Duk-moon.

After being warned by Dong-mae, Eugene asks Gwan-soo everything that he knows about Lee Wan-ik; he finds out that for the past several years, Hina has been looking for Lee Wan-ik’s first wife.

After meeting Hina, Ae-shin goes to the American legation and asks Eugene to read the letter that she got from Lee Wan-ik’s house.

Hee-sung gets hold of his grandfather’s ledger and begins visiting several government officials.

Eugene sees Dong-mae and his men as they search Room 205, the room of the man who attacked him.

At the geisha bar, two of Ambassador Hayashi’s men beat up Hotaru (the tarot card reader) and challenge Dong-mae’s men to a fight.

The pro-Japanese ministers pressure Minister Lee Jeong-mun to allow Japanese currency to be used in Joseon.

Gwan-soo tells Eugene about what happened to Lord Go’s sons; as he mentions Ae-shin’s father, Eugene remembers the names written on the back of the photo from Lee Wan-ik’s hit man. Later, Eugene goes to the pawnshop, looking for a Russian-made sniper rifle.





Episode 13


Episode 12 recap:

Hee-sung is confronted at the tavern by the man whose farm his grandfather sold in order to buy his pocket watch.

Lee Wan-ik confronts Hina about the missing autopsy report.

Eugene teaches Ae-shin how to use the Russian-made sniper rifle.

Dong-mae kills one of the men who beat up Hotaru. After he goes back to the exact spot in Jemulpo where he shot Ae-shin, he finds out that the memorial tablets of Ae-shin’s parents are kept in a nearby temple.

Ae-shin is stunned when Eugene tells her that she’s the reason that he gave back King Gojong’s bank certificate. Despite her avowed fidelity to Joseon’s moral laws and class distinctions, she later rekindles her romance with Eugene.
Eugene and Ae-shin spend some happy times on the beach, talking about the past and about their hopes for the future.

After visiting the pawnshop, Hina becomes depressed and gets drunk at a bar.

Hee-sung’s father stages a run-in with Lee Wan-ik, hoping that he will help Hee-sung to find a position in government. Later, Lee Wan-ik asks his assistant Lee Duk-moon (Ae-shin’s cousin-in-law) about the status of Hee-sung’s engagement to Ae-shin.

Eugene and Ae-shin visit Eun-san. Afterwards, Eugene shows Ae-shin the photo that he took from Lee Wan-ik’s hit man, and Ae-shin recognizes her father’s name.

Lee Duk-moon meets Gwan-soo at the geisha bar and offers him a fortune in exchange for providing information about what’s happening in the American legation.

In the palace, King Gojong worries about the funding for the railway line and the intermediary to the American ambassador in China. Minister Lee Jeong-mun assures him that their intermediary (a missionary from Jemulpo) is coming soon.

Lord Go visits Hee-sung in Glory Hotel. Later, he sends out letters to noblemen-scholars all over Joseon, asking them to protest the introduction of Japanese currency into Joseon.

Ae-shin finds out that Dong-mae went to the temple where the memorials of her parents are kept. Alarmed, she immediately sends a letter to Hina, asking for a meeting.

With Do-mi by his side, Eugene reads the letter that Joseph (the missionary from Jemulpo) wrote to him. Suddenly, he realizes that the letter’s postmark is the same as that of the letter that he found in the hotel room of Lee Wan-ik’s hit man.



Episode 14: “A place farther than the sea”


Episode 13 recap:

Lord Go urges Hee-sung to immediately marry Ae-shin.

Gwan-soo confesses to Eugene about the bribe offered to him by Lee Duk-moon (Lee Wan-ik’s assistant). Eugene tells him to accept the bribe but report only what he authorizes.

Ae-shin gives a bag of high-value coins to Dong-mae as her payment for saving the life of Soo-mi (Logan Taylor’s nanny). But, as Hina expected, Dong-mae takes only one coin.

Lee Wan-ik intercepts all of Lord Go’s letters.

Joseph (the missionary-friend of Eugene and King Gojong’s intermediary) is found murdered.
Eugene suspects that Kim Yong-joo (Lee Wan-ik’s hit man) killed Joseph, and so he and his marines raid Lee Wan-ik’s house. But Lee Wan-ik frames Dong-mae for the murder.

Through Hina, Eugene gets all the letters that were found in Kim Yong-joo’s hotel room. Meanwhile, Lee Wan-ik goes to the palace and uses the letter that was found on Joseph’s body to intimidate King Gojong.

After seeing Kim Yong-joo who is loitering near Lord Go’s house, Hee-sung chases him through the streets.

Hina visits Dong-mae in jail and tells him that things will get worse because Dr. Matsuyama who conducted the autopsy on Joseph is Lee Wan-ik’s lackey.

The Police Bureau closes the case with the finding that Joseph forged King Gojong’s letter and that Dong-mae must be executed. Finding out that Joseph’s reputation has been smeared, Eugene confronts Minister Lee Jeong-mun. Later, Eugene pleads with Major Moore to see Ambassador Allen.

With Dong-mae’s warning, Eugene and his marines march to provide protection for Lord Go and his family.

Instigated by Lee Wan-ik, Dong-mae’s men hunt Eugene down in Hansung’s streets. Meanwhile, Minister Lee Jeong-mun orders Eun-san to kill Eugene. In the hotel, while Eugene and his surprise guest are talking, a sniper from a nearby roof shoots at them.



Note: Why was Joseph's body brought to the Japanese-controlled Hansung Hospital, rather than to Jejoongwon, Joseon’s first hospital of Western medicine that was founded by American medical missionaries?

This drama mentions American ambassador Horace Newton Allen (a historical figure) as being a doctor, but it never mentions him even once as a (Presbyterian) medical missionary. In fact, Allen founded Jejoongwon, which is now the ultramodern Severance Hospital. It’s part of Yonsei University, which is one of the top three universities in Korea.

Episode 15: “Step back in agony”


Episode 14 recap:

Through the letters, Eugene deduces that the Joseon government is buying weapons in Shanghai through the loan that King Gojong was negotiating through Joseph.

Eugene forcibly takes Dong-mae from the Police Bureau and brings him to the American legation. Later, through Hee-sung and Dong-mae’s men, he captures Kim Yong-joo.

Eugene also captures the Righteous Army sniper who shot at him and Ae-shin; the sniper says that Eugene is finding out things that’s making their leaders nervous.

After revealing himself as a leader of the Righteous Army, Eun-san orders Ae-shin to kill Eugene.
Eun-san stands down as Eugene turns over Kim Yong-joo (Lee Wan-ik’s hit man) and the Righteous Army sniper. Later, he tells Ae-shin the truth about how her parents died.

Minister Lee Jeong-mun corrects the first official version of the incident and clears missionary Joseph’s name. But the intimidated King Gojong appoints Lee Wan-ik as the new foreign minister.

Eugene remembers how he captured Kim Yong-joo through Hee-sung and Dong-mae’s men. He also remembers what Kim Yong-joo said about Ae-shin’s parents. Later, he decides to burn the photo of Ae-shin’s father and the other Righteous Army members.

Upon his release, Dong-mae returns to bury his men who died to protect him. At the geisha bar, he meets Ambassador Hayashi’s man who tortured him in jail. Later, he visits Lee Wan-ik.

Hee-sung decides to become a newspaper publisher and tries to rent office space in the pawnshop. Later, over drinks at a bar, he explains to Eugene and Dong-mae all about his plans.

Back in Glory Hotel, Hee-sung sees in Eugene’s table the “norigae” that his mother was holding at the pawnshop. To his surprise, Eugene asks him what his birthday is.

Minister Lee Jeong-mun asks Hina to investigate the covert agent who was supposed to protect missionary Joseph. He also asks Hina to set up a meeting between him and Eugene.

After Lord Go tells her to hurry up the wedding between Ae-shin and Hee-sung, Ae-shin’s aunt visits Hee-sung’s mother. Later, Hee-sung’s parents send the official marriage proposal to Lord Go. But finding out about her upcoming marriage, Ae-shin tells Lord Go that she will not marry Hee-sung because she’s in love with someone else.


Episode 16: “The road to you”


Episode 15 recap:

Hee-sung’s mother returns to Eugene the “norigae” and begs him on her knees not to tell Hee-sung about what happened in the past. Later, however, Hee-sung finds out from his grandfather’s slave what happened to Eugene’s parents.

In exchange for the land in Ganghwa Island where his parents were buried, Eugene agrees with Minister Lee Jeong-mun’s request that he become the instructor of the Royal Military Academy.

As Ae-shin kneels in front of Lord Go’s quarters, Hee-sung arrives and joins her in kneeling. Later, he takes from his pocket the official wedding proposal and shows it to Ae-shin.
Hee-sung tells Ae-shin to be patient and to trust him.

At the hotel, Eugene finds out about the upcoming marriage between Hee-sung and Ae-shin. Later, Gunner Jang visits him and tells him to stay strong despite all the heartaches and obstacles.

After Lord Go confines Ae-shin to her quarters, her servants go to the American legation and appeal to Eugene.

The Royal Concubine calls Hina to the palace for advice on several matters, including the setting up a school for Joseon girls. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Lee Wan-ik and the pro-Japanese ministers pressure King Gojong to accept the use of currency from Japan’s Dai-Ichi Bank.

Dong-mae threatens the police chief who tortured him into revealing why Lee Wan-ik wanted to implicate Lord Go in missionary Joseph’s murder. He also threatens the Post Office manager to say what happened to Lord Go’s letters to the nobles. Later, that night, he jumps over the wall of Lord Go’s compound.

Minister Lee Jeong-mun tells Eun-san that he wants to appoint Gunner Jang as Head of Palace Security. Meanwhile, the Royal Military Academy begins accepting applicants for the training, and among the applicants are a group of young scholars who want revenge against Lee Wan-ik.

After visiting his parents and revealing his plans for the future, Hee-sung starts to set up his newspaper office with some simple furnishings.

On Minister Lee Jeong-mun’s order, Hina begins investigating the lady who may be the covert officer who failed to protect missionary Joseph.

As Eugene meets King Gojong to accept his appointment to the Royal Military Academy, the Royal Concubine’s head attendant tells Lord Go that Ae-shin is being called to the palace. But Lord Go refuses to let Ae-shin go.

Through Gunner Jang, Lord Go secretly meets members of the Righteous Army in the woods.













Episode 17


Episode 16 recap:

Hee-sung confesses to Eugene that he now knows how his parents died. But he says that he’s not yet ready to ask for Eugene's forgiveness.

Lord Go explodes in anger upon learning that Eugene is a slave. He orders Ae-shin to never meet Eugene again.

Dong-mae gives to Lord Go the last remaining letter to the nobles.

Hee-sung asks his parents to cancel his engagement to Ae-shin.

Eugene and Ae-shin meet each other in the palace.
As the solar eclipse begins, the Righteous Army soldiers bring Lord Go’s letter to the nobles and scholars.

In the palace, the Royal Concubine asks Ae-shin about her English classes and reassures her about the girls’s school. Later, Ae-shin meets Hina, who informs him of what Dong-mae did with the letters.

Eugene starts training the men who enlisted as cadets in the Royal Military Academy, but he faces either indifference or opposition because of his uniform and name. While he’s teaching the cadets how to use the rifles, Lee Wan-ik arrives to protest his appointment. Eugene aims his rifle and shoots at Lee Wan-ik.

Duk-moon continues to pressure Gwan-soo for more information about Eugene.

Dong-mae asks Eugene why he hasn’t killed the persons responsible for his parents’s death, and Eugene’s answer amuses him. Later, Eugene visits Hee-sung’s mother.

After visiting the tailor, Hee-sung returns to his Glory Hotel room where he stares at the “saju” (official marriage proposal) for Ae-shin. Later, he sends a messenger with a palanquin for Ae-shin, asking her to visit him at the hotel, to play some pool, and to talk about the proposal.

While fencing with Leo (the French ambassador’s secretary), Hina realizes that he seduced Mrs. Kang.

The Japanese army marches through Hansung; meanwhile, Ae-shin’s servant wonders who the spy could be among his fellow servants.

At the Royal Military Academy, cadet Lee Joon-young disrupts the training by challenging Eugene’s competence as a marksman.

Minister Lee Jung-moon orders the royal guards to arrest Gunner Jang and, by using hostages, forces him to accept a government position.

Despite Hotaru’s warning that the tarot cards foretell his death, Dong-mae refuses to listen and goes out to meet Ae-shin.

Eugene visits Ae-shin in her training ground, but his teasing turns her off.

The young scholars and Lord Go begin their protest against the presence of the Japanese army in Hansung. But Hayashi (the Japanese ambassador) orders Lee Wan-ik to arrest the protesters. Later, Japanese soldiers arrest the American lady teacher for being a spy and raid Lord Go’s compound to arrest Ae-shin.





Note (continuity error): The Japanese soldiers who searched Lord Go’s house (1:11:44 mark) entered the rooms with bayonets attached to their rifles. But the scenes inside the rooms (starting at 1:12:08 mark) show the soldiers without bayonets on their rifles.

Episode 18


Episode 17 recap:

Hee-sung officially cancels his engagement to Ae-shin.

Minister Lee Jung-moon appoints Gunner Jang as head of the palace security with the responsibility of protecting King Gojong.

While buying candy from the French bakery, Dong-mae is shot several times.

As Eugene and his marines arrive at Minister Go’s house, he recognizes the Japanese officer as his acquaintance from America.
Eugene’s friend from America turns out to be Colonel Mori Takashi of the Japanese colonial forces.

Eugene tells Ae-shin that because of the American lady teacher’s arrest, the legation is bringing in for questioning all of her students.

After finding out that Dong-mae has been shot, Hina rushes to the hospital. Meanwhile, together with Hee-sung, Dong-mae’s men barge into the Japanese hospital and demand an emergency operation. But Dr. Matsuyama secretly rushes to inform Lee Wan-ik about Dong-mae’s condition.

In Glory Hotel, Hee-sung apologizes to Eugene for his family’s sins against him. As they talk about Ae-shin and the broken engagement, they hear the drunken and rowdy cheers of the Japanese soldiers who have taken rooms in the hotel. One soldier grabs Hina and asks her to join him in his room.

Under pressure from Ambassador Hayashi and the pro-Japanese ministers, King Gojong orders the arrest of Lord Go and the protesting scholars. Hee-sung, meanwhile, immediately goes to his newspaper office and publishes a news extra.

Cadet Lee Joon-young tells his friends in the Royal Military Academy that they have to rush with their plans against Lee Wan-ik. He assigns one of his friends to tail Lee Wan-ik, while the rest will get the key to the gun storage room of the academy.

After visiting Lord Go in prison, Gunner Jang stands before King Gojong, glares at him, and protests that Lord Go is innocent.

In Eugene’s presence, Colonel Takashi interrogates Stella, the English teacher/missionary.

As Dong-mae regains consciousness, his men begin to hunt down Sang-mok of the Righteous Army.

After Ambassador Hayashi leaves for Japan, Colonel Takashi confronts Lee Wan-ik and blames him for the continued activities of the Righteous Army. Later, Lee Wan-ik decides that Lord Go must die, not inside the prison, but by his hand.

Hina realizes that Colonel Takashi has investigated her background.

Despite Gunner Jang’s instructions, Ae-shin and her servant go up to her training ground. But there, she’s surprised to see Joseon soldiers, her cousin-in-law, and Lee Wan-ik. Because of Ae-shin’s haughty attitude towards him, Lee Wan-ik later begins to investigate her background and possible link to the Righteous Army.

When Hee-sung refuses to publish news articles that are favorable to Japan, Commander Takashi threatens to shoot him.

The police chief gets the report from Tokyo that names Ae-shin’s parents as among the Joseon citizens who lived in Japan at the time that the Righteous Army tried to assassinate Lee Wan-ik.

Ae-shin finds out that Eugene’s music box is being kept by Colonel Takashi. She decides to go to the pharmacy, but on her way there, Dong-mae and his men block her way.

Spoiler alert: Perhaps the most-talked about scene of “Mr. Sunshine” is in Episode 18 when Dong-mae cuts off Ae-shin’s hair, which is in the “daeng’gi meori” style of unmarried Joseon women. Finding out later on in Episode 19 what Dong-mae did, Lord Go beats him repeatedly and warns him to stay away from Ae-shin or else be punished the way that butchers are punished under Joseon laws; Eugene goes to challenge him; and Hee-sung punches him repeatedly. Ae-shin, meanwhile, cries in shame as her grandfather comes to see her.



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Why did Ae-shin, Lord Go, Eugene, and Hee-sung react the way that they did? Simply stated, Confucianism, which is the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty, prohibited the cutting of a person’s hair because it is part of a person’s legacy from his or her parents.

From Wikipedia: “The Classic of Filial Piety, also known by its Chinese name as the Xiaojing, is a Confucian classic treatise giving advice on filial piety: that is, how to behave towards a senior such as a father, an elder brother, or ruler.”

The Classic of Filial Piety states: “Our bodies ― to every hair and bit of skin ― are received by us from our parents, and we must not presume to injure or wound them. This is the beginning of filial piety.”

Ae-shin herself states in Episode 19 (4:41 mark) how she regarded her hair: “We all live in different worlds, and each cherishes different things. In my world, Joseon, my family, and my hair given by my parents are all dear to me.”

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Perhaps the clearest illustration for the implications of cutting off a person’s hair comes from Episode 19 of the 2011 drama “The Princess’s Man” where Se-ryung cuts off her hair to signify that she is cutting off her ties with her father King Sejo, aka Grand Prince Suyang.

But the prohibition against cutting off a person’s hair also applied to Joseon men. It was said that Joseon men would rather die than have their topknot (“sangtu”) cut off; the topknot was their symbol of manhood, and in history, King Gojong’s first order to have the topknots cut off was rescinded.

In Episode 1, why did the young Yoo-jin cut off his hair? It’s to signify his complete break with Joseon as he has then decided to join the American military.

In  the last part of Episode 17 and the start of Episode 18 of “Jejoongwon” (2010), Baek Do-yang cut off his topknot to symbolize that he was cutting off his ties to his noble status.

Upon reaching manhood or upon getting married, a Joseon nobleman or scholar pulled his hair to the top and tied it into a topknot called “sangtu.” A headband called “manggeon” was used to hold the hair in place. Joseon commoners and slaves also used a topknot called “minsangtu” but without a headband. For more information, surf to “A Guide to Joseon Hairstyles and Headgears” (The Talking Cupboard).

So why did Dong-mae, who’s hopelessly in love with Ae-shin, shame her by cutting off her hair? Well, Dong-mae has learned that Lee Wan-ik now knows Ae-shin’s connection with the Righteous Army members who tried to kill him in Japan. He thus wanted to save Ae-shin by forcing her into giving up her fight for Joseon.

In Episode 19 (9:37 mark), Eugene does ask him the reason, and Dong-mae answers, “Lee Wan-ik is gathering information on Lady Ae-shin.” Eugene then backs down and says, “I came here to fight you, but we can call it even.”

Episode 19


Episode 18 recap:

Hina humiliates the Japanese soldier in a sword fight. Later, she prepares to poison Colonel Takashi.

Dong-mae survives the assassination attempt against him by Sang-mok of the Righteous Army.

After King Gojong releases Lord Go, Gunner Jang escorts him back home. He meets Ae-shin and formally ends their teacher-student relationship, saying that he no longer has anything to teach her.

Eugene finds out that cadet Lee Joon-young and his friends are preparing for a drastic course of action.

Instead of Lee Wan-ik, Dong-mae gets the report from Japan that names Ae-shin’s parents as possible members of the Righteous Army. After blocking Ae-shin on the road, he takes his sword and cuts off her ponytail (symbol of an unmarried Joseon woman).
In anger, Ae-shin takes Dong-mae’s short sword and threatens to kill him. Hina calms things down and takes Ae-shin away; later, however, she blames Ae-shin for making three men lose their way.

After finding out what happened to Ae-shin, Lord Go, Eugene, and Hee-sung rush to confront Dong-mae.

Lee Wan-ik finally makes the connection between Ae-shin and the Righteous Army members whom he killed in Japan.

Eugene finds Colonel Takashi’s hit list of influential Joseon men.

After Colonel Takashi begins unilaterally making moves in the Japanese community in Hansung, he and Dong-mae confront each other in the dojo.

Lee Wan-ik catches Lee Joon-young’s friend who has been tailing him. Later, Eugene comes upon cadet Lee Joon-young who’s trying to break into the gun storage room.

Lee Wan-ik decides to ruin Lord Go by rerouting the railway line right through Lord Go’s property; he brings thugs with him and orders them to start demolishing Lord Go’s compound. As Ae-shin arrives and sees what’s happening, Lord Go orders his servants to lock her up in the storage shed. Later, he meets Eugene and Dong-mae, asking them to protect Ae-shin and to kill Colonel Takashi.

Before Lord Go dies, he distributes his lands to his servants and tenant farmers. He gives Ae-shin a photo of her parents and tells her to live.

In anger, King Gojong strikes Lee Wan-ik on the face with a whip and strips him of his government position. When Lee Wan-ik threatens King Gojong, Gunner Jang threatens him back.



Episode 20


Episode 19 recap:

Lee Wan-ik tells Hina that he killed Ae-shin’s parents.

Dong-mae challenges Colonel Takashi in a fight and says that his loyalty belongs to Musin Society, not Japan. Later, the leader of Musin Society arrives in Hansung.

Lee Joon-young’s plan against Lee Wan-ik fails, and one of his friends dies.

As Lord Go is being led to his resting place, Lee Wan-ik’s thugs attack the mourners and totally demolish his house. His family is scattered, and Ae-shin disappears.

Colonel Takashi kills the riverside inn lady and hangs her body on a bridge in Hansung.

During Lord Go’s 49th-day memorial, Japanese soldiers arrive and start to massacre his relatives and everyone else in the temple. But Ae-shin, Eun-san, and the Righteous Army arrive and engage the Japanese soldiers in a firefight.
As Eugene and Major Moore confront Colonel Takashi at the bridge, one of the Japanese officers shoots Eugene.

At the temple in Jemulpo, Eun-san tells Ae-shin’s aunt that she and the remaining members of Lord Go’s family can seek shelter in Manchuria. Hee-sung, meanwhile, tells Ae-shin that he will fight for Joseon with his words.

After she forces Mrs. Kang to reveal what intel she has been giving to Leo (the French ambassador’s secretary), Hina reports it to Minister Lee Jeong-mun.

Ae-shin sneaks into Lee Wan-ik’s house to kill him, but Eugene, Dong-mae, and Hina are also on their way there.

After torturing and killing some members of the Righteous Army, Colonel Takashi goes to Dr. Matsuyama’s office to investigate. There, he finds the autopsy report of Hina’s husband.

Ae-shin meets Eugene on a street and says goodbye.

Cadet Lee Joon-young and his friends plead with Eugene to take them back into the Royal Military Academy.

Ambassador Takashi returns from Japan with a copy of the treaty that makes Joseon as a Japanese protectorate. The Russo-Japanese War later begins as the Japanese navy sinks two Russian ships in Joseon waters.

Because of the war, Major Moore is reassigned to the American legation in Japan; Eugene, meanwhile, is ordered to go back to America.









Episode 21


Episode 20 recap:

Ae-shin kills Lee Wan-ik; Hina, later, makes it appear that Dr. Matsuyama killed Lee Wan-ik for failing to fulfill his promise to make him the Royal Surgeon.

Eugene turns over Leo to Minister Lee Jeong-mun; Leo’s body is later found floating on a river.

Eugene and Gunner Jang kidnap Colonel Takashi; they use him as bait to distract the Japanese soldiers so that the Righteous Army can rescue its detained members.

Ambassador Hayashi and the leader of Musin Society kidnap Minister Lee Jeong-mun. After being warned by Dong-mae, Hina informs King Gojong about what happened.

Eun-san gathers some members of the Righteous Army to plan their rescue of Minister Lee Jeong-mun. After rescuing him in Japan, they have to bring him to Shanghai to withdraw the money to be used in funding the Righteous Army. When Eun-san says that she can’t go to Japan because of the travel restrictions, Ae-shin sneaks into Glory Hotel to see Eugene.
Ae-shin asks Eugene to take her to America, but as they’re talking, Colonel Takashi orders his men to search the hotel.

Eun-san, Ae-shin, and the sniper who shot Dong-mae hold as hostage Hotaru, the tarot card reader.

With Japan about to take control of Joseon’s Board of Marshals, Eugene says goodbye to the Royal Military Academy cadets. Later, he meets Dong-mae in an isolated spot on a mountain and recalls Lord Go’s request that he kill Colonel Takashi. Dong-mae suggests that he use the upcoming festival in Tokyo as his cover in killing Colonel Takashi.

Eugene and Ae-shin arrive in Japan. As Ae-shin says goodbye in order to leave and join the other Righteous Army members in rescuing Minister Lee Jeong-mun, Eugene stops her and asks her to run away with him to America.

The head of Musin Society tells Minister Lee Jeong-mun that the Japan-Korea Friendship Treaty was signed in his absence and that he’s now considered a traitor in Joseon.

Hina goes to the Catholic village in Gangneung for her mother, and Dong-mae follows her there. Back in Hansung, she sees Hotaru who's entering the telegraph office.

During the festival, Eugene attacks Colonel Takashi, while the Righteous Army tries to rescue Minister Lee Jeong-mun.





Episode 22


Episode 21 recap:

Ae-shin changes into the clothes that are given to her by Hee-sung. Eugene, meanwhile, shoots at Colonel Takashi, creating a diversion that allows Ae-shin to escape.

Eugene meets Ae-shin at the French bakery and gives her their forged marriage certificate and a wedding ring. Later, as they prepare to leave Joseon, Ae-shin puts on Eugene’s finger the other wedding ring and confesses her love for him.

Ae-shin is accosted by several Japanese men, but she is rescued by Song-yeong (her father’s friend and her mother’s cousin).

Dong-mae finds out from Hina that Hotaru betrayed him by telling the head of the Musin Society via telegram that Ae-shin is in Japan. He kicks Hotaru out and immediately leaves for Japan.

Ae-shin and the Righteous Army rescue Minister Lee Jeong-mun.

Eugene and Ae-shin have their picture taken at the studio where her parents had their picture taken. Later, as they escape from the pursuing Musin Society swordsmen, Eugene and Ae-shin seek refuge at the American legation.
Despite his right-hand man’s protest, Dong-mae leaves for Japan to rescue Ae-shin.

As Eugene and Ae-shin try to seek refuge in the American legation, the marines and the Musin Society swordsmen clash, resulting in the death of one marine. Despite Major Moore’s intervention, Eugene is arrested. Meanwhile, the swordsmen start guarding outside the legation to prevent Ae-shin from escaping.

Lord Ito Hirobumi arrives in Joseon as Japan’s Special Emissary. As King Gojong sends to Japan a special delegation of ministers and court ladies in response, Hee-sung and Hina launch their plan to rescue Ae-shin.

Eugene faces court-martial proceedings in America, while Dong-mae gets cornered on a beach by the leader of the Musin Society and his swordsmen.

Hee-sung’s mother continues to search for a wife for him, but the daughter of a disgraced noble family goes to the pawnshop and boldly tells Hee-sung that he must marry her. Meanwhile, the Japanese army occupies Glory Hotel.

Fast forward, three years later, 1907 ...

Lord Ito Hirobumi is now Resident-General of Joseon. After the pro-Japanese ministers find out that King Gojong sent secret emissaries to the Hague to protest Japan’s annexation of Joseon, the ministers pressure King Gojong to take his own life as penance.

Note: The last 15 minutes of Episode 22 depict the “Battle of Namdaemun” that took place on August 1, 1907 after the Joseon military was disbanded.







1st photo - Namdaemun during the Joseon Dynasty; 2nd photo- Namdaemun in 2013; 3rd photo - Battle of Namdaemun from French newspaper
“Namdaemun (South Great Gate), officially known as the Sungnyemun, Gate of Exalted Ceremonies, is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, South Korea, which surrounded the city in the Joseon dynasty. The gate is located in Jung-gu between Seoul Station and Seoul Plaza, with the historic 24-hour Namdaemun market next to the gate.

“The gate, dating back to the 14th century, is a historic pagoda-style gateway, and is designated as the first National Treasure of South Korea. It was once one of the three major gateways through Seoul’s city walls which had a stone circuit of 18.2 kilometres (11.3 mi) and stood up to 6.1 metres (20 ft) high. It was first built in the last year of King Taejo of Joseon's reign in 1398, and rebuilt in 1447.

“In 2008, the wooden pagoda atop the gate was severely damaged by arson. Restoration work on the gateway started in February 2010 and was completed on 29 April 2013. The gate was reopened on 4 May 2013.”

Battle of Namdaemun: “The 1st Battalion Commander Major Park Sung-hwan (1869-1907), wrote a note on a paper and committed suicide by shooting himself. The note said that he was against the disbandment of the armed forces.

“His suicide enraged the soldiers, which extorted ammunition and armaments, arranged sentries around the barracks and started to open fire with guns against the Imperial Japanese Army.” (Wikipedia)

Using machine guns that were placed atop the walls, the Japanese Imperial Army routed the 3,000 Korean soldiers who led the uprising. From Namdaemun, the battle spilled over to the capital’s streets in the area now occupied by the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (Wikipedia)

Episode 23


Episode 22 recap:

Eugene is sentenced to three years of imprisonment and is dishonorably discharged from the US Marine Corps.

Disguised as a Joseon court lady, Ae-shin escapes from Japan. Later, she finds out from Hina that it was Lee Wan-ik who killed her parents.

Pressured by the pro-Japanese ministers, King Gojong abdicates the throne.

Eugene is released from prison. After meeting in New York a Joseon scholar who’s a member of the Righteous Army, he decides to return to Joseon to join the fight for independence.

Dong-mae turns up alive in an opium den in Manchuria.

Riots break out as Resident-General Ito Hirobumi disbands and disarms the Joseon army. Gunner Jang dies after he saves Lee Joon-young and the other officers from the Royal Military Academy.

As Eugene and Dong-mae arrive in Hansung, Ae-shin and Hina kill dozens of Japanese army officers by blowing up Glory Hotel.

Flashback ...

Hina buys paintings of flowers and landscapes from the pawnshop. The next day, she gives her bracelet to Soo-mi and asks her to deliver a letter.

As the Battle of Namdaemun rages on, Hee-sung records everything with his camera. But a Japanese soldier sees what he’s doing and shoots him.

When Ae-shin sneaks into Glory Hotel, she comes upon the pawnshop owners who are planting dynamite inside the hotel.

Present ...

Eugene and Dong-mae find Ae-shin and Hina in the rubble and try to take them to safety. But some shop owners refuse to provide refuge for Dong-mae and Hina, and Japanese soldiers block Eugene and Ae-shin’s rickshaw.

Eun-san finds the body of Gunner Jang.

The Japanese Imperial Army takes over Hansung Hospital, killing off the Joseon patients to make way for their wounded soldiers.

As Eun-san buries Gunner Jang, more people arrive and volunteer to fight against the Japanese army.

Gwan-soo, who’s now working as a court interpreter, reads an American newspaper for King Gojong who’s anxious for news of American support for Joseon.

After the Joseon interpreter of the Japanese embassy gives him a copy of Colonel Takashi’s hit list, Lee Duk-moon goes to see Resident-General Ito Hirobumi and identifies Ae-shin as one of the persons depicted in the wanted posters. Later, he leads the Japanese soldiers to the mountain where Ae-shin and Gunner Jang used to practice.

Eun-San leads his growing band of fighters to safety. Meanwhile, as Ae-shin’s servants escort her palanquin into Hansung, they’re ambushed by Japanese soldiers.



Note: If the GIF above doesn’t work properly, view it in another tab.





Episode 24 (Finale, with spoilers): “We were all like a flame”


Episode 23 recap:

Hee-sung goes home to his parents, bringing with him the sister of Lee Joong-young and introducing her as his future wife.

Soo-mi delivers Hina’s letter to King Gojong, who later on confronts Resident-General Ito Hirobumi with Hina’s confession that she alone planned the bombing of Glory Hotel.

Based on Hina’s dying wish, Dong-mae takes her to her mother’s grave. On their way, Hina confesses her love for him. Later, Dong-mae goes berserk and attacks the headquarters of Musin Society in Hansung.

Ae-shin’s faithful servants and the elderly men volunteer to act as diversion in Hansung so that Eun-san and the others can escape. They all die as the Japanese soldiers open fire on them.

Hee-sung takes the official portraits of the pro-Japanese ministers who deposed King Gojong, including the “Five Eulsa Traitors.”

Ae-shin kills Lee Duk-moon, and Eugene retrieves from his body Colonel Takashi’s hit list of Righteous Army leaders.

Ae-shin sees her faithful servants (Haengran and Haman) and the palanquin carriers who are lying on the street, either dead or dying. As Haman bids her goodbye, the bystanders are surprised to hear her say, “Lady Ae-shin.” When the Japanese soldiers return, the bystanders form a human barricade to shield Ae-shin. Later, Eugene steals a horse so that Ae-shin can escape and join Eun-san and his group.

Eugene visits Hee-sung at his newspaper office in the pawnshop, and later, they join Dong-mae for drinks in a bar.

Resident-General Ito Hirobumi orders the commander of the Japanese garrison army to find out who’s publishing the newspaper that’s rousing public sentiment against the Japanese.

As he waits for the members of Musin Society to arrive from Japan, Dong-mae coughs up blood and collapses on the street.

After meeting Frederick Arthur McKenzie (a journalist from The Daily Mail who wants to write about the Righteous Army), Eugene takes him to Eun-san’s hideout. While there, he and Ae-shin spend some tender moments together.

Ae-shin visits Dong-mae and gives to him her monthly payment.

The pawnshop owners kill the spy in Eun-san’s camp, but the Japanese soldiers chase them.

Eun-san asks Eugene to get train tickets to Pyongyang for Ae-shin and other Righteous Army members.

Dong-mae dies in a fierce sword fight against the newly-arrived members of the Musin Society.

Eugene gives to Eun-san the Joseon flag that King Gojong gave to him. The Righteous Army members then leave imprints of their hands on the flag. Later, after they rescue some Joseon army soldiers from being massacred, Eun-san and his platoons are surrounded by the responding Japanese soldiers.

Hee-sung buries all the records and pictures of the Righteous Army, hoping that someday, someone will find them. After he’s arrested, he dies while being tortured.

The Japanese find out that Ae-shin and other Righteous Army members are on the train, but Eugene himself has managed to get on the train by befriending a rich Japanese businessman. But after Lee Joon-young’s cover is blown, Ae-shin starts shooting the Japanese soldiers.

Using the Japanese businessman as a hostage, Eugene leads the Japanese soldiers away from Ae-shin. When the train reaches the tunnel, he fires at the connecting rod between the train’s coaches. As the coaches separate, the Japanese soldiers open fire on him, and he dies.

Ae-shin escapes, and later, in Manchuria, she organizes and trains the Righteous Army volunteers.



Note: Frederick Arthur McKenzie, the journalist who interviewed the Righteous Army, is a historical character. Read more about McKenzie in the Historical backgrounders section below.

Some holes in the “Mr. Sunshine” narrative


1. In Episode 1, missionary Joseph helps Yoo-jin for a while and then leaves him to fend for himself on the streets of New York. It’s totally unbelievable for a missionary to act that way. I’ve known American and Filipino missionaries since the 1960s, and not one of them would leave a child to live alone on the streets.

2. In Episode 2, the Righteous Army, through Gunner Jang, assigns Ae-shin to kill Logan Taylor. In latter episodes, we learn that Taylor stole (or got by whatever means) King Gojong’s certificate of deposit. We also learn that the Righteous Army takes its orders from Minister Lee Jeong-mun.

So, if King Gojong’s certificate of deposit was missing and Logan Taylor was the suspect, why did the Righteous Army want to kill him? Why didn’t Minister Lee Jeong-mun just kidnap Taylor and torture him into giving up the certificate?

3. In Episode 14, why was missionary Joseph’s body brought to the Japanese-controlled Hansung Hospital, rather than to Jejoongwon, Joseon’s first hospital of Western medicine that was founded by American medical missionaries?

This drama mentions American ambassador Horace Newton Allen (a historical figure) as being a doctor, but it never mentions him even once as a (Presbyterian) medical missionary. In fact, Allen founded Jejoongwon, which is now the ultramodern Severance Hospital. It’s part of Yonsei University, which is one of the top three universities in Korea.

Lessons in photography from “Mr. Sunshine” (with in-depth analysis of the drama’s cinematography)


(Note: Skip the explanations and jump to photos from “Mr. Sunshine”)

“Mr. Sunshine” has been praised (and rightly so) for its stunning cinematography; the battle scenes in Episode 1 and Episode 22 are breathtakingly beautiful. But I do have issues with its cinematography.


The Origins of the Dutch Angle


The Dutch Angle from Jacob T. Swinney on Vimeo.


Example of Dutch angle from Episode 1

Dutch angle shot at 90 degrees


Dutch angle shot (in motion)


Some Dutch angle shots from “Mr. Sunshine”
“Mr. Sunshine” prominently uses four techniques in photography and cinematography: (1) Dutch angle; (2) short siding or the disregard of lead room, nose room, or looking space; (3) reflections; and (4) cross dissolve.  I will discuss these techniques in detail.

I will also discuss the following: (a) errors in eyeline match in Episode 10; (b) four ways through which the cinematographer of “Mr. Sunshine” showed a character who is facing a critical situation or experiencing loss, despair, or confusion; and (c) the use of lens flares in “Mr. Sunshine.”

1. Dutch angle or Dutch tilt: In a “Dutch angle” shot, the camera is tilted or canted to the left or to the right so that (a) the horizon line is skewed, or (b) the vertical and horizontal lines of the image are no longer parallel to the sides of the frame.

“Dutch angle” is also called canted angle, Batman angle, etc. It comes actually from “Deutsch” because German filmmakers used it extensively in the 1930s. For more information about Dutch angle, read “IAVM!: Snatch and the Dutch Angle,” or watch the Vimeo video.

The Dutch angle is used to create or increase the psychological, emotional, or physical tension in a photograph or a movie scene. It can help portray unease, disorientation, frantic or desperate action, intoxication, or madness. “Fear, panic, a sense of the unseen, a sense of mental imbalance, and the feeling of threat have been very successfully portrayed with Dutch angle in many films” (from “What is a Dutch Angle and its Impact on Emotion”).

The movie “Thor” (2011) was highly-criticized because its director Kenneth Branagh used so many Dutch angle shots; read, for example, the article “How to ruin the first Thor movie for first-time viewers.” The foremost criticism was that the Dutch angle shots in the movie distracted the viewer’s attention. The 2000 movie “Battlefield Earth” starring John Travolta used Dutch angles in all but one shot of the film; the movie has been universally panned by critics and was awarded as “Worst Movie of the Decade, 2000–2009.”


Analysis of Dutch angle shots used by “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle


Can you spot the Dutch angle shots in the “Slumdog Millionaire” trailer?


Can you spot the Dutch angles in this trailer of Tom Hooper’s movie “Les Miserables”?
But some classic movies have used Dutch angle shots; for examples, “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) and “The Third Man” (1949). Also, “Slumdog Millionaire” which won the 2009 Oscar Award for Best Cinematography used Dutch angle shots in more than 50% of the movie.

Tom Hooper has won Oscar Awards for directing “The King’s Speech” and “Les Miserables.” And yet, his and Danny Cohen’s cinematographic style has been criticized by other directors and film critics for, among other things, “endless, pointless dutch angles.” Read, for example, “On Hooper, Refn, and Cinematography” from Movie Fail, “Tom Hooper Directs Your Favourite Movie” from Movie Mezzanine, “The Miserable Ugliness of The King’s Speech” from Reel 3.

Perhaps the best caution for cinematographers when using Dutch angle shots is to use them critically, that is, each Dutch angle shot must have a reason or justification. “It must serve your story. Throwing in a Dutch angle arbitrarily just won’t cut it; it must be motivated.” Moreover, what should primarily create the tension in the scene are not the Dutch angle shots but the actors and their performance (facial expressions, gestures, intonation), the dialogue (as created by the writer and as interpreted by the actors), the color scheme, the lighting, the music, and the setting. As one blogger noted, there isn’t a single Dutch angle shot in the tension-filled coin flip scene in the multi-awarded, 2007 international hit movie “No Country for Old Men.”

Or, let me use two classic K-dramas to reinforce the view that cinematographers shouldn’t rely on Dutch angle shots to create emotional tension in a scene. In Episode 81 (Finale) of “Jumong,” we have the deeply-moving farewell scene as Jumong tries to convince his oldest and dearest friend Mopalmo to leave Koguryo and go with So Seo No to establish a new nation. There isn’t a single Dutch angle shot in that scene.

In Episode 50 of “A Jewel in the Palace,” Yeun-seng goes into premature labor, loses consciousness twice, and then stops breathing. It’s a chaotic scene, with Jang Geum trying everything to revive Yeun-seng. There isn’t a single Dutch angle shot in that scene.

For more information, please read “Should You Use Dutch Angles in Your Films? (Answer: Yes, But...)” and “Why It Works: Dutch Angles and Winning Scenes.”



From Jumong (Episode 7): So Seo No fighting against Daeso



Jumong training in sword fighting on the mountain hideout



From Six Flying Dragons (Episode 34): Cheok Sa-kwang attacking Moo-hyul



Bang-won secretly listening in to the conversation between Jeong Do-jeon
and his father Yi Seong-gye.
Of all the Korean historical dramas that I’ve seen for the past five years, “Mr. Sunshine” is the only one that uses so many Dutch angle shots in EACH episode. For example, Episode 17 has around 30 Dutch angle shots. (This is the episode when a Righteous Army sniper shot Dong-mae.)

In contrast, classic historical K-dramas (“A Jewel in the Palace,” “Jumong,” and “Dong Yi”) or recent hits (“Six Flying Dragons” and “The Flower in Prison”) either barely use Dutch angle shots or use them in non-intrusive ways. For example, “Jumong” has 81 episodes (I’ve watched each episode 3 or 4 times), and yet I can only remember probably less than two dozen Dutch angle shots in the whole series.

“Six Flying Dragons” has so many sword fighting scenes throughout its 50 episodes, and yet, it uses Dutch angle shots sparingly. Remember, for example, the famous fight scenes at Dohwa Mansion in Episode 25 or the epic sword fight between Gil Tae-mi and Lee Bang-ji in Episode 18; I counted only around seven or eight Dutch angle shots each in these episodes. Or, consider that stunning scene at the end of Episode 29 when Cheok Sa-kwang spins round and round before catching the cup that contains the antidote with the flat side of her sword. I saw only two, hardly-noticeable Dutch angle shots. With the three-way fight between Moo-hyul, Lee Bang-ji, and Cheok Sa-kwang in the Finale, I played the video at a slow speed, and yet, I couldn’t find a single Dutch angle shot.

Or, let’s consider that highly-dramatic scene in Episode 16 when the elders of the Haedonggap Clan discuss their surrender to Hong In-bang’s demands. You won’t see a single Dutch angle shot of Bang-won when he rebukes the elders for their cowardice and hypocrisy and then threatens to kill everyone as he lights the fuse to a box that’s filled with gunpowder.

(Episode 15 probably has the most number of Dutch angle shots in the whole of “Six Flying Dragons”; it’s the episode when Hong In-bang sent the trio of assassins against Jeong Do-jeon and when Boon-yi reunites with her brother Lee Bang-ji and her childhood friend Yeon-hee.) 

As far as I can recall, it’s the recent drama “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds” that noticeably uses quite a few Dutch angle shots. (Episode 1 of “Seven Day Queen” also has several prominent Dutch angle shots with the queen being led to the execution grounds.)





In my analysis below, I will answer these three questions: (1) Does the use of so many Dutch angle shots in each episode of “Mr. Sunshine” distract the attention of the viewers? (2) Are some of these shots properly motivated or justified? (3) Do these shots artificially create emotional tension?

I’m not really the best person to judge whether they are a distraction; as I watch any K-drama, I always look at how the scenes are shot, meaning, what techniques in photographic composition are used. So, I’m not surprised at all if I see a Dutch angle shot. The “ordinary viewers” may be the best judges of whether the Dutch angle shots in “Mr. Sunshine” are distracting. (In other words, do these Dutch angle shots prevent them from fully enjoying the scenes or give them neck cramps?)

On the other hand, the “educated” viewers like film critics, cinematographers, and photographers are the best judges of whether the Dutch angle shots in “Mr. Sunshine” are justified or properly motivated.

Compare the two shots below, for example, from Episode 21 where Dong-mae confronts Hotaru. The picture on the left uses Dutch angle, while the picture on the right doesn’t. The Dutch angle shot is supposed to show Dong-mae’s feeling of betrayal and the tension between him and Hotaru, but why does the cinematographer have to include a normal angle shot?




Wrong use of a Dutch angle shot: In Episode 8 (52:51 mark), Dong-mae points his rifle upwards since he’s aiming at Ae-shin who’s running on the rooftops. But at the 53:11 mark, you can see that Dong-mae is pointing his rifle downwards. Based on the slant of the blurred images behind Dong-mae, I’ll say that it’s a Dutch angle shot. But the shot is wrong because it confuses the viewer — Dong-mae should be pointing his rifle upwards (even if he was aiming at Ae-shin’s leg).

In Episode 17, a Righteous Army sniper shoots Dong-mae on a busy road in broad daylight. The cinematographer shows Dong-mae in Dutch angle shots as he goes down and as Hee-sung comes to his aid.

But notice that when Dong-mae looks (first picture on the right) at where the sniper is hiding, the shot of the sniper’s nest is at a normal angle (2nd picture on the right). Isn’t it reasonable to think that Dong-mae, having been shot, would be seeing the sniper’s nest from a Dutch angle?

The bottom picture (on the right above) shows what the cinematographer wants to portray, through Dutch angle shots, as the chaos on the street as Dong-mae goes down and as Hee-sung comes to his aid (1:06:21-22, 1:06:29-30, 1:06:55-1:07:03, 1:08:22-24 marks). But what we really see is weird, empty space that dominates the shots.

In the shots of Eugene and King Gojong below, the Dutch angle shots are either unnecessary (Eugene watching as Ae-shin’s palanquin passes by in Episode 8) or comical (King Gojong gripped by fear and paranoia about Lee Wan-ik and Lord Ito Hirobumi).



In Episode 3 (8:00 mark), Ae-shin goes with her servants to the French bakery to buy some candies. Notice that the cinematographer uses a Dutch angle to show the table laden with bread and candies — the table slants upwards from left to right. Does the shot of that table really have to be a Dutch angle?

Some people may argue that it isn’t a Dutch angle shot; but how else do you explain the slant upwards from left to right — two legs of the table are shorter than the other two legs?

As you can see from the picture on the left (from Episode 4), the candies and the coins slant downwards from left to right. We know that the French bakery’s owner is scared out of his mind with Dong-mae, but did those candies and coins really have to be shot with a Dutch angle?

Did the cinematographer really have to use the Dutch angle in shooting even the spring from the missing American rifle in Episode 7 (below, left) or the red pinwheel in Episode 10 (below, right)?




Perhaps the most nonsensical use of a Dutch angle shot in “Mr. Sunshine” is in Episode 8 (beginning at the 38:39 mark) where Ae-shin’s servant, Haman, uses the traditional way of ironing clothes (“dadeumi”) with wooden clubs known as “dadeumitbangmang-i” (“pangmangi”). At the 38:49 mark, the cinematographer uses a Dutch angle shot for a close-up of the wooden clubs. Why on earth would these wooden clubs have to be shot using a Dutch angle?



Traditional Korean way of ironing clothes



From Episode 8 of “Mr. Sunshine”



Dutch angle shot of the wooden clubs
Maybe the cinematographer wanted to be consistent with the use of Dutch angle shots in this drama; maybe, Dutch angle shots are the cinematographer’s visual signature. But this, of course, exposes the cinematographer to the same criticisms that have been leveled at Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hooper, and Danny Cohen.

Do the Dutch angle shots in “Mr. Sunshine” artificially create dramatic tension? Let me answer the question this way: Eugene’s confession to Ae-shin in Episodes 9 and 10 that he is the son of slaves is probably the most-emotional scene in “Mr. Sunshine.” And yet, that scene doesn’t have a single Dutch angle shot. (Or maybe, just two brief shots, from the 3:37 to 3:42 mark, when Ae-shin walks away and then collapses to her knees on the frozen river. But that’s after Eugene’s confession, and these shots do not make or break the scene.)



Dutch angle shots from Episode 5 of “Mr. Sunshine”



Episode 46 of “Six Flying Dragons”





Dutch angle shots from Episode 17 of “Mr. Sunshine”
In Episode 5 (starting at the 46:35 mark), the bald-headed Japanese sergeant leads dozens of his fellow soldiers into besieging the American legation. The cinematographer uses several Dutch angles shots to show the tension in the confrontation between the Japanese soldiers and the American marines.

In contrast, watch the video of the end of Episode 46 of “Six Flying Dragons” where Bang-won and his men launch the “First Strife of Princes” by marching towards the house where Jeong Do-jeon is meeting his allies. Except for one or two hardly-noticeable Dutch angle shots, there isn’t any other Dutch angle shot in the whole sequence. But the scenes are filled with tension for several reasons — the scenes take place at night; some of the men are carrying torches; Bang-won’s group becomes bigger as more and more men join him; Bang-won, Moo-hyul, and the others march with grim expressions; and the haunting, wailing background music seals everything.

In Episode 5 of “Mr. Sunshine” the tension is artificial, while in Episode 47 of “Six Flying Dragons,” it’s natural and palpable.

The cinematographer also uses several Dutch angle shots in Episode 17 of “Mr. Sunshine” to show Colonel Takashi and his soldiers as they storm into Lord Go’s house to arrest Ae-shin. But since the viewers have already seen Dutch angle shots of marching Japanese soldiers, the tension that these shots are supposed to create no longer exists; in fact, they look gimmicky and contrived.

2. Short siding or disregarding the lead room, nose room, or looking space:

From Elements of Cinema: “If a character is looking frame left, then he should be placed frame right. This makes the framing comfortable because the subject is looking at the open space in front of him. This open space is called lead room or lead space.

“If the actors were frame left, looking frame left, then the empty space would be behind them. This doesn’t feel right because they would be looking at the edge of the frame. The proximity to the frame would generate a claustrophobic undertone that could upset some viewers.”

From Filmic Grammar: The Rules of Filmaking: “You should also frame the shots with looking space or nose room (more space in the direction they are looking).”

From Lead Room, Nose Room or Looking Space by Neil Oseman:

“Lead room is one of the first concepts we are introduced to when we begin learning camera operation. And like headroom, it’s a rule that’s made to be broken. If a character is looking screen-left, certainly it’s most common to place them on the right of frame – giving them lead room (a.k.a. nose room or looking space) on the left, but that is not the only option.

“Now imagine that same left-looking character framed to the left of centre. This flies in the face of received wisdom and is known as short-siding. The effect of this varies depending on the degree to which it is done.”

From Short-siding – How David Fincher and Nicolas Winding Refn Get it Right:

“short-siding (i.e., framing a shot so a character looks and speaks towards the edge of the frame that they are most closely positioned rather than across the length of the frame to where their partner in conversation will appear after the next cut).”

In Hina’s 1st picture above, from our point of view, she looks to the right, and so the lead room or looking space is on the right. In her 2nd picture, she is short sided, that is, she’s facing the edge of the frame that is closest to her.

Same thing with Ae-shin’s pictures. In her topmost picture, the cinematographer used the conventional lead room or looking space. But in the bottom picture, the cinematographer used short siding.

In Eugene’s and Dong-mae’s pictures, they’re looking to the left, from our point of view; thus, according to the guideline on lead room or looking space, the negative (open) space should be placed on the left side of the images. Instead, the cinematographer placed the negative (open) space at the right side.

In the pictures below, you can see the differences between shots that use the conventional lead room (looking space) and those that use short siding.

(a) Ae-shin and Eugene shot with lead room or looking space



(b) Ae-shin and Dong-mae shot using short siding



Why did the cinematographer of “Mr. Sunshine” choose to disregard in numerous shots the conventional use of the lead room or looking space? Why did the cinematographer shift from using short siding to lead room and vice-versa (for example, in Episode 4, 21:54 to 23:35 mark)? Well, maybe, the cinematographer wanted to jar the viewer’s jaded attention. Maybe, the cinematographer wanted to create a modern, edgy look for the drama. Maybe the cinematographer wanted to emulate the look of “Mr. Robot” and the award-winning films “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The King’s Speech.” I really don’t know why. Or, maybe, to paraphrase Eugene’s dialogue, “Because the cinematographer can.”

(The cinematographer could simply have used shots with lead room all throughout the drama instead of resorting to short siding. That’s proven by Episode 16 when Ae-shin and Hee-sung were kneeling in front of Lord Go’s quarters; from the 1:47 up to the 3:54 mark, there isn’t a single short sided shot.)

I’m a photographer who practices and teaches “filling the frame” and “reading pictures from left to right.” Thus, shots like those of Dong-mae below that use short siding (and thus create empty, wasted spaces) don’t appeal to me. Please read the related article “The Miserable Ugliness of The King’s Speech”.







3. Reflections can be used (a) to create abstract designs; (b) to portray a timeless world of dreams and fantasies; and (c) to create romantic and nostalgic images.

You can see more pictures of reflections from “Mr. Sunshine” below.

Tip: You may choose either to shoot the reflection alone, or both the object and its reflection. When shooting both, you have to use a small aperture or lens opening to render both elements sharp. You should also focus on the reflection (if it’s in the foreground) rather than on the object that is creating the reflection.







4. “Mr. Sunshine” uses numerous times what is called in cinematography as “dissolve,” “cross dissolve,” or “cross fade.”

From Wikipedia article on Dissolve (filmmaking): In the post-production process of film editing and video editing, a dissolve is a gradual transition from one image to another. The terms fade-out (also called fade to black) and fade-in are used to describe a transition to and from a blank image. This is in contrast to a cut where there is no such transition. A dissolve overlaps two shots for the duration of the effect, usually at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next, but may be used in montage sequences also. Generally, but not always, the use of a dissolve is held to indicate that a period of time has passed between the two scenes.

Fades and dissolves typically have a duration of 1 to 2 seconds (24-48 frames), though this may vary according to the preference of the director and editor. Short dissolves (6-12 frames) may be used to soften obvious hard cuts which may startle the viewer, or jump cuts.

In narrative terms, the length of the dissolve is dictated by the mood or pacing the director or editor wishes to create.

5. Other observations:

A. Errors in eyeline match: I’m a photographer, not a cinematographer, and so I stand to be corrected when I say that this drama’s cinematographer committed several mistakes in what is called “eyeline match.”

First, let’s have a definition of “eyeline match” from Wikipedia:

“An eyeline match is a film editing technique associated with the continuity editing system. It is based on the premise that an audience will want to see what the character on-screen is seeing. An eyeline match begins with a character looking at something off-screen, followed by a cut of another object or person: for example, a shot showing a man looking off-screen is followed by a shot of a television.

“Eyeline match also refers to the practice of setting off-camera eyelines for single shots of characters within a scene such that, when these shots are cut together, each of the characters appear to be looking at the correct character, without any confusion. Factors influencing the position of the off-camera eyeline (usually by placing the other actors off camera but sometimes by giving the on-camera actor a mark to look at) include the 180 degree rule, camera lens/height/distance to subject and geography of the set. For instance, matching close-ups of two actors in a scene would be shot on the same lens with the camera placed at a matching height (either the same height, or at the off-camera actor’s height or the on-camera actor’s height) and distance, with the off-camera actor positioned equidistant from the lens and on opposite sides so that Actor A looks off camera right and Actor B looks off camera left.”

The following screenshots come from Episode 10 when Eugene reveals to Ae-shin that his parents were slaves.

Screenshots 1-2: Establishing shots that show Eugene at frame right and Ae-shin at frame left.



Screenshot 3: Eugene is frame right and looking to the left (from our point of view). We know that he's looking at Ae-shin, who is totally off-frame.



Screenshot 4: Ae-shin is frame left and looking to the right (from our point of view). We know that she’s looking at Eugene, who is partially off-frame, with only part of the back side of his head visible to us.



Screenshot 5: Ae-shin is frame left and looking to the right (from our point of view). We know that she’s looking at Eugene, who is totally off-frame.



Screenshot 6: At the 1:01-1:11 mark, Eugene is still looking to the left but is short sided.



Screenshot 7: But notice the next screenshot (from 1:12-1:15 mark) where Ae-shin is now frame right and looking to the left!



Screenshot 8: At the 1:18 mark, Eugene is still looking to the left!



In various marks (1:20-1:22, 1:28-1:31, 2:39-2:43), Ae-shin is frame right and looking to the left. But at 2:48 mark, Ae-shin is back at frame left and looking to the right. What happened? Did this drama’s cinematographer commit a beginner’s error in failing to maintain eyeline match?

The only time that makes sense of Ae-shin being frame right and looking to the left begins at the 2:27 mark. Eugene is frame left and looking slightly to the right. At the 2:40 mark, Ae-shin is frame right and looking to the left.



Maybe there was some editing mix-up that resulted in these confusing shots. Maybe the change in viewpoint as shown in the wide shots in the 1:16 and 2:44 marks can explain why Ae-shin moves from frame left to frame right and vice-versa. But why confuse the viewers with the change in viewpoint when the scene is such an important and emotional scene?

In contrast to this error, the tension-filled scene in Episode 13 (from 1:07:52 to 1:10:59 mark) when Ae-shin pays her debt to Dong-mae is masterfully shot and edited.

As you can see from the screenshots below, during their conversation, Ae-shin is either (1) frame right and looking almost straight ahead, or (2) frame left and looking to the right, meaning with lead room.

Dong-mae, on the other hand, is either (1) frame right and looking to the left, or (2) short sided and looking to the left.

These shots are combined with (1) medium shots that show both Ae-shin and Dong-mae, and (2) close-ups of the bag of coins and of Dong-mae holding a coin. The medium shots establish that from our point of view, Ae-shin is to our left and Dong-mae is to our right.

Here’s an exercise for you to know how dynamic this scene is: After one shot of Ae-shin (or Dong-mae), try to guess where Ae-shin (or Dong-mae) would be in the next shot. (Watching the video of this scene, is, of course, better than watching this GIF. Also, if the GIF doesn’t work properly, view it in another tab.)



B. I’ve noticed that the cinematographer used at least four ways of showing when a character was facing a critical situation or experiencing loss, despair, or confusion.

(1) The pictures below show Ae-shin, Hee-sung, Hina, and Eugene together with Ae-shin at the extreme edge of the frame, with a wall or some other object that dominates the left side of the frame. By extreme, I mean, sometimes beyond the vertical lines set by the Rule of Thirds.





















(2) The pictures below show what has been called “lower corner framing,” “lower corner composition,” or “lower quadrant framing” with the subject being dominated by the negative space.

















First picture above from “The King’s Speech”; 2nd picture “Mr. Sunshine”


Mr. Robot Lower Quadrant Framing from Anthony Casanova on Vimeo.


No Rules for Composition - (Mr. Robot) from Semih Okmen on Vimeo.


Framing Techniques in Mr. Robot from Stan Beeler on Vimeo.
The cinematographer of “Mr. Sunshine” seems to have been inspired by the film “The King’s Speech” (Tom Hooper, director; Danny Cohen, cinematographer) and by the US drama “Mr. Robot” (Tod Campbell, cinematographer). Notice, for example, the two shots on the right, the first from “The King’s Speech” and the next from “Mr. Sunshine.”

Criticism of “lower corner framing,” “lower corner composition,” or “lower quadrant framing” from “On Hooper, Refn, and Cinematography”:

“These choices upset me because they are dumb in all but a few circumstances, and those circumstances never pop up in Hooper’s films. I mean look at this sh*t. That is inexcusable. What is the framing of that shot even supposed to signify? Or this one? Why? There is no reasonable justification for squishing Colin Firth into the corner of the frame. And he keeps doing it. Why would you frame a shot like that? And that’s not even touching the endless, pointless dutch angles.

“It’s not that ‘all movies look dumb when shot in the style of other famous films.’ It’s that this style is ugly and awful in almost ANY film, and Hooper applies it to stories as disparate as In The Loop, The King’s Speech, and Les Mis. It’s not just lazy. I mean, it is lazy, but it’s worse than that. It’s bad filmmaking done with the intention of faking artistry. I doubt he put no thought into framing those shots that way. No, he did it with the thought of, ‘Man, this looks really different! This should get people to think I’m an auteur!’ And maybe that’s unfair, but I can’t think of another explanation.”

On the other hand, Tavis Leaf Glover in his article “Mr. Robot Creates Visual Tension with Composition Techniques” praises the weird angles of “Mr. Robot” because they effectively create visual tension.

(3) The cinematographer also used the conventional natural frames to enclose the character or characters and thus show the bleakness of the scene.













(4) The cinematographer also used blurred movement to show the sense of isolation or crisis that a character is facing.

In Episode 24, Eugene remains static as he stares at his photo with Ae-shin, while the people around him are in blurred motion.

In Episode 4, Ae-shin is static as she thinks that she has completely misjudged Eugene as her comrade, while most of the people around her are in blurred motion.

Click the picture to view a GIF of this scene from Episode 24.

Click the picture to view a GIF of this scene from Episode 4.

C. Is Ae-shin actually left-handed? In Episode 15 when Ae-shin and Eugene meet in the pharmacy, there’s a very brief flashback at the 32:46 mark that shows Ae-shin aiming her rifle at Eugene. The flashback first shows a blurred image of Ae-shin holding and aiming her rifle and then cross dissolves into the image of Eugene facing off with Eun-san, from Ae-shin’s point of view. But the blurred image is wrong because it’s a reversed image that shows Ae-shin aiming with her left eye and holding the front end of the rifle with her right hand!

Probably it was deliberately blurred to hide from the viewers that it’s a reversed image, but why include that image in the first place? The flashback could have just begun and ended with the image of Eugene facing off with Eun-san, from Ae-shin’s point of view.

D. Wrong setup: In Episode 6, Ae-shin meets Gunner Jang at the riverside inn. Gunner Jang is at the outer portion of the inn, while Ae-shin is inside a room. (See the pictures on the left.)

Picture 1: From the viewer’s point of view, Gunner Jang is frame left, while judging from the shadow on the right panel of the door, Ae-shin is frame right. Thus, Gunner Jang looks to his left when he speaks to Ae-shin.

Pictures 2 and 3: Consistent with Picture 1, Ae-shin looks to her left to speak with Gunner Jang.

Pictures 4 and 5: Ae-shin becomes angry when Gunner Jang tells her to return the rifle to the American legation. But as you can see from the pictures, Ae-shin opens the left panel of the door (from our point of view) and is now looking to her right when speaking with Gunner Jang.

The only way for this to happen is for Ae-shin to slide across the room and then turn herself around to open the left panel of the door. But why would she? Is the right panel of the door stuck or something?

The scene is wrongly set up. In Picture 1, Ae-shin’s shadow should have been on the left panel of the door. In Pictures 2 and 3, Ae-shin should have been looking to her right, not to her left. This would have made Pictures 4 and 5 correct.

Or, Ae-shin could have opened the right panel of the door, and the camera could have been placed in the same location that was used for Picture 1.

E. The pictures below are from Episode 24. The first picture is a Dutch angle shot of Dong-mae (from a low point of view) as he waits for the arrival of the Musin Society members (38:24 mark). As you can see, the shot is framed such that his face is entirely visible and he’s cropped somewhere below the knees.

But in the next pictures, starting from 40:27 up to 40:30, the camera tilts downward so that Dong-mae’s face is cut off partially and then totally.

Are these shots supposed to mean something? Is the drama’s cinematographer paying tribute to a favorite cinematographer or a famous movie where this kind of shots appeared? Or is the cinematographer just trolling the viewers?


F. Was the cinematographer of “Mr. Sunshine” influenced by Danny Boyle, director of “Slumdog Millionaire”?



Pictures on the left come from Episode 4 of “Mr. Sunshine”; pictures on the right from “Slumdog Millionaire” show Jamal and his brother Salim as they finally find Latika years after they were separated at the railroad tracks.

A scene with lens flare obstructing Alice Eve in
“Star Trek Into Darkness.” Paramount Pictures
G. J.J. Abrams, world-famous director of the “Star Wars” movies, is obsessed with using lens flare in his movies, as you can read from Director J.J. Abrams explains why there are so many lens flares in ‘Star Trek’ or in JJ Abrams apologises for lens flare on Star Trek: Into Darkness.

“Lens flares are scattered light that you usually try to avoid having in photos. It's usually caused when a bright light shines into the lens.” (Read the Wikipedia article on lens flare.)

“Mr. Sunshine” does use shots with lens flare, but, thankfully, they’re not on the same obsessive level as that of a J.J. Abrams movie. Also, J.J. Abrams uses horizontal, almost flat lens flares; on the other hand, “Mr. Sunshine” uses the traditional polygonal lens flares. Posted below are some lens flare shots from this drama. (If you click any of the the last four picture below, you’ll be able to view a larger picture and see the lens flare better.)







Posted below are other screenshots from “Mr. Sunshine” with short descriptions of what photographic techniques were used.

Direction of light, shooting against the sun
Patterns, high angle shot, shadows, Dutch angle
High angle shot
Golden hours, aerial perspective
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Reflection
Golden hour, shooting against the sun, Rule of Thirds, scale
Symmetry, aerial perspective
Bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Keystoning
Focal center of interest, patterns, lines, natural frame, shadows
Rack focus
Rack focus
Reflection
Aerial perspective
Cross dissolve (cinematography)
Lens flare, shooting against the light
Shooting against the light
Compressed perspective, background blur
Lens flare
Lens flare
Natural frame
Natural frame
Reflection
Reflections, off-center emphasis
Reflection
Shooting against the light, lines, lens flare
Background blur, bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Background blur, focus on the eyes
“Center the dominant eye”
Out-of-focus element as foreground (partial frame), “center the dominant eye”
Focus on the eyes, catchlights
Leading lines, Dutch angle shot
Lens flare
Low angle shot, symmetry
Short siding
Short siding
Shallow depth of field, compressed perspective
Conveying depth through selective focusing and overlapping forms
Cross dissolve (cinematography)
Cross dissolve (cinematography), symmetry
Cross dissolve (cinematography)
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, linear perspective
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, low angle shot, shooting against the sun
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Reflections, Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Foreground and background blur
Golden hour, Rule of Thirds, aerial perspective
Lines
Linear perspective
Local frame, foreground and background blur
Low angle shot (power shot)
Silhouette, natural frame, aspective view, figure-ground relationship
Natural frames
Off-center emphasis, foreground and background blur
Out-of-focus element as foreground (partial) frame
Aerial perspective, partial frame. scale
Line of direction, diagonal lines, foreground and background blur
Out-of-focus element as foreground (partial) frame, background blur
Out-of-focus element as foreground (partial) frame, background blur
Selective or differential focusing, compressed perspective
Patterns
Reflections
Reflections
Reflection, line of direction
Reflections
Rule of Thirds, aerial perspective
Conveying depth through selective or differential focusing
Shadow
Compressed perspective, shallow depth of field
Silhouette
Symmetry, aerial perspective
High angle shot
Reflection
Background blur, bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Background blur, bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Dutch angle, diagonal lines
Dutch angle, low angle shot
Dutch angle, lines
Low angle shot, negative space
High angle shot, off-center emphasis, Rule of Thirds
Off-center emphasis
Partial frame, local frame
Silhouette, shooting against the sun
Bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph),
out-of-focus highlights
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, patterns
Low angle shot
Golden hour, silhouette, Rule of Thirds
Cross dissolve (cinematography)
Low angle shot, symmetry
Natural frame
Natural frame, shooting odd-numbered group is easier
Natural frame
Off-center emphasis, Rule of Thirds, aerial perspective
Off-center emphasis, Rule of Thirds, cool colors
Reflections
Reflections
Reflections, direction of light
Reflections
Shadow
Shooting odd-numbered group is easier
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Red is a dominating color
Scale
Shooting against the sun, cross-screen filter effect
Shooting against the sun. silhouette. golden hour
Shooting against the sun. golden hour
Shooting against the sun, low angle shot
Background blur, compressed perspective
Conveying depth through selective focusing and natural frames
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, negative space
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
High angle shot, natural frames
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, reflections
Reflections
Silhouette, golden hour
Golden hour, Rule of Thirds
Focal center of interest, background blur
Bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph),
foreground and background blur
Background blur, Rule of Space (Rule of Gaze)
Reflection
Cross dissolve (cinematography)
Cross dissolve (cinematography)
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, foreground blur
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, natural frame
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, Rule of Space (Rule of Gaze)
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, Rule of Space (Rule of Gaze)
Leading lines, high angle shot
Out-of-focus elements as foreground frame
Reflections
Reflections
Reflection
Rule of Space (Rule of Gaze)
Rule of Thirds, negative space
Rule of Thirds
Shooting odd-numbered group is easier
Baroque diagonal, sinister diagonal
Converging lines, patterns, low angle shot
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Silhouette, aerial perspective, golden hour
Hot spot, glare
Local frame, bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Low angle shot
Off-center emphasis, Rule of Thirds
Picture diagonal, dynamic symmetry
Reflections
Selective or differential focusing
Shallow depth of field
Quality and direction of light
Reflections
Converging lines, low angle shot, patterns
Bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
“Center the dominant eye”
Compressed perspective, background blur
Cross dissolve
Cross dissolve
Cross dissolve
Dutch angle, low angle shot
Dutch angle, high angle shot
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt, low angle shot (power shot)
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Off-center emphasis
Focal center of interest, symmetry
Focal center of interest, symmetry
Line of direction, lead room or looking space
Line of direction, lead room or looking space
Off-center emphasis, bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Out-of-focus element as foreground frame
Shallow depth of field
Short siding
Short siding, shallow depth of field
Short siding
Shooting against the light, lens flare, low angle shot
Warm and cool colors, light tones
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle shot, natural frame
Golden hour, warm colors
Low angle shot (power shot)
Quality and direction of light
Reflection, natural frame, off-center emphasis
Reflection
Shallow depth of field
Shallow depth of field
Dynamic symmetry, picture diagonal
Reflections
Cross dissolve (cinematography)
Cross dissolve (cinematography)
Dutch angle
Natural frame
Low angle point of view, Dutch angle, shooting against the sun
Dutch angle, linear perspective
Shadows, high angle shot
Lens flare, shooting against the light
Keystoning
Dutch angle, low angle point of view
Dutch angle (90 degrees)
Dutch angle
Dutch angle (90 degrees)
Blur to express movement and isolation
Dutch angle shot
Dutch angle shot, shooting against the light
Foreground blur
Foreground blur
Out-of-focus highlights, bokeh (aesthetic quality
of blurred areas of a photograph

Historical backgrounders and other information


Index of topics: 1. Controversies surrounding “Mr. Sunshine”; 2. How Koreans first came to learn English; 3. Righteous Army; 4. Black Dragon Society (referred to in later episodes of the drama as “Musin Society”); 5. Treaties and agreements mentioned in “Mr. Sunshine”; 6. Unfair portrayal of Horace Newton Allen in “Mr. Sunshine”; 7. Arirang Special - King Gojong's Foreign Policies; 8. The Last Dynasty of Korea; 9. Battle of Namdaemun; 10. In Episode 22, after he’s released from prison, Eugene meets Ahn Changho, a Joseon scholar who asked him for directions to Columbia University; 11. MacGuffin; 12. “Operation Fox Hunt”; 13. Ae-shin’s headdress; 14. Discrimination against slaves and butchers during the Joseon Dynasty; Gabo Reform of 1894; 15. The Baby Riots of 1888; 16. Is Ae-shin a fictional or historical character? 17. Frederick Arthur McKenzie, the journalist who interviewed the Righteous Army in Episode 24, is a historical character; 18. Coffee and “Mr. Sunshine”; 19. Why did Dong-mae cut off Ae-shin’s hair in Episode 18?; 20. Why did Dong-mae have paintings of plum blossoms on his scabbards?

1. Controversies surrounding “Mr. Sunshine”

K-drama ‘Mr. Sunshine’ writer is accused of distorting history

The popular romance drama Mr. Sunshine has been dragged into a dispute over whether it has distorted history.

The show, written by star writer Kim Eun-sook, has been accused of being an apologist for pro-Japanese collaborators before Japan’s colonial rule of Korea as well as being based on historical inaccuracies.

“Mr. Sunshine” Slammed For Historical Inaccuracies; Petition Gaining Support

Mr. Sunshine is under fire for historical inaccuracies. The Korean netizens, who have launched a petition to protest what they deemed to be history misrepresentation in the tvN drama, are also gaining more support.

So far, the petition has gained over 27,000 signatures. The concerned netizens earlier shared into the Blue House homepage the petition asking the government to prevent historical inaccuracies in K-dramas. The petitioners particularly mentioned Mr. Sunshsine and stressed that Japan was the aggressor nation during the Japanese occupation period as well as during the war.

Mr. Sunshine is slammed for “romanticizing” a pro-Japanese organization and portraying Yoo Yeon Seok’s character, Goo Dong Mae, as a charming character. They are also protesting the presentation of the Joseon culture as “uncivilized.”

“Mr. Sunshine” Exemplifies the Risky Business of Historical Drama

The problem was that the drama portrayed Goo Dong-Mae as a rather attractive and a character with much charm.

The Korean netizens worried that this character beautified the pro-Japanese stance from the past, which is far from what actually happened in history. In addition, they argued that incorporating an “inevitable background” to a character who was a clear antagonist in a historical sense when the victims still exist in the present day, is extremely offensive.

As a result, the drama’s production team had to modify the entire character. They changed the description of the character and apologized, “we had no intention of romanticizing the pro-Japanese groups. We were merely trying to portray the devastation of a man who was born into a peasant family at the time and was forced to live a fate that he could not change. However, as our drama tells a story from a sensitive historical time period, we now realize that we should have been more careful with our character development.”

“Mr. Sunshine” Changes Details Of Yoo Yeon Seok’s Character After Controversy

2. How Koreans first came to learn English

This drama uses the English language to fuel the romance between Eugene and Ae-shin. Well-respected historian Robert D. Neff in “Learning English in the 1880s, A glimpse into the history of learning English in Korea” tells us how Koreans first came to learn English:

“In 1882—just prior to Korea opening to the West—Koreans who desired to learn English had to travel to Japan.”

“Missionaries also established schools. In 1886, Mary F. Scranton, an American, established Ehwa Hakdang (Pear Flower School), a school for girls. One early teacher recalled that it started out as more of a place where poor girls would be fed and clothed rather than a place of education. The school is now known as Ewha Womans University and is one of the most prestigious schools in Korea.”

“English was also learned on streets and around the ports that foreign sailors and soldiers frequented.”

3. Righteous Army (From “Movement to Protect National Rights and the Independence Struggle, (1) Resistance to Save the Nation by the Righteous Army”)

In confronting the Japanese invasion, the Righteous Army waged a valiant armed struggle against the aggressors. The Righteous Army began to rise up with the murder of Myonsong Hwanghu (Queen Min) and the enforcement of the short hair policy. The Righteous Army was formed in the tradition of the armed forces that repelled the Hideyoshi Invasion. The Righteous Army units, under the command of Yu In-sok and other Confucian scholars, punished the pro-Japanese bureaucrats and the Japanese throughout the country.

The Righteous Army, who put down their guns by the order of the King to disband, waged a full uprising again when the aggressions by Japan became full-fledged after the Russo-Japanese War. Under the leadership of Min Chong-sik, Ch'oe Ik-hyon and Sin Tol-sok, the Righteous Army attacked the Japanese army, Japanese merchants and pro-Japan bureaucrats in the Kangwon, Ch'ungch'ong, Cholla and Kyongsang provinces.

The men of the Righteous Army were united and implemented an operation to recapture Seoul in 1907. That is, ten thousand troops under the command of Yi In-yong, were concentrated in the city of Yangju. They formed 24 units and were organized to recapture Seoul.

4. Black Dragon Society (referred to in later episodes of the drama as “Musin Society”)

The Black Dragon Society (“Kokuryūkai” or Amur River Society) was a prominent paramilitary, ultra-nationalist right-wing group in Japan.

The Kokuryūkai was founded in 1901 by Uchida Ryohei as a successor to his mentor Mitsuru Tōyama's Gen'yōsha.[1] Its name is derived from the translation of the Amur River, which is called Heilongjiang or “Black Dragon River” in Chinese, read as Kokuryū-kō in Japanese. Its public goal was to support efforts to keep the Russian Empire north of the Amur River and out of east Asia.

The Society published a journal, and operated an espionage training school, from which it dispatched agents to gather intelligence on Russian activities in Russia, Manchuria, Korea and China. It also pressured Japanese politicians to adopt a strong foreign policy.

During the Russo-Japanese War, annexation of Korea and Siberian Intervention, the Imperial Japanese Army made use of the Kokuryūkai network for espionage, sabotage and assassination.

Initially directed only against Russia, in the 1930s, the Kokuryūkai expanded its activities around the world, and stationed agents in such diverse places as Ethiopia, Turkey, Morocco, throughout southeast Asia and South America, as well as Europe and the United States.

The Kokuryūkai was officially disbanded by order of the American Occupation authorities in 1946.

5. Treaties and agreements mentioned in “Mr. Sunshine”

Japan-Korea Treaty of 1904

“For the purpose of maintaining a permanent and solid friendship between Japan and Korea and firmly establishing peace in the Far East, the Imperial Government of Korea shall place full confidence in the Imperial Government of Japan, and adopt the advice of the latter in regard to improvements in administration.”

Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905 (aka “Eulsa Treaty”): “The treaty deprived Korea of its diplomatic sovereignty and made Korea a protectorate of Imperial Japan. It resulted from Imperial Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.”

Japan-Korea Treaty of1907

“The treaty provided that Korea should act under the guidance of a Japanese resident general. The effect of the treaty’s provisions was that the administration of internal affairs was turned over to Japan.”

Taft- Katsura Agreement (in relation the drama’s references to the Philippines)

The Taft–Katsura Agreement (also known as the Taft Katsura Memorandum) was a 1905 discussion (not an agreement) between senior leaders of Japan and the United States regarding the positions of the two nations in greater East Asian affairs, especially regarding the status of Korea and Philippines in the aftermath of Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War. It was not an "agreement" and did not set out any new policies, but a memorandum. The memorandum was not classified as a secret but no scholar noticed it in the archives until 1924.

6. Unfair portrayal of Horace Newton Allen in “Mr. Sunshine”

In several episodes, “Mr. Sunshine” portrays American ambassador Horace Newton Allen as a weak administrator and a corrupt official who accepted a bribe from Lee Wan-ik (to stop Eugene’s investigation into missionary Joseph’s death). The drama also mentions Allen merely as a doctor and not as a medical missionary.

Horace Newton Allen is a historical character; he was a Presbyterian medical missionary who founded Jejoongwon, the first Korean hospital of Western medicine, in the late 1890s. Jejoongwon is now the ultra-modern Severance Hospital, which is part of Yonsei University (one of the top three universities in Korea).

For a much-more favorable portrayal of Horace Newton Allen, watch the 2010 drama “Jejoongwon” starring Han Hye-jin (she played Sosuhno in “Jumong”). Although not a big hit, “Jejoongwon” is a favorite among knowledgeable and credible websites like Dramabeans, Thundie’s Prattle, The Talking Cupboard, Electric Ground, and Korean Historical Dramas.

From “The Legacy of Horace Newton Allen” by Wi Jo Kang (Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa):

The main enemy of Korean independence, as Allen rightly perceived, was the growth of Japanese power. Allen constantly warned his government that expanding Japanese power was the greatest threat to world peace.

Allen hoped to save Korea from Japanese imperial ambitions. He wished to instill this hope in his U.S. superiors, but the attitudes in Washington, especially those of President Theodore Roosevelt, seemed to be pro-Japanese.

From “Providence and Politics: Horace N. Allen and the Early US-Korea Encounter, 1884-1894” by Andrea Yun Kwon (University of California, Berkeley):

Few names are more recognizable to students of early American-Korean relations than that of Horace Newton Allen. And for good reason. During the twenty years the angular, bespectacled physician from Ohio lived in Chosŏn Korea, he supervised the kingdom’s first Western- style hospital and medical school, cultivated close ties with the monarch, helped secure gold mining and other concessions for American business, played a central role in Korean migration to Hawaii, and, for nearly a decade, served as the United States ambassador in Seoul. As historian Wayne Patterson summarizes, “In the one hundred years since Korea was opened to the West no foreigner became more involved in Korea’s affairs than Horace Allen.”

“This dissertation is an attempt to begin reconstructing and reexamining Horace Allen’s remarkable career. It concentrates on the first ten years of his connection to Korea (1884-1894), the period when he transitioned from a participant of the Protestant foreign mission enterprise to a member of the American diplomatic service. These were foundational, at times greatly unsettling, years for Allen. They are also, I believe, the most misunderstood. Indeed in contrast to impressions that from the outset Allen was a freewheeling opportunist—someone who, as one historian described, “nicely combined his Presbyterian missionary dedication with a robber-baron passion for making money”—the evidence reveals a more complicated story.“

7. Arirang Special - M60Ep199C02 King Gojong's Foreign Policies



8. The Last Dynasty of Korea



9. The last 15 minutes of Episode 22 depict the “Battle of Namdaemun” that took place on August 1, 1907 after the Joseon military was disbanded.







1st photo - Namdaemun during the Joseon Dynasty; 2nd photo- Namdaemun in 2013; 3rd photo - Battle of Namdaemun from French newspaper
“Namdaemun (South Great Gate), officially known as the Sungnyemun, Gate of Exalted Ceremonies, is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, South Korea, which surrounded the city in the Joseon dynasty. The gate is located in Jung-gu between Seoul Station and Seoul Plaza, with the historic 24-hour Namdaemun market next to the gate.

“The gate, dating back to the 14th century, is a historic pagoda-style gateway, and is designated as the first National Treasure of South Korea. It was once one of the three major gateways through Seoul’s city walls which had a stone circuit of 18.2 kilometres (11.3 mi) and stood up to 6.1 metres (20 ft) high. It was first built in the last year of King Taejo of Joseon's reign in 1398, and rebuilt in 1447.

“In 2008, the wooden pagoda atop the gate was severely damaged by arson. Restoration work on the gateway started in February 2010 and was completed on 29 April 2013. The gate was reopened on 4 May 2013.”

Battle of Namdaemun: “The 1st Battalion Commander Major Park Sung-hwan (1869-1907), wrote a note on a paper and committed suicide by shooting himself. The note said that he was against the disbandment of the armed forces.

“His suicide enraged the soldiers, which extorted ammunition and armaments, arranged sentries around the barracks and started to open fire with guns against the Imperial Japanese Army.”

Using machine guns that were placed atop the walls, the Japanese Imperial Army routed the 3,000 Korean soldiers who led the uprising. From Namdaemun, the battle spilled over to the capital’s streets in the area now occupied by the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (Wikipedia)

10. In Episode 22, after he’s released from prison, Eugene meets Ahn Changho (aka An Chang-ho), a Joseon scholar who asked him for directions to Columbia University. Ahn Changho was a Korean independence activist and one of the early leaders of the Korean-American immigrant community in the United States. He is also referred to as his pen name Dosan.

He established the Shinminhoe (New Korea Society) when he returned to Korea from the US in 1907. It was the most important organization to fight the Japanese occupation of Korea. He established the Young Korean Academy in San Francisco in 1913 and was a key member in the founding of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai in 1919.

Ahn is one of two men believed to have written the lyrics of the Aegukga, the South Korean national anthem. Besides his work for the Independence Movement, Dosan wanted to reform the Korean people's character and the entire social system of Korea. Educational reform and modernizing schools were two key efforts of Dosan. He was the father of actor Philip Ahn and U.S. Navy officer Susan Ahn Cuddy.

11. MacGuffin: Starting from Episode 2, after the assassination of Logan Taylor, various parties (King Gojong, the Japanese ambassador and Lee Wan-ik through Dong-mae) begin searching for the certificate of deposit that Taylor was trying to sell. King Gojong had deposited money in a Shanghai bank and was using it to buy weapons for Joseon. Somehow, Taylor had gotten hold of the certificate and had hidden it. After a few episodes, the certificate of deposit ends up in Eugene’s hands. In movies, this certificate of deposit is known as a “MacGuffin.”

From Elements of Cinema: “Simply put, a MacGuffin is an object of interest around which the plot revolves. The term was made popular by director Alfred Hitchcock, who constantly used both the name and the technique. It may be a valuable object or an object of interest.”

From Wikipedia:In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or another motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The MacGuffin's importance to the plot is not the object itself, but rather its effect on the characters and their motivations. The most common type of MacGuffin is a person, place, or thing (such as money or an object of value).”

12. “Operation Fox Hunt” (Eulmi Incident)

In Episode 4 (42:32 mark), Lord Ito Hirobumi mentions to Lee Wan-ik the phrase “Operation Fox Hunt.” Otherwise referred to as the “Eulmi Incident,” this refers to the assassination of King Gojong’s wife, Queen Min (formally “Empress Myeongseong”) on October 8, 1895, by a band of about 50 Japanese swordsmen.

The government of Meiji Japan considered Empress Myeongseong an obstacle to its overseas expansion. Efforts to remove her from the political arena, orchestrated through failed rebellions prompted by the father of King Gojong, the Heungseon Daewongun (an influential regent working with the Japanese), compelled her to take a harsher stand against Japanese influence. (Wikipedia)

For more information about Queen Min, surf to “Queen Min of Joseon Korea” by Kallie Szczepanski; you can also watch 2010 drama “Jejongwon” where Queen Min’s life and assassination are portrayed.

13. Ae-shin’s headdresses

On several occasions, Ae-shin wears a “jangot” (“changot”) to cover herself, like other noble women in Joseon as they went out in public.

From “Veiling of Korean Women: The Neo-Confucian Influence in Comparison to the Veiling of Muslim Women” by Hye Ok Park (Claremont Graduate University, Department of History):

“There were several different types of veils, Sseugae, worn by Korean upper-class women: Nuhwool, a black sheer silk framed veil to cover from head to waist (Figure 3), Jangot, a head and face-covering in the shape of overcoat, usually made of green pure silk with purple collar and chest straps to be tied at the chin (Figure 4), and Sseugae chima or shorter Jangot, worn by the lower-ranking upper-class women (Figure 5).”

In Episode 9 (end) and Episode 10 (start), Ae-shin wears a traditional winter cap called “ayam”; it is also called “aegeom” which literally means “covering a forehead” in Korean. The “ayam” traditionally consist of a “mobu or” crown (open at the top) and a big ribbon (“deurim”). The tassel attached to the upper center of both front and back is mostly red in color and the strings connected from both sides are all flat braids. (Wikipedia)

Related article: “Korean Dress and Adornment” by Marilyn Revell DeLong and Key Sook Geum

14. Discrimination against slaves and butchers during the Joseon Dynasty; Gabo Reform of 1894 (mentioned in Episode 1):

Eugene was a slave, and Dong-mae’s parents were butchers; the drama depicts the discrimination that they faced all throughout their lives because of their social status.

A. From “Jejoongwon, Part 1: The History”: During the Joseon Dynasty, society was divided into four castes, with the “yangban” (nobles) as the highest caste. The lowest caste was “chonmin” that consisted of slaves, convicts, shamans, and entertainers (such as gisaengs and storytellers).

At the very bottom of the “chonmin” caste was the outcast group known as the “baekchong.” Consisting of butchers, gravediggers, and executioners (anyone associated with death), they lived in segregated communities and had no family names; other castes treated them like worthless dogs.

From “The Social Structure of Korean Villages” (1960) by Man Gab Lee: Joseon society had six classes, plus an outcast group: royalty; nobles (yangban); country gentry (hyangban); middle folk (chungin); illegitimate sons of nobility (soja); commoners (sangmin); “humble folk” (chonmin).

From “Korea, The Politics of the Vortex” (1968) by Gregory Henderson: the “despised people” (chonmin) consisted of private and public slaves, shamans, buffoons, traveling dancers, singers, Buddhist monks and nuns, and butchers.

B. Slavery during the Joseon Dynasty

Nobi: Rescuing the Nation from Slavery

One of the interesting aspects of pre-modern Korean history is the existence of a huge number of slaves, perhaps averaging 30% or perhaps 40% of the population for the Chosŏn dynasty.

The institution of slavery in Korea has a very long history and there are a number of unusual and interesting features of it. Slaves, for example, could own property for which they were taxed, though this appears to have been uncommon. They were given base names which often had the suffix “kae” which apparently implied a tool of some kind. The slaves were not prohibited from marrying commoners though their offspring could then often be enslaved. Marriage with the Yangban was banned, but this ban was sometimes ignored and slave women were sometimes taken on as secondary wives or concubines of the elite.

Three major events happened in Korea in 1894 (The Korea Times)

Slavery, hereditary social status, discrimination against widows and concubines, and many other forms of determining social privilege were legally abolished.

This did not mean that everything changed overnight. Some of these ideals took years and even decades to realize, but the Gabo Reform's initiation and articulation of momentous change proved significant and durable. The “spirit of Gabo” persisted as a driving force for social and political reform and shaped the subsequent emergence of modern Korea.

C. History and other information about the baekchong

From “The Paekchong: ‘Untouchables’ of Korea” by Soon Man Rhim (UP Diliman Institute of Asian Studies, Journal of Critical Perspectives) citing Herbert Passin:

(1) Some scholars believe that the “paekchong” were descendants of the Tartars, based on the writings of Jung Yak Yong (one of the most prominent scholars in Joseon history; you might remember him as the nerdy scholar in the last few episodes of “Yi San”).

“Tartar” is the general term for all northern peoples, Mongolians, Manchurians, and so on.

Other scholars believe that the “paekchong” descended from the disgraced scholars who in 1392 remained loyal to Goryeo when the Joseon Dynasty was founded. (You might remember these scholars in Episodes 37 and 38 of “Six Flying Dragons.”)

(2) The status of the paekchong was far below that of the slaves in the traditional Korean social system. Although the slave status was hereditary, slaves could buy their freedom and become “sangmin” (commoners). Paekchong, on the hand, had no way of escaping from their outcast status.

The paekchong were divided into two basic groups: the “chaein” and the paekchong proper.

The “chaein” were the actors, jugglers, acrobats, and magicians. The paekchong proper were the butchers, leather workers, and basket makers.

(3) Discrimination against the paekchong:

Until the breakdown of Korea’s traditional social order at the end of the 19th century, the paekchong were forced, by custom and law, to live in segregated quarters isolated from the common people in order to maintain public peace and public morals.

Their dead had to be buried in segregated plots so as not to pollute the sacred burial grounds of the common people.

They were not allowed to buy fresh fish in the public market.

Honorifics: Ordinarily, Joseon men talked down (informally or “banmal”) to boys, while the boys had to reply formally (“jondaemal” meaning, with respect). But the paekchong were required to speak formally even to boys from the “sangmin” class (commoners).

Butchering — their main occupation — was more a public obligation than a source of income. They slaughtered the animals for the five great animal sacrifices that were offered each year. But they were not paid for their services.

In addition, whenever an ordinary man wanted some butchering done, he would call a paekchong to do it. No compensation was received in these instances as well.

Paekchong were also assigned to torture and execute prisoners, when the regular executioners were not available.

15. “The Baby Riots of 1888” (from Wikipedia citing “Korea Through Western Eyes” by Robert D. Neff, 2009):

“The Baby Riots of 1888 took place in the summer of 1888 in Joseon Korea. Rumours circulated that foreigners in Seoul were kidnapping young Korean infants and children, gouging out their eyes for use as camera lenses, grinding their internal organs for use in medicine, and eating them. These rumours implicated both the western powers that were present in Korea at the time, as well as the Japanese. These riots saw Koreans gathering outside hospitals, schools and churches run by foreigners to rail against the ‘baby-snatchers’ inside. Many in the foreign community were alarmed by the ferocity of the riots and made preparations to leave Korea, and diplomatic representatives of the foreign legations pressed the Joseon government to repudiate the rumours, which they did reluctantly.”

16. Is Ae-shin a fictional or historical character?

Ae-shin is a fictional character, but in history, thousands of Korean women joined the fight against the Japanese colonial rule through the Patriotic Women’s League. Besides Queen Min, the most famous female resistance fighter was Yu Kwan-sun (1904-1920), a sixteen-year old student.

From “Korean Women in Resistance to the Japanese” (source: Yung-Chung Kim; Women of Korea. Seoul: Ewha University, 1976):

“In 1905, Japan colonized Korea. Korean women had, by then, begun to receive Western-style educations. Some of the first schools for women were founded by Christian missionaries. It was in one of these schools, Ewha that students began an underground society called the Patriotic Women’s League. These women, with many others, took part in the March First Movement in 1919, to protest Japanese occupation. Many women were wounded or killed in the demonstrations and others were imprisoned. The young woman who came to symbolize the new Korean women’s activism and patriotism was Yu Kwansun. She was a student at Ewha in 1919, and took part in demonstrations at Pagoda Park in Seoul. She was arrested, but later released Despite the danger, Yu Kwansun led another demonstration and waved the national flag of Korea. The Japanese military police fired on the crowd, killing Yu Kwansun’s parents. She was arrested and tortured; she died in 1920, at the age of sixteen. Today, in Pagoda Park, a series of bronze friezes show Yu Kwansun speaking to the crowd, waving the flag, trying to comfort her parents, and being dragged away by the Japanese.”

For more information, read “Overlooked No More: Yu Gwan-sun, a Korean Independence Activist Who Defied Japanese Rule“ (The New York Times, March 2018)

17. Frederick Arthur McKenzie, the journalist who interviewed the Righteous Army in Episode 24, is a historical character. For more information, read “McKenzie, journalist who delved into Korean justice” (The Korea Herald). His book “The Tragedy of Korea,” published in 1908, is freely available in various formats on the Project Gutenberg website.

Excerpts from the Korea Herald article:

“Frederick Arthur McKenzie is remembered by Koreans as a true, brave journalist whose reporting and writing during the early 20th century helped expose Koreans’ sufferings under the rule of Imperial Japan. His writings and photos remain precious records of Korea’s turbulent history.

“Born in Quebec, Canada, in March 1869, Frederick A. McKenzie made a name for himself as a special overseas correspondent. His life first crossed paths with Korea when he was dispatched to the Far East to cover the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) for the London Daily Mail.

“Highly active as a writer and war journalist, he started to write a book on Korea about Koreans’ suffering during the war.”

Photo below of the Righteous Army comes from McKenzie’s book.



18. “Mr. Sunshine” has several scenes showing a character or characters drinking coffee.

In history, King Gojong did have a fondness for coffee. Most sources say that he came to know about coffee during his 1896 stay at the Russian embassy. But historian Robert D. Neff proves in “Koreans, coffee and the king's court” (Jeju Weekly) that coffee was known and served in Joseon’s royal court even before 1896.

King Gojong’s fondness for coffee provided the means for an assassination attempt against him and the Crown Prince. This is the historical basis for the 2012 movie “Gabi” aka “Russian Coffee” starring Park Hee-soon (as King Gojong), Kim So-yeon, and Joo Jin-mo (he played the role of Wang Yu in “Empress Ki”).



19. Perhaps the most-talked about scene of “Mr. Sunshine” is in Episode 18 when Dong-mae cuts off Ae-shin’s hair, which is in the “daeng'gi meori” style of unmarried Joseon women. Finding out what Dong-mae did, Lord Go beats him repeatedly and warns him to stay away from Ae-shin or else be punished the way that butchers are punished under Joseon laws; Eugene goes to challenge him; and Hee-sung punches him repeatedly. Ae-shin, meanwhile, cries in shame as her grandfather comes to see her.



Note: If the GIF above doesn’t work properly, view it in another tab.

Why did Ae-shin, Lord Go, Eugene, and Hee-sung react the way that they did? Simply stated, Confucianism, which is the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty, prohibited the cutting of a person’s hair because it is part of a person’s legacy from his or her parents.

From Wikipedia: “The Classic of Filial Piety, also known by its Chinese name as the Xiaojing, is a Confucian classic treatise giving advice on filial piety: that is, how to behave towards a senior such as a father, an elder brother, or ruler.”

The Classic of Filial Piety states: “Our bodies ― to every hair and bit of skin ― are received by us from our parents, and we must not presume to injure or wound them. This is the beginning of filial piety.”

Ae-shin herself states in Episode 19 (4:41 mark) how she regarded her hair: “We all live in different worlds, and each cherishes different things. In my world, Joseon, my family, and my hair given by my parents are all dear to me.”

Note: If the GIF doesn’t work properly, view it in another tab.
Perhaps the clearest illustration for the implications of cutting off a person’s hair comes from Episode 19 of the 2011 drama “The Princess’s Man” where Se-ryung cuts off her hair to signify that she is cutting off her ties with her father King Sejo, aka Grand Prince Suyang.

But the prohibition against cutting off a person’s hair also applied to Joseon men. It was said that Joseon men would rather die than have their topknot (“sangtu”) cut off; the topknot was their symbol of manhood, and in history, King Gojong’s first order to have the topknots cut off was rescinded.

In Episode 1, why did the young Yoo-jin cut off his hair? It’s to signify his complete break with Joseon as he has then decided to join the American military.

In  the last part of Episode 17 and the start of Episode 18 of “Jejoongwon” (2010), Baek Do-yang cut off his topknot to symbolize that he was cutting off his ties to his noble status.

Upon reaching manhood or upon getting married, a Joseon nobleman or scholar pulled his hair to the top and tied it into a topknot called “sangtu.” A headband called “manggeon” was used to hold the hair in place. Joseon commoners and slaves also used a topknot called “minsangtu” but without a headband. For more information, surf to “A Guide to Joseon Hairstyles and Headgears” (The Talking Cupboard).

So why did Dong-mae, who’s hopelessly in love with Ae-shin, shame her by cutting off her hair? Well, Dong-mae has learned that Lee Wan-ik now knows Ae-shin’s connection with the Righteous Army members who tried to kill him in Japan. He thus wanted to save Ae-shin by forcing her into giving up her fight for Joseon.

In Episode 19 (9:37 mark), Eugene does ask him the reason, and Dong-mae answers, “Lee Wan-ik is gathering information on Lady Ae-shin.” Eugene then backs down and says, “I came here to fight you, but we can call it even.”

20. Why did Dong-mae have paintings of plum blossoms on his scabbards?

A Japanese samurai carries two swords — the longer one, around 40 inches long, is called “katana,” while the shorter one, around 24 inches long, is called “wakizashi.” Dong-mae’s scabbards both have paintings of plum blossoms.

The name “Dong-mae” comes from “Dong” (winter) and “mae” (plum blossom). The meaning of his name (“the plum blossoms that bloom in winter”) may explain why plum blossoms are painted on the scabbards of his swords, as actor Yoo Yeon Seok explained in an interview. You can first glimpse these plums blossoms on his scabbards in Episode 3 (17:28 mark) when he confronts the two Japanese men who were talking about molesting Ae-shin.

We know from Episode 15 (starting at 47:17 mark) that plum blossoms are the symbol of the Joseon monarchy. Could the plum blossoms on Dong-mae’s scabbards possibly symbolize that he has never given up on Joseon? I doubt that very much; Dong-mae belonged to the wretched “baekchong” sub-caste and had to escape to Japan after his parents were killed.

Besides the plain meaning that the plum blossoms on Dong-mae’s scabbards represent his name, I believe that, based on several scenes from Episodes 6, 8, and 24, the plum blossoms represent Ae-shin or his love for Ae-shin.

1. Starting at the 1:51 mark of Episode 6, Dong-mae confesses his love for Ae-shin. He tells Ae-shin that he became what he is (a samurai who’s working for the dreaded Musin Society) because it was the only way by which he could go back to Joseon and to her.

2. Beginning at the 3:52 mark of Episode 6 mark, Dong-mae goes back home feeling dejected, and he apologizes to Hotaru because he forgot the things that she wanted from the brush, ink, and paper store. Hotaru then writes “You’re an idiot” on Dong-mae’s right palm. From Episode 7 at the 1:02:40 mark, we can sense that Hotaru knows that Dong-mae was secretly watching Ae-shin every time that she went to the store.

As he walks away from Hotaru who slaps him lightly on the back, he says, “That hurts.” We then see a close-up of the plum blossoms on one of his scabbards and, more significantly, a drop of water that trickles down, like a teardrop, from the scabbard.

3. Perhaps the clearest cue that the plum blossoms symbolize Ae-shin or his love for Ae-shin is in Episode 24 (starting at 30:47 mark) when Dong-mae looks at the plum blossoms and then remembers his tender moments with Ae-shin.