Hong Gil Dong
쾌도 홍길동 (2008) KBS 24 Episodes
Historical Melodrama, Fantasy, Grade: C

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


I have to confess: I just didn't care for Hong Gil Dong (2008) at all. (I somewhat affectionately call it Hong Gil Ding Dong instead). I'm not going to spend much time on this review. It's not one of the better historical K-dramas out there, and the only reason I continued watching it was frankly ... for actor Jang Geun Suk, whom I love as an actor and singer. He wasn't even the first male lead in this, he was the second male lead, which greatly disappointed me. He had far fewer scenes than the two leading actors, who have never been top favorites of mine, actress Yu Ri Sung from The Snow Queen and Ji Hwan Kang from Lie To Me.

So already I was biased against this drama before I even began it, and then on top of that Jang Geun Suk rarely smiled even when he did have scenes because his character was depressing, a Prince without a throne doing underhanded things in order to get it back, turning a blind eye to criminals helping him, and then he didn't get the girl either (which might have been best for him in the long run because she was a clown! Literally!).

I am slightly amused by people who rave about this one, especially because by the end of it ALMOST EVERYBODY DIES! They stand there like idiots and let fire bombs rain down on them instead of running away. I can't abide such stupidity. It's not "artistic", it's sick!

One good thing about the drama: the music was beautiful, especially the song "If". Bad things, besides the facts already mentioned: the script by the Hong Sisters (Master's Sun) is definitely low on their totem pole compared to other shows I've watched that they've penned. The first episodes are all over the map artistically with ludicrous situations going on, like the "heroine" doing some bizarre martial arts dance to rap music, and then proceeding to attempt an assassination on the current King! Then assassins break in and start shooting government officials with arrows who are there for the show. She escapes! In reality a woman like that would have been immediately killed.

The mood is frazzled in the beginning in a vain attempt to be funny but I sat there watching stone-faced. Yu Ri's character sells cow dung balls to the people as medicine, then she has to physically beat up men who want to marry her, Ji Hwan's character wants to learn Chinese from her and thinks she's an expert when she only knows a few words, which makes her a liar when she expects him to hand over money for "lessons". So our leading lady character is an attempted assassin, a liar, a thief, and yet everyone falls in love with her? Lunacy!

His talents badly used in this, Jang Geun Suk is really the
only reason to even ATTEMPT to watch this!

Why are they yanking my chain with this tomfoolery? I thought. Then, for whatever reason -- maybe the front office told the Hong Sisters it was a sinking ship as a comedy -- as you reach episode 10 all the humor goes out the window and we are treated to a tragic melodrama all the way, a Robin Hood type of story with a tragic ending that was so ludicrous I was screaming at my TV "Enough already!"

This shot near the very end of the drama sums the
whole thing up: a DISASTER!

So go into this one knowing your chain is going to be yanked. Big time. And you're not going to get your happy ending.  
I have little patience with renegade stories and characters who try to accomplish supposedly lofty goals by illegal means: I don't care if the person is a Prince who wants his throne back, or a Robin Hood who justifies his thievery and deceptions because it will help "the poor" or "the people"; what makes "the people" so special anyway? Most of them in those days (and maybe in these days too!) would cut your throat for a bag of gold. Do things properly, through legal means, and get your justice with good morals intact.

It was funny, but this Ding Dong story shows up in episode 22 of The King's Face, where the writer of this story
Heo Gyun is tortured by King Seonjo; he considered it treasonous. I just laughed. "I hear ya, Kingy. I didn't like this story either!" (although the actor who played the writer WAS cute in his own way, although in real life King Gwanghae had him executed for treason).

If you are only watching this for Jang Geun Suk, like I did, I would strongly suggest you re-consider and watch him in Beethoven Virus instead, which came out the same year. A 1000x better drama! He's superb in it. Skip Hong Gil Ding Dong!!!