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From:My Paperposted on 16 May at 3:31 PM
16 May at 3:31 PM

Jang Ok Jung: Makeover for infamous concubine

BY GWENDOLYN NG

MEDIA WATCH 

JANG OK JUNG

Mondays and Tuesdays, 8.55pm

ONE (StarHub Ch 823 and SingTel mioTV Ch 513 and 604)

Ratings: 3/5

IN THE final moments before the models take to the runway, the backstage is bustling with activity – stylists fuss over models’ hair and make-up, and the show’s coordinator shouts above the racket.

No, this isn’t fashion week in New York or Paris, but a fashion show set in Korea’s Joseon Dynasty in a new drama Jang Ok Jung, which premiered on cable television last Monday.

Here, models are gisaengs ( Korea’s geishas) donning hanboks (traditional Korean dress) while strutting their stuff on an arched bridge.

Taking a bow to rapturous applause at the curtain call – just like in modern-day fashion shows – is fashion designer Jang, who later rises through the ranks to become a royal concubine. 

It was an amusing and refreshing exercise to spot the uncanny “similarities” between the fashion shows of different eras.

I’m not too sure if such fashion shows really existed in the past, but hey, producers have the artistic licence to get creative with historical facts. 

An alternative perspective could be interesting, considering that the portrayal of Jang by actress Kim Tae Hee, 33, is but one out of the many incarnations of the infamous historical figure. 

Unlike the villainous portrayals in previous dramas such as Dong Yi, this version puts Jang in a more positive light. 

The show also focuses on her penchant and talent for fashion, and the beautiful display of colourful hanboks in the first episode alone is a treat for the eyes. 

Beneath the fancy hanboks and matching accessories, the plot harks back to typical politicking in palace dramas – be it in the royal courts or within the harem. Of course, I’m more inclined to watch the latter.

Mere seconds into the opening, the camera cuts away to a scene in the future – a silent face-off between Jang and Queen In Hyun (played by actress Hong Soo Hyun, 32) in the palace. 

Though not a single word is exchanged between the royal wives, the tension is palpable. 

It’s a clear sign of the catfights that will ensue over King Suk Jong, played by actor Yoo Ah In. 

The 26-year-old’s boyish appearance doesn’t help to make him a convincing stately king, but he makes up for it in the acting department. 

But where are the sparks between Yoo and Kim? Perhaps it’s their real-life age gap, or Kim’s stilted acting. So far, the couple appear to be more like siblings. 

Hopefully a few, ahem, intimate moments slated in the upcoming episodes will steam things up. 

nggwen@sph.com.sg 

This article was first published in My Paper on Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

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