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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 16


There's times when it feels like this drama's title should just be "King Seonjo comes up with more bad ideas". It's becoming completely obvious at this point that the capital is going to be overrun, and that the only option available for the government is to fall back and regroup. But King Seonjo keeps trying to evade this eventuality and offer up unworkable compromises, mainly because he can't bear the symbolic idea of a king abandoning his own people.

Awkwardly, by the time he finally consents to leave, we get to see King Seonjo's retinue exit the palace and sure enough there are actual people outside demanding an explanation of what they're supposed to do with foreign invaders overrunning their country if the king isn't even going to stick around to protect them. It's obvious that nobody likes what's happening but...well, there aren't any other choices.

"Jing Bi-rok" continually has a very strong personal element that most of the time just serves to remind me how radically different it must have been to be a head-of-state several hundred years ago. The only time a guy like Obama shows up in front of normal people is when he needs to mug about how close he is with us regular folks. The joke being that there's no way Obama, or any other world leader, would willingly remain in the same room as any uneducated person so petulant as to express dissatisfaction with national policy. Heck, even the press only bothers with softball questions these days.

It's a fairly grim picture for King Seonjo to actually see, with his very eyes, tangible proof that other people have no faith in his ability to govern. But then that's because the Korea of long ago was a very different place, where elaborate statecraft and opinion polls and disconnected economies didn't exist. People knew exactly what was putting their lives in danger, and that gives their reactions to political crises a much more relevant sense of urgency.

Against all this backdrop...thank goodness there's the occasional comedic relief. There's something rather relieving about seeing Cheon-ri, basically the only young person in the entire cast, moon over a woman who is so obviously out of his league while one closer to his social station is right there. A pity Jung Tae-woo never takes his shirt off- unfortunately the march of history is just too important for such frivolities to last that long.

Review by William Schwartz

"Jing Bi-rok" is directed by Kim Sang-hwi and Kim Yeong-jo, written by Jeong Hyung-soo and Jeong Ji-yeon and features Kim Sang-joong, Kim Tae-woo, Im Dong-jin, Kim Hye-eun, Lee Kwang-ki and Lee Kwang-ki.

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