You might be a bit unsure if historical K-dramas are really your thing. It’s hard enough keeping track of your own nation’s history, let alone Korea’s! But don’t worry, historical K-dramas suck you in completely – even if you haven’t got a clue about the Joseon Era. They offer the same swoons and thrills as modern shows, plus an added dose of O-M-G whenever there’s a fight to the death (it happens a lot).
As you get into your historical dramas, or sageuks as they’re known in Korea, you’ll find you keep coming across the same character types. That’s a huge part of the fun, as you get to watch your favorite actors put their own spin on classic roles. Sometimes you even get to see different versions of the same real-life historical figure. So which beloved characters should you keep an eye out for?
The Rebellious Handsome Prince
EXO’s D.O. reveals how to stay hot while yelling in “100 Days My Prince”
In historical dramas, the prince should be just as rebellious as he is hot. If he wasn’t rebellious, he’d never dress in plain clothes and sneak out of the palace – an essential Handsome Prince move. Then he’d never meet the Plucky Heroine (see below), which would be a straight-up disaster.
K-drama princes need a certain amount of stubborn determination if they’re ever going to make it to the throne alive and marry the girl of their dreams. By the way, that’s never the girl they’re actually engaged to. These poor dudes have a lot to contend with, from dumb dads to evil ministers. How do they manage all that and still come up with so many great one-liners?
Check out the first episode of “Moonlight Drawn By Clouds”:
The Plucky Heroine With Bigger Problems
IU questions her own face in “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo”
Our Plucky Heroine is usually the last person who wants to be on the throne. She’s far too busy chasing down robbers or being the breadwinner for her sweet-but-starving family. She might even be from the future, desperate to return to her own time! When she encounters a spoiled Handsome Prince she’s more likely to smack him than swoon over him.
Eventually, just like a contemporary corporate heir, Handsome Prince manages to win our Plucky Heroine round. It definitely helps if they knew each other as kids (she’s probably a noble whose family lost their status). She’ll keep his power-hungry tendencies in check and make sure he shares his riches with the people. This girl’s the true MVP!
Check out the first episode of “Hwarang”:
Ministers Who Are Evil For No Real Reason
Where would we be without evil ministers? They’ve beaten out snooty chaebol moms to become the most hated trope in dramaland. Though they do remind us of snooty moms sometimes, gathering at someone’s fancy house to spill tea and plot the deaths of the poor.
If they could just chill out about it, they’d see that being a minister is the sweetest gig around. Ministers are usually far richer and more powerful than the king himself. They pull all the strings but they can go where they want and do what they want, with nobody trying to kill them. Kings and princes can’t relate. Remind us why ministers are so desperate to seize the throne again?
Check out the first episode of “Queen In Hyun’s Man”:
The Loyal-Til-Death BFF
Let’s face it, Rebellious Handsome Prince wouldn’t get very far without a little help from his most trusted manservant. Someone has to watch his back while he’s scaling the palace walls. Sadly, that someone is about 95 percent likely to get sliced up by a sword at some point.
Kwak Dong Yeon knows what’s up in “Moonlight Drawn By Clouds”
It wouldn’t be a sageuk if one of our faves didn’t bite it before the end credits. Loyal BFF is pretty much a walking target. He’s always ready to throw himself into the path of danger for the royal boy he loves. On the upside, it does make for some epically satisfying bromance moments. And remember, If there’s no actual body then Loyal BFF is 95 percent likely to come back from the dead.
Check out the first episode of “The Moon Embracing the Sun”:
The King Who’s Bad At His Job
Lee Dong Gun is Jungshook in “Queen For 7 Days”
The only time you see a good king in a K-drama is a) right before he dies or b) when the Handsome Prince takes the throne in the last five minutes. Because let’s face it, if the king was even remotely not-terrible, we wouldn’t have any plot. Bad Kings may be useless but they’re a great source of tension.
Jo Han Chul tries to stay awake in “100 Days My Prince”
A Bad King doesn’t have to be evil, though there have been plenty of those. Evil monarchs are at least entertaining. The annoying ones are the hapless kings who do everything their conniving ministers tell them. How dumb do you have to be when they’re twirling their mustaches right in your face?
Check out the first episode of “Queen For 7 Days”:
The Cunning Queen/Crown Princess
Kim Ji Soo is not having it in “Hwarang”
Kings may be dumb but queens tend to be crafty. We can’t say we blame them. When your Evil Minister dad makes you marry a random dude, you learn that it pays to look after Number 1. Queens usually seek power just to keep themselves and their loved ones alive. It’s rare that a complete psycho pops up but when she does it’s extra fun.
Park Ji Young after a heavy night of plotting in “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo”
Cunning queens are the background bosses of any given drama. Those gorgeous, floaty hanboks are perfect for hiding a boatload of secrets (maybe an illicit pregnancy?). Whatever the scandal that follows, these queens manage to keep their cool even when they’re headed for the chopping block.
The Comic Relief Eunuch
Lee Joon Hyuk has questions in “Moonlight Drawn By Clouds”
Every Joseon palace is home to approximately 1 million eunuchs. They’re the ones in fashion-forward emerald green, sporting understated headgear, and a habit of walking backwards. We’ve got Wise Old Eunuch, Sneaky Turncoat Eunuch, and our personal favorite, Comic Relief Eunuch.
Jung Eun Pyo reps for us fangirls in “The Moon Embracing the Sun”
Comic Relief Eunuch is always trying to keep the Handsome Prince in line. It ends with him failing spectacularly, giving up and becoming an enabler. When everyone else is too busy fighting and falling in love, Comic Relief Eunuch is there as the audience’s stand-in, always ready with an eye-roll, a pat on the back, or an overly dramatic wail.
Hey Soompiers, which historical K-drama character is your favorite? Is there one that matches your personality? Let us know in the comments below!
Azra_A spends most of her waking hours waiting patiently for 2PM’s next comeback (roll on 2021!). She relies on sheet masks and weird ice cream flavors to help her endure (cucumber is great, ceylon is better). When she’s not watching the comeback clock, you’ll find her on Instagram.
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