Queen In Hyun's Man
인현왕후의 남자
(2012) tvN 16 Episodes
Time Travel, Fantasy Historical, Romantic Comedy
Grade: A

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


This historical and modern day romantic "time-slip" Korean drama Queen In Hyun's Man (2012) is loosely based on the personal story of a real queen of the Joseon era of 300 years ago, who was deposed and exiled by her husband, King Sukjong, due to the efforts of a cunning concubine of the King, a Lady Jang. The King eventually caught on to Lady Jang's threats against this queen and began to feel remorse for sending her and her family into exile. The two camps fought bitterly, those who supported Lady Jang, and those who supported re-instating this queen. This story was also focused on a year later in the 2013 K-drama Jang Ok Jung, Living In Love (2013) with Kim Tae Hee and Yoo Ah In. There was no time traveling in that drama though, and little romantic comedy, so if you like more of a fantasy story I would recommend this drama instead. The other is far more serious. It's for those who prefer melodramatic historical dramas.

Several Antique Korean Instruments
Are Used In This OST - Very Pretty!

The drama writers here took this real life scenario and invented a male character nobleman scholar who supported the queen's re-in-statement and was then accused of being in love with her; then the writers added to the mix a modern story of a wannabe actress looking for her big break, who lands the role of Queen In Hyun in an historical television drama. Through the magical attributes of a talisman that a female friend gives the nobleman protector of the queen, our hero finds himself thrust into the modern day era through a time-slip, and ends up falling in love with the actress who is playing Queen In Hyun for television. Sometimes he can jump back and forth between the time periods holding the talisman, but closer to the end of the story the talisman seems to develop a mind of its own and hurdles him back and forth through time in an unpredictable manner, even when it is hidden away from him. Herein is the setting which gives us many addictive surprise moments that occur in the story; these surprises keep the audience on its toes, wondering what will eventually become of the Joseon nobleman and the modern day actress he loves, especially if the talisman i
s destroyed. If that happens, could anything else be the medium to bring our seemingly doomed lovers back together again for a happy conclusion?
The Opening Of The Drama - So Cute!

Besides its dynamic, well-executed historical romance story, its taut and creative direction, and its absolutely gorgeous musical soundtrack with the haunting sound of the Chinese instrument Erhu plainly featured, this show is most notable for the real life romance which developed between the lead couple during the making of the show, actress In Na Yoo (Secret Garden, Goblin, My Love From Another Star), who just like her character in the show was obtaining her first leading role here, and actor musician
Hyun-woo Ji (Trot Lovers, Angry Mom, Awl), who made a stunning surprise announcement at a publicity event for the show after its completion, declaring: "I am in love with my leading lady." The media hysteria which resulted helped propel this story to high ratings and success, so much so that it has been in re-runs all over Asia for several years after it was made. (Korean actors' love lives are traditionally very secretive and controlled by their publicists, so a sudden announcement of this sort is simply NOT done!). Actress In Na Yoo happily concurred with Hyun-woo and stated, "We decided that Queen In Hyun's Man would become In Na's man." The blossoming of their romance is clearly seen in all the kissing scenes in this drama, which were very passionate (unlike so many of K-drama's more traditional "lock lips and don't move" frozen kisses).

The glass elevator first kiss Hee Jin (In Na Yoo)
bestows on Boong-do (
Hyun Woo Ji)

In fact, tradition was broken yet again in the "kissing department" when the female lead character actually initiates the first kiss, in a public glass elevator of all places. You just don't see that happening in the dramas; it's always the man who pursues the woman, to kiss her first. There's even an adorable "pasta kiss", like the classic Lady and the Tramp kiss, which was my favorite kiss out of many in this delightful drama. The chemistry between the two leads was absolutely the most enjoyable aspect of this drama. I loved In Na's sweet, humorous, and trusting character, and Hyun-woo's upright intelligent, moral character, a man he played with a quiet dignity that was quite compelling and unique for K-dramas. Many times actors over-act but not Hyun-woo. He's like the man you meet in real life who simply says to you in a matter of fact way, "I like you. I'd like to date you." No wearing the heart on the sleeve, no histrionics, no stalking, just a simple statement of fact. Very refreshing! There have been other time travel K-dramas made, to be sure, but none of them had the lead couple fall in love in real life, with the realism of that spilling over into every scene. It's delectable.   

The Story: It begins dramatically, after a brief dreamlike preview of our two lead characters in the modern era running to greet each other in front of an historical palace, with an assassination attempt upon Queen In Hyun (Hae In Kim) 300 years earlier. She is seen responding to a letter that King Suk Jong (Woo Jin Seo) had sent her, apologizing to her for all she had suffered in her exile, when suddenly she hears the sounds of men fighting outside her room. Resigned to the fact that she is about to be killed by the henchmen of Lady Jang (
Woo Ri Choi), she calmly continues to write her response to the King, when suddenly the nobleman scholar Boong-do Kim (Hyun Woo Ji) descends upon the henchmen with his guards and dispatches them all to the gates of hell, rescuing the queen from death.

He insists on bringing the queen back to the palace immediately but the mild-mannered, patient queen states that she will wait for an order from the King himself, as that would be more appropriate. Reluctantly, Boong-do leaves the queen, but realizes that he needs to keep a secret document he discovered against the queen in someone's safe-keeping, so he heads to a gisaeng establishment (like a geisha house in Japan) and leaves it with gisaeng Yoon Wol (Ye Sol Jin) whom he seems to have a brother-sister relationship with. In her turn Yoon Wol insists on handing Boong-do a yellow talisman with red Chinese lettering on it, which she claims will keep him safe. He laughs at the apparent childishness of it but accepts it anyway and then heads for the palace to seek an audience with the King, whom he is obviously on friendly terms with. However, once again he is intercepted through a sword fight with the backers of a sinister King's minister named Min (Hyo-seop Uhm from Gu Family Book and In Soon Is Pretty), who is secretly in the camp of concubine Jang.

Hyun Woo Ji plays Boong-do Kim so nicely,
a nobleman-scholar transported through time

Suddenly, before we can know Boong-do's fate during that sword fight, we are propelled to modern day Seoul and we meet actress
Hee Jin Choi (In Na Yoo) who is running to get to an audition for an historical drama. She wins the lead role of Queen In Hyun, no thanks to the messy interference of her ex-boyfriend Dong-min Han (Jin Woo Kim, who has the unfortunate job of playing the most ANNOYING second male lead in K-drama history!) who just happens to be the actor who will play the leading role opposite her, King Suk Jong.

Actress Hee Jin then meets nobleman Boong-do, who has been propelled through 300 years of time to her set, where filming is to begin on her historical drama. Because of the hangbok he wears (traditional Korean garment) she naturally thinks he is an extra for a scene about to be shot and asks him what part he plays. The poor man is at first dumbfounded to find himself at the same palace but surrounded by people he doesn't recognize (meanwhile, back in the past, the man whom Boong-do was fighting is amazed to see him disappear!). Hee Jin immediately shows her sweet and good nature by being concerned about his dazed state, asking him if he is feeling well. He asks her if he is dead or dreaming? She turns her head a moment to talk to a grip on the set and when she turns around again Boong-do is gone!

Boong-do makes his way back to the library. He takes out Yoon Wol's talisman, now blood-stained from his fight in the Joseon era, and reads the Chinese characters meaning: "Time, road, communication, call, space, need, rescue, man." He is starting to put the puzzle pieces together that he may have entered a time-slip. He walks outside the library and suddenly the film crew is gone and he sees royal guards again! Boy, can this dude travel light!

He goes to a monastery to ask a monk about the talisman and the monk says he envies him his new-found ability to travel to paradise any time he wants. Paradise? Boong-do is not so sure about that. He'll have to be convinced - and he eventually is, for compared to the old Joseon dynasty, where a mere whim of a politician or king could kill you, at least in the modern era one stands a fighting chance to survive into old age. Minister Min soon realizes that the King might be setting him up for a fall, using Boong-do to get to him, so he shrewdly plans his next move to circumvent Boong-do by first claiming he practices black magic, able to disappear anytime he wants, and then that he is in love with the queen himself and that is why he saved her. The King begins to have doubts about Boong-do, which eventually risks his life whenever he finds himself back in the old Joseon era.

Poor Hee Jin has to act opposite an annoying ex-boyfriend named Dong-min, and they can barely stand one another

Back in the modern era, Hee Jin and her best friend, business manager, and roomie
Soo-kyung Jo (Deuk-hee Ga) celebrate her winning the plum role of Queen In Hyun, but then the annoying ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment and is his usual jerky self, trying to kiss her and telling her "you'll pass." Hello? Her winning the role had nothing to do with him, but with her own talent! (Already this character is rubbing me the wrong way. Others might find him charming but he simply drove me nuts throughout the entire show. It got to the point where as soon as I saw his face I reached for the fast forward button!).

During a filming break outdoors, Hee Jin takes a walk by herself on a trail through the woods when suddenly a horse and a rider come charging toward her! It is Boong-do on the horse, trying to escape from an assassin in the Joseon era and he hits his second time-slip and enters 2012. Hee Jin screams and cowers in fear and Boong-do falls off his horse and then goes running to Hee Jin to see if she is all right, recognizing her from their prior meeting. Suddenly the assassin shows up and Boong-do kills him; his blood splatters all over Hee Jin's dress. The dead man dematerializes right before their eyes and so do the blood spots! Of course Hee Jin is amazed and finally realizes this isn't part of a movie script, this is real, and this nobleman in the hangbok must come from another era. She faints dead away and he cradles her gently in his arms. Already his protective, chivalrous nature toward women (the same respect he showed toward the Queen and the gisaeng) is making itself evident toward Hee Jin, and already Jill is falling in love with him (I'm a sucker for the chivalrous types).

Eventually, Hee Jin and Boong-do start falling in love; in many heart-warming lessons she teaches him about the modern world and he dutifully studies how to speak modern Korean, leaving old fashioned colloquialisms behind, how to use modern currency, what a car is and how to use a seat belt, how to cook in a microwave, what movies and television are, how to operate telephones including pay phones and cell phones, how to avoid security cameras, how to wear modern clothes (including ties, which leads to another out of this world kiss scene).

Each time he disappears into the past his life is at risk, which causes Hee Jin to miss him and worry for him over and over again. The stress eats away at her and she begins to struggle with depression. She can't even tell her best friend the truth about what is happening to her. At one point he states he has decided to stay in the modern era and take care of her (despite his worries about the real queen and his friends back in the past), and she thinks they've finally come to an understanding, but the talisman has other plans, even when it is safely put in a place where he can't find it.

One of the potential executions he faces in the past is death by bow and arrow, ordered by the King himself, who has been made jealous of him by the underhanded methods of Minister Min. Three arrows hit him in the chest in full view of the King, Minister Min, and soldiers. Two seconds after they hit him he completely disappears! He struggles to pull the arrows out of his body in the modern era and then collapses in a bloody pool outside a hospital; ironically, Hee Jin had had a car accident, after clutching her chest while driving the moment the arrows had hit Boong-do in the past, and she is brought into the emergency room at the same time that he is wheeled in (shades of the K-drama Perhaps Love).

When they recover, their relationship becomes even more serious. He sells his Joseon era sword for a princely sum and buys her a car, and she takes the rest of the money and buys him a house near to hers. However, that darn talisman won't let them rest in peace and there are even more separations in store for them, one that lasts as long as a year.
While in their different eras they cry for each other, they miss one another terribly. Will they EVER be able to be together permanently? This question will keep you "turning the pages" (watching each episode) quickly in anticipation. I thought the ending was incredible and I will definitely be watching Queen In Hyun's Man again in the future, just to enjoy this couple and their beautiful romance.

Perhaps someday they will be re-united in another drama together - though it was confirmed in May of 2014, after the actor was released from his military duty, that the couple had broken up. Long distance relationships rarely work. Fans of the drama and the actors were grieved to hear the news, but maybe another drama together might restore the relationship. They were so darn cute together! I also found it interesting that the actor responded to the press about their current relationship and he stated in his cool, matter of fact, and honest way, "Relationship? I haven't heard anything about whether we still have one." Awwww! When I read that at the time I thought to myself, "Uh oh", and sure enough just a few weeks later the news of their breakup was announced. Therefore I suspect that it was In Na Yoo who broke up with
Hyun-woo Ji, and not the other way around.

You can buy a DVD boxset for Queen In Hyun's Man on Amazon. Try it, you'll like it! However, I'd really splurge on the DVDs if I were you. Nothing better than watching a great show in great resolution on a big screen, and with no nasty screen bugs.