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The Concubine *New

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Gerlinde Goschi
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The Concubine *New

I originally planned to watch one of these Korean movies: The Taebek Mountains, Go to my Father, or Korean Made because they were recommended by Prof. Jung-Kim.  However, when I was not able to find any of these on Netflix, I opted to watch The Concubine, a movie by Dae- Seung Kim.  I remember when it was released in 2012. This movie as the title implies is not suited for students, but I found it very interesting in portraying traditions and daily life in the King's court during the Joseon Dynasty.  The plot follows the life of a young girl (the daughter of an aristocrat), Hwa-Jeon, in love with a servant Kwan-Yoo, who is sent by her father to be a concubine to a man who will be King, Sungwon.  She tries to elope with Kwan-Yoo, but, they are caught and the servant is castrated by the father as punishment. Hwa-Jeon is the Queen Mother's stepson's concubine while she becomes queen for giving birth to a son.  The Queen Mother has her stepson poisoned with the help of Minister Yoon.  When Hwa-Jeon's father reveals this to the court, the Queen Mother has him imprisoned for treason.  Prince Sungwon, who is in love with Hwa-Jeon becomes King and she becomes his concubine.   Kwan-Yoo works at the court as a eunuch and is aligned with Minister Yoon.  The King has Hwa-Jeon's father and his loyals executed.  Hwa-Jeon hopes that Kwan-Joo still has feelings for her, but, he bears hatred towards her and her father.  When he suspects that Hwa-Jeon's son is his, he promises to protect them.  However, the king suspects the same, and orders Kwan-Joo's execution and house arrest for the Queen Mother.  At the end of the movie, Hwa-Jeon kills the King and her son the heir.


I enjoyed this historical film because it depicted daily life in the Joseon Dynasty.  One of the most interesting scenes was a session between the Queen Mother, the new King, minister Yoon, and other ministers, and advisors.  The King sits on a stage in front of his mom, the Queen.  When questions are raised and reports read, the ministers do not look at him, but, address the Queen only.  He is treated as if he is not even in the room.  The King finally says:"Do you not see me? Why don't you submit reports to me?"  Minister Yoon responds:  "While his Majesty learns affairs, the Queen Mother, ...," but, is interrupted by the King, who says "Does it look like I'm learning by just sitting here?"  During a meeting with his Chief Minister, the King asks: "What trait is most important in a king?"  The minister answers:" Showing virtue with humanity?"  The King asks:"What is the root of humanity?"  and the Chief Minister answers:"Compassion."


I thought a lot about how I could incorporate elements and historical perspectives presented in this movie in my classroom.  I thought the costumes and headdresses were fascinating.  I could show pictures of these to my class, the way the different servants and functionaries of the courts dressed, the Mother Queen, the ministers, the eunuchs during a unit we study about different traditions and cultures entitled: "Who are We? Who Am I?"  I would describe the job each person of the court performed and say a few words about the Joseon Dynasty.